October 29, 2001

Turnover Battle Critical to Red's Victory

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PRINCETON, N.J. — Head coach Tim Pendergast knew that Cornell and Princeton were equally matched teams. He knew that it would be a close fought battle. And furthermore, he knew that the team that limited its costly mistakes would walk away with the win.

So when he looked at the final statistics of Saturday’s 10-7 win, the numbers most indicative of the victory was the turnover ratio. It read 0-3 in favor of Cornell.

It was the second game when the Red had the advantage against its opponent and first when the offense neither fumbled nor threw an interception.

“We have 15 tremendous seniors and we talking a lot about eliminating senior mistakes — if you eliminate senior mistakes everything else will take care of itself. And I think we did that,” Pendergast said.

And by putting the ball in the sure hands of seniors quarterback Ricky Rahne and tailback Evan Simmons, both veterans hungry for a first win, Pendergast was able to keep a consistent momentum on Cornell’s side of the ball while keeping the Tigers from getting good field position. It was no small accomplishment with linebacker Chris Roser-Jones and cornerback Paul Simbi each having three interceptions on the season, as the Tigers have a total of 10 picks and 15 turnovers in all.

“Last week, we had a great turnover rate, this week we had three. We took a step backwards that way,” Princeton coach Roger Hughes said.

And the Cornell defense took a step forward in intercepting two of David Splithoff’s passes and recovering a Blair Morrison fumble — all coming in the pivotal second half.

Junior cornerback Vinny Bates forced the fumble with 6:30 left in the third quarter as the Tigers were heading inside the Cornell 30 yard line. Bates stripped Morrison as classmate safety Jamie Moriarty fell on top of the ball. The Red wasn’t able to capitalize on the turnover, but more importantly it kept Princeton from scoring.

Moriarty created the next turnover as the former wideout caught a misguided Splithoff bomb on the first play of a Princeton drive with 2:49 left in the game. The Red recovered on the Princeton 37.

And finally, the last turnover stymied any last minute heroics left in the TIger squad. With under two minutes left, senior linebacker Cory Ziskind intercepted Splithoff again and ran the ball back to the Princeton 18, where Rahne would down it three consecutive times and run out the clock to finalize the Cornell’s first win.

The Red’s senior leadership took advantage of Princeton’s youth, especially at quarterback and wide receiver.

“It’s not all the same people [making mistakes],” Hughes noted. “Part of it is seeing it and experiencing it. As we get more experience, those things will work themselves out.”

On the other hand, Pendergast looked no further than his senior players.

“I really believe that we were focused today,” he said, citing the lack of costly mistakes. “We turned a corner and now we have an opportunity to go out and win some more games.”

Archived article by Amanda Angel