Tigers Rhat Out Cornell, 47-21
BY JAY GREENBERG
It’s a long year, says Dre Nelson, even in the Ivy League, which has a season of just 10 games. Of course when you are nicked, dinged, winged, hobbled, or just plain, old, incapacitated, those two-and-a-half months gets longer than a) your face and b) that second half was last week at Harvard.
“Every team gets banged up, every team has hurt guys,” said Nelson, but of course, some teams are missing more indispensible players than others. Next man is expected to step up, sure, but seemingly every step up the Tigers have taken this season they have gone down with a turned ankle, wrenched knee, or whatever. All-Ivy players, including those already recognized or soon to be, have been going down fast and are understandably furious too, about their misfortune.
Hard enough to lose Di Andre Atwater. Even harder to lose the guy behind him, Joe Rhattigan for a virtual two weeks, both of which turned into Princeton losses. All part of the game, of course; you can’t run and hide from reality. But the reality is that for all the legerdemain that has helped made Princeton an offensive juggernaut, it’s awfully hard to hide the ball enough to maintain drives without some good, strong, power running.
After using him sparingly last week, the Tigers had a full bore Rhattigan back Saturday and, basically, he bore a hole in winless Cornell, running for 127 of Princeton’s 269 yards rushing in 47-21 victory.
“He is coming off (an injury) where we had to be smart,” said Coach Bob Surace. “ With some of the other injuries we’ve had, we need him back for his reliability and I say that as the ultimate compliment. A reliable player is so valuable.”
The Tigers started so slow, — with three three-and-outs while Cornell was missing two field goals and failing to score on four trips into Princeton territory – that it looked like these offensive linemen needed to be reminded how to open a hole.
But it’s like riding a bike — and we don’t mean the stationary ones where a brigade of forlorn, rehabbing, Tigers continue to pedal away at the corner of the practice field — you do not forget how, And even as Seth DeValve missed another week, it was nice to be reminded that the Tigers still have plenty of weapons.
Take Nelson, for instance. He had lost his burst, and a more regular spot in the attack, for a couple of games, too, but with the Big Red annoyingly hanging around on Powers Field into start of the fourth quarter, the mighty mite took a kickoff four yards deep in the end zone, came up with left sideline, got a killer block from A.J. Glass, cut to the middle of the field and was gone to extend the lead to 40-21.
“I saw the block out of the corner of my eye, cut back, and saw some green grass,” Nelson said. Cornell’s next possession ended when Dorian Williams and Luke Catarius combined on a sack, and Rhattigan, who on the day also caught five little flips for 46 more yards, ran for 24 of the 60 yards required on the next drive. He finished it from seven yards out to salt away a game won with what became a salts-of-the-earth approach.
“Rhat got going, Dre got going, Johnny Lovett got going,” said Surace. “When we have balance to our offense it is obvious we are more effective.”
Lovett, the leading touchdown maker in the Ivy League with 10, completed two drives with three and one-yard runs and Nelson bulled from one yard out for another score. As a result, all the more easily did Chad Kanoff function, throwing for 203 yards and a touchdown to Scott Carpenter.
Let the record show that it took passes to get the Tigers’ heart started—a 16-yarder to Carpenter, an 18 yarder to Isaiah Barnes and a 12 yarder to Rhattigan — to set up Princeton’s first touchdown on a cleverly-disguised delay by Carpenter, who let the pass rusher through and slid out into a wide open end zone.
After John Hill made a fourth down stop, Rhattigan broke a 43-yarder and a pretty 32-yarder from Kanoff to Trevor Osborne to the three yard line set up a Lovett run and a 14-0 lead. But a holding penalty nullifying a Kanoff first down run probably kept Princeton from running out the first half clock with another score, enabling quarterback Robert Sanborn to barely beat Birk Olson’s pressure and threw a beauty to a well-covered Ben Rogers to cut the lead to 14-7 with 55 seconds to go.
It’s not the Tigers style to be happy to take that into the locker room. A Carpenter catch, and a 36-yard Lovett run, got Nolan Bieck into field goal range to send Princeton into the half up 10. When Lovett broke another one for 32 on the opening drive following the intermission the Tigers were fully looking like their old selves on offense again.
After making Luke Hagy, Cornell’s terrific back, carry 15 times to accrue 55 yards at the half, inevitably he broke one for 44 on the way to a 132-yard day. The Tigers, playing without some key members in the secondary, gave up some big pass plays in addition. But despite the ongoing absence of Kurt Holuba they also recorded four sacks.
Princeton remains without some key passrushers, but nose tackle Henry Schlossberg had another seven tackles, same number as did Luke Catarius. And Olson, the edge rusher, got to Cornell quarterbacks twice and barely missed saving that touchdown with a third sack.
“In Luke, there has been a total transformation of maturity, physically and emotionally,” said Surace. “Day one of camp I wasn’t sure, but watching him has been to see a guy grow and as a coach that is really exciting.
“Birk has been so strong and steady, he plays a game almost like Matt Arends and R.J. Paige. Very focused, and he is learning how to find that touch of control in his game.”
Cornell totaled 444 yards, but the Princeton defense got itself off the field at key times, including on Catarius and Paige interceptions on tipped balls. The Tigers finished runs and drives, plus caught the ball well. Easy as it had become after consecutive losses to forget they won the first four this season, the Tigers got to 5-2 and have three games remaining to finish with an exclamation point a season of perseverance.