October 29, 2007

Missed FG Dooms Red at Princeton

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PRINCETON, N.J. — The current NFL trend of calling a timeout right before the opposing team is going to snap the ball for a game-tying or game-winning field goal apparently has moved to college football. Following in the footsteps of NFL coaches such as Mike Shanahan, Lane Kiffin and Wade Phillips, Princeton coach Roger Hughes called a timeout just as senior Peter Zell was going to attempt a 47-yard game-tying field goal with nine seconds left Friday night. Zell’s try was good, but it was negated by the timeout called a fraction of a second earlier, and on the second — real — attempt he missed wide right to seal the win for the Tigers, 34-31.
“Unfortunately [Zell] made it once and we got ‘Shanahaned’ on the timeout from the sideline, which is a terrible rule, but Pete gave it a great effort,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “I would make the same decision. He can make that kick. It’s a long kick, but I thought we had a shot. It just didn’t work out.”
Cornell held an edge over Princeton in most offensive categories, as the Red recorded 26 first downs as opposed to the Tigers’ 15. Also, Cornell outgained Princeton, 418-373, and the Red had possession of the ball for almost nine minutes more than the Tigers. Cornell also led, 31-27, halfway through the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Red, it gave up six turnovers, including three interceptions by junior Nathan Ford and three fumbles lost. Princeton, on the other hand, only threw one pick.
“We still moved the ball all right, but turnovers killed us,” Ford said. “We can’t have that and put our defense in tough situations, so it’s definitely something we have to clean up.”
Despite the three interceptions, Ford completed 36-of-48 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. The junior also ran for a touchdown to give Cornell a 28-27 lead in the third quarter. Ford completed his first 14 passes to start the game, and combined with five straight completions to end last week’s Brown game, he had 19 consecutive completions total. The completion streak broke the Cornell record of 13, set by Pete Dorset ’50 in 1947.
Ford spread the ball around to eight different receivers but sophomore Bryan Walters was his most frequent target, catching 10 balls for 115 yards. It was Walters’s first 100-yard receiving game in his career, and the first time a Cornell receiver had surpassed the 100-yard mark since 2004. Junior Zac Canty made eight catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns, the first two-score game of his career. Classmate Jesse Baker caught seven passes for 69 yards.
“We have so many weapons on offense,” Canty said. “It could be anybody’s day on a given day. Nate played a great game, he gutted it out. … We’d follow him through anything and I was just lucky enough to be on the end of some of them.”
Ford’s prowess through the air set up the ground game for sophomore Randy Barbour, starting in place of senior Luke Siwula, who missed his fourth straight game with an injury. Barbour followed up a 159-yard day against Brown with 26 rushes for 88 yards and one score. Cornell frequently utilized the draw play against Princeton.
“With Randy, he really needs to get that opening, a crease, and the draw really helped set him up,” Knowles said. “It really fits him pretty well.”
While Cornell amassed 83 total team yards on the ground, Princeton gained 277. Sophomore Jordan Culbreath had a career-high 145 yards, after only gaining 72 yards on the year beforehand. Culbreath’s big day came after starting quarterback and leading-rusher Bill Foran and sophomore back Kenny Gunter were both out with injuries. The Tigers scored twice more on the ground, one apiece by seniors Greg Mroz and Brendan Circle.
Cornell was able to contain Princeton’s passing attack, as Mroz, starting in place of Foran, only completed 10-24 passes for 96 yards and a score. The Red defense also improved its play in the second half. After giving up 20 points in the second quarter and 27 total in the first half, Cornell did not allow a point in the third quarter, and only gave up one score in the fourth.
“We just realized that in the first half, we missed a lot of tackles and that was really killing us,” said junior Gus Krimm. “We decided as a defense that we had to start playing better and playing harder, and we really came out and did that.”
Leading the way for the Cornell defense was senior Ryan Blessing, who made 12 total tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. Junior Tim Bax made 11 tackles and half a tackle for a loss, and senior Doug Lempa also recorded 11 tackles, making two tackles for a loss. Krimm notched the Red’s only takeaway of the night, as he picked off a Mroz pass which was deflected by junior Frank Kunis. The interception occurred just one play after Ford had thrown a pick of his own, giving Cornell the ball right back.
The game was played in unusual circumstances, as it was held on a Friday night and was televised on ESPNU. It was also Cornell’s first non-Saturday game since 1989. Despite the early start, there was not much difference in the Red’s preparation.
“Friday night compared to Saturday at 12 or one, that’s only a difference of a few hours, and they have the exact same time to prepare as we do,” Krimm said.