Tigers Don’t Run the Wishbone, Nor Are They Looking For One
BY JAY GREENBERG
In 2016, the Tigers rebounded from an excruciating overtime loss to Harvard to clobber Cornell the following week and run the table to an Ivy League title. This year they suffered an opening Ivy loss late to Columbia and rolled in the next three, including what will be a long-cherished 52-17 smoking of Harvard in Boston.
The 29-28 last minute loss to Cornell Saturday night potentially will be even more challenging to flush, however, because it was a second–and most likely eliminating–Ivy loss of the season with still three games to play.
In the 2014 and 2015 injury-wrecked seasons, the Tigers fell out of the race a little earlier. In both cases, they found reasons to keep playing, they just didn’t have enough of their impact players still standing to do better than settle for 5-5.
So, at 5-2, how do they keep that from happening this time? The current players know how many good players and leaders are on the sidelines. Is it going to be difficult to get back up on the horse Saturday at Franklin Field against 3-4 (1-3 Ivy) Penn?
“I don’t talk about the race,” said Surace Sunday morning. “I know reporters need to talk about it but I also have support staff telling me [Saturday afternoon] about Yale beating Columbia and I don’t need to hear that.
“All I can control is what we do. There are too many people talking about that to our players. We just need to play the game. At the end of the day we only get 10 of them.
“I said it to them in the locker room: I think we are a really resilient group. We don’t always execute as well and I don’t always coach as well. We don’t always do things perfectly but we show a lot of heart and a lot of fight.
“At the end of the day we will line up and whoever is playing D line will be giving his all.”
All three starters there when the season began, plus multiple reserves, are out. The survivors are seniors Khalil Bryant and Mike Perloski, junior Simeon Lane, sophomore Charles Tomassetti, and freshmen Sam Wright and Connor Mills.
“On one of the runs they broke outside on their last touchdown (pulling the Big Red within two points), one of the inexperienced lineman’s responsibility was containment, an example of how limited we are in what we can do right now,” said Surace.
“We are going to have a game plan that is really tight, leaving them in positions where they are most comfortable, so they can fly around without having to think too much. It’s best we simplify.”
It broke down not only on the series of false start penalties that the Tigers took. There was some confusion on Cornell’s drive to the winning field goal.
Cornell quarterback Dalton Banks hit Hayes Nolte for 32 yards in a big seam between the secondary and linebackers on a key second-and-13. It wasn’t the only reception with a too low degree of difficulty. On quick outs, even the freshest defensive linemen can’t do much more than get their hands up for a deflection, so easy completions are usually a reflection of the coverage calls. And Banks also connected for eight, six, four and five yards during the series.
“We wanted to be in tight coverage,” said Surace. “That was the message I thought was being heard but, apparently, was not being communicated effectively enough.
“I was literally standing close enough that the players could hear it. I don’t know if they were locked into something else but I ended up having to sub somebody in to explain exactly what I wanted.
“I felt we were worn down up front, I didn’t want to die a slow death. I will live with it if they beat us like Columbia did, hitting a big play. It’s frustrating that what I wanted wasn’t communicated effectively enough.”
And on the false starts?
“[Cornell was] moving the defensive front late in cadence, and yelling something like ‘go!’ and we would have a guy flinch,” said Surace. “We have to be better at tuning into Chad’s (QB Kanoff) voice.
“That was an obstacle we had versus Harvard and we made sure they were tuned in. The cadence has to be distinct.
“When the umpire warned [Cornell], it stopped.”
First Down Dept.
The Tigers converted three long drives for first-half touchdowns, then, except for one touchdown drive and the hurry up against a prevent defense, were grounded to a halt over the final 30 minutes.
First downs were the root of the problem. The one successful drive towards Ryan Quigley’s touchdown included one big-yardage play on first down–a 22-yard pass to Jesper Horsted to the Cornell 13. And Ryan Quigley had gained six on first down to set up his second-down touchdown run. But Kanoff was facing too many difficult third-and-longs against a good defense.
“We had a sack on one first down, a negative run on another, and a short run on one more,” said Surace. “On the first play of the second half, we false started.
“For whatever reason, a team that has been incredibly disciplined, especially offensively, made mistakes that put us in positions we didn’t really want to be in against a defense that hasn’t been giving up yards or points.”
The Cornell secondary coverage may have been even better than Columbia’s, as evidenced by Carlson–who won a one-on-one fight for one of his two touchdowns– losing one for the first time in memory on a midfield interception by D.J. Woullard.
Thanks to that play, and an ignored hold by the officials on a third-down play, Carlson didn’t catch a pass in the second half. Except for the one 22-yarder to Horsted, and the Tiger Bech 24-yarder that set up the last field goal try, Kanoff was often forced to throw underneath, where the Cornell tackling proved unbreakable.
“Most routes we had a deeper guy and a shallow guy,” said Surace. “For most of the game they did a good job in man-to-man, topping off the coverage and not getting beaten deep.
“We did some good things against their zone coverage getting the ball down the field. It was more challenging man to man. Their cornerbacks are really good.”
Players of the Game
As the coaches do not award game balls after losses, we are on our own this week.
Offense: Carlson. The second touchdown catch was a body-control beauty. On the first, he beat the safety on a perfectly-run pattern .
Defense: Tom Johnson had 16 tackles. But two of the best plays of the game were made by Quincy Wolff. One was a perfectly-timed, jumped-route, interception; the other when he sniffed out a screen, overran the block and made a tackle for a second quarter loss. ”Quincy played really well,” said Surace. “I thought all our starting linebackers did.”
Special Teams: Not a good week as David Jones returned four kickoffs for 142 yards, including one of 61 yards after outside containment was botched. Best play was by Adam Hoffman, who nailed Jones at the 20 with a no doubt open-field tackle early in the game.