McCareins' Late Plays Keep Tigers Atop League Standings
Oct. 19, 2002
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PRINCETON, N.J. - Sophomore Jay McCareins stole the spotlight from Brown All-America wide receiver Chas Gessner Saturday, recording two interceptions in head-to-head matchups over the final four minutes of Saturday's 16-14 victory over Brown. The home victory set up a first-place showdown with Harvard, the defending Ivy League champion, next Saturday at Princeton Stadium.
The Tigers, who carried a 16-0 lead into the second half, were led offensively by seniors Cameron Atkinson and Chisom Opara. Atkinson, who opened the scoring with an 82-yard dash in the first quarter, rushed for a career-best 174 yards. It was his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game; he came into the season with three 100-yard rushing games during his career. Opara, who missed the last game with an injury, caught 11 passes for 152 yards and the second touchdown of the game for Princeton. Linebacker Zak Keasey led the defense with 10 tackles, but it was the nine-tackle, two-interception performance by McCareins that saved the game at the end. He ended the last two Brown possessions with leaping interceptions along the sidelines. McCareins also ended the final drive for Colgate last week with an interception in the final minutes.
Just as it did last weekend, Princeton used its first drive to open a lead. Following a screen pass to Chisom Opara for a first down, Atkinson lined up wide and ran a sweep 82 yards down, avoiding a pair of defensive backs on the corner and sprinting down the left sideline for the score. It was Atkinson's longest career run, as well as the longest run for Princeton since Brock Harvey went 92 yards for a touchdown against Yale in 1995. It was also the longest play from scrimmage in Princeton Stadium history. Derek Javarone missed the first extra-point conversion of his career, so Princeton led 6-0.
Following a defensive stand and a short punt, the Tigers went to work on an 11-play, 47-yard drive. A holding call pushed Princeton out of the red zone, but Javarone put three points on the board with a 36-yard field goal. Princeton would continue to build on its next offensive drive, moving 80 yards on 10 plays on a drive that ended with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Splithoff to Opara. It marked the seventh straight start for Splithoff with at least one touchdown pass.
Princeton's defense stifled the No. 1 offense in the country for the better part of three quarters, but Brown's special teams came up with a big play late in the third quarter. On a 4th and one, Princeton attempted to run Patrick Schottel on a fake punt, but the Brown defensive line stopped the sweep on the line of scrimmage. The Bears scored on the next play, when reserve quarterback Nate Poole lobbed a 30-yad touchdown pass to Brandon Buchanan to cut the deficit to 16-7.
Following a pair of defensive stands, Brown got into the Princeton red zone following a 62-yard reverse by Buchanan. The speedy receiver got two blocks, including a key one on middle linebacker Zak Keasey, to get free. Jay McCareins saved the touchdown with a hit at the 18-yard line, but Brown converted five plays later on a run up the middle by tailback Joe Rackley.
While that defensive play by McCareins may have been wasted, his next big play would have a big impact on the contest. On 2nd and 9 at the Brown 44, Poole attempted to find Gessner down the right sidelines, but McCareins got in front of the ball and pulled it down for his third interception of the season.
Brown began its final opportunity of the game with 2:13 remaining and the ball on its own 26-yard line. Neff led the team to its 47-yard line before attempting another deep ball, this time down the left sidelines. Once again, it was McCareins who got high enough for the interception with 1:04 remaining in the game. Princeton was able to sit on the ball to run out the clock.
The Tigers are now 4-1, meaning they have more wins already this season than they had in any of their previous three seasons. Princeton, which was ranked second in the preseason media poll, will take on the league favorite next weekend at 1 p.m. Harvard enters the game with the same league record (2-0) as the Tigers. Penn is also 2-0 in the league.