The 55th annual Cortaca Jug game will take place this Saturday at Butterfield Stadium, where the football team will try to avoid being the first squad to lose four consecutive Cortaca Jugs to SUNY Cortland. While the players and fans will focus on the field, Ithaca College’s Office of Public Safety will be focused on the safety of attendees. This year the college will use a third-party security firm for the first time in the game’s history.
Terri Stewart, director of public safety and emergency management, said the college will work with Cayuga Security and Investigation to keep Butterfield Stadium secure before, during and after the game. Stewart said the security will use metal-detecting wands to check spectators upon entrance and turn away anyone who brings a bag.
Stewart said the college worked with Cayuga Security last year.
“They’ve been on campus, and they’ve worked with our security,” Stewart said. “They worked with us for the 2012 Commencement, were present for the Commencement Eve Concert and were present for Commencement day, so this is not the first time for us to work with them.”
Stewart also said the college will work with the Cornell University Police Department to have bomb-sniffing dogs sweep the stadium. The college will also work with the New York State Police and the Ithaca Police Department. Stewart said all these measures are precautionary.
“We plan for the worst-case scenario — take the bomb dogs for example,” Stewart said. “A lot of these are best practices, and there are safety and security measures that are standardized to take precautionary measures to make sure that visitors, students, faculty and staff that are attending the game are safe.”
The football team ended a program-long, five-year playoff drought with their extraordinary 24–23 overtime win against Salisbury University on Nov. 9. It will now host the 55th annual Cortaca Jug football game, looking to avoid setting another infamous program record with a fourth-straight Cortaca loss.
There is only one senior class to have never seen the Bombers win the Cortaca Jug in their four years at the college. The class of 1960 lost the 1959 Cortaca Jug game, which was also the first-ever Cortaca Jug game. The Bombers will host the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons at noon this Saturday at Butterfield Stadium, looking to prevent that same fate.
The Bombers will look to their veteran experience on defense to help the team end a three-year Cortaca Jug drought. Will Carter, graduate student and captain who will play in his third Cortaca Jug, said the atmosphere before the game remains the same.
“I’m a captain, so being able to lead the team out there is an awesome feeling,” Carter said. “But it’s still the same butterflies, same nervousness, same crowd, but once that kickoff starts we still play football.”
The Blue and Gold head into Saturday’s game at 8–1 overall and as the Empire 8 Conference champions, while the Red Dragons are 5–4 and eliminated from postseason contention. They have won three straight Cortaca Jug games for only the second time in program history.
Cortland has dealt with a rash of injuries throughout the year, as nine players have suffered season-ending injuries.
As a result, sophomore John Grassi will be the third starting quarterback for the Red Dragons this season. Grassi threw for almost 350 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start in the Red Dragons’ 62–49 win against Morrisville State College on Nov. 9. Grassi will face a Bombers’ defense that is 18th in the country in scoring defense and takeaways.
The strongest point of the Red Dragons offense is junior wide receiver John Babin. Babin missed all of last season with a preseason injury, but has 1,000 receiving yards this season, which leads all Red Dragons’ receivers by nearly a 10-to-1 margin.
The Bombers come into the Cortaca Jug game also dealing with injuries. Graduate student linebacker Josh Duggan will undergo season-ending hand surgery just a week after senior Jake Santora, the player he replaced, also needed surgery.
In Duggan’s place, senior Brandon Cheeseman will start at linebacker. Cheeseman had four tackles in the Bombers’ win against Salisbury. He will be Carter’s third different partner at middle linebacker in three games. Despite the turbulence, Carter is not concerned about having to adjust.
“There’s no real need to work with him to prepare,” Carter said. “He’s been waiting for this a long time … It’s a little different, but really it’s just another talented linebacker, and we’re going to be perfectly fine.”
Cortland will not have as much experience on offense as the Bombers do on defense. The Red Dragons have six freshmen starters and six starters on offense who have never played in a Cortaca Jug game away from home. Senior captain and cornerback Ben Krauz said the veterans are telling the young players not to let the game get to their heads.
“We tell them every day that this is just like every other game,” Krauz said. “It’s just a football game, nothing else. When you step on that football field, all the outside noise, all the outside atmosphere doesn’t mean anything. All that matters is the guy in front of you and doing your job.”
Krauz said he does not see Saturday’s game as a chance to shut Ithaca’s seniors out. However, he said the six Red Dragon seniors are aware that they can be the first-ever Cortland senior class to have won the Cortaca Jug four straight times.
“In our eyes, it wouldn’t be shutting Ithaca’s seniors out for four,” Krauz said. “It would be leading our seniors to four wins, and no other team could ever say they did. There’s only a select few of us who have actually been here for all four years, and it would be a real special, close group to be able to come away with that four-year streak.”
The Bombers have 22 seniors who have yet to win a Cortaca Jug title. Carter said while he believes the team deserves to win, every member still needs to execute on game day because there’s no guarantee.
“We don’t put too much pressure on ourselves about getting shutout or anything,” Carter said. “We haven’t won in the past three years, and it’s a win that we want. It’s a win that we deserve. But we don’t always get what we deserve, so we have to show up ready to work, ready to earn it, and it’s going to take every single player on our team to earn it.”