September 27, 2017

PU Football Overruns Lafayette 38-17, Moves to 2-0; Now Girding for Ivy Opener Against Upstart Columbia

SPRINTING TO VICTORY: Princeton University football player Charlie Volker eludes a foe in 2016 action. Last Saturday at Lafayette, junior running back Volker, an Ivy League champion sprinter, rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to help the Tigers cruise to a 38-17 win over the Leopards. Princeton, now 2-0, hosts Columbia (2-0) on September 30 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming into its clash at Lafayette last Saturday, the Princeton University football team was determined to unleash its ground attack.

“We felt that we weren’t tight enough in our run blocking; we weren’t doing a great job on our double teams, getting at the backers,” said Princeton head coach Bob Surace.

“We had a lot of good, solid runs but we just weren’t able to get ourselves in the open field. I felt we really had a good week of practice and did a good job of coming off the ball.”

That practice paid off as Princeton overran the Leopards, outgaining Lafayette 194 yards to 36 on the ground, cruising to a 38-17 win and improving to 2-0.

Although the Tigers eventually pulled away, Princeton experienced some anxious moments early on as the rivals were tied at 10-10 midway through the second quarter.

“They are a 60 scholarship team and they are well coached; we knew we were going to get a terrific effort,” said Surace.

“They got called out a little bit in the last game and some of the guys didn’t finish the game. We knew they were going to come flying around the field and that it was going to be a battle. Most of the games we have had with them have been battles.”

Princeton gained an upper hand in the battle as scoring jaunts from Volker and Ryan Quigley gave the Tigers a 24-10 lead at halftime.

“We crossed midfield on the kickoff return after their field goal and then we come up with, boom, boom, three or four good plays in a row and Charlie is in the end zone,” said Surace.

“We kick off, they muff the kickoff and we end up pinning them inside their 10. They punt it to us and we had good field position again. We did a two-minute drill really well and we scored again.”

In the second half, junior receiver Jesper Horsted took over with touchdown receptions of seven and nine yards as Princeton extended its lead to 38-10 early in the fourth quarter.

“Jesper is really playing well,” said Surace of Horsted, who made six receptions for 58 yards. “I thought the last half of the season last year, he played extremely well. He has really taken it up a notch this year.”

Senior quarterback Chad Kanoff continued his good start this year, connecting on 31-of-41 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns.

“I thought Chad played well,” said Surace, noting that a couple of bad bounces led to Kanoff’s two interceptions on the day. “He was on the money and he threw the ball really well.”

After a shaky start, the Princeton defense came on with a big effort. “I felt that the second drive of the game for them, their touchdown drive, we didn’t set edges real well,” said Surace.

“They had a really good plan and they got outside us two or three times and ended up scoring a touchdown on a screen from inside the 10 yard line. I felt from that point on, we really tightened up our run defense. That was good to see.”

Surace liked seeing senior linebacker Mark Fossati produce another sparkling performance as he ended the day with a team-high 11 tackles.

“Mark has had two games in a row where he has been over 10 tackles,” said Surace.

“He is flying around the field, he is playing the pass game well. He is leading our defense in a really good way.”

After the game, Surace enjoyed a special moment with Lafayette first-year head coach John Garrett, a teammate with Surace at Princeton in the late 1980s who later served with him on the coaching staff of the Cincinnati Bengals.

“He was a great leader on our team and I always looked up to him,” said Surace.

“He pretty much got me to Princeton because he is the one who got me to Cincinnati. There is a lot of respect there. It was pretty emotional afterward, I gave him a hug.”

The Tigers know they are in for an emotional battle this Saturday as a 2-0 Columbia squad comes to Princeton Stadium in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

“They are a veteran team, their quarterback [Anders Hill] is a senior and has played for a long time there on and off as a starter,” said Surace.

“Their offense is executing and the quarterback just looks confident. He is very athletic, he runs with the ball, he will throw it some and when he throws it, he is a good thrower. He is really a weapon for them. They have got three senior offensive linemen, so they are a veteran offensive line. They have two sophomore dynamic receivers. Their defensive line is as good as any we will see all year. They are two deep, they are all upperclassmen, mostly seniors, with a few juniors and a sophomore. They are not giving up points, they are not giving up first downs, and they are not giving up yards.” 

The challenges posed by the Lions will require Princeton to execute well on both sides of the ball.

“We are going to have to make big plays when we have them,” said Surace. “They are a very aggressive defense, so there is going to be a few times where we get some guys open. We are going to have to protect and make the plays. We are going to have to grind out yards. It is a defense that is stingy against the run. Defensively, we are going to have to have great eyes. Their QB is so deceptive with the ball. He is a runner, he is a passer. We are going to have to do a great job containing the big plays.”

Despite being undefeated this fall and having posted six straight wins stretching back to last season, Princeton is going to need to raise the level of its play in order to defeat Columbia.   

“I told the guys that we have to be better,” said Surace. “We are two games in and we have to look at each other as coaches and as players and we have got come out and make a jump. This isn’t the Columbia of the mid-1980s.”