Princeton Football Loses Heartbreaker at Cornell on Late Turnover

Mark BatorAnalyst IIOctober 29, 2012

Nov 20, 2010; Princeton, NJ, USA;  Princeton Tigers quarterback Connor Kelley (18) hands off to running back Matt Zimmerman (25) but  Dartmouth Big Green defensive end Buddy Benaderet (92) is waiting to stop him for no gain during the first half. Dartmouth Big Green defeats Princeton Tigers 31-0. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

In Saturday's Ivy League clash, The Cornell Big Red recovered a Dre Nelson fumble and drove downfield for the go-ahead score with just 50 seconds remaining. Kicker John Wells drilled a 23-yard field goal for Cornell, giving Princeton its first Ivy League loss of the year, 37-35.

The Tigers, who fell to 4-3 this season, went up 35-34 with less than nine minutes remaining when quarterback Quinn Epperly threw a six-yard touchdown strike to senior TE Mark Hayes. Epperly (3-of-5 for 31 yards) also ran for two touchdowns in the game.

But the day belonged to Cornell, and more specifically, quarterback Jeff Mathews, who was 35-of-51 for 525 yards and four touchdowns.

Mathews spread the ball around to six different receivers, with standout performances by Grant Gellatly (12 receptions for 215 yards and one TD) and Luke Tasker (10 receptions for 201 yards and two TDs).

The game appeared to be in hand for the Tigers, who had the lead and the ball and were moving on a sustained drive to drain the remaining life from the contest.

However, when freshman RB Nelson fumbled, it was recovered by Cornell's Tre' Minor with less than three minutes to play. From there, Mathews drove Cornell 66 yards in 11 plays, leading to the Wells field goal.

The Tigers had 549 yards of total offense and were 7-of-11 on third-down conversions. Princeton also out-rushed the Big Red 128 yards to 43. However, the four turnovers committed by the Tigers, especially the Nelson fumble, turned the tide in favor of Cornell.

"We fought hard, we played hard, and we fell a play short,” said Princeton head coach Bob Surace (as quoted by Paul Franklin of The Times on “We felt like a lot of things were heading in our direction at the end of the game.”

Now 4-3 overall, Princeton can still claim the Ivy League title with upcoming games against three conference opponents, namely Penn (Nov. 3), Yale (Nov. 10) and Dartmouth (Nov. 17).