November 6, 2019

Princeton Football Tops Cornell to Improve to 7-0, Now Faces Unbeaten Dartmouth at Yankee Stadium

GROUND AND POUND: Princeton University football player Ryan Quigley heads upfieldin recent action. Last Friday night, senior running back Quigley rushed for a game-high 79 yards to help Princeton defeat Cornell 21-7. The Tigers, now 7-0 overall and 4-0 Ivy League, face Dartmouth (7-0, 4-0 Ivy) on November 9 at Yankee Stadium as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the first football game, played between Princeton and Rutgers on November 6, 1869. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Last fall, the Princeton University football team cruised to a 66-0 win over Cornell on the way to its first perfect campaign since 1964.

Although Princeton brought a 6-0 record into this years’s renewal of the rivalry with Cornell last Friday night in Ithaca, N.Y., Bob Surace sensed that his team was not in for a smooth ride against the Big Red this fall.

“You look at Cornell this year and they are a good team, said Surace, noting that although Cornell had started 2-4, each of those defeats has come in tight games, with the team losing by an average of 7.75 points.

Sure enough, the foes were locked in a scoreless stalemate heading into the second quarter as the Big Red stopped the Tigers on a pair of fourth down and ones in the first 15 minutes of the contest.

“In the last couple of weeks, we have been stopped on drives,” said Surace. “Credit to Cornell, they had some big plays on short yardage against us.”

A fumble recovery by Tiger linebacker James Johnson deep in Cornell territory early in the second quarter helped break the ice for Princeton. The Tigers put together a scoring march of 37 yards, culminated by a three-yard touchdown run by Collin Eaddy to go up 7-0.

On its next possession, Princeton drove 80 yards in 15 plays as quarterback Kevin Davidson found receiver Andrew Griffin for a couple of big receptions, including a 33-yard completion that got the Tigers into Big Red territory and and four-yard TD pass.

“Kevin threw a beautiful ball down the sidelines to Griffin for a big gain,” said Surace, whose team took a 14-0 lead into halftime.

“It was cold and the wind was gusting, there were times that the wind really gusted. On that play fortunately there was no wind, on other times it was tough to throw or catch.”

Midway through the third quarter, Cornell narrowed the gap to 14-7 and the Tigers responded with another long drive to go ahead 21-7 in what turned out to be the final score as 12th-ranked Princeton improved to 7-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy League and extended its winning streak to 17.

“That was huge, it was a great answer by the offense after they had a terrific long drive against us,” said Surace, whose team marched 75 yards in eight plays, scoring on a four-yard TD run by Eaddy.

“The offense got on the field and we had our best drive of the game. We hit a quick screen to Dylan Classi that went for 49 yards, that got us going.”

The Tiger defense played one of its best games of the fall, limiting Cornell to 327 yards of total offense, sparked by junior Jeremiah Tyler who had a game-high 10 tackles with one sack.

“JT was terrific, he is playing at such a high level,” said Surace.

“It just seems like week to week, he is making plays. He is really doing a good job, his energy level is so high.”

The Tigers will have to take things to a higher level as they face undefeated Dartmouth (7-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy) on November 9 in a much-awaited clash being held at Yankee Stadium as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the first football game, played between Princeton and Rutgers on November 6, 1869.

“Their scores have just been impressive; obviously last year we knew the quality of the team they had,” said Surace of the Big Green who fell 14-9 to Princeton last year in a titanic battle to suffer its only loss of 2018.

“It is like a sequel where all the actors on their team are back, they are fifth year seniors. We have got a few back, like JT but we have a lot of new actors in Kevin [Davidson], Collin [Eaddy], [Jacob] Bermilin, and Dylan [Classi]. We have got to continue to prepare well. That is one thing that has been great for seven weeks, how our guys have handled the preparation.”

Princeton will be preparing hard for a memorable event as the Yankee Stadium venue and a national TV audience on ESPNU give the clash even more hype and luster.

“To have two teams that are playing at a high level in this historical event to celebrate 150 years of football, you think about football and the Ivy League has always done it right,” said Surace.

“All the schools have done it right with the quality of person, not just football. We do it right with how we bring in quality people. At its heart are these people who are playing this game. There are people on the field who are going to be playing in the NFL but the majority will go on to their life’s work to go on and do great things.”

But the future can wait as Surace wants his players to savor taking the field for the final weeks of the campaign.

“The 2019 team is only going to be together for a 10-week season and it goes so fast,” said Surace.

“The players stay in the moment. I want our guys to go out at practice and enjoy each other, enjoy practice, and have the love of the game. They have done such a good job of that.”

Surace, for his part, will enjoy scheming for a powerhouse Dartmouth team that is scoring 37.1 points a game and giving up 10.1 and is coming into the game on a high after stunning Harvard 9-6 last Saturday on a last second 43-yard Hail Mary TD pass.

“For me, there is nothing like Sunday when I am in at 6:00 in the morning and I get to watch the opponent,” said Surace.

“Sometimes, it is the first time I have seen them and that part is so much fun to try to put together a game plan. On Friday night, some things didn’t work. As a teacher you evaluate what worked and what you can do better. That is the beauty of this job, watching some of these guys develop from freshman year. You watch some of these upperclassmen and they are just playing so well.”