Cornell football will travel to Princeton this weekend with hopes of recreating last year’s upset victory while the men in black and orange with their eyes on an Ivy League title will try to sidestep the ambitious Red. Cornell will square up with undefeated Princeton Saturday at 1 p.m.
Although the Tigers have taken the lion’s share of wins historically and own a 61-37-2 record, the series has seen some wild finishes over the last 20 years. Sixteen of the last 22 meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less, including last year’s bout at Princeton, a 29-28 Red comeback decided by a last-minute field goal.
Cornell last time out:
Cornell climbed out of a 10-0 hole to beat last-place Brown, 34-16, on the road. The Red ran the ball at will and executed in the passing game, too. The defense was stellar with the exception of a few big plays, and it was Cornell’s first win at Brown since 2002.
Princeton last time out:
Princeton played its first close game of the season last week against Harvard but never trailed in the 29-21 road victory. This was Princeton’s first game scoring fewer than 45 points on the year, but the offense was still alive. Wide receiver Jesper Horsted pulled in 10 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback John Lovett, in his return from an injury, threw for 207 yards and a touchdown and ran for another. Harvard mostly bottled up running back Charlie Volker, but he still ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 17/19 Princeton is a scary team with a scary offense, one that can beat teams in a multitude of ways. Princeton’s offense leads the country in total offense (556.8 yards per game) and scoring offense (48.2 points per game) thanks to its myriad offensive weapons: Lovett at quarterback, Volker at halfback, Horsted and Stephen Carlson at wide receiver are all All-American candidates.
Head coach David Archer ‘05 on Princeton’s offensive schemes: “They run a lot of one back sets with two back plays with Lovett being the second back, so you’re going to see a lot of shotgun stuff from him. Then they’re huge fans of some crazy trickery over the years, so you have to expect the unexpected with them, but it’s primarily a spread to run team.”
Archer on stopping Lovett: “You have to get him off his spot. Harvard did a good job. You have to create pressure, give him tight windows to throw, make him play perfect, and make him a little indecisive.”
Senior linebacker Reis Seggebruch on Lovett: “He’s more of a football player than a freak athlete. When he sees an opportunity he’s going to make a great play. He’s a gamer … he reminds me of a [Cleveland Browns quarterback] Baker Mayfield type.”
Cornell beats Princeton if:
…it can keep the Tigers’ offense on the sidelines.
“The best way to defend any great offense is to leave them on the sidelines, so we have to get our run game going,” Archer said. “That’s who we think we are and what we want to be and that opens up our play action pass game against a good defense.”
Cornell’s run-first offense doesn’t have the pyrotechnics required to keep up with Princeton’s high-octane attack, so expect Cornell to play to its strength: running the ball with junior Harold Coles and company and playing strong fundamental defense. Playing keep-away with the Tigers is easier said than done: Princeton’s defense also ranks highly, allowing just 10.7 points per game and under 100 yards on the ground.
“I think the thing that separates them is their effort,” senior wide receiver Lars Pedersen said of Princeton’s defense.“ You can see it on film those guys play really hard, run really hard, hit really hard. It’s definitely going to be a good matchup.”
What they’re saying in Ithaca:
Archer on preparation for facing ranked Princeton away: “I think the road games at Delaware and at Colgate help us. This will be our third time we’ve gone on the road against a top 25 team; we certainly don’t lack for strength of schedule.”
Seggebruch on the Ivy run: ”Every week is a playoff game for us pretty much in terms of our end goal of getting an Ivy League ring, so it’s a lot of fun. A lot of pressure, but pressure breeds excitement for us.”
What they’re saying in Princeton:
Princeton head coach Bob Surace on offense’s success: “They have a great mind set. They’re playing with terrific effort and making very few mental mistakes. And our decision making has been good. We’re playing a lot of guys and playing well together. And there’s a lot of talented players. I mean, we expect them to play well. We recruited them.”’
In 2013, Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly set an FCS record against Cornell by completing 29 consecutive passes to open the game.
Fun fact about Princeton:
In 1869, Princeton participated in the first ever game of gridiron football, losing a 6-4 shootout with Rutgers.