Courtesy: Beverly Schaefer Connor Louden kicked a 25-yard field goal to clinch a 17-14 overtime win.
The Princeton football team played its season finale with two goals in mind: sending its seniors out on the right note, and sending everybody else into the offseason with positive momentum. They did both on the final play of the season, as Connor Louden connected on a 25-yard field goal in overtime to give Princeton a 17-14 win at Dartmouth.
“I’m really proud of my football team right now,” head coach Roger Hughes said. “We hung around and found a way to make a winning play. I thought we lost a bit of that, especially after the Hampton game, but we got the job done today. I’m really happy for the seniors, and I think the rest of the guys can use this as a springboard into offseason workouts.”
Princeton was two seconds away from winning the game in regulation, but Dartmouth quarterback Tom Bennewitz hit Phil Galligan on a six-yard slant with no time remaining to even the score at 14. It completed a 14-play, 85-yard drive by the Big Green, who seemed in total control of momentum heading into overtime.
That wouldn’t last long, though. Princeton won the loss and elected to play defense first. On the second play, Nate Servis ran up the middle and was swarmed by an angry Tiger defense. The ball popped out, and senior co-captain Jon Stem secured it amidst of full pile of players. It would turn out to be the final play of his career, and he made it count.
Junior quarterback Brian Anderson, who made his first collegiate start and played every snap despite injuring his thumb early in the second half, ran a 16-yard bootleg down the left sideline to get the ball to the 9-yard-line. Princeton ran the ball up the middle twice to get into better field goal position, and Louden connected on the kick to ignite a joyous celebration at midfield.
Anderson ended the game 16-for-21 for 186 yards, and he also led Princeton in rushing with 72 yards on 15 carries. He scored on a nine-yard run in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead. Senior Rob Toresco, who became the ninth Princeton player to go over the 100-catch mark in his career, ran 10 times for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, junior Dan Kopolovich led the team with 11 tackles, including 10 solo stops, and recorded an interception and two pass breakups. Kevin Kelleher had eight tackles and a pass breakup, while John Callahan had six stops, including two for losses, and a sack.
Anderson led Princeton to its first touchdown in November on its opening drive. After the defense stopped Dartmouth near midfield, Princeton took over at its own 12-yard-line. A pair of wide receiver sweeps and a first-down pass to Trey Peacock got the offense moving, and a well-protected Anderson hit a perfect crossing pass to Adam Berry for a 51-yard gain. That took the ball to the 2-yard-line, and Toresco went off the right side of the line for the score.
Princeton got another stop, and Anderson was right back on the move. Spreading the ball amongst his receivers and backs, the junior quarterback engineered a 71-yard drive that ended in the end zone once again. Calling an option left, Anderson never pitched and instead cut upfield away from the defense, then found a hole back towards the middle of the field. He broke an ankle tackle attempt and went in standing up to give Princeton a 14-0 lead.
Dartmouth finally got its explosive offense going early in the second quarter. A long run by quarterback Tom Bennewitz and another first down by Milan Williams got the ball to the 9-yard-line, but Bennewitz was stopped on third down at the 2-yard-line. Gambling on fourth down, Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevins kept his offense on the field and had Bennewitz line up in the shotgun. A potential quarterback draw was thwarted immediately by John Callahan, who was the first player in the backfield and spun the Dartmouth quarterback down for a seven-yard loss.
Anderson, who completed his first 11 passes of the game, hit Toresco on a screen pass to get Princeton out of its own red zone. It was the 100th catch of Toresco’s career, making him the eighth Princeton player ever and second running back to reach that milestone. Anderson ran a 19-yard keeper to midfield and got the ball down to the 20-yard-line, where the Tigers faced 4th-and-9. Princeton lined up for a field goal, but Anderson took the snap and ran a fake to the right side of the line. He picked up a few yards, but Dartmouth swarmed him well before the marker.
The Big Green moved the ball into Princeton territory late in the half, but Andrew Kempler’s 43-yard field goal attempt was short, and the first half ended scoreless.
Dartmouth was stopped on both of its third-quarter drives. The first ended deep in Princeton territory when a fourth-down pass attempt was dropped well past the marker. The second ended in Dartmouth territory, when Wilson Cates stepped in front of a Bennewitz pass and picked it off for his second interception of the season.
Princeton’s offense was able to move the ball in small chunks during the third quarter, but it wasn’t able to get into scoring position. Anderson misfired to an open Lagomarsino on their final drive of the quarter, and a Coyle punt started the Big Green at its own 21-yard-line. A long pass to Brett Lowe, who made an impressive catch while being tightly covered by Cates, helped move the Big Green into the Princeton red zone. Facing fourth-and-5, Bennewitz threw a pass into the end zone that drew a pass interference call. With the ball at the 2-yard-line, Dartmouth moved 1.5 yards in three plays and faced another fourth down, this time from inside the 1-yard-line. The Big Green converted this time, as fullback Ryan Mahoney went over the right guard to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 8:42 remaining.
An inspired Dartmouth defense forced a three-and-out, but Coyle launched a beautiful punt that forced Philip Galligan back to the 11-yard-line. He was stopped immediately by Jordan Culbreath, which forced the Big Green to go 89 yards to tie the game.
Bennewitz didn’t waste much time finding his favorite target of the game, Lowe. The senior tight end found a seam up the middle to get the ball to the yard-line. After an incompletion, Bennewitz tried a deep post to Brian Evans. The ball was slightly out of Evans’ reach, but he did get a hand on the ball and tipped it in the air. Sophomore Dan Kopolovich was covering on the play and was able to stop his momentum, tip the ball to himself and pick it off at the 26-yard-line.
Needing a big defensive stand, Dartmouth forced a third-and-long and got great pressure on Anderson. He broke away from the rush and tried an ill-fated lob down the sideline. John Pircon picked it off on the right sideline and returned it to the Princeton 44.