A team can have all the yards it wants and all the big plays, yet sometimes it’s the things a team takes for granted that can come back to bite it.
Saturday at Schoellkopf Field, Princeton (4-3, 2-2 Ivy) took an extra-point for granted — and it cost the Tigers a shot to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
After Tiger flanker Greg Fields scored on a six-yard reverse with 6:48 left in the game, Derek Javarone lined up for the point-after looking to tie the game at 21. Yet junior Matt Pollock had different ideas, as he blocked the kick to preserve a one-point lead for the Red, and propel the team to its second win of the season, good enough to surpass last season’s total.
Head coach Jim Knowles ’87 believes that one of the big intangibles for the Red in the win was its spirit.
“They’ve been giving a great effort,” Knowles said. “But the missing piece that I couldn’t figure out until last week was the cheering for one another. [Saturday] it was a hundred guys pulling one rope one way.”
Another intangible for the Red this season according to Knowles has been its superior play at home this season. Though the team improved to just 2-5 overall, and 2-2 in Ivy play with the win over Princeton, the team has a 2-1 mark at home this season.
“We’ve played darn well at home,” Knowles said. “We’re establishing something that is going to be a presence and an attitude about playing at Schoellkopf.”
Saturday’s game was marked by a slew of big plays by each squad. After the Cornell defense shut Princeton down deep in its own zone on the second Tiger drive of the game, the squad got the ball back with good field position — on its own 46-yard line. The Red wasted no time capitalizing on its position, as junior quarterback Ryan Kuhn hit classmate Brian Romney for a 54-yard scoring strike on the first play of the drive.
Kuhn finished 13-for-27 for 208 yards and two scores, while Romney was on the receiving end of both Kuhn’s touchdowns, and finished with five catches on 114 yards.
“It felt really good to finally get some one-on-one match-ups,” Romney said. “Our quarterbacks did an excellent job getting the ball downfield to us. They made some really nice throws, and the wide receiving corps we have was able to step up and make some big plays.”
The Red got another opportunity with good field position early in the second quarter when senior cornerback Sean Nassoiy deflected Princeton quarterback Matt Verbit’s pass and classmate Nate Tarsi came up with the interception. Yet the Red offense sputtered out after five plays and was forced to punt.
The Tigers made the most of their poor field position — starting at their own eight-yard line after the punt — as Verbit hit Bill Foran deep down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown pass on third-and-10.
Foran and Fields led the way for the Tiger offense, as they combined for 12 catches, 207 yards and a touchdown. Verbit finished 19-for-39 for 260 yards and a touchdown. Verbit was intercepted twice in the game– once by Tarsi, and once by junior Jason Cloyd late in the first half — yet the Red did not capitalize on either opportunity.
The Red offense also failed to capitalize after the Tiger touchdown despite a 46-yard kick return by sophomore Anthony Jackson, and an 11-play, 33-yard drive, down to the Princeton 19, as junior A.J. Weitsman’s field goal banged off the left post.
The right post was the culprit on Weitsman’s next attempt — a 35-yard attempt early in the third quarter — halting a drive that went 62 yards in just 1:44. The big plays of the drive were 47- and 11-yard passes, both from Kuhn to senior Chad Nice. Nice led the Red in receiving with 142 yards on four receptions and a touchdown.
Despite the missed field goal, the Red was able to respond, as it scored on its next two possessions. The first score was a 24-yard throw from Kuhn to the corner of the end zone to find Romney for six. The next was a 79-yard strike down the sideline from senior D.J. Busch to Nice, which put the Red up, 21-7. Busch, who was replaced by Kuhn as the starter last week, came off the bench for Cornell, and completed five-of-10 passes for 112 yards.
After that play, the Tigers took the game over.
Verbit hit Fields for two plays of 20-plus yards to set up a three-yard plunge by Jon Veach, which brought Princeton within a touchdown going into the fourth quarter.
The Red had trouble grinding the clock down in the final period, as it had a total of three yards on its next two possessions. The Tigers capitalized on the Red’s ineptitude, as Fields returned a punt 47 yards down to the Cornell 23-yard line with just over nine minutes to play.
After four rushes by senior Branden Benson for 25 yards, Fields took the ball in from the six, bringing the Tigers all the way back to within a point of the Red. But then Pollock blocked the extra-point to seal the win for Cornell.
Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor