Crimson Rushes Past Princeton In Wild 45-28 Football Showdown
Despite a creative array of touchdowns, including scoring passes from a running back and a tight end, the Princeton football team fell to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the Ivy League with a 45-28 loss to Harvard.
The Crimson grabbed control of the game with its dominant running game; led by Gino Gordon's first career 200-yard game (204), Harvard ran 54 times for 394 yards. Harvard scored at least one touchdown in each quarter to hold off a Princeton offense that also scored a touchdown in each quarter and gained 365 yards of total offense.
The passing attack was led by senior quarterback Andrew Dixon, who showed great improvement after a full week of practice as the No. 1 starter. Dixon completed 20 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Four Princeton players completed passes, and three had touchdowns throws; besides Dixon, Princeton also got touchdown passes from tight end Harry Flaherty and running back Jordan Culbreath. Princeton freshman Connor Kelley completed four passes for 27 yards and rushed 13 times for 21 yards.
Senior wideout Trey Peacock, the Ivy League leader in receptions and receiving yards, outdid both of his season averages and continues his assault on the Princeton record books. He caught 11 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown, and he added a one-yard scoring run late in the game. Peacock now has 48 receptions for 678 yards this season and is on pace to become the fourth Tiger receiver to record more than 1,000 receiving yards in one season. Classmate Andrew Kerr caught five passes for 45 yards and two touchdowns, while Flaherty caught six passes for 49 yards. Culbreath rushed nine times for 41 yards, while Zimmerman ran three times for 14 yards.
Sophomore Tim Kingsbury led the Princeton defense with 12 tackles, despite missing the fourth quarter, while classmate Andrew Starks added 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and recorded one of Princeton's three interceptions. Both Weston Palmer and Jaiye Falusi added interceptions, while five Tiger players had pass breakups.
Princeton had two punts of more than 60 yards, and both began Harvard drives inside its own 2. Otavio Fleury booted a 61-yard punt in the first quarter that pinned Harvard at the 2, while Ivy League leader Joe Cloud hit a 66-yarder that left Harvard at the 1. Cloud averaged 54.5 yards on two punts.
Anybody who thought Princeton might go conservative early to ease Dixon into the game was proven wrong early. The Tigers opened with a deep pass attempt to Peacock that just missed, but followed with a 32-yard rush by Culbreath and a 23-yard pass to Isaac Serwanga. After a short pass to Peacock, Princeton went into its bag of trick plays and pulled out a winner.
Dixon rolled right, avoided a Harvard pass rush and turned back to throw a backwards pass to Flaherty. With good protection from the offensive line, Flaherty had time to set his feet and throw a perfect pass to a wide open Kerr, who walked into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.
Harvard started quarterback Andrew Hatch, who had been out since the first offensive play of the Crimson’s Week 2 game against Brown. The Crimson went 3 and out on its first drive, but it evened the score on a four-play, 94-yard drive in the middle of the quarter. After Dan Minamide intercepted Kelley at the Crimson 6, Crimson tailback Gino Gordon found an opening and went 52 yards down the Tiger sideline.
Three plays later, Gordon found an opening on the other side of the field and went 26 yards for the tying touchdown. Gordon would end the first quarter with 87 rushing yards on three attempts.
Crimson tailback Treavor Scales got in on the action early in the second quarter. Following a 20-yard pass to Kyle Juszczyk and an offsides penalty that gave Harvard an extra first down, Scales made a nice cutback move along the Princeton sideline to avoid Blake Clemons and sprinted the final 30 yards untouched for a 46-yard run.
Princeton showed resilience in bouncing right back. Peacock made a nice kickoff return to the 41, and Serwanga drew a pass interference call to get the ball inside the Harvard 40. Dixon followed with a deep corner route to Peacock, who got inside the cornerback and caught the ball at the Harvard 3 before falling out of bounds. Harvard stopped two rushing attempts, but Dixon followed with the first touchdown pass of his career. He rolled right and lobbed a corner pass to Kerr, who hauled in the pass for his first career multiple-score game.
Harvard came right back with a long offensive possession that resulted in a third rushing touchdown by a third different player. The Crimson went 79 yards in 13 plays and, facing a 2nd and 8 at the Tiger 9, called a handoff to Rich Zajeski. The Crimson sophomore broke through the right side of the line and spun off a tackle at the 2 to dive into the end zone.
A late field goal attempt for the Crimson was short, and Princeton went into halftime trailing 21-14. Harvard came out with 2009 starter Collier Winters at quarterback and rolled through an efficient five-play, 57-yard touchdown drive. After four runs, Winters made his first pass of the season a memorable one. He rolled right and threw back to Juszczyk, who followed his blockers to the 5 and then dove into the end zone for a 28-14 lead.
After a fourth-down stop, Harvard went on the move again. A tipped pass at the line of scrimmage was intercepted by Jaiye Falusi and returned to the Princeton 46. It took four plays to get a first down, but Kelley broke through a tackle to get the ball just across the line. The extra effort would be rewarded two plays later, as offensive coordinator James Perry put his hand back in the bag of tricks and pulled out another winner.
Kelley handed off to Culbreath on a sweep to the left, and the senior captain stopped and threw a deep pass to Peacock, who was just as open as Kerr was on the opening touchdown. The senior wideout jogged into the end zone to cut the deficit to 28-21.
Harvard moved the lead to 31-21 just before the end of the quarter with a 21-yard field goal by David Mothander. The kick came at the end of a 15-play, 68-yard drive.
Princeton wasn’t able to move the ball on its next drive, and a major miscue on special teams put the game out of reach. The snap went over the head of Fleury, who picked it up in the end zone and attempted to get the kick off. Harvard had three defenders to make the play, and two of them worked together for a touchdown. Grant Sickle blocked the punt, and the ball stayed in the back right corner of the end zone, where Mike Cook jumped on it for a touchdown.
Princeton continued to fight, driving 66 yards on 13 plays midway through the fourth quarter to cut the deficit back to 10 points. Peacock scored his second touchdown of the day on a 1-yard run with 4:20 remaining, but Harvard put the game away with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Juszczyk with 1:52 remaining.
Princeton will head to Cornell next Saturday for a showdown with the Big Red. If recent history is any indication, the game will be both close and wild; over the last 10 years, the Princeton-Cornell game has been decided by seven points or fewer nine times and three points or fewer five times. Princeton has won three straight over Cornell, and two of the three haven't been decided until the final seconds.