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Steven Cody has an emotional return to Princeton's field
While the storyline set up nicely for linebacker and senior tri-captain Steven Cody — returning to the Princeton Stadium field against the same Lehigh squad that caused him to miss nine games a season ago with a gruesome broken leg — reality and the Mountain Hawks didn’t cooperate Saturday night. Instead of atoning for the sins of last year’s lost season, the Tigers fell victim to many of the same mistakes, losing 34-22.
Still, just being on the field represented something of a victory for Cody, whose last meeting with Lehigh left his tibia sticking out of his leg.
“It felt great,” Cody said after the game. “The crowd was great. We came out with a lot of energy, but unfortunately we just came up a few plays short. Lehigh made a couple more plays than us, and that ultimately determined the outcome, but it was really great being back out there.”
Cody, a two-time All-Ivy, was a force for the Tigers in 2009, leading the Ivy League in tackles at 11.6 per game. He had recorded 12 tackles in the 2010 season opener at Lehigh before breaking his leg, an injury that would cost him the rest of the season. From the sidelines, the injured linebacker and emotional team leader was forced to watch his Princeton teammates struggle to a 1-9 record from the sidelines. Though the Tigers lost, Cody certainly added a much-needed element to the Princeton defense.
“The big thing about him is that last year when we gave up a score, we gave up one after another after another,” head coach Bob Surace said. “Tonight, there was just this presence there. Steven did a great job just settling that group down.”
Despite missing nearly a full year, Cody wasted no time regaining his form as one of the most productive Tigers defender on the field. He finished the game with eight tackles, tied for second-most on the team.
“No,” Cody said when asked if it took him any time to adjust to the speed of the game. “We’ve been practicing really hard. Camp is way harder than what we do out there. I felt fine.”
Down for much of the game, momentum swung Princeton’s way late in the fourth quarter. Ivan Charbonneau brought a Lehigh punt 92 yards back for a touchdown, and the Tigers recovered the subsequent kick. Quarterback Tommy Wornham then completed a shovel pass to freshman tailback Chuck Dibilio for a touchdown, bringing the game to 27-22 Lehigh.
“It was electric,” Cody said. “The whole crowd was going, and everybody believed we could win that game. That’s another thing: the attitude adjustment from last year to this year was phenomenal. There was never a time when the sideline was down or guys were feeling sorry for themselves. We always felt we were in that game.”
With Princeton needing one final stop, it was Cody who spoke up.
“I just tried to say ‘this is time, boys. They’re going to try to run the ball. Go after the ball and try to make plays,’” Cody said. “Unfortunately we just came up a little bit short.”
Though the Mountain Hawks scored on the drive and won the game, nobody is blaming Cody and the defense.
“They played great today,” Wornham said. “They really played great, especially when we gave them time off the field. Those 3-and-outs are tough. Having Steve Cody back there providing that leadership is a real spark.”
The attitude after the game, though disappointed, was far from dejected. Princeton knows that Lehigh is a quality opponent, and perhaps a tougher test than the bulk of the Ivy League. Still, like always, corrections and adjustments will have to be made for the Tigers to reach their goals this season.
“I think we can take a lot of the positives and build off them,” Cody said. “The mistakes, turnovers, giving up too many big pass plays, those are things we have to work on and sharpen before Bucknell next week.”
With Cody in the locker room, it’s a safe bet that Bucknell will face a tougher Princeton team than the one that took the field Saturday night.
By NICK PERUFFO, The Trentonian