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Cornell has not won an Ivy League championship since 1990 — the second-longest active drought — and it doesn’t look like its spell will end in 2009.

After the graduation of quarterback Nathan Ford — whose 281.5 yards per game was the highest in the conference last season — and his most frequent target, Jesse Baker, the offense has a lot of ground to cover.

Stepping in for Ford will be senior Ben Ganter, who has seen action in eight games for the Big Red. In his limited playing time, Ganter has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions.

The Big Red also suffered several losses on the defensive side, as they return only three starters from last season. The defensive line — which registered only 15 sacks last season, good for seventh in the conference — was the hardest hit, as it does not return a single starter.

The 2008 edition of sixth-year coach Jim Knowles’s team tied for sixth in the Ancient Eight with a 4-6 overall record (2-5 Ivy).

While Ford led his offense to the League’s second-highest total output, his teammates on defense put up a poor showing across the board. Only Dartmouth allowed more total rushing yards (455.2) than the Big Red last season (351.1).

The best chance for Knowles and company to return to former glory depends on a pair of talented seniors, one on each side of the ball.

Bryan Walters, a 6-foot-1, 191-pound multi-faceted offensive threat, led the Ivy League in all-purpose yards per game in 2008 (153). Walters poses quite a threat both as a receiver and a kick returner.

The Bothell, Wash., native finished eighth among conference foes in receptions and sixth in receiving yards per game in his junior year. But that’s just the beginning of what he can do.

The honorable mention All-Ivy selection broke the Ivy record for kickoff return yardage in 2008 and became the first player in League history to surpass 2,000 all-purpose yards in a single season.

“Bryan is very underrated from the league standpoint and from a national spotlight standpoint,” Knowles said in the Ivy League weekly football teleconference. “He’s the focus of our special teams.”

On the defensive end, Cornell is hoping that Chris Costello will live up to his preseason honorable mention All-America honors. Costello, a senior linebacker from Katonah, N.Y., finished third in the conference and 37th in the nation with 90 tackles in 2008.

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