Football Finishes Season Strong With 23-11 Victory At Dartmouth
Despite the tough start to the season, the win clinches Princeton a share of fourth place in the Ivy League and gives the Tigers their first 3-1 finish since the Ivy League championship season of 2006.
“We dealt with a lot of adversity this season and make no excuses, but I felt like our guys deserved to finish strongly,” head coach Roger Hughes said. “Never once did any of our players or coaches talk about playing out the string. We fought to the end, and I’m very proud of this group for dealing with the adversity and finishing the way we did.”
Gunter, coming off last weekend’s breakout performance in a win over Yale, ran the ball 26 times for 173 yards. His second-half touchdown runs of six and 46 yards turned a tight score into a 15-point Princeton lead and allowed the defense to pin its ears and attack the Dartmouth passing game.
Wornham, who also gained 49 yards rushing, completed at least three passes to four different players and threw for 211 yards in his second straight win. Trey Peacock led the receivered with five catches for 86 yards, although it was the strong play by Harrison Daniels (3 rec., 50 yards) that helped Princeton start strong.
Defensively, Princeton was again led by Cody, who recorded two tackles for loss, two pass breakups and a sack to go along with his team-best nine stops. Senior Dan Kopolovich ended his four-year run as a starter with eight tackles and two pass breakups, while sophomore Matt Wakulchik had seven tackles. Overall, Princeton had a season-best 11 pass breakups, several of which came from batted passes at the line of scrimmage.
Senior kicker Ben Bologna ended with his finest effort, making three of four field goals, including a career-long 42-yard kick for the only points of the second quarter.
Princeton carried the offensive momentum generated from last weekend’s 24-17 win over Yale into the first quarter in Hanover. The Tigers took the opening drive into the Dartmouth red zone, but a 35-yard field goal attempt by Ben Bologna sailed wide right.
The second possession would net points after a steady balance of runs and passes brought the ball to the Dartmouth 2. A third-and-goal play option pass was thrown just out of the reach of Matt Zimmerman, but Bologna did put Princeton ahead with a 19-yard kick. The 13-play drive matched Princeton’s longest of the season, and featured completions to four different players, including a 16-yard one to Harrison Daniels that got Princeton into Big Green territory.
Dartmouth threatened to match the score after a good return on the ensuing kickoff, but a third-down sack by Matt Boyer iced the drive and gave Princeton possession early in the second quarter. An immediate third-and-12 looked like it would end the possession quickly, but a 14-yard crossing pass to Daniels gave the drive new life. A 4th-and-2 just outside of field goal range gave the Big Green another chance to get off the field, but Wornham had another answer. His crossing pass was caught by Peacock, who made a strong catch-and-run in traffic to get the ball to the 14-yard-line. Dartmouth did finally make a big stop when it stripped Wornham from behind just outside the 5-yard-line.
A crushing third-down tackle by Jon Olofsson forced a three-and-out, and Princeton took over at the Big Green 43. The Tigers moved to the 25 before being stopped, but Bologna paid the drive off with a 42-yard field goal. It was the longest field goal of his career and Princeton’s longest since Derek Javarone kicked one of 43 yards on Oct. 1, 2005.
While the offense was steady, the defense was overwhelming. Despite a 38-yard return starting the Big Green in Princeton territory, Dartmouth was again forced to punt without a first down. A pass breakup by freshman defensive lineman Caraun Reid on third down led to a 13-yard punt by Dartmouth.
Dartmouth defensive end Charles Bay sacked Wornham in Big Green territory and caused a fumble, giving the Big Green one more opportunity to score before the half. After moving into Tiger territory, freshman quarterback Greg Patton dropped back, looked up and got run over by Cody to essentially end the half.
Princeton got the ball first to start the second half, but Dartmouth was the team to end the drive with points. After penalties drove the Tigers backwards, the punt snap sailed well over the head of Joe Cloud; the freshman punter averted further disaster by picking the ball up and taking it out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Dartmouth would convert on a 40-yard field goal on the next drive, making the score a rare 6-5 Princeton lead. Cloud’s decision to not fall on it or try a punt that would likely get blocked saved the Tigers two points and the lead.
As it turned out, that lead quickly expanded to 13-5 after two long runs by Gunter. His 14-yard carry moved Princeton into Big Green territoty, and on the next play, he took a delay up the middle, found the right sideline and ran the final 30 yards of a 46-yard scoring play untouched.
After a missed field goal on one drive and a second that ended with a Karacozoff sack, Dartmouth punted the ball back to Princeton with 13:56 remaining in the game. The Tigers, looking for both points and a time-consuming drive, turned to Gunter to lead a ground attack. Playing in his final collegiate game, Gunter used a powerful style to drive the Green backwards, and his six-yard sweep built the lead to 20-5.
It would get no better for the Green on the next play, as Shawn Abuhoff was stripped from behind on the kickoff return. The ball bounced off one player and into a mass of bodies, but Princeton freshman Andrew Starks was the one who came up with it. Bologna followed up with a 35-yard field goal, giving Princeton a 23-5 lead with 8:41 to play.
Connor Kempe took over at quarterback and led Dartmouth down the field for its first touchdown of the game. However, a pulled extra point attempt kept the Princeton lead at 23-11 and killed any hopes for a touchdown (with a 2-point conversion) and field goal forcing overtime.
The Princeton defense kept Dartmouth out of the end zone on its final two drives and celebrated its sixth straight win over the Big Green; each of the six were for the Sawhorse Dollar, a Princeton-Dartmouth tradition that started in 2004.