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Columbia Records 38-0 Victory Over Football Team In Ivy Opener

By: Princeton Athletic Communications
          Release: 10/03/2009
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Offensive miscues plagued the Princeton football team throughout its Ivy League opener against Columbia, and they resulted in the Tigers starting the championship race in a deep hole. Princeton fell to 1-2, 0-1 in the league, with a 38-0 loss to the Lions in both team’s Ivy opener.

The loss, Princeton’s first shutout at home since 1999, won’t have much time to linger in the minds of Tiger players; the team returns to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium Thursday night for an ESPNU-televised game against undefeated Colgate, which topped Cornell Saturday afternoon.

The Princeton offense gained its fair share of yardage, including 209 on the ground, but getting the ball into the end zone continued to be an issue. The Tigers converted only 5 of 17 third downs and 0 of four fourth downs. Sophomore quarterback Tommy Wornham led Princeton with 99 yards rushing, while Meko McCray added 43 and Akil Sharp rushed for 40. McCray and Sharp will play pivotal roles the rest of the season, as head coach Roger Hughes indicated after the game that senior running back Jordan Culbreath could miss the rest of the season.

Trey Peacock caught five of Princeton’s 11 completions for 56 yards, while five other players caught one pass apiece.

The Princeton defense kept the team in the game for three quarters, and its All-Ivy linebacker duo of Steven Cody and Scott Britton played a major role in that effort. Britton recorded a career-high 17 tackles, including one for loss, while Cody recorded 16 stops, including one for loss, and one pass breakup. Brad Stetler recorded seven tackles and a sack, while Matt Wakulchik also recorded seven tackles.

Columbia drove to the Princeton 8 and faced a 4th-and-2 on its first drive of the game. Instead of attempting a field goal, Lions coach Norries Wilson kept his offense on the field and called a quick slant. Defensive end Joel Karacozoff stepped in the middle of the pass to knock it down and send the offensive unit back on the field in a scoreless game.

Princeton got the ball out of its own end zone area before being forced to punt. The defense got a quick stop, but three consecutive Princeton miscues sent the defense back on the field inside its own red zone. Penalties on the punt and the first offensive play from scrimmage gave away good field position, and a fumbled handoff between Wornham and McCray was recovered by Alex Gross at the Princeton 19. Four plays later, quarterback M.A. Olawale bullied his way into the end zone for a score. A missed extra point by Dean Perfetti kept the Columbia lead at 6-0.

The Princeton offense would struggle through the midway point of the second quarter, when it needed somebody to step up and make a play. Junior Jeb Heavenrich, who caught Princeton’s first touchdown of the season, took care of that with a leaping grab in traffic on a third down. His catch moved Princeton into Columbia territory, and one play later, it looked like the play would lead directly to points. Kenny Gunter took an inside handoff, ran through the line and beat the defensive backs for a touchdown. A holding call negated the play, and Princeton ended up punting into the end zone.

Princeton got another defensive stop, but one more miscue left the Tigers in a 9-0 halftime hole. Trying to run the clock out deep in its own end, Gunter was hit around the line of scrimmage and fumbled, which was recovered by Lou Miller. The defense again rose to the occasion, but the Lions did manage a 26-yard field goal for the nine-point halftime advantage.

The Princeton offense gave away more points five minutes into the second half. Miscommunication between Wornham and Harrison Daniels, the quarterback-turned-wideout, led to an easy interception return for a touchdown by Jared Morine. The Lion defender caught the ball at his own 49-yard-line and had nothing but Columbia blockers between himself and the end zone. A two-point conversion pass to Taylor Joseph put the Lions up 17-0.

Columbia all but put the game away on the first play of the fourth quarter. On a 3rd-and-9 at midfield, the Lions ran a double move with Mike Stephens, who got past Blake Clemons and caught a perfect deep ball from Olawale and ran along the right sideline untouched into the end zone. That play ignited the Columbia offense, which came back on its next possession with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Austin Knowlin for a 31-0 lead. A late 1-yard touchdown run by Leon Ivery put the finishing touches on the scoring.

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