Friday, August 17, 2007

Closed Window of Opportunity?

Jim Knowles is trying to break the law of diminishing returns

Fifth in a team-by-team look at the Ivies, (Yale is my pick for first, Penn second, Princeton third, Columbia fourth, and Harvard fifth.)

6. Cornell

When Jim Knowles took over as head coach at Cornell in 2004, the Big Red had just hit bottom after a 1-9, 0-7 Ivy season where they had been outscored 304-130.

Knowles had an immediate positive effect as the '04 Big Red went 4-3 in the Ivies, (4-6 overall), and cut their points allowed total to 181. 2005 was even better with a 6-4 overall record and another 4-3 Ivy mark.

But there was a definite step backward in 2006 as Cornell dropped to 3-4 in the Ivies and 5-5 overall. They did win three of their last four games, but the Big Red showed very little strength in the passing game and a general malaise on the road that has plagued Cornell since Knowles took over, (they're 3-11 on the road over the last three seasons).

None of this is hard to figure out. Cornell is a running team that relies on as many people on offense running the ball in different ways as possible. The loss of superstar offensive lineman Kevin Boothe and hard-running QB Ryan Kuhn after the 2005 season left Cornell without as many weapons in 2006. The result was star runner Luke Siwula ended up with 200 fewer yard rushing than he had the year before, and whenever the Big Red did try to pass it always seemed like something bad was going to happen.

For the last two years, Cornell has been everyone's favorite dark house pick to win or contend for the Ivy title. But that window of opportunity seems to be closed, and the Big Red will have to fight hard this season to stay out of the Ivy basement.


This is still going to be a good running team. Look for sophomore QB Stephen Liuzza to get more playing time and his speed is definitely a plus. Siwula ended the 2006 season with five straight sub-100 yard performances, and without more help from a running QB like Liuzza, the senior Siwula will have a hard time posting 1,000 yard numbers like he did as a soph in 2005. But another good runner is junior Shane Kilcoyne, who provides a good mix on the ground.

The other big strength should be pass defense. Junior Tim Bax was an All-Ivy safety last season and he should be even better this season. Cornell's coaches feel senior safety Michael Boyd is very underrated and they're right. Senior Colin Nash is a solid cornerback as well.

Cornell also should continue to get great results on special teams from sophomore Bryan Walters, who tore up the league on punt and kick returns last year. But some of his effectiveness may be muted as he will have to play a bigger role as a wide receiver this season.


The Big Red passing game was a flat-out liability last year and I don't see too many reasons why it won't be again in 2007. Senior QB Nathan Ford and Liuzza are just not great throwers, and they don't have the greatest targets anyway. Scrappy junior WR Zac Canty makes the most of his 5"8 frame, (reprising the role the diminutive Brian Romney played on this team for a few years), but QB's need big targets, especially when they're not miracle workers. 6"2 junior Jesse Baker is more like it when it comes to filling a classic receiver's role, but the offense may depend on the continued development of Walters as something more than just a return threat.

And the Big Red must do something about their road woes. It's nothing new when bad teams can't win away from home, but Cornell has looked like a generally solid team overall for three years running. The week two contest at Yale will be very telling.


Sept. 15: BUCKNELL

I expect the Big Red to perform nicely in this game to make up for the dud of a performance they put up last season at Bucknell.

Sept. 22: at Yale

It would be a huge surprise if Cornell won this one... just huge.

Sept. 29: at Georgetown

Well, Knowles couldn't hope for much of a weaker opponent to get his team to overcome the road-trip blues. This should be a win.


I think this will be very, very close but I have to give the Crimson the edge.

Oct. 13: COLGATE

The Big Red get another nice win on Homecoming.

Oct. 20: BROWN

Probably a very close game, but another win.

Oct. 26: at Princeton

Cornell melts under the Friday night lights.

Nov. 3: at Dartmouth

I think Cornell will be a better team overall, but the Big Green could steal this one.


After a very poor showing in 2005, the Lions return to their very long tradition of playing very well in Ithaca.

Nov. 17: at Penn

Quakers finish the season with a win.

Predicted Final Won-Loss Record: 5-5, 2-5 Ivy. 6th place.

BUT ALL BETS ARE OFF IF: Someone gets the passing game going and the defense picks up its game a bit. If those things happen, Cornell could go 4-3 in the Ivies once again.


At Sat Aug 18, 06:15:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, I frankly don't understand Cornell. I think that Cornell has a huge advantage over the other Ivies because of its state schools. Traditionally, a lot of the jocks at Cornell are not in the college of arts and sciences or engineering but in the hotel admin or aggie school (or sometimes labor relations). That should give them a huge advantage in terms of an easy path for admissions and an easy academic path.


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