It’s Excellence as Usual for Princeton: Kanoff is a Bushnell Finalist
BY JAY GREENBERG
Eight times in eight seasons, Princeton football players have been one of the two finalists for Asa S. Bushnell trophies, winning four of the Ivy League Player of Year awards going on five should the best passing season in league history be rewarded Monday at the annual presentation in New York.
Win or lose to Penn receiver Justin Watson in a vote already taken by the league head coaches, Chad Kanoff has already triumphed in joining Princeton winners Mike Catapano, Quinn Epperly, Mike Zeuli, and John Lovett, plus runners-up Trey Peacock, Caraun Reid and Kurt Holuba in a remarkable run of star power during the Bob Surace era.
“I’m thankful for the privilege to coach such outstanding men,” said Surace. “Every one of them represented Princeton with honor as captains.”
They were pretty good players, too, all but Peacock and Catapano dominating on one of the two Ivy League titlists since Surace became coach in 2010. Holuba, who was runner-up to Dartmouth linebacker Folarin Orimolade last year, was fulfilling his vow to come back with a vengeance in 2017 when he was lost for the season in week five.
That was the final blow to a crippling, lengthy, series of injuries along the defensive line and linebacking corps, putting the burden of a repeat championship on the offense. Beginning with Kanoff, arguably the most prolific offense the Ancient Eight has ever known kept the Tigers in every game into the final minute and actually beat Penn on a touchdown pass with three seconds remaining that was overturned on a blatant mistake by the officials.
“In spite of the personnel losses on defense, Chad never complained and only exhibited outstanding leadership fighting to win games down the stretch,” said Surace. “He handled unfortunate circumstances like missed calls with incredible class and, with the other two captains out with injuries, stepped up and held our locker room together.”
Princeton was held under 30 points just three times in its 10 games; only once in the four-game season-closing losing streak that forced the Tigers to settle for a 5-5 record. Kanoff broke the Ivy League single season passing yardage record with 3,474, had its highest-ever single season completion percentage (73.2) and, with 29 touchdown passes would have tied that mark of 30, too, but for the league-acknowledged injustice at Penn.
Watson, who came in second last year to Lovett, is the first player ever to be a Bushnell Cup finalist for a third straight season. The Penn receiver set the school’s single-season receiving touchdown record with 14 and became the first player in Ivy history with at least one touchdown reception in all 10 games.
He was not, however, the reception leader in the league: Princeton’s Jesper Horsted’s 92 catches included five more than Watson had in Ivy games. Somewhat surprisingly, Watson gained his finalist spot over Yale’s Zane Dudek, whose 901 rushing yards in league games were the most by an Ivy freshman in history.
As three finalists were named for the first time for the defensive award, there was an apparent tie for at least second place between Brown senior end Richard Jarvis, Penn junior linebacker Nick Miller, and Yale senior linebacker Matthew Oplinger.
Miller led the Ivy League in tackles (104) and solo tackles (66). Oplinger led the Ivy League with 11.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss. He ranked second in FCS in sacks per game. Jarvis ranked second in the Ivies in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (14).
Part of the festivities surrounding the 60th National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner in New York City on December 5, the Ivy event will take place Monday, Dec. 4, at 12:30 p.m. ET in the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton Midtown. The presentation will be carried live on The Ivy League Network (ILN) at IvyLeague.tv.