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1964photo

The original caption reads: “ALMOST PAYDIRT: Tiger Chuck Merlini flattens Cornell fullback Bill Wilson with a bone-crushing tackle on the Princeton seven.”

Photo Credit: Keith Roe for The Daily Princetonian

Editor’s Note: In honor of the 150th season of Princeton Football, The Daily Princetonian will be re-publishing football articles from our archives. This article was originally published Nov. 23, 1964, the Monday after Princeton defeated Cornell to secure an undefeated season, its last until 2018.

The referee’s gun cracked, tailback Don McKay heaved the ball straight up, and when it came down Princeton locked up the first perfect season for Old Nassau since 1951. The Tigers had outslugged Cornell, 17-12, Saturday in a frustrating rushing battle that caused coach Dick Colman to wear a path up and down the sideline.

After rolling up an early two-touchdown bulge, the Tigers were outplayed in the second half by a rough Big Red offense that whittled Princeton’s margin to two points with seven minutes left. But when Cornell gambled for the two-point-tying PAT, corner linebacker Don Roth broke into the backfield to slam halfback Pete Larson to the ground and take Princeton off the chopping block.

With one eye on the clock and another on Cornell’s rough offensive line, Colman sent in Charlie Gogolak to sidewind a field goal five minutes later. And when Lynn Sutcliffe intercepted a last-minute pass by second-string Big Red quarterback Bill Abel, the undefeated season was on ice. 

“This was the toughest offensive line we’ve faced,” Colman said. “They made good, hard blocks. But our line may have been a little tight under the tremendous pressure,” he added.

After regular quarterback Marty Sponaugle limped off the field in the second period, fullback Bill Wilson shouldered the Cornell offensive duties. Gaining 119 yards in 26 carries, Wilson overshadowed the 96-yard performance of Cosmo lacavazzi.

But to the victors go the spoils, and lacavazzi's 96 yards established a new Ivy League single season rushing record. The Princeton fullback also wrote new records for Princeton career scoring, single season rushing, and Ivy League career touchdowns and points.

A weak Cornell punt gave the Tigers the initial advantage. Taking the ball on the Big Red 34, the Bengals scored seven plays later when lacavazzi plunged over. Running off the box formation, McKay repeatedly swept the Cornell ends, following the blocking of Roy Pizzarello and Stas Maliszewski. Maliszewski also had 19 tackles.

After the game, Cornell coach Tom Harp pointed out that he had gambled with a defense which uses a "rover" who plays either on one end or as a safetyman depending upon the situation. "It's hard to stop the end run without an end," he commented. 

The Tigers' second touchdown was set up when Don Pett jarred a fumble from Cornell halfback Gabe Durishin. Taking his pick of open receivers Doug Tufts and Jack Singer in the end zone, McKay tossed an eight-yard pass to Tufts for the score.

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