The opportunities were there for the Princeton football team in its third game in as many seasons on ESPNU, but the Tigers simply didn't capitalize. Despite another touchdown from Jordan Culbreath and a 10-tackle effort from Scott Britton, Princeton's inability to convert on third downs, both offensively and defensively, cost the team in a 14-9 Friday night loss on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.
Princeton, which allowed 8 of 13 third-down conversions on defense and converted on only 3 of 10 offensively, fell to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Ivy League. Penn kept the pressure on Brown by improving to 5-3 overall, 4-1 in the league; Brown, which takes on Yale Saturday, leads Penn by half a game.
Jordan Culbreath scored his ninth touchdown of the season and led Princeton with 109 all-purpose yards (57 rushing, 52 receiving), despite missing much of the second quarter with a leg injury. Will Thanheiser, among the league leaders in receiving yards, caught four passes for 86 yards, including a highlight reel catch of 46 yards to set up Culbreath's 1-yard score. Senior quarterback Brian Anderson completed 15 of 25 passes for 204 yards and added 31 yards rushing on seven carries.
Britton, who entered the weekend ranked eighth in the Ivy League in tackles, led the Tigers with 10 stops and one tackle for loss. Sophomore Steve Cody, who was fourth in the league in tackles, added nine tackles, including one for loss, and senior Barry Newell recorded his first career interception.
Penn took its first possession 84 yards on 13 plays and scored on a 6-yard touchdown run by Keiffer Garton; the Penn quarterback was the offensive star of the game, rushing 15 times for 89 yards and completing 16 of 21 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Princeton cut the deficit to 7-3 before halftime with a 32-yard field goal by Ben Bologna. That capped a drive that included a 35-yard pass to Adam Berry and a 17-yard run by Anderson. The drive did not include Culbreath, who was banged up on a reception on the previous drive; he would return for the entire second half.
By the time he returned, Princeton was trailing 14-3. Penn took the opening possession of the second half 71 yards on 14 plays and capitalized with a 10-yard pass from Garton to Matt Appenfelder on 3rd-and-goal. The drive took more than eight minutes off the clock and forced the Princeton offense to play with more urgency. It took a couple of drives, but the Tigers did finally score a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Following a pair of catches by Berry, Anderson launched a deep post to Thanheiser, who was double-covered on the play. The pass was slightly underthrown, which allowed the senior wideout to come back for the ball. Somehow, in the middle of two defenders draped all over him, he pulled in the pass at the 1-yard-line. One play later, Culbreath went in to cut the score to 14-9. Princeton attempted to cut the deficit to three points, but Anderson's pass to Berry missed the mark.
Princeton forced a 3-and-out, but the Tigers couldn't get past midfield. A 53-yard punt by Ryan Coyle pinned Penn to its own 3-yard line, but the Quakers converted on 3rd-and-6 and 3rd-and-8 to force Princeton to use its timeouts, and the Quakers were able to kneel on the ball in the final minute to clinch the win.
Princeton will now head to Yale for the 131st meeting between the two programs; the game will be played Saturday at noon on the VERSUS Network.