Oct. 9, 2004
HAMILTON, N.Y. - A pair of key penalties late in the game derailed the Princeton football team's effort to upset No. 20 Colgate Saturday in front of 7,893 at Andy Kerr Stadium. Princeton held a 26-14 lead with six minutes remaining, but touchdowns from Jamaal Branch and DeWayne Long pushed the Raiders to a 29-26 victory in the Tigers' final nonleague game of the season.
Colgate cut the deficit to 26-21 on Branch's second touchdown of the game with 5:22 remaining. Princeton's first possession after the score began with a nine-yard scramble by quarterback Matt Verbit, but a holding call on the next play pushed the Tigers back to 2nd-and-long. The Tigers couldn't get the first down, giving the Raiders plenty of time to try for the go-ahead touchdown.
The drive started with two short runs, but a personal foul against the Princeton defense gave Colgate a first down at the Tiger 23-yard line. A four-yard pass to Long on third down forced a 4th and 6 at the 19-yard-line. Colgate quarterback Chris Brown, who experienced the pressure of Colgate's run to the 2003 NCAA championship game, found Long cutting into the middle of the end zone for the go-ahead score. Long caught another pass for the two-point conversion, leaving Princeton down 29-26 with 1:28 left. Verbit, who engineered the game-tying and game-winning drives last weekend at Columbia, completed a pass to Jon Dekker and two to Jay McCareins to get his team to the Princeton 45-yard-line. Following an incompletion, Verbit attempted a deep pass to McCareins, but safety Andrew Moore played centerfield and caught the pass just ahead of McCareins, who had beaten his defender. The play ended Princeton's undefeated start, which was the Tigers' first 3-0 start since 1995.
Branden Benson led the Princeton offense with a career-best 133 yards, which included an 84-yard touchdown run to open the second half. Verbit threw for 128 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Greg Fields had four catches, while seven total players caught at least one pass for Princeton.
Defensively, Justin Stull again led the charge with 13 tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. It was Stull's 10th straight game with at least 10 tackles. Tim Strickland had five tackles and a trio of interceptions; his three interceptions ties a University record and were the most by a Princeton player since Damani Leech pulled off the hat trick in a 1997 contest against Harvard. It was the Tigers' first multiple-interception game since Jay McCareins intercepted two passes against Brown two seasons ago.
Following a 3-and-out on its first defensive stop, Princeton started its first possession on the Colgate 34-yard line thanks to a punt catch interference call against Colgate. Just as they did in their 14-10 win over the Raiders in 2002, the Tigers scored on their first offensive play. Verbit faked the handoff to Jon Veach, catching the Colgate defensive backfield off guard and allowing sophomore Brian Brigham to streak alone down the right sideline. The senior quarterback moved past Dick Kazmaier for third on the all-time total yards list by hitting Brigham for the 34-yard scoring pass. It was Princeton's second one-play scoring drive of the season; the first was a 50-yard touchdown pass to Eric Walz in the opening-day win against Lafayette.
Trouble continued for Colgate on its next offensive possession. After Branch was stopped at the line by Stull on the first play, Colgate quarterback Chris Brown attempted an out pass but never saw strong safety Tim Strickland in the area. The sophomore made a diving grab for his first interception of the season. Princeton converted one third down before junior kicker Derek Javarone gave Princeton a 10-0 lead with a 28-yard field goal.
Colgate regrouped on its next possession and moved the ball mostly on the ground during an 80-yard touchdown drive. The Raiders converted on a pair of close third downs and a fourth and short to get the ball in Princeton territory. On one of the few pass calls of the drive, Brown took off after his receivers were well-covered and traveled 33 yards down to the 7-yard line. Branch would go in two plays later, moving him to third on the all-time scoring list for the Raiders. The All-America tailback and 2003 Walter Payton Award winner scored his 228th career point on the play.
The second quarter turned into the defensive showdown that most predicted, as each offense struggled to gain any momentum. Colgate had one drive end at midfield on the second interception of the day by Strickland, and it looked like the Raiders would go into overtime trailing 14-10 as they faced a 3rd-and-long with 21 seconds remaining. Branch went up the middle on the play, found a hole in the line and turned on the jets, racing 78 yards upfield before being caught from behind by McCareins at the 7-yard line. The Raiders took advantage, as Brown hit Gerald in the front left corner of the end zone just before halftime to give Colgate a 14-10 halftime lead.
Princeton needed 20 seconds of the second half before it took the lead right back. On the first play, Benson ran off the left side of the line, found his blockers and made his move down the left sideline. He found open room and made his way into Colgate territory, staying no more than a foot away from the sideline. One Raider defensive back stood between him and the end zone, and Benson fought off the tackle to score an 84-yard touchdown. It was the longest touchdown for Princeton since Cameron Atkinson scored an 84-yard touchdown in the 2002 season finale against Dartmouth. It was also the longest run of Benson's career, 50 yards better than a 34-yard run of last season. Javarone's extra-point attempt was blocked, leaving the score at 16-14.
The Tigers forced a 3-and-out on the next possession and took control of the field position game. Colin McDonough, who had a 53-yard punt in the first half, booted a 40-yard punt that died on the Colgate 2-yard line. McCareins knocked down a 3rd-down pass, and Fields returned the Colgate punt to the Raider 47-yard line. Verbit went deep on the first play to Brigham, and although the pass was knocked away, the Tigers got a pass interference call against Chris Williams to get a first down at the 32-yard line. Colgate forced a 4th and 4, and with the wind in their face, the Tigers went for it. Colgate covered all of Verbit's options, forcing the senior quarterback to go on his own. He was tripped up a yard short of the first down, and the Raider defense left the field without allowing the deficit to grow.
The Princeton defense did one better, as Strickland picked off his third pass of the game and returned it to the Colgate 11-yard line. His interception came on 3rd-and-9, which followed an apparent Raider first down that was negated on a holding call against wideout Mike Chrystie. The hold moved the ball back to the 27-yard line, and Princeton blitzed from both sides on the play. Keasey found his way through the line and pressured Brown, who through high into the middle of the field. Strickland went highest, coming down with it and going down the left sidelines to the 11-yard line. Colgate held Princeton out of the end zone, but Javarone drilled a 19-yard field goal to open the lead to 19-14.
Princeton got stops on its next two defensive stands, including one that ended with an Abi Fadeyi sack on the Colgate 1-yard line. Another solid punt by Jason Sutton, who matched McDonough punt for punt throughout the day, gave Princeton the ball at the Raider 48-yard line. The Tigers converted on 3rd and 6 on a wideout screen to Fields; along with the inside screen pass to the running back, the Tigers had great success with wideout screens during the game. Veach carried the next two plays, ending with a tough run down the left side to the Raider 13-yard line. The senior co-captain gained another first down three plays later, cutting away from a sweep into the middle of the field where he swerved down to the 1-yard line. His hard work was rewarded one play later, as he pushed through the right side of the line for the score. The score gave Princeton a 26-14 led with 9:17 remaining.
Colgate threw three straight incompletions on its next drive, all on plays where Brown was pressured by a blitzing linebacker. Princeton took more than 1:30 off the clock on its next drive before punting back to Colgate. Following an incompletion and a 7-yard run by Branch, Colgate faced 3rd and 3 and a high-pressure Princeton defense. The Raiders took advantage, throwing a quick pass to Chrystie, who never slowed down en route to the Princeton 1-yard line, where he was finally pulled down by Strickland. Branch went in from the 1-yard line, making the score 26-21 with 5:22 remaining.
From that point, Princeton was unable to gain another first down, despite a 9-yard run by Verbit to open the drive. A holding call moved the ball back to the Princeton 20-yard line, and the Tigers couldn't move forward before puntin back to Colgate for the eventual game-winning drive.
Princeton returns home next Saturday for its first home game since a 35-18 win over Lafayette on Sept. 18. Brown, which dropped its Ivy opener 35-34 to Havard two weeks ago, will look for its first win in Princeton since 1996 on Saturday at 1 p.m. (Patriot Media TV, WHWH 1350 AM, GoPrincetonTigers.com). Princeton has won two games in a row against Brown, including a 34-14 win in Providence last season. Benson was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week following a 128-yard, two-touchdown effort last season, while Stull was named the Defensive Player of the Week following a 15-tackle day.