|« Title Hopes On the Line as N'Western State Hosts McNeese||UAlbany's McCarty on Record Romp »|
Freeing up Ford Pays Dividends for Cornell
ITHACA — A little freedom has gone a long way for Cornell quarterback Nathan Ford.
The Big Red coaching staff left a lot of responsibility in the hands of its three-year starter during last Saturday’s win against Dartmouth, and Ford responded with a record-setting performance.
Ford connected on 25 of his 30 attempted passes, which was a new school record for passing efficiency in a game (83.3 percent). And a lot of that success can be attributed the implementation of an offensive package that gave Ford more options for where to throw the ball.
“We’ve been kind of phasing it in in little bits. It’s puts a lot of it in his hands, to have more options, more choices for him,” Cornell coach Jim Knowles said. “We kind of went out full scale with it last week. He’s playing so well. He’s accurate. The one interception was a busted route (by the intended receiver).”
The package was based in a formation of two wide receivers on either side. If the Big Green’s secondary helped defend the bubble screen, Ford would read the play and distribute the ball elsewhere.
“I could go into five or six plays that I wanted … and basically I just got to go with whatever I felt like,” Ford said. “I could check into anything and got real comfortable in that. I guess we got into a flow there.”
That was no more evident than on the Big Red’s first drive, which went 76 yards for a touchdown on 13 plays.
“We convert three or four third downs on that first drive, it definitely sets a tone as an offense,” Ford said. “We converted, it wears down the defense and gives us confidence.”
The package worked so well, Ford will probably get another crack at it today when Cornell (4-4, 2-3 Ivy League) travels to Columbia (1-7, 1-4).
“We’ll have a few wrinkles for Columbia, too,” Ford added. “They run so much man that it’s basically our receivers against their (defensive backs), and we have confidence our receivers can beat them.”
Even though it gave up 256 passing yards, the Big Red secondary is coming off one of its better games of the season — thanks in large part to interceptions by do-everything safety Tim Bax and freshman cornerback Rashad Campbell.
But perhaps the most encouraging sign of all was that the secondary did so without the services of two starters. Safety Anthony Sabo did not play at all and cornerback Emani Fenton left the game in the first half with a concussion.
Knowles listed both as questionable for today’s game.
“For this time of year, I’m not going to complain,” Knowles added. “We’ve got our fair share of (injury) stuff, but nothing major — just stuff we have to work through like everybody else.”
One reason not to complain was the play of Campbell and fellow freshman K.C. Aharanwa, a safety. Both are likely to see more time today.
Knowles said he was pleased with how his squad broke on the deep balls, but his players needs to tigthen up in zone coverage.
“Dartmouth made some hay underneath, so we need to tighten that down.
One last mission
This year’s senior class is trying to accomplish a couple of things with a win today.
For starters, a victory would assure Cornell’s seniors of recording a non-losing record in each of its four seasons on East Hill, a feat last accomplished from 1948-51.
A win would also be the Big Red’s first on the road in Ivy League play since 2005, when it closed out the road portion of its schedule with wins at Dartmouth and Penn.
“We started to change our fortunes on road games with (wins at) Bucknell and Lehigh, but we’ve got to win a league gone the road,” Knowles said. “That’s going to be the challenge to the team this week.”
Cornell football notebook: Freeing up Ford pays dividends
By Brandon Thomas, The Ithaca Journal