November 22, 2017

Despite Another Big Day by Record-Breaking Offense, Princeton Football Ends Season by Falling at Dartmouth

SLIPPING AWAY: Princeton University receiver Stephen Carlson, right, tangles with two defenders in recent action as he tries to catch up with a pass. Last Saturday, junior star Carlson made 10 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown in a losing cause as Princeton fell 54-44 at Dartmouth in its season finale. The loss left the Tigers at 5-5 overall and 2-5 Ivy League. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Playing at Dartmouth last Saturday in its season finale. the Princeton University football team’s offense ended things with a bang.

The Tigers rolled up 495 yards of total offense and 27 first downs on the way to tallying 44 points.

“Offensively, it was as good a performance we have had this year, including Harvard (a 52-17 win on October 20),” said Princeton head coach Bob Surace.

“We had nine offensive drives against arguably the best defense in the league and scored on seven of them. We just responded to every bit of adversity that happened during the game.”

But with a defense forced to use inexperienced backups in the wake of a rash of injuries, Princeton couldn’t hold the fort as Dartmouth pounded out a 54-44 win.

“Defensively, we just couldn’t get off the field,” lamented Surace, whose team ended the fall at 5-5 overall and 2-5 Ivy League.

“They ran the ball for 300 plus yards and whether it was tackling, whether it was not getting off blocks, whether it was great effort by the Dartmouth guys, whether it is scheme things, we have to have that corrected. With some young guys in there, we are just very vanilla. We really struggled.”

With Princeton having suffered four Ivy losses this fall with chances to win on its final possession, Surace was confident that the Tigers could pull out a win when it forged ahead 44-41 with 3:01 remaining in regulation.

“You feel that every week; there has never been a time when you don’t believe you are going to get over the hump,” said Surace.  “You are trying to be positive. We had our opportunities to get off the field and we didn’t again today.”

A huge positive of the day and the season was the brilliant play of senior quarterback and tri-captain Chad Kanoff. Against Dartmouth, he completed 37-of-46 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns.

Along the way, Kanoff set a slew of records. Among his achievements, he broke the Princeton career record for passing yards with 7,510 (the previous mark was 7,291 by Doug Butler ’86), broke the Princeton and Ivy League record for single-season passing yards with 3,474 (previous Ivy mark was 3,412 by Cornell’s Jeff Mathews in 2011 and previous Princeton mark was 3,175 by Butler in 1983), broke the Princeton record and finished second on the Ivy League list for passing touchdowns with 29 (the previous Princeton mark was 25 by Butler and  Quinn Epperly in 2013), and broke the Princeton and record for single-season completion percentage with 73.2 percent (the previous Ivy mark was 70.5 by Penn’s Gavin Hoffman in 2000 and the previous Princeton mark was 68.2 by Jason Garrett in 1988).

“He is in rare air, you can make the argument that this was the greatest season of any Ivy League quarterback,” asserted Surace, noting that Kanoff’s numbers bettered a cavalcade of legendary Ivy quarterbacks.

“He has passed them in almost every category. He is the only name that is up there in every category.”

Kanoff was the trigger man for an offensive juggernaut as junior receivers Jesper Horsted and Stephen Carlson along with junior running back Charlie Volker all piled up impressive numbers. Horsted had 92 catches for 1,226 yards and 14 touchdowns while Carlson made 71 receptions for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns  and Volker rushed for 600 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“In every way, shape, or form, the offense in general played well,” said Surace, whose team averaged a league-leading 38.2 points a contest.

“We didn’t give up a sack on Saturday and we protected the quarterback well all season. Jesper broke Kevin Guthrie’s record for touchdown catches. If it wasn’t for guy named Jesper Horsted, Carlson would have these records; he is right below him.”

Although things didn’t go as well for Princeton this fall in terms of wins, Surace believes his players can take a lot from the campaign.

“At the end of the day, the players get so much more out of playing varsity football than they put into it, there are some life lessons for these guys,” said Surace.

“They were a pleasure to coach. I am not pleased with how we played in certain areas on Saturday. I thought about our effort, our energy, our discipline every day in practice; those are the things that you take out of it. No matter what the disappointment, they came out fighting.”

In Surace’s view, the team’s senior class set the tone for that fighting spirit.

“With their behavior, their work ethic, and their attitude, I am on cloud nine, getting a chance to coach them every day,” said Surace.

Looking ahead, the Tigers have a chance to be very good if they can fine-tune things.

“We just got to find a way to be a little better in all areas,” said Surace, “You watch the Olympics and you see races where people run a mile and this guy won by a photo finish. We have got to find a way to win the photo finish.”