November 11, 2015

Squandering Opportunities in OT Loss at Penn, PU Football Aims to Rebound in Clash With Yale


PENNED IN: Princeton University quarterback Chad Kanoff heads upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior quarterback Kanoff completed 26-of-42 passes for 218 yards in a losing cause as Princeton fell 26-23 at Penn in overtime. The Tigers, now 5-3 overall and 2-3 Ivy League, were eliminated from the league title race in the wake of Harvard beating Columbia 24-16 to improve to 8-0 overall and 5-0 Ivy with two games remaining. Princeton will look to get back in the winning track as it hosts Yale (5-3 overall, 2-3 Ivy) on November 14 in its home finale. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Taking on Penn at venerable Franklin Field in Philadelphia last Saturday afternoon, the Princeton University football team did a lot of good things.

Princeton held a 24-22 edge in first downs, had a game-high 108 yards rushing from Joe Rhattigan, a game-best 218 yards passing from Chad Kanoff, and recovered two fumbles.

But in the end, Princeton’s failure to convert a fourth and goal from the one-yard line, having a field goal blocked at the end of regulation, and its inability to keep Penn from scoring a touchdown after taking a three-point lead in overtime doomed the Tigers to a 26-23 OT defeat.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace lamented his team’s critical lapses as it fell to 5-3 overall and 2-3 Ivy League, officially getting eliminated from the league title race in the wake of Harvard beating Columbia 24-16 to improve to 8-0 overall and 5-0 Ivy with two games remaining.

“I thought it was a really good football game; both teams had a lot of long drives; we had four drives with 12-plus plays during the game,” said Surace.

“Penn beat the No. 4 team in the nation earlier in the year (a 24-13 win over Villanova on September 24) and controlled that game. They are playing at a very high level and I thought most of the game we matched or exceeded it. We just couldn’t get over the hump. We have got to take care of the small details. We can’t have a blocked field goal at the end of the game. A few plays before that, we had a gaping hole that gets called back on a false start. You play 200 plays and those six plays keep you up at night.”

The Tigers displayed a high level of resilience as they battled back from a 10-3 deficit midway through the second quarter. With junior Rhattigan bulling through the Quaker defense for touchdown runs of four yards and two yards, Princeton pulled ahead 17-10. Then in the waning seconds of the half, a Penn miscue on special teams led to a 39-yard field goal by Nolan Bieck as the Tigers took a 20-10 lead into halftime.

“We were able to mount a pretty good long drive and get a stop right before the end of the half,” said Surace, reflecting in his team’s second quarter rally.

“We get another score and we kicked off. We did a pop up kick and they fumbled it. We got the ball back and we got into Nolan’s field goal range on the next play.”

In the third quarter, the only scoring came from Penn, which got a three-yard touchdown run from Tre Solomon to culminate an 84-yard march and narrow the Princeton lead to 20-17.

The Tigers responded with a 19-play, 70 yard march that ended early in the fourth quarter when Penn stuffed Rhattigan for a one-yard loss on fourth and goal at the one.

“We got a bunch of really good short yardage conversions; we weren’t able to punch it in from the one,” said Surace.

Penn got a field goal late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20-20 but Princeton went on the march again, driving to the Penn 18 and attempting a 35-yard field goal at the end of regulation that got blocked.

“We had a long drive and got the ball down to the 18,” said Surace. “We didn’t block right on that kick.”

In overtime, the Tigers had the first possession and had three straight incomplete passes before Bieck came through with a 42-yard field goal. Penn, though, didn’t waste time pulling out the game as former WW/P-S star Brian Schoenauer rushed for 14 yards and quarterback Alek Torgerson hit Eric Fiore for an 11-yard TD pass to make it a 26-23 final.

“We felt like we had some opportunities on our end and we didn’t make the most of them,” said Surace, reflecting on the overtime. “We got the field goal but they did a good job executing their plays and they got a TD.”

Surace liked the execution he got from offensive stars Rhattigan, Kanoff, and wide receiver Seth DeValve (9 catches for 65 yards).

“Joe was grinding out a lot of tough, three and four-yard gains when we needed them,” said Surace.

“He did some really good things. Chad probably had his best game; how he managed both 2-minute drills in the first half and then at the end of the regulation were terrific. Having Seth back was great, he really made some good plays in the course of the game.”

The Tiger defense made its share of big plays, as junior linebacker Luke Catarius had 14 tackles and junior safety Dorian Williams made 10 stops.

“That is one of the best offenses we will see, for the most part, we took away some of the things they do well,” said Surace.

“They have a great deep passing game and I thought we took away the deep balls. We took away their inside running to a certain extent. They ran their speed option and their quarterback got some good blocking.”

While the narrow defeat was disappointing, Surace sees no reason for despair.

“We just have to continue to practice hard and do the things we are doing,” said Surace.

“Unfortunately we had some opportunities at different points in the game to either get a bigger lead or force them into throwing the ball more. We had some opportunities to win it at the end and we didn’t get it done. It is not like we are from here to Georgia, it is like we are from here to Trenton. It is getting the little details done.”

With Princeton hosting Yale on November 14 in one of the longest-running rivalries in college football, the Tigers will get the opportunity to come up with a memorable win in its home finale.

“There are some terrific teams in the league, we are going to play one in Yale next week,” said Surace.

“They have had some huge wins, they beat a CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) school in Maine. They had a big win over Brown last week. They have played well when they have been healthy. They certainly have had, just like us, a lot of these good hard-fought one play games that come down to one score.”