Top-Ranked Offense Meets Ivy’s Stingiest Defense In Key League Home Showdown Saturday Night

  • October 24, 2017

Published on | Read the full article here

If you’re wondering whether last Friday was more trick or treat, your answer should come Saturday night.

It had been 50 years since Princeton had a 35-point win over Harvard, and it had been just as long since Harvard had suffered a home Ivy League loss by that many points.
The Princeton offense, which had been firing on all cylinders entering that game, somehow found more cylinders in Boston, and then fired on those too. The offense set FCS
completion percentage records, challenged their own consecutive completion mark, and basically looked unstoppable in a 52-17 win at Harvard.

But that was then. On Saturday night, Princeton returns to Powers Field to face a vastly improved Cornell team that has put together the league’s top-ranked total and passing defense. The unit is led by an All-America safety in senior Nick Gesualdi, and it has limited its last two Ivy League opponents to an average of 192 total yards per game.

Cornell enters the game with a 2-1 mark in Ivy play, which includes wins over both Harvard and Brown. The winner of Saturday night’s game will either be one game behind Columbia in the Ivy race, or tied with multiple teams atop the Ivy standings. It is also the 100th meeting between the two programs, and for the majority of this century, the series has featured some of the wildest endings you could imagine. Princeton has had the upper hand recently with four straight wins, but Cornell brings its most balanced team in years to Powers Field this weekend.

It will be Family Costume Night at Princeton Stadium; groups that wear Halloween costumes to the stadium will be eligible for an $8 group ticket rate, and there is scheduled to be a halftime costume contest judged by Dean Cain ’88. Also, the first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive Princeton Football Seat Cushion.

Lights, Camera, Action
Princeton had so much fun on the NBC Sports Network last Friday night in its 52-17 win at Harvard that it will return to the network this Saturday night; the game will also be streamed on and the NBC Sports App. Paul Burmeister (play-by-play) and former Princeton offensive lineman Ross Tucker ’01 (color) will call the action. Fans can listen to Cody Chrusciel and Dave Giancola live on the Princeton IMG Sports Network (103.3 FM WPRB in Princeton) or through the TuneIn app (search “Princeton IMG Sports Network”). The RWJ Barnabas Health pregame show begins 30 minutes prior to kickoff.

Milestone Meeting
Saturday represents the 100th meeting between Cornell and Princeton, a series that dates back to Nov. 14, 1891, when the Tigers posted a 6-0 win over the Big Red. Ironically enough, those two teams would meet again 107 years later in the first game ever played at Princeton Stadium, and the result was exactly the same — a 6-0 Princeton victory.
Princeton leads the all-time series 61-36-2, and it has won four straight over the Big Red. That is the Tigers’ longest active winning streak against any Ivy League team.

History Lesson
Princeton has not won five straight games over Cornell in more than 110 years; the Tigers won six straight over the Big Red from 1901-1906.

Seeing Red
Princeton has won five of its last six home meetings against Cornell, with the lone exception coming in 2011, when the Tigers went 1-9 and played the Big Red in a nor’easter. Since that day, the Tigers have averaged 45.8 points per game against the Big Red, including a 56-point effort in a road win at Schoellkopf Field last year.

Good Night
Princeton is 11-4 in night games (5 pm or later) under head coach Bob Surace, including a run of eight straight wins that dates back to a victory at Brown during the 2013 Ivy championship season. The Tigers have won two night games this season, but both were on the road (38-17 at Lafayette, 52-17 at Harvard).

Quoth The Raven, Nevermore
Princeton has scored 50+ points in three straight games for the first time since the 1890 season,  a streak that included a 115-0 win over Virginia. The captain of that Princeton team was All-America quarterback Edgar Allan Poe, a cousin to the famed writer.

Armed And Ready
Senior quarterback Chad Kanoff is putting together a historic season leading the Princeton offense. He ranks first in the FCS in completion percentage (76.3), third in completions per game (27.3), sixth in passing efficiency (171.4), and 10th in passing yards per game (314.2).

He had the best game of his career last Friday night, completing 31 of 35 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns in the 52-17 win at Harvard, and earned Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors. It was the eighth-most single-game passing yards in Princeton history, and it moved him from 21st to 15th on the Ivy League all-time passing list with 5,921 yards. His completion percentage of .886 was just off the FCS single-game record (minimum 30 completions), which is .889.

There are several charts monitoring both Kanoff and Jesper Horsted‘s record chases on page 3 the PDF version of the notes, which you can access in the information box above.

Honors Student
Chad Kanoff was named the FCS National Offensive Player of the Week, as well as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, following the win over Harvard. Kanoff is the second Princeton player to earn FCS National Offensive Player of the Week honors over the last 52 weeks; John Lovett, who had surgery in the offseason and has yet to play this year, took the honor after recording seven touchdowns (four passing, two rushing, one receiving), in the 56-7 win at Cornell last year.

Head Of The Class
Chad Kanoff was named a semifinalist for the prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy, one of the top scholar-athlete honors in college football. Candidates for the award must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

Yard Marker
There have been only three 1000-yard receiving seasons in Princeton football history (Derek Graham 1, Kevin Guthrie 2), but Jesper Horsted is making a strong push at the fourth. Horsted, who ranks in the FCS Top 10 in both receptions and receiving yards per game, currently has 712 receiving yards this season, an average of 118.7 per game.

Horsted is coming off the best game of his career as well. He caught 13 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns in the win at Harvard; the 246 yards is the third most in a game in Princeton history, and the most since Oct. 12, 1991.

Seventh Heaven
Charlie Volker is tied for the Ivy League lead with nine touchdowns this season. Seven of them came over the last two games; he rushed for four TDs, including a Princeton-record 96-yard score, in the win over Brown, and he followed that last Friday night with three more rushing touchdowns in the win at Harvard. He averaged one TD every day from Oct. 14-20.

Conversion Chart
Princeton ranks second in the FCS with a 54.2 third-down conversion percentage this season. Over their current three-game win streak, the Tigers have converted 20 of 36 third downs (55.6), and of the 16 they didn’t get, they have converted on four fourth downs and kicked three field goals.

Driven To Succeed
These have been the results of Princeton’s last 36 offensive drives: touchdowns (21), field goals (3), end of half/game (5), punts (4), other (3).
Over the last two games, Princeton has scored on 17 of 23 drives, including 14 touchdowns.

Princeton leads the Ivy League and ranks third in the FCS in rushing defense. The Tigers have allowed only 71.5 rushing yards per game this season.

Chance Encounter
Senior Chance Melancon had the best game of his Princeton career last weekend. The cornerback forced a fumble to end one drive, and then intercepted a Harvard pass in the end zone. He added two pass breakups and three tackles in the decisive win over Harvard.

The Defense Doesn’t Rest
Princeton has allowed a total of two touchdowns in the first three quarters of the last three games, and it has limited the opposing team to a 32.5% success rate on third downs. It played the second half at Harvard last week with only one starter (Melancon) from last season’s defense, which ranked atop the Ivies in most statistical categories.

Oh Brother
Over the last three games, two of Princeton’s top four tacklers are brothers. Senior Tom Johnson, who leads the team with 46 stops this season, is second over that stretch with 18. Younger brother James, a freshman this season, is fourth with 11.

Sophomore John Orr has led the team with 20 over that stretch; he took over the starting role after Mark Fossati was injured late against Columbia.

Family Affair
Tom and James Johnson are not the only members of their family on the Princeton team. Junior Sam Johnson, a reserve tight end, is the cousin of both. Sophomore Will Johnson, who moved from wide receiver to cornerback in the offseason, is not related.

There is another family duo on the offensive line, as junior Stefan Ivanisevic is the older brother of freshman Nikola Ivanisevic.

Stay In Your Lane
Junior Simeon Lane moved into the starting lineup at nose tackle following the injury to Jake Strain, and he recorded Princeton’s first blocked field goal against Georgetown since Week 2 of the 2016 season last weekend.

Great Wall
CJ Wall earned his second Ivy League Rookie of the Week award following a standout effort against Georgetown, which included a 38-yard return for a touchdown. Wall, the Ivy leader with in both passes defended (8) and interceptions (3), is fifth on the team with 22 tackles and has started every game.

He is the first Princeton player to win the Rookie of the Week honor multiple times since 2012, when Anthony Gaffney won the award following Weeks 3 and 5 of the 2012 Princeton season. The previous season, Chuck Dibilio earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors six times.

Answering The Call
Over the last three games, the Princeton defense has allowed a total of 40 points (Georgetown scored on a fumble return for a touchdown). Of those 40 points, 20 came with Princeton holding at least a 27-point lead. Ten came in the opening minutes of the Georgetown game (including a field goal on a drive that the defense didn’t allow a single yard), and the other 10 came with Princeton leading Harvard by at least 17 points.

Over the last 11 quarters, the Princeton defense hasn’t allowed a single point in games within two touchdowns.

A True Tiger
Princeton sophomore Tiger Bech leads the Ivy League with a kickoff return average of 24.4 yards per return. Bech has also become a standout slot receiver for Princeton; he has 20 catches for 235 yards this season, including his first career touchdown reception two weeks ago against Brown. He also has a pair of two-point conversion catches, including one last week at Harvard.

Flag Football
Princeton has shown impressive discipline this season, especially considering the number of young players finding increased roles. The Tigers rank second in the FCS with only 3.1 penalties per game, and their average of 32.3 penalty yards per game ranks third best in the nation.

Coach Speak
Princeton head coach Bob Surace ’90 is the reigning Ivy League Coach of the Year, and he is a three-time finalist for FCS National Head Coach of the Year honors. Earlier this season, he earned a win over former teammate and close friend John Garrett ’88, who is in his first year as the head coach at Lafayette.

A 50-50 Proposition
Twenty-two games into his Princeton career, Bob Surace was 2-20 with a winning percentage of .091. Last Friday’s win over Harvard moved Surace back to the .500 mark at Princeton (36-36) for the first time since the second game of his first season. Over the last 46 games, Princeton is 31-15.

Working Sundays
Princeton has had three players selected in the NFL Draft over the last five years (Mike Catapano ’13, Caraun Reid ’14, and Seth DeValve ’16). Both Reid and DeValve have scored multiple touchdowns in their young NFL careers, and DeValve has ranked among the NFL’s top tight ends early in his second season.

The Crystal Ball
Princeton returns to the road next Saturday for a 1 pm game at Penn in a matchup of the 2016 Ivy League co-champions. Princeton shut out Penn 28-0 to help clinch the program’s 11th Ivy title last season, while Penn blocked a late field goal and scored an overtime win over Princeton at Franklin Field two seasons ago en route to the 2015 Ivy title.

The game will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia and NBC Sports Chicago, and it will be streamed live on the Ivy League Digital Network.

Home Sweet Home
Princeton returns home Nov. 11 to take on Yale at 1 pm. It will be both Military Appreciation and Senior Day on Powers Field, and it will be Alumni Weekend at the University. The game could also have major Ivy title ramifications, as both teams enter today with only one Ivy loss.

The first 1000 fans at Princeton Stadium will receive an exclusive Camo Princeton hat. Tickets are still available at The game will be televised on Eleven Sports, and it will be streamed live on the Ivy League Digital Network.

Princeton Football • By The Numbers
1 • latest Princeton ranking among universities by U.S. News & World Report
6 • televised Princeton games this season; eight of the 10 games will also be shown on the ILN or ESPN3
9 • Princeton football players who have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships
11 • Ivy League Championships won by Princeton since the league officially formed in 1956
15 • Princeton players picked in the NFL Draft; three were taken in the last five years
22 • career interceptions by Dean Cain, former “Superman” star; total remains an Ivy League record
26 • Princeton players and coaches who are in the College Football Hall of Fame
28 • national titles won by Princeton; no college football program can claim more
42 • number worn by 1951 Heisman Trophy recipient Dick Kazmaier; no Princeton player has worn the number since
43.7 • points per game scored by the Ivy champion 2013 Princeton Tigers; total remains an Ivy League record
72 • Princeton’s total first-team All-America honorees; John Lovett (2016) is the most recent
153 • points Princeton scored during its last four must-win games of the 2016 title season; the opposing teams combined for only 31
193 • career receptions for Kevin Guthrie, the all-time Princeton leader
1869 • the year of the first college football game, played between Rutgers and Princeton
1878 • Princeton’s first “Big Three” title; the University celebrates with a bonfire on Cannon-Green when the Tigers sweep Harvard and Yale
4,208 • career rushing yards for Keith Elias, the Princeton record holder
27,800 • seating capacity at Princeton Stadium, which celebrates its 20th year in 2017, and where our tradition continues this season

Week 7: Cornell (2-4, 2-1 Ivy) at Princeton (5-1, 2-1 Ivy)
Date • Time • Location Oct. 28, 2017 • 7 pm • Powers Field at Princeton Stadium
Watch Live NBC Sports Network l NBC Sports Live
Tickets Princeton Ticket Office
Radio 103.3 FM l Listen Live on the TuneIn App
Game Coverage Live Stats l @PUTigers l @PUTigerFootball
All-Time Series Princeton leads 61-36-2
Last Meeting • Current Streak Princeton 56, CORNELL 7 l Princeton 4 wins
Princeton Information Game Notes l Roster l Schedule l Statistics
Cornell Information Game Notes l Roster l Schedule l Statistics
Ivy League Standings l Statistics l Weekly Release
Last Week Princeton 52, HARVARD 17 l CORNELL 34, Brown 7
Next Week Nov 4: Princeton at Penn (1 pm • NBC Sports Philadelphia/Ivy League Network)