Tigers Fade Again in a Second Half, Lose to Yale 35-28
BY JAY GREENBERG
As the defensive line and linebacker corps have thinned out, of course, so has the Tigers’ margin for error. Tired as Bob Surace says he is of the inattention to detail that caught up to his team again Saturday in another second half, he also concedes his stalwarts just plain get tired.
“It’s hard to take Luke Catarius out of the game and hard to take Nick Fekula out of the game,” said the coach. “Nick was an outside backer the week before and we have to move him to the middle.
Indeed the Tigers still had chances, as they have had in three painful losses this season by seven points or less. So the story of the 35-28 defeat by Yale on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium was pretty much the story of a season that started 4-0 and is now 5-4.
Last week at Penn, Princeton led 20-10 at the half, and two weeks before was hanging with mighty Harvard, down just seven at the intermission, only to get run over in the second half. This week the Tigers jumped to 14-0 and 21-14 leads and then really, except for one big play – a 53-yard touchdown throw by Chad Kanoff to Isaiah Barnes, did almost nothing in the second half except try to rely on a beat-up defense to win the game.
For the third time in the last five weeks, the Tigers were in position again to triumph with a final drive and again didn’t get the job done. It’s really hard to argue that they blew it, rather than Yale, pounding away with the better running game yesterday won by wearing the Tigers out. But of course, there always are plays on both sides of the ball that could have been made. And actually there was one that the officials disallowed that could have changed everything.
In the third quarter of a 21-21 tie, Anthony Gaffney snatched the ball out of Yale running back Dale Harris’s hands at the Princeton 27 and was on his way to a touchdown when the officials ruled Harris had been stopped upright by the gang tackle.
“We have tackled very well all year,” said Surace. “And we do tackle and cause a fumble they call the play back.
“I don’t know what I’ve done wrong in my life but that’s two weeks in a row that the game changes (on a fumble ruling against Princeton). The guy is running down the field for a touchdown. Those things are supposed to even out and they didn’t.”
Yale kept the ball and Bryan Holmes kicked a 35-yard field goal to put the Bulldogs ahead, a 10-point swing that was not overcome when Barnes made the catch of the year over Spencer Rymiszewski and broke away to give the Tigers their last lead at 28-24.
They did get stops after that, too. Cataruis, who has been excellent in relief of the injured dynamo-in-the middle Rohan Hylton, got his hand up to deflect a Morgan Roberts pass on third down, forcing Yale to settle for a field goal and a one-point deficit. And after Seth DeValve ran into his blocker on what appeared to be an imminent fourth-down conversion, Princeton got the ball right back when Henry Schlossberg refused to budge on fourth-and-one.
At that point, with 9:01 to go, the Tigers still had the lead and the ball at the Yale 46. But Yale intercepted and ran the ball back 35 yards. Resulting in a 8 play 44 yard drive to take the lead.
Morgan Roberts, with all day to throw on a third-and-two at the Princeton 19, found Robert Clemons in a seam over the middle, then Jackson Stallings caught the 2-point conversion one yard inside the goalline.
Princeton now needed a touchdown, and on fourth and six at the Yale 46, the play again was to DeValve and Yale knew it. “I should have come off him,” said Kanoff. He tried to jam it in, Darius Manors intercepted and the Bulldogs (6-3, 3-3 Ivy) ran out the clock, which was their plan even after falling behind 14-0.
“But when we play that poorly defensively it’s really on me. We have to do a better job, have to execute better, have to tackle better.”
The Tigers’ 14-0 lead on beautifully-executed drives of 82 and 86 yards, finished by Kanoff’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Osborne and DiAndre Atwater’s four-yard yard run, was enjoyed for just three plays, until Dale Harris broke off left tackle and run untouched down the sideline for 71 yards.
Princeton appeared to be instantly responding until the offense was called for an illegal block on a third-down flanker screen to Osborne with the Tigers in Nolan Bieck field goal range. Instead Tyler Roth had to punt and on the subsequent Yale drive, Princeton lost a couple of defensive players due to injury and targeting foul.
When Dan Dreher got a bat down on second down and Austin Reuland dropped the ball in the flat on third, it appeared Princeton was going to get a big stop. But Yale went for it on fourth down out of a spread that it appeared to be about to convert to a field-goal formation and the deception worked. Leo Haenni was five yards behind the nearest defender to take the touchdown pass and the game was tied.
“We covered that (in practice); we should have been prepared,” said Surace. “We were man-to-man there and we took our eyes off our responsibility.
“It’s the way we were going now. We are great for three plays, five plays six plays and then we are not detailed enough. It’s driving me nuts and I don’t know what else to do. It is my responsibility.”
Kanoff found Isaiah Barnes three times, including on an 18-yard touchdown pass, as Princeton took the kickoff and instantly drove 91 yards in eight plays to retake the lead, 21-14. But the Bulldogs came right back, a Roberts pass to Christopher Williams-Lopez at the seven setting up Morgan’s touchdown sneak on fourth-and-one.
After that, Princeton’s last six drives ended up with three punts, two interceptions and just the one touchdown on the long pass. The Tigers never ran another play in the red zone. Even with the full one-two punch of DiAndre Atwater and Joe Rahttigan available for the first time since week three, Princeton finished with only 101 yards rushing while Yale pounded for 260.
“Obviously, we came out of the shoot really well, executed some really good plays,” said Surace, “That’s what we really wanted to do, wanted them to have to throw because obviously, they have struggled with most of the year.
“And then we let them back in. “