The Cornell football team had a task to accomplish this Saturday: bounce back from last week’s 56-40 loss at Brown by beating Princeton.
Not only was the squad able to rebound from that loss to defeat the Tigers 25-24, but the Red (3-4, 3-1 Ivy) is also still in the logjam atop the league standings.
One of the keys to the Red’s victory was the play of its defense. It held Princeton to eight drives which were either three-and-outs or turnovers.
“I thought our defense played outstanding,” head coach Pete Mangurian said.
The key to this improvement may have been the ability for the defense to stop the run. The squad, which had been giving up about 300-yards per game on the ground, surrendered only 140 to the Tigers.
“We haven’t been able to stop the run in the past couple of weeks. Today we had the opportunity to stop the run, and use the pass rush. I think up front our pass rush is pretty good,” senior defensive lineman Jay Bolton said.
And this pass rush was indeed important, as it forced the Princeton quarterbacks into quick decisions and bad throws. Two of these passes were picked off by the Red secondary.
The Tigers’ other turnover was a fumble on a quarterback scramble forced by junior defensive lineman Rich Zacek.
“I give a lot of credit to the defensive line — they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, which makes it easier for the secondary to cover. The d-line made it easier for us to cover and to come up and stop the run,” said senior Phil Rigueur, who had an interception on the day.
Also impressive about the defense was that it was able to contain Princeton’s offense despite having to defend a short field for much of the day. On the Tigers’ first series, they only moved the ball five yards against the Red, but because of excellent field position they were still able to kick a field goal.
“We put them in some very difficult situations . . . and they made big plays when they needed to,” Mangurian said.
And while Princeton was able to move down the field at the end of the game, and score a touchdown to bring the game to a one-point margin, the defense’s improved play kept the Red in the game through the entire game.
“We had an attitude about us defensively, and that’s what we need to continue to do,” Mangurian said.
Archived article by J.V. Anderton