Whatever fire Princeton thought it had kindled with a sudden and remarkable 30-point second half in last week’s loss at Harvard was doused Saturday by the wind, snow, rain, and Cornell on a slippery Powers Field. Quarterback Tommy Wornham ’12 went down with a left-hand injury early in the third quarter and ultimately so did the Tigers, 24-7.
When the conditions got better in the second half, so did Cornell, which completed 80- and 73-yard touchdown drives while Princeton floundered.
“What kills a passing game is wind,” said Coach Bob Surace ’90. “The first half it was horrendous, wasn’t just snow on the ground but whipping in guy’s faces. It was hard to see signals on both ends.”
The X-rays on Wornham’s left (non-throwing) hand proved negative, and Surace said that swelling permitting, the senior still will be the quarterback next week against Penn at Franklin Field.
Backup Quinn Epperly ’15, considered a bigger, better, running option than Wornham when conditions were nearly impossible during the first half, moved the ball in his second scheduled second-quarter sequence in two weeks. But after intermission the freshman threw two interceptions and fumbled away a scoring chance through the end zone.
When a fourth-down pass to Matt Costello ’15 in the end zone fell incomplete early in the fourth quarter, Surace said he “could feel the air go out of us a little.” (A touchdown and extra point would have cut the lead to 17-14.) But actually, the game may have turned with the weather, once it had improved enough for Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathew to more clearly see and find his receivers.
The slippery field was no friend to Princeton’s normally decent pass rush. Mathews culminated Cornell’s second touchdown drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Kurt Oondash over Khamal Brown ’15.
Punter Joe Cloud ’12 went to his knee to field a low snap at his own 17 and properly was ruled down, enabling Brad Greenway to kick a 28-yard field goal three plays later. Epperly completions to Shane Wilkinson ’14 and Seth DeValve ’15 – the latter on fourth down – drove Princeton through the blizzard to the Cornell one where, on fourth down, the freshman quarterback ran the ball on an option play and was run over with Cornell wide pursuit at the seven.
The field position nevertheless paid off when Will Powers ’15 blocked a punt and the reinserted Wornham hit Chuck Dibilio ’15, who ran for an impressive 161 yards through the slush on the day, for a 19-yard touchdown pass.
Patrick Jacob ’12’s PAT had Princeton up 7-3, but just like at Harvard, when the Tigers opened the game with an impressive touchdown drive, the balloon deflated quickly. Rashad Campbell ran the ensuing kickoff back 78 yards for a touchdown.
Afterward, Surace was particularly irritated by his team’s miscues on special teams.
“I’m mad the most about three penalties on kickoff returns,” he said. “I told them before the game that field position would be the most important thing.
“And then, I see it’s 3-0 Cornell on turnovers they are 3-for-3 in the red zone. Our red-zone [offense] (1-for-4) is a broken record I talk about every week.”
But Princeton’s impressive rushing total – 230 yards – could be “a sign of eventually playing winning football,” Surace said.
Eventually likely now means 2012 after the Tigers 1-6 (1-3 Ivy) failed to beat a Cornell team that came to Princeton winless in the league. Ultimately, only the blizzard on October 29 was freakish, however, not the result. Cornell dominated the second half.
“We didn’t adjust to the conditions as well as I would have hoped,” said Surace. “You almost want to throw the film of this one away because I don’t know what we’re going to get out of it, other than we have to be a tougher team.”