The game was yet another nail-biter between Princeton and Columbia at Wien Stadium. Four of the five games played here during the Roger Hughes’ era have been decided by three points or fewer, including this one. Columbia looked to break that streak in the final minutes, as Lion quarterback Shane Kelly began moving his offense in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. He guided the Lions from their own 17 to the Princeton 39, where they called a wideout screen to Mike Stephens.
“I read pass on the play, and when I saw the linemen moved, I looked for the screen,” said sophomore linebacker Scott Britton, who recorded a career-high 11 tackles in the game. “When I saw him, all I thought about was hitting him as hard as I could. Honestly, I didn’t even know he fumbled until I heard the Princeton fans cheering. Credit great hustle to Cart Kelly for diving on the ball.”
Britton stripped it near the sidelines and Kelly beat a trio of Lions to the ball. A first-down run by Jordan Culbreath locked up the win, as Columbia was forced to use its timeouts.
While that drive clinched the win, it was the previous one that put Princeton in position to share first place in the Ivy League with Brown, Cornell and Penn. After Jordan Davis’ one-yard touchdown run with 10:35 remaining gave Columbia a 24-21 lead, Anderson took the ball back and looked for a go-ahead drive. An 18-yard pass to Will Thanheiser converted a 3rd-and-12, and two plays later, Anderson hit Peacock on a 52-yard post pattern for the go-ahead score. The extra point was blocked, ending Connor Louden’s string of 55 straight PAT conversions.
Anderson concluded another strong game by completing 14-of-19 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception for the second straight game and added 22 yards rushing. Will Thanheiser recorded his second straight 100-yard game with seven catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Peacock caught two passes for 86 yards and a score.
Princeton had three defenders with double-digit tackles, including senior Collin McCarthy, who recorded 11 tackles, including two for loss, and a sack. McCarthy now has a sack in three straight games. Britton had 11 tackles and sophomore Steven Cody, the No. 2 tackler in the Ivy League, finished with 10 stops. As a team, Princeton recorded seven tackles for loss and two pass breaukps.
Columbia took its opening possession 67 yards on seven plays and scored on a 15-yard option run by quarterback Shane Kelly. The drive was an effective mix of option runs and safe passes, all of which kept the Princeton defense off balance.
The Tiger offense returned the favor on its first drive, going 60 yards on 11 plays to even the score. Princeton ran the ball seven plays on the drive, including four times by fullback Matt Zimmerman. He had gains of 10 and 13 yards, marking the only plays that gained double-digit yards on the possession. It was a steady march that ended on a 3rd-and-4 at the 5 yard line, when Anderson faked a handoff up the middle to Zimmerman and sent his receivers into the end zone. That left Culbreath alone in the flat, and Anderson connected with him for the score. It was an impressive catch by Culbreath after Anderson had to throw it high over the rush; the Tiger running back tipped it to himself, regained his balance and cut inside for the score.
After a defensive stop, Princeton went right back to work, but instead of slow and steady, the Tigers went for a quick knockout. After a five-yard run by Culbreath, Anderson found Thanheiser down the middle for a 69-yard completion. Thanheiser beat single coverage and got to the sidelines before being taken down at the 9. Two plays later, Culbreath scored his second touchdown of the game and fourth of the season for a 14-7 lead.
Both defenses followed up with a pair of stops, but Columbia was able to move 91 yards just before halftime to cut into its deficit. Starting at its own 1, and barely avoiding a safety on the first play, the Lions drove into the Princeton red zone. The defense bent, but it wouldn’t break, and Columbia settled for a 25-yard field goal to get the score to 14-10.
Princeton scored its first third-quarter touchdown of the season on its opening drive of the third quarter. A 34-yard completion on a seam pattern to Trey Peacock got the Tigers into Columbia territory, and after Culbreath got them into the red zone, Anderson used a little pocket magic to get in position for his third touchdown pass of the season. He eluded the blitz and eventually stepped up towards the line; as he did it, he waved Thanheiser into the end zone. The senior wideout made the cut behind his defender and was an easy target for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Columbia came right back with a touchdown drive of its own. A couple of nice passes by Kelly moved the ball into the red zone, and Ray Rangel finished on an option off the left side of the line. The defense appeared to have him bottled up, the Rangel made a nice move inside and powered his way into the end zone.
After a stop by the Lion defense, Columbia drove 49 yards on nine plays to take the 24-21 lead. An 18-yard pass on 3rd-and-15 and a 12-yard run by Kelly moved Columbia deep into Tiger territory, and Jordan David leapt high over the line on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 to move the Lions back ahead.
That was when Anderson, Peacock and the rest of the Princeton offense went back to work. The whole team will begin work again this week before the final non-league game of the season next Saturday at Colgate. The game will begin at 1 p.m. and can be heard live on GoPrincetonTigers.com.