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Cornell Opens 2010 Season on Staten Island
With the NFL season set to kick off tonight and the Division I season already well under way, it seems that the Ivy League is one step behind the pack. While teams like Boise State and Alabama are already staking their claims for a National Championship berth, Cornell and its fellow Ancient Eight foes are still in preparation for their season openers –– the Red’s is set to kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 18. But while the season remains over a week away, it is never too early to look ahead to what the team hopes will be a bounce-back year in 2010.
Just a year ago, the Cornell football team was flying high after a dominating win in its home opener against Bucknell and a narrow victory on the road against Yale had the squad sitting at 2-0 and atop the Ivy League standings. What started off sweet quickly turned sour, however, as the Red dropped its final eight games en route to its worst record since 2003. It should come as no surprise, then, that Cornell was selected to finish in last place in this year’s Ivy League Football Preseason Media Poll.
But, with a new coaching staff headed by former Ole Miss offensive coordinator Kent Austin in place and a fresh crop of freshmen recruits trying to work its way into the lineup, the Red appears to be poised to turn the ship around in the next couple of years. Of course, the goal is to do so this season.
Unlike last year, the Red will open the 2010 season on the road, traveling to Staten Island on Sept. 18 to battle the Wagner Seahawks. Wagner, a member of the Northeast Conference (NEC), poses an unfamiliar foe to the Red, which will be in search of its fourth consecutive season-opening victory. The Seahawks finished with a 6-5 record in 2009 –– good enough for third in the NEC –– and will be returning 15 starters in 2010. Among those starters is sophomore quarterback Nick Doscher, a multi-talented offensive threat who led the Seahawks in passing and rushing last season.
The following weekend is Homecoming for the Red, as the team welcomes Yale to Schoellkopf Field on Sept. 25. Cornell prevailed in a defensive battle against the Bulldogs in 2009, 14-12, as Yale failed to complete a two-point conversion on the final play of the game. The Bulldogs finished just a game ahead of the Red in last season’s Ivy League standings, but won two more games overall in posting a 4-6 record. Yale returns junior quarterback Patrick Witt from last year’s squad. Witt had an impressive showing in a recent scrimmage against Union, completing seven of nine passes for 82 yards and two scores. It is perhaps because of Witt’s progression at quarterback that Yale has been chosen to finish fourth in this year’s Ancient Eight standings.
After its date with Yale, the Red will take a brief break from Ivy League play to face Bucknell in an annual matchup that has favored Cornell in years passed. The Red has won its past three games against the Bison, scoring an average of nearly 31 points per game over that span. Bucknell has gotten off to somewhat of a rough start this season, managing just 178 yards of offense in a 17-14 loss to Duquesne last Saturday afternoon.
If past history is any predictor of what’s to come, the Red should take a winning streak into its main stretch of Ivy League play in October and November. Whether that winning streak will continue for much longer is another issue, however, as the team travels to league-favorite Harvard on Oct. 9. The Crimson ran all over the Red last season, racking up 251 rushing yards in a 28-10 victory. The two main contributors to Harvard’s rushing attack, senior Gino Gordon and sophomore Treavor Scales, will once again be leading the Crimson attack, but the biggest name on the team may be on the defensive side. Senior defensive back Collin Zych, who recorded eight tackles in last season’s affair, comes into this season earning preseason All-American honors.
The Red’s final non-conference matchup will come on Oct. 16 against Colgate. Cornell will be seeking revenge after its 23-45 defeat at the hands of the Raiders, a loss that sent the Red into a downward spiral for the remainder of the season.
After wrapping up its nonconference schedule, Cornell will play four middle-of-the-pack Ivy League opponents on successive weeks. On Oct. 23 the Red will travel to Providence, R.I. and take on the explosive offense of Brown, led by senior quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero. Then Cornell will return home, where it will face Princeton on Oct. 30 and Dartmouth on Nov. 6 in rematches of two heartbreaking defeats from a year ago. The Tigers beat the Red in comeback fashion, 17-13, in 2009 and the Green defeated Cornell, 20-17, in double-overtime just one week later.
Cornell will conclude its season with a trip to Columbia on Nov. 13 and then a home finale against last season’s Ivy League Champion, Penn, on Nov. 20. After their domination of the Red last season, 34-0, the Quakers enter the 2010 season ranked No. 23 in the preseason Top 25 poll presented by the Sports Network.
By Dan Froats, The Cornell Daily Sun