Junior Jordan Culbreath entered the 2008 season finale needing 70 rushing yards to record the eighth 1,000-yard rushing season in the 140-year history of Princeton football. He made it with 206 yards to spare. Culbreath rushed for 276 yards, the second-most in a single game in Princeton history, and scored two touchdowns to lead Princeton to a 28-10 victory over Dartmouth on a frigid November day on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. And he did so with Princeton's greatest running back ever cheering him every step of the way.
Princeton outrushed Dartmouth 343-(-11) and converted on 10 of 16 third-down attempts to close its season with the win. While the Tiger offense was averaging 6.4 yards per rush, the Princeton defense stopped Dartmouth on 10 of 11 third downs, recorded four sacks and didn't allow a single touchdown in the win. Dartmouth's lone score came on an 85-yard kickoff return by Peter Pidermann in the third quarter.
"I wish we could start the season over again, because I really believe in the work ethic of these kids," head coach Roger Hughes said. "I thanked the seniors after the game for starting our first win streak of 2009."
Entering the game, most eyes were on Culbreath's run at the 1,000-yard barrier, which hadn't been broken at Princeton since 2002, when Cameron Atkinson did it. The drama was all but gone after one run, as Culbreath took his first carry 58 yards for a touchdown; he slithered out of a mass of players, broke one tackle attempt and found daylight as he went from the middle of the field to the home sidelines. By the end of the first quarter, Culbreath had his 1000-yard mark, and then he started moving past players on the single-season rushing total.
Ralph Ferraro. Cameron Atkinson. Walter Snickenberger. Hank Bjorklund. All moved one step down on the single-season rushing total after Atkinson ended the day and his brilliant junior season with 1,206 rushing yards, the most at Princeton since Keith Elias set the all-time mark of 1,731 in 1983.
Speaking of Elias, the Princeton legend was on the sideline for the game, and he got the sense that his single-game rushing record of 299 yards (1992, Lafayette) might just be in trouble. Not that he minded.
"I had a rough estimate in my mind," Elias said afterwards. "I was rooting for him. I just thought it would be awesome if he was able to break my record while I was watching. He is smooth, has great vision and is deceptively quick."
Culbreath's total of 276 ended up as the second-highest total in team history. He moved past Elias (Lehigh, 1992) and Homer Smith (Harvard, 1952), who shared second place with respective 273-yard rushing days. His 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, which moved Princeton ahead 28-10, also gave him 10 rushing touchdowns on the season, the most for a Princeton back since Atkinson in 2002.
"There aren't enough superlatives for Jordan," Hughes said afterwards. "He always finishes his runs and he has one of the strongest work ethics of anybody."
Following Culbreath's first touchdown run 1:54 into the game, the Princeton defense was faced with its first major challenge of the day. After an interception by Brian Anderson, who made only that mistake in an efficient career finale, Dartmouth took over at the Princeton 11. Three plays accounted for no yards, but Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens called for a fake field goal. It was an option with the holder and kicker, but nobody on the Princeton defense was fooled. Foley Schmidt was tackled at the line of scrimmage, and Princeton took over with momentum squarely on its side.
The Princeton defense came up with another big play in the second quarter, as freshman Blake Clemons recorded his first career interception on the Dartmouth 20. Four plays later, Anderson took it in from two yards out for a 14-0 lead. Anderson ended the day completing 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed nine times for 36 yards and a touchdown. Senior Billy Mitchell caught a one-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to extend Princeton's lead to 21-3.
It was a collective effort for the Princeton defense, although the strong inside linebacker duo of Scott Britton and Steve Cody once again led the way. Britton recorded five tackles and a sack, while Cody had four unassisted tackles. Collin McCarthy, Pete Buchignani and Matt Koch each recorded either a half- or full-sack in their final collegiate games, while junior Joel Karacozoff also added a half-sack.