OSAKA – The level of play in Ivy League football is still a few steps ahead of the Japanese collegiate league, even for the four-time defending college champion Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters.
The Princeton Tigers scored five touchdowns and a field goal in their first seven possessions to rout the Fighters 36-7 on Saturday at Kincho Stadium in the Legacy Bowl, an exhibition game to celebrate Kwansei Gakuin’s 125th anniversary year.
Playing before a crowd of 4,500, mostly cheering for the host, the Tigers were simply bigger, faster and more powerful than the Fighters, who have won a national-record 27 collegiate titles including the last four seasons in a row.
The Tigers running attack gave the Fighters a hard time stopping a single defender, allowing extra yardage after the first contact. The Tigers ran the ball 55 times for 241 yards and three scores. Dre Nelson rushed 11 times for a team-high 77 yards while A.J. Glass added 57 yards and 2 touchdowns.
In the air, Chad Kanoff, one of the quarterbacks battling for the starting spot this fall, completed 15 of 20 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Kanoff was named the game’s MVP.
“I thought I played pretty good. We got some more to work on for sure but we did a pretty good job on offense,” Kanoff said. “The whole trip was awesome. I knew there is football in Japan but seeing it and playing against them is really fun. It’s the same game even here in Japan.”
“The guys played really hard. We have such respect for KG (the Fighters) and what they have accomplished,” Princeton head coach Bob Surface said. “We had to play great football and for the most part we did. The level of the play (of Japan’s football), at least this team, which we studied, is high. You’re going to keep getting better. (The Fighters) run the same type of plays we run. Our coaches are creative and their coaches are equally creative.”
Princeton wrapped up its 12 scheduled spring sessions with the game.
“We are building,” Surface continued. “We had really great teams last couple of years. I was very impressed with the level of the plays (of this years team), especially in the first half.”
The Fighters struggled to move the chain when they gained only 1.4 yards per carry, and completed only half of their passing attempts (21 of 42) during the game. They also turned the ball three times, with two of them occurring in the opponent’s territory.
The Fighters’ only touchdown came on in the final quarter after the Tigers had established a 36-0 lead. Defensive back Kunpei Katayama picked off a pass by Kedric Bostic with 7:42 to go. Eight plays later, Izu hit wide receiver Hirokazu Maeda with a 7-yard touchdown pass with 4:26 remaining in the game.
“We are not prepared as we expected mentally and physically,” the Fighters head coach Hideaki Toriuchi said. “We have to learn from this defeat. We are lucky we found out what we should do at this early stage of the year.”