Defensive Battle Goes Yale's Way In 7-3 Football Win
Nov. 16, 2002
An 11-yard touchdown pass to Rob Benigno with 4:42 remaining in the game was the only scoring play of the day for Yale, but it was enough to ensure a 7-3 win over Princeton Saturday on a cold, rainy afternoon in New Haven, Conn. Yale's defense pitched a shutout over the final three quarters.
Princeton, which has prided itself on big offensive plays this season, was held in check by both the blitzing Yale defense and the tough weather conditions. The Tigers managed only three plays that gained more than 20 yards, the last of which nearly brought the Tigers back into the lead late in the game.
The first of the three big plays helped Princeton to its only points of the game, a 20-yard field goal by freshman Derek Javarone. Sophomore quarterback Matt Verbit hit classmate B.J. Szymanski on a quick out along the right sidelines. The 6-5 sophomore made the cornerback miss and sprinted down the sidelines for 43 yards. Princeton got the ball down to the 3-yard line, but could not get into the end zone. For a second, it looked like the Tigers would get nothing out of the drive, as an incompletion by Verbit was originally ruled a fumble before the official overruled the call. Javarone converted to give Princeton the 3-0 lead. One of the toughest performances of the season by the Princeton defense kept that lead alive for more than two and a half quarters. While there were a pair of big plays (an interception by senior Drew Babinecz and a blocked punt by freshman Abi Fadeyi), the defense spent most of the day doing the little things right. The defensive line got pressure on sophomore quarterback Jeff Mroz, the secondary mixed coverages and made plays and the linebackers combined for 14 solo tackles and two assisted tackles.
Yale made the most of its only sizable drive, which began on its own 15-yard line with 10:39 remaining in the game. The Bulldogs moved 85 yards in 13 plays, the final of which was the touchdown on a perfect fade pass by Mroz. It was only the second completion of the drive, as Yale gained 69 of the yards on 10 rushes.
Princeton would have two more chances, and looked like it would make good on the first one. Princeton opened that drive with a screen pass to Cameron Atkinson, who broke free and sprinted down the left sidelines. James Beck, a member of the Yale secondary, took the best angle on the play and tackled Atkinson at the Yale 36-yard line. The Tigers would move the ball three yards further before failing on fourth down.
After using all of its timeouts to get the ball back, Princeton would have one last chance. A third-down conversion pass to Andy Bryant got Princeton to the 37-yard line, but a run of four yards and a trio of incompletions ended the contest.
Princeton will conclude its 2002 season next weekend when it plays host to Dartmouth on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will be televised by the YES Network, which is also available on DirecTV, and the RCN Network. A win would give Princeton its first winning season under head coach Roger Hughes. It would also send off the Class of 2002 with its only winning season.