With the Harvard football team hosting Cornell on Saturday afternoon, we caught up with The Cornell Daily Sun’s Quintin Schwab over email to get an inside look at Big Red football. Check out what Schwab had to say below:
The Harvard Crimson: What can Harvard expect from Cornell on Saturday night?
Quintin Schwab: Harvard can expect a Cornell team ready for the moment. For the last several years (basically this century), Cornell football has been one of the laughing stocks of the Ivy League, but in head coach Kent Austin's second year (2011), things changed. They found an excellent quarterback; they developed an athletic offensive line; they found playmakers at wide receiver; they got speed on defense. Now in Austin's third year, the Red looks like a real football team. And surprisingly, the defense has outperformed the prolific offense so far. The offense has made uncharacteristic mistakes through the first three games of the season, but I wouldn't expect many on Saturday. Cornell may end up on the short end, but it will not be due to a lack of effort or shying away from the magnitude of the game.
THC: Just how good is Jeff Mathews, and how has his game changed from last season?
QS: Mathews is all he's made out to be and more. Like Colton Chapple, he has near-lethal accuracy. He has a rocket arm. He's big. He's tough. He's smart. But it's not even his precise mechanics and fundamentals that make him an excellent quarterback; it's also his leadership and humility. As Coach Austin always likes to say, Mathews makes all the coaches better coaches. In terms of his growth from last year, he's simply just adding more tricks to the bag (e.g., throwing on the run and pocket awareness) and developing as the unquestioned leader of the football team.
THC: Give us your prediction: How many passing yards will he finish the season with?
QS: Mathews, now with 1107 yards, will finish the season with around 3300 yards, actually fewer than last year.
THC: While the Cornell offense was obviously pretty sharp last year, the defense appears to be much improved. What do you attribute that to?
QS: The defense does indeed look much improved, but it will be put to the ultimate test this weekend. Coordinator Kim Dameron has put more athleticism on the field this year (e.g. two freshman cornerbacks) and has simplified their defensive scheme. But we all know it ultimately comes down to the players. They are sick of being viewed as the unit that holds back a great offense, and they have trust in each other. They are simply more active this year than in years past. The defense's main issues last year came in between the 20's (they actually had a good red zone defense), but this year they've cleaned up their mistakes and have bent less in the middle of the field (don't have statistics, but my hunch is that they've allowed fewer than 10 plays of 20 yards or more). The backups, which used to translate to end of story when they were put in the game, are able to come up with huge plays and contributions like they did last week against Bucknell. And the offense has certainly helped out, putting together long drives and giving the defense long rests (although they haven't executed in scoring territory well).
THC: Cornell senior center and offensive co-captain Bob Bullington was out last week. What does he bring to the Big Red offense, and will we see him back in action on Saturday?
QS: Bullingon is huge, arguably the second most important player on the team after Mathews, and we saw that last week when the replacement repeatedly snapped low or rolling balls to Mathews. Bullington is the vocal leader of the offensive line and an excellent player. He is a warrior, as he actually played the first two weeks snapping with his left hand because of his broken and casted right wrist suffered in the offseason. I have a feeling the decision to hold him out against Bucknell was precautionary and in preparation for the big showdown against Harvard. So expect number No. 64 to be back and delivering some fine snaps to Mathews, which will relieve the whole offensive unit.
THC: Final score prediction?
QS: Final score: Harvard 31, Cornell 26