October 31, 2018

Tiger Football Keeps Focus in Routing Cornell 66-0, Now Girding for Clash of Unbeatens Versus Dartmouth

GROUND AND POUND: Princeton University quarterback John Lovett, left, hands off to Charlie Volker in a game earlier this fall. Last Saturday, seniors Lovett and Volker helped key a dominant ground attack that piled up 358 yards rushing as Princeton routed Cornell 66-0. The No. 14 Tigers, now 7-0 overall and 4-0 Ivy League, host No. 20 Dartmouth (7-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy) in a critical Ivy showdown this Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It had the makings of a trap game for undefeated Princeton University football team as it hosted underdog Cornell last Saturday.

The Princeton players had dealt with midterm exams during the week, the windy and rainy weather on game day was well suited to Cornell’s running game, and a clash against unbeaten Dartmouth on November 3 loomed on the horizon for Princeton.

Putting those distractions to the side, Princeton steamrollered Cornell, jumping out to a 35-0 lead midway through the second quarter on the way to a 66-0 rout before a crowd of 4,200 at Princeton Stadium.

The win represents Princeton’s largest margin of victory in an official Ivy League game — the league formed in 1956 — and the most points the Tigers have ever scored against Cornell in a series that dates back to 1891. The triumph also sets up a battle of unbeatens as the Tigers, now 7-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy League and ranked No. 14 in the FCS Coaches Poll, host No. 20 Dartmouth (7-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy) this Saturday.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace lauded his players for the way they took care of business.

“I told them on the locker room how proud I was, you go through college football and these guys are A+ workaholics and they stay focused all week,” said Surace.

“It showed in how we played and how we executed. One of the reasons we are where we are is that we have stayed with tunnel vision week to week, which has been reflected in the outcomes.”

Senior linebacker and co-captain Tom Johnson said that intensity comes naturally to the Tigers.

“We are always focused on being the best version of us that we can be; that mindset doesn’t change,” said Johnson.

“We came prepared this week. We came prepared the last couple of weeks and we are going to try to be as prepared as we can be next week.”

The Tiger defensive backfield came up big against Cornell, making four interceptions, including two by junior T.J. Floyd, who now has a team-high six on the season.

“One of our keys to victory is getting that ball out; it was on our mind,” said Johnson, who had three tackles in the victory.

“Those guys in the secondary have been working hard after practice. They had a couple of drops in the last couple of weeks so they have been working to get the ball. Any time you can get off the field like that, that is what we are looking for. Credit to those guys and credit to the guys up front. They are getting batted balls. It is great to see them flying around like that.”

Getting its first shutout of the season was icing on the cake for the Tigers.

“We wanted it, we have been close a couple of times,” said Johnson. “It is great to see our younger guys getting the chance to go out there to contribute and stop those guys. They had a couple of good stops there, it was good to see.”

Senior quarterback John Lovett enjoyed getting the chance to trigger a Tiger ground attack that rolled up 358 yards rushing.

“It starts up front and like every other week, our guys did a tremendous job,” said Lovett, who gained 159 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown.

“The guys who carry the ball just pride ourselves on never going down after the first hit. We try to keep moving and get first downs every drive and be fast and physical. The running game did a great job of doing that.”

Wearing a splint on his left arm, Lovett played through pain in his second game back after sitting out the Brown game on October 13.

“Injuries are part of the game, I am not going to let that keep me out,” said Lovett.

Having been out all of the 2017 season due to injury, Lovett is savoring his return to the field this fall.

“It is incredible; I love this game more than anything,” said Lovett, the Ivy league Offensive Player of the Year in 2016 who has rushed for 608 yards and eight touchdown and passed for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns this fall. “It is my passion to be back here with my team. It feels great. I am excited to be out on the field and do the best I can to help us.”

In Surace’s view, the passion of Lovett and Johnson has set the tone for the Tigers this fall.

“John is just so much fun to watch; you love having guys like that who have such leadership,” said Surace.

“They play with such effort and the guys respond to him so well. It makes the job of a coach easier where I am not always having to be the voice or the leader. These two guys, John and Tom, especially with Kurt [Holuba] being out, really take ownership of the locker room. You see that culture continuing with the young guys.”

The Tigers will be utilizing that winning culture as his team girds for the showdown against the Big Green this Saturday.

“We have got to approach the week the same way; enjoy this win because wins are hard to come by and that team was 2-1 in the league,” said Surace.

“Once we get done making the corrections from this game, we will move forward to Dartmouth. Having played in one of those in 1989 against Yale where it was the talk of the league, I think there will be a lot of excited support on both sides. We have just got to go what we do in terms of being focused, watching film, and being prepared. We have to be at the best of our abilities and let the chips fall where they may, and if it is not good enough, it is not good enough. All we can control is us being prepared and doing the best we can against a very challenging opponent.”

In Lovett’s view, the Tigers aren’t about to lose their tunnel vision. “It is like any other week,” said Lovett. “You dig into film all week, practice our butts off and go out there and lay it all on the line for each other.”