Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of the Big Red Sports Network, which provides excellent Cornell sports coverage throughout the year for alumni, parents, students and fans everywhere.
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Ithaca, N.Y. — Currently sitting at 0-6, and having been outscored by over 20 points a game, the Big Red need to start making major strides if they want to get in the victory column this season.
They will get their next chance to do that this Saturday, as they take on the visiting Princeton Tigers (3-3, 2-1 Ivy) at Schoellkopf Field. Princeton is coming off their worst performance of the season, as Harvard routed them 49-7 last week at Princeton Stadium, while Cornell fell in Providence to Brown 42-16.
While Cornell has struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball this year, it has been the opposite story for Princeton, as they are averaging more than 30 points per game.
They are led by senior quarterback and reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Quinn Epperly, a dual-threat NFL prospect has thrown who has thrown for 866 yards and three touchdowns this season, while running for a team-leading eight touchdowns. Epperly of course made headlines last year against the Big Red when he set an NCAA Division 1 record by completing 29 consecutive passes, and finished the game 32 of 25 for 325 yards and three touchdowns, while adding three scores on the ground.
However, Epperly is not the only QB on the roster putting up impressive numbers, as Princeton’s unique multi-QB approach has allowed Connor Michelsen to throw for 668 yards and three touchdowns this season.
One of the main reasons, besides the prowess of Epperly that the Tigers’ offense has been so prolific this year is their depth and balanced offensive attack.
Through six games three players have 38 or more carries, which has led to Princeton averaging an impressive 162 rushing yards per game. They run a variety of trick and misdirection plays, which have the ability to constantly keep the defense off guard, and making it easier for receivers to get open. If the Big Red wish to contain this offense, they must be very disciplined in order to not allow themselves to be fooled by misdirection and read option plays, as well as consistently getting a pass rush from their front four, something they’ve rarely been able to do this season.
After missing the last couple of games with an injury, junior QB James Few will be getting the starting nod this weekend. In limited action so far this year, he has struggled, completing just 47% of his passes in two starts for an anemic 168 yards. Although Princeton is allowing 320 passing yards per game, so far this season it appears Cornell lacks the firepower to put together a productive aerial attack.
Even though Coach Archer made it a goal to feature more the run game, the Big Red is only averaging 2.5 yards per carry and 85 yards per game (while giving up a staggering 198 yards per game).
Obviously falling behind by several points many times this season has hurt the team’s ability to feature the run game, but those kinds of numbers are unacceptable for any time, especially for one that is built to run the football. If Few, who like Epperly is a threat to run, is unable to put points on the scoreboard, we may see more of Robert Somborn. In his first action of the season last week, the sophomore threw for 118 yards and two touchdowns, the only scoring drives Cornell had that game.
The weather forecast as of now is saying that the game will be played in rainy conditions, with temperatures in the 30s. This could be an advantage for the Big Red, the weather will make it harder for Epperly and Princeton’s offense to execute at their usual level, and rainy conditions often lead to close games, regardless of the difference in talent between teams (such as Cornell and Harvard battled to a 0-0 tie in a rainy first half in Cambridge three weeks ago). All of these could be major factors, as the Big Red look to finally notch their first victory of the season.