Cornell (3-4, 3-1 Ivy) slipped by a resilient Princeton (2-5, 2-2 Ivy) football team 25-24 Saturday, on a blustery afternoon in Ithaca, NY.
Princeton’s title hopes weren’t the only thing slipping on the day. Princeton place kicker Taylor Northrop slipped while trying to convert the potentially game-tying extra point with 11 ticks remaining on the clock.
The Tigers had appeared to have given themselves an opportunity to take the game into overtime after driving 63-yards on eight plays in 1:37 to score. A 24-yard touchdown pass from fourth-string quarterback Brian Danielewicz to Chisom Opara capped the drive, Princeton’s longest on the day.
The Red entered the game allowing 511 yards of offense on average, including an Ivy record 690-yards last week against Brown, but gave up only 292 yards of offense on the day to a potent Princeton attack.
“I thought our defense played outstanding,” said Cornell head coach Pete Mangurian. “Our defense was physical, they executed, and we had an attitude about us defensively.”
Cornell took the lead on its final drive of the afternoon, scoring on a bootleg throw from junior quarterback Ricky Rahne to sophomore tight end Mike Parris to give the Red a five-point lead. A two-point conversion pass to senior co-captain receiver Joe Splendorio put the Red ahead by an important seven points, all the cushion the Red would need.
Princeton opened the scoring in the contest after Northrop put a 40-yard field goal through the uprights with 12:18 remaining in the first quarter.
The defense held the Tigers to only five yards on the drive, but a poor punt by Cornell’s Joe Hull started the Tigers at the Cornell 28. Cornell then applied the defensive pressure for the next Princeton two drives, holding the Tigers to two three-and-outs. The Tiger defense held Cornell up on two drives as well, but the Big Red finally broke through with 1:13 remaining in the first quarter. Junior running back Evan Simmons squeezed past the Tiger defensive line for a two-yard touchdown run that put the Red ahead 7-3.
The score by Simmons was merely a preview of what was to come. The junior topped the 100-yard mark for the second time this year, eating up clock and ground in the second-half. Simmons finished the day with 106 yards and was never brought down for a loss.
The teams traded three-and-outs before Cornell made a key defensive stop on its own 43-yard line, holding Kyle Brandt on a fourth and one. The offense used the momentum to its advantage, as Rahne tossed a perfect 57-yard strike to sophomore Keith Ferguson (eight catches, 164 yards) on third-and-10 to put Cornell up 14-3.
The Cornell defense was near-perfect in the first half, allowing only 133 yards to the Tigers.
The third quarter was a quarter of defensive dominance for Princeton.
The Tigers forced four Cornell turnovers — two interceptions and two fumble recoveries — giving Princeton the field position it needed to score on what had been a very tough Red defense.
“I thought overall our defense played their lights out,” said Princeton first-year head coach Roger Hughes.
Princeton’s first touchdown of the day came courtesy of a dropped punt by Cornell’s Justin Dunleavy and subsequent recovery by the Tigers’ Paul Simbi.
The turnover gave the Tigers the ball at the Red 23. Four plays later, Atkinson danced into the end zone on a four-yard romp that left Princeton down 14-10.
Princeton’s next two drives started with excellent field position, but the home team’s defense was once again up to the task. It stifled both series and kept the Tigers from putting further points on the board.
The defense could not hold forever though, and with 5:27 left on the clock in the third, Princeton linebacker Chris Roser-Jones intercepted a Rahne pass at the Cornell 23 and returned it all the way to the seven-yard line.
Princeton would not be denied a third straight time, as Atkinson rushed for his second touchdown of the day on his first shot at the endzone.
It was the Princeton point-after try that almost killed Cornell on the day.
A botched snap on the extra-point forced holder Gary Baumwoll to roll right and heave up a prayer. That prayer was answered by Mike Chiusano, who leapt over three Cornell defenders to haul in the two-point conversion and put Princeton ahead, 18-14.
Cornell’s Peter Iverson added a fourth-quarter field goal with 6:38 remaining to put Cornell down by a point, 18-17, but the next drive would be the turning point in the game however.
With Princeton 5:47 away from a huge road victory, Blevins tried to scramble up the middle of the field, but Cornell’s Rich Zacek forced the ball from the senior’s hands. The Red’s Jordan Hase recovered the ball, giving Cornell its best field position of the day at the Princeton 36.
Eight plays later, including two critical third down conversions, Parris caught the pass that put Cornell in the lead for good, a lead that held up mostly thanks to Northrop’s slip.
After the game, Northrop had little explanation for his inability to keep his feet.
“I don’t really remember what happens during the kicks. All I remember was I took my steps and I was sitting on my ass,” he commented. “I slipped and fell, but that’s no excuse.”
A disappointed Hughes summed the contest up after the game.
“It’s very disheartening to fight that hard and not come out ahead,” said Hughes. “Second place [in the Ivies] is for losers. Am I proud of how our kids are playing? Yeah, but winning is winning,” he added.
Mangurian had a similar take on the situation.
“Bottom line of this game is you win or lose. We made enough mistakes to get us beat, but we found a way to overcome it,” Mangurian said.
Cornell will face Dartmouth at home next week.
Archived article by Charles Persons