Kanoff ’17 directs balanced offense in a pair of impressive wins

Chad Kanoff ’17 and the Tigers opened 2-0 for the first time since 2006.
Chad Kanoff ’17 and the Tigers opened 2-0 for the first time since 2006.
Beverly Schaefer

Chad Kanoff ’17 arrived at Princeton as one of the top recruits in the country, ranked No. 14 on one ESPN.com list of high school quarterbacks. But that fall, Quinn Epperly ’15 left little doubt about who was best equipped to quarterback the Tigers, earning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year honors in a record-setting season while leading his team to a share of the league title. Kanoff’s only appearances came late in blowout wins.

Last year, an injury scuttled Kanoff’s hopes of getting more playing time. This season, after the graduation of Epperly and 2014 standout Connor Michelsen ’15, Kanoff earned the starting job — and played like a veteran in his first two starts.

In nonconference wins over Lafayette and Lehigh, Kanoff threw for a combined 451 yards, completing 33 of 55 attempts with three touchdowns and one interception. The Tigers also ran for 552 yards in the two games and scored 92 points, the program’s most explosive start since 1950.

Kanoff attributed much of his early-season success to the mentorship that teammates provided. “Quinn and Connor taught me how to practice,” he said. “They taught me how to train like a college quarterback in the weight room, in the film room, and even in eating. They showed me how to act with the offense.”

Head coach Bob Surace ’90 said in the preseason that Kanoff “is probably as good a pure thrower” as any Princeton quarterback he’s seen in the last 30 years. “He just throws the ball very accurately,” Surace said. “He’s really gotten stronger, and he’s a good athlete.”

While Kanoff’s talent was apparent in the wins over Lafayette and Lehigh, he was far from the only star on the field. Tailback Di Andre Atwater ’16 ran for 186 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, and fullback Joe Rhattigan ’17 muscled his way into the end zone three times. The Princeton defense also started the season with two promising performances, forcing four turnovers. Linebacker R.J. Paige ’17 returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown against Lehigh.

For the Tigers, the biggest tests likely will come in the season’s second half, when Princeton faces the top three teams in the Ivy’s preseason media poll: Harvard (Oct. 24), Yale (Nov. 14), and Dartmouth (Nov. 21).