Football Team Dominates Cornell, Eyes Key Game At Penn Next Week
Nov. 1, 2003
PRINCETON, N.J. - Junior Jon Veach scored two touchdowns while the Princeton defense limited the Cornell offense to 230 yards as the Tiger football team jumped back into the Ivy League race with a 28-6 win over the Big Red in front of 14,037 fans at Princeton Stadium. Junior quarterback Matt Verbit threw two touchdown passes in the span of 22 seconds in the first quarter to lead Princeton to the win.
The win improves Princeton to 2-5 overall, 2-2 in the Ivy League. Penn stayed perfect with a tight win over Brown, but Harvard fell at home to Dartmouth. Princeton can move to within one game of first place next weekend with a win at Penn.
But head coach Roger Hughes was more focused on the most complete performance of the season by his Tigers, who have scored 89 points in their last nine quarters. "I was very proud of the team today," Hughes said afterwards. "We came back from a very emotional loss and played well against a team that we had struggled against over the last three years. To the credit of the kids, especially the seniors, we played with a lot of intensity."
While Princeton has had big individual rushing performances over the last two weeks, it was success-by-committee against Cornell. Junior Branden Benson led the effort with 65 yards, while Veach added 47 and Verbit added 33. Verbit was 13 of 23 for 239 yards and three touchdown passes in the win. Senior wideout Blair Morrison caught three passes for 66 yards and one touchdown, while four other receivers had two catches apiece.
Sophomore linebacker Justin Stull had his third consecutive and fifth overall double-digit tackle game, leading the Tiger defense with 10 stops. Senior Joe Weiss, who has dominated Cornell in the last two years, had seven tackles, including five in the backfield, and three sacks. Sophomore linebacker Abi Fadeyi had six tackles and his second blocked punt in as many weeks, while junior defensive back Nick Brown had his first interception of the season.
Princeton's first scoring drive came thanks to a strong defensive stand on Cornell's first drive, when Joe Weiss sacked Big Red quarterback Mick Razzano twice. Weiss, who was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week last year after a dominant performance at Cornell, sacked Razzano on third down, forcing Cornell to punt from its end zone. Returner Greg Fields returned the ball to the Cornell 32-yard line, and Princeton made the Big Red pay immediately. Verbit found Veach wide open along the right sideline, and the junior tailback jogged untouched into the end zone. Freshman punter Colin McDonough, in his first placekicking attempt of the season, hit the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
It would get no better for Cornell from there, as Razzano fumbled the ball while scrambling away from Alan Borelli on first down. Weiss dove on the loose ball at the Cornell 23-yard line, and once again, it took Princeton one play to score the touchdown. Verbit lofted a pass into the front right corner of the end zone, where Morrison caught it just ahead of his defender for the touchdown. It was a 14-point surge during a 22-second stretch of the quarter.
The Cornell defense gathered itself and held Princeton scoreless for the next three drives, including one that ended with an interception in the end zone. The Princeton defense was only happy to match Cornell drive for drive, keeping the Big Red from getting any real scoring opportunities.
While its first two scoring drives took less than 10 seconds apiece, the Tigers opened a 21-0 lead with a 12-play, 88-yard drive midway through the first quarter. The combination of Verbit and Veach did most of the work, although freshman Eric Walz caught one pass for a first down and Szymanski ran a reverse for another one. On 3rd-and-5 inside the Cornell red zone, Princeton sent its receiving corps left, leaving the right side open for tight end Jon Dekker. He ran up the middle and cut right at the goal line, where he caught a rocket from Verbit for the score.
That would be all of the scoring until the fourth quarter, as both defenses kept control of the game. Princeton began to move into Cornell territory late in the third quarter, thanks to strong running from junior Branden Benson and a pair of receptions by Randy Bly, but McDonough's first career field goal attempt, a 29-yarder, hooked left. The production would be continued on the Tigers' next drive, which ended with a four-yard touchdown run by Jon Veach. The drive featured a 37-yard pass to Walz down the right sideline on a fake reverse and a 21-yard pass up the middle to Dekker. It gave Princeton a 28-0 lead, its biggest lead in a game this year.
Cornell broke the shutout with a 37-yard touchdown pass from D.J. Busch to John Kellner late, but the Big Red would get no closer. Neil Morrisey, Dan Collins and Brad Kitlowski each had a team-high eight tackles, while Morrisey also stole a touchdown pass to Szymanski at the end of the first quarter with a nice interception in the end zone.
Princeton will now travel to Penn, a team it hasn't defeated since 1995. The Tigers lost 44-13 to the Quakers last year. Penn has won its last two games by three points apiece, including its last game at Franklin Field, a 34-31 overtime win against Yale.