November 17, 2017

Princeton Football Fights Hard in Loss to Yale, Looking to End on High Note at Dartmouth

SPEEDY TIGER: Princeton University football player Tiger Bech tries to elude tacklers from Yale in action last Saturday. Sophomore receiver Bech enjoyed a career day in a losing cause as Princeton fell 35-31 to the Bulldogs. He made six catches for a career-high 175 yards and a touchdown and also piled up a total of 158 yards in kickoff and punt returns. The Tigers, now 5-4 overall and 2-4 Ivy League, conclude their season by playing at Dartmouth (7-2 overall, 4-2 Ivy) on November 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Bob Surace had plenty of reason to be angry after his Princeton University football team fell 35-31 to visiting Yale last Saturday.

The defeat marked the fourth time this season that Princeton had suffered a loss in Ivy League play with a chance to win in its final possession. The setback before a crowd of 11, 229 at Powers Field also officially knocked the Tigers, now 5-4 overall and 2-4 Ivy, out of contention for their second straight Ivy title while Yale (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) clinched at least a share of the crown.

But afterward Surace had high praise for his players. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” said Princeton head coach Surace.

“That was one of the great efforts you’ll see, and it came against a team as good as Yale. It was a great game, and while we needed to execute better at times, you can’t question the fight and resolve that they showed.”

The Tigers executed well in the passing game as they jumped out to a 24-7 lead over the Bulldogs with senior quarterback Chad Kanoff connecting on touchdown passes to Jesper Horsted, Stephen Carlson, and Tiger Bech.

“They are a man-to-man team that holds and interferes and our receivers were fighting through all of that,” said Surace

“We got some big plays. Jesper went for a long one and Tiger went for a long one and had another one.”

Kanoff ended up going 23-for-41 for 454 yards passing and four touchdowns. In the process, he set a personal career single-game best in passing yards and also broke the program’s single-season record for TD passes as he is now at 26, surpassing the mark of 25 held by Doug Butler (1983) and Quinn Epperly (2013). Junior receiver Horsted joined the record parade, as he now has 12 touchdown catches on the season, breaking the standard of 11 held by Derek Graham (1983) and Roman Wilson (2013).

“Chad played so well, the kid is so gutsy,” said Surace. “He can barely walk and he’s out there.”

The team’s corps of linebackers played well, holding the fort in the face of a prolific Yale offense.

“Tommy [Johnson], John [Orr], and Jackson [Simcox], the three of them played well,” said Surace.

“I don’t know how many times they put a helmet right on the ball. I don’t think we forced a turnover and the turnover we had (a third quarter fumble that resulted in a Yale touchdown as it narrowed the gap to 24-21) loomed large.”

In the end, though, Yale’s efficiency in clutch situations made the difference as they went 10-of-19 in third down conversion and converted their one attempt on fourth down.

“They executed their third downs, that is the story offensively for them,” said Surace.

“It was not only the third and shorts, which they are incredible with. It was those third and eights and fourth and 10. At the end of the day, we could not get enough pass rush or tight enough coverage. Their quarterback [Kurt Rawlings] did a heck of a job, some of those passes were extremely accurate.”

Despite being forced to go with a youth movement by necessity this fall due to a spate of injuries, Princeton has kept things extremely close week in, week out.

“The amazing thing is that most teams that are in our situation are getting blown out,” said Surace.

“We just can’t find the one play, the one call, whatever that is, to get that good feeling again. We are going to fight like heck to get it this week.”

It was a bad feeling for Surace to see the sadness displayed by the seniors in the wake of losing their final home game.

“You go into the locker room and there is extreme disappointment; I know it and I feel it,” said Surace.

“The guys are fighting through things to be out there, knowing that it is our best chance to win. Mitch Sweigart and Chad are guys playing at an NFL level and they are showing immense guts and heart. I feel for all them because their guts are off the charts.”

Surace is fully expecting a gutsy performance from his team in the season finale as it plays at Dartmouth (7-2 overall, 4-2 Ivy) on November 18.

“I just told the guys that we are going to work to play 60 minutes of great football against Dartmouth,” said Surace.

“At the end of the day, we are going to fight our tails off and play an unbelievable game. Whoever is in there, young guys or veteran guys, I know they are going to come to practice and they are going to fight.”