After a tough 25-20 loss on Friday to Post, Cornell is looking to bounce back at home this weekend against Princeton. The Red (1-1) faces the Tigers (0-2) in its first taste of Ivy League play this season.
Without starting sophomore quarterback Brendan Miller, Cornell took a lead into the half, 13-6, only to see that same lead evaporate in the fourth quarter. This week, the Red is seeking to prevent a similar collapse against the Tigers.
Co-head coach Bart Guccia identifies the problem last game as the Red’s failure to execute in the red zone.
“Against Post, we ended up kicking three field goals and only scored once, and our touchdown came from well outside the red zone. When you lose games by five points, that’s a key thing. You score one of those, you win the game,” Guccia said.
While Princeton currently ranks last in total offense in the Collegiate Sprint Football League with 141 yards over two games, and second to last in total defense with 413 yards allowed, Cornell players and coaches don’t think that is a reason to take Princeton lightly.
“Princeton seems to have a pretty good passing offense, and they’ve also been able to move the ball well this year. Overall, people are making plays for them,” said senior tri-captain and wide receiver Tim Bruhn, who filled in for Miller against Post.
“In previous years, they really didn’t have an offensive game plan — they were just going to throw the ball all over the field,” Guccia said. “But this year, they’ve been trying to establish the run and then throw the ball. They look like they’re mostly organized on offense, and defensively they’ve always been pretty solid.”
Senior tri-captain and linebacker Tim Dooley agreed. “In the past, Princeton hasn’t been one of the better teams in the league, but still this week in practice we haven’t treated them any differently,” he said.
At the same time, Dooley sees the game against the Tigers as a chance to find out what some of the emerging talent on the Red can really do.
“Hopefully we can get a substantial lead early and then get some of the younger guys — some of the guys further down the depth chart — in the game,” Dooley said.
One area the Red will be looking to exploit against the Tigers is their lack of depth.
“I believe their roster is only about 28 or 30 players, so what happens is some of the better kids end up going both ways. Football is a tough [sport] to go both ways for the whole game,” Guccia said. “They’ve got some really good athletes, but as the game wears on, they tend to wear down and get tired.”
While the Tigers may lack depth, at least on defense, the Red lack experience, as all of its starting linebackers are freshmen.
“Usually freshmen don’t play in this league, but they’ve progressed quickly and learned quickly, so they’ve earned the right to be on the field,” Guccia said.
Besides the group of freshman, the Red is eagerly anticipating the return of Miller, who had great success in getting the ball to senior wide reciever Abe Mellinger in the first game of the season against Mansfield.
Mellinger, who ended that game with 150 yards receiving and two touchdowns, is a player who Dooley believes has really stepped up his game this season.
“Mellinger came out of nowhere and has done great things for us. He’s a quiet guy who works real hard, and it has paid off,” Dooley said.
Against Post, Cornell was still able to establish a successful game in the air, with Bruhn stepping in at the helm.
“Not having Miller last week hurt us, but Timmy did an excellent job filling in for him with one week of preparation,” Guccia said.
Guccia is looking to move on from the disappointment of losing last week’s game in the fourth quarter.
“One loss isn’t a season-breaker. It’s disappointing, but we still have our goals in front of us; we just have to keep improving and hopefully we’ll win,” Guccia said.