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.


Ithaca, N.Y. — With Cornell now 0-3 after getting throttled 51-13 by Yale in their home and Ivy League opener, the Big Red look to regroup for this Saturday’s matchup against the Harvard Crimson (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) in Cambridge, Mass.

However, this will be easier said than done against a team that has won at least a share of the Ivy football title four of the past seven years.

Harvard has especially dominated Cornell, defeating the Big Red in 17 of the last 18 match-ups, with the last Cornell triumph being a 27-13 upset victory back in 2005.

Struggling in a post-Jeff Matthews era

If the Big Red wish to even put up a fight against the heavily-favored Crimson, the team will need to perform significantly better on both sides of the ball.

Last week vs. Yale, Cornell was outgained 585-189, while averaging only 3.2 yards per play.

The team struggles to find an offensive identity in the post-Jeff Mathews era, as inconsistent quarterback play has prevented it from sustaining long drives or breaking off big plays.

Cornell QBs have combined to complete just 50% of their passes for three touchdowns and four interceptions through three games.

Junior James Few, who got the starting nod last week before getting benched for freshman Jake Jatis, appears to be feeling better after a shoulder injury kept him out of the loss vs. Bucknell, but he needs to start being more consistent.

The Florida native has thrown for only 168 yards in his starts while completing under 50% of his passes. At the beginning of the season, second-year Head Coach David Archer emphasized that this would be a run-oriented team, but too many times this season they have fallen behind quickly, forcing them to try to pass their way back into the game.

Defensive malaise

Defensively, the Big Red have struggled significantly against the run, as they are giving up 254 rushing yards per game this season.

Even though Coach Archer has stressed that he wants this team to be more physical on both sides of the ball, they have been unable to stop the run, which has led to prolonged, energy-draining drives by opposing teams.

Whether it’s the inability of Cornell’s defensive backs to cover the opposing team’s top receiver in man coverage or the lack of penetration by the defensive line, there are many flaws within this defense that will definitely be exploited by Harvard if they aren’t fixed.

Crimson come in strong

The Crimson come into this game having won their first three games, and looked very impressive in the process.

They are averaging over 460 yards on offense per game, and have done so with a very balanced attack. They’ve been led by the efficient play of junior quarterback Scott Hosch, who’s completed an exceptional 73% of his passes this year, while averaging 206 passing yards per game and even running for two touchdowns.

Harvard’s running game has produced 214 rush yards per game this year, with senior running back Andrew Casten leading the way.

Casten has run for 108 yards per game on 7.4 yards per carry, while scoring seven touchdowns. They are just as impressive defensively, as they are only giving up 12 points per game, and have already forced eight turnovers in three games.

Reason for optimism

Even though Cornell is a heavy underdog going into this game, there is reason to believe they can matchup with Harvard.

The offensive line has only allowed six sacks this season, while the running game has shown promise. Arguably their biggest asset, however, is punter Chris Fraser. The reigning Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week is averaging over 40 yards a punt this season, and had two punts of over 50 yards in last week’s loss, with one of them going for 61 yards.

If Fraser can pin the Crimson deep in their own zone, and if Cornell can get them off the field on third down, it could potentially lead to great scoring opportunities for the Big Red.

As the team makes its way to Cambridge, it can be expected to be supported by the Big Red Marching Band, plus the large number of Cornell alums in the Boston area. But even with this support, it will take a Herculean effort for the Big Red to notch their first victory of the 2014 season.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.