Sophomore Randy Barbour sat smiling. Six weeks ago, he had never had a rushing attempt let alone a rushing yard. Now he sat behind the table at the Red’s post game press conference after a 38-31 overtime victory over Brown.
“Randy, how’s that for a nice coming out party?” a reporter asked him, referring to Barbour’s 32 carries for 159 yards and three scores — including the game-winner in overtime.
The room laughed at the question. Barbour grinned and began praising his teammates.
“It was awesome,” he said. “The line was blocking very well. Everything was clicking. Everything. We had so many big runs, so many big plays — it was just awesome. The whole team clicked as a unit.”
Three weeks ago, starting senior running back Luke Siwula went down with an injury at Georgetown. Barbour split carries with junior Shane Kilcoyne in the next two games and neither could produce a consistent running game for the Red (4-2, 1-2 Ivy). The team racked up 45 yards on 28 carries against Harvard and 36 yards on 36 carries against Colgate.
Now Barbour is the team’s leading rusher in terms of carries, yards and yards per carry.
“Can you talk about how the offensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage?” someone else asked head coach Jim Knowles ’87.
He talked about the great job it had done blocking for Barbour for a few moments before slowing down.
“I don’t know what the stats were, but …”
“159 for Randy coach,” someone interjected. Knowles smiled.
“159 yards for Randy Barbour,” he said turning to Barbour. “Man, nice job.”
Next to Barbour senior co-captain Colin Nash turned to Barbour with mock exuberance and said in a drawn out voice, “wow.”
The numbers might be surprising considering that Barbour had only amassed 42 yards rushing since he had becoming the feature back in a platoon with Kilcoyne two weeks ago. Saturday, Barbour had eclipsed that total by the end of the first quarter.
“Shane was a little nicked up here and there,” Knowles said. “We just thought Randy was hot. He was looking good all week. He’s busted up some things in practice and I kept telling him he was going to have a break out game — and he really did.”
Barbour had shown flashes of his talent at times this season. Against Georgetown, he went for 69 yards on nine carries after Siwula went down with his injury. Saturday, that talent was on display all afternoon.
On the Red’s second drive, Barbour bounced it outside for 12 yards on his first carry, then five plays later took the ball at the 13 and slipped around the right edge of the line to the right, brushing off several tacklers as he ran a diagonal line into the endzone.
Brown head coach Phil Estes thought Barbour’s runs to the outside really hurt the Bears.
“It was a matter of responsibilities,” he said. “Our contain was not there on those bounce plays. Our contain was inside and it should have been outside to force the play back [to the middle].”
Barbour was also effective up the gut. When the Red got the ball with 8:19 remaining in the second quarter, the team let Barbour follow the blocks of the two offensive guards. On third-and-two, Barbour hit a small hole with a full head of steam and brushed by tacklers for 18 yards.
Cornell moved the ball down to Brown’s two-yard line and again ran Barbour up the middle. The line bowled down the Brown linemen and Barbour walked over a few tacklers into the endzone for the Red’s second touchdown.
“We challenged [the offensive line], I challenged them publicly,” Knowles said. “I said our offensive line has to play better because we have so much confidence in them. I knew we had Randy to step up, but he needs a chance to get started. I mean that O-line, they protected well, guys were blitzing and they were stoning them and giving Randy a chance to get started. … A lot of kudos to those guys.”
By halftime, Barbour had 80 yards on 10 carries. Still, the team trailed 24-14. Knowles went into the locker room and wrote one sentence on the board — “We will win.” After Brown got the first touchdown of the second half, the momentum started to swing as Cornell began to put points on the board.
“You can feel the momentum in the game when Randy’s breaking tackles,” Knowles said.
Barbour kept chugging, and by the middle of the fourth quarter he had eclipsed his career total of 135 yards and was still going. His clip of five yards a carry allowed the Red to make up ground quickly through the air.
“We haven’t had [a consistent running game] in the past couple of weeks,” Knowles said. “You cannot be one-dimensional. We saw that with Colgate. We were able to get them. They had the best back in the country, right? But if they’re one-dimensional they can be stopped. We needed our running game to step up. The minute it did and Randy had those yards — look at all those lanes it creates in the passing game. We really needed that to happen.”
While a fake field goal converted and a toss from junior quarterback Nathan Ford to junior Horatio Blackman accounted for the Red’s final two regulation touchdowns, the coaches called Barbour’s number in overtime. From five yards out, the running back took the handoff and ran into a clogged line. He stopped dead in his tracks, then took it around the left end to the outside for the final tally.
While Barbour picked up more than half of his season totals of 294 rushing yards and 63 carries on Saturday afternoon, Knowles has confidence in his back.
“Randy’s always been a good runner, he’ll always be a good runner,” Knowles said. “It’s just experience. I guess if anything’s changed, it’s just time. It’s him getting more reps and more reps and learning what plays fit and the blocking schemes. The more reps he gets the better he’s going to be.”