Oct. 16, 2004
PRINCETON, NJ - The Princeton football team (4-1, 2-0) outscored Brown 14-0 in the final quarter to earn a 24-10 win at Princeton Stadium in front of 11,982 home fans. A 50-yard touchdown pass from Matt Verbit to Brian Shields highlighted a win that sends Princeton into a first-place showdown with the Harvard Crimson next weekend at Princeton Stadium.
Verbit, who completed passes to a season-best nine different receivers, threw for 147 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. His effort moved him past Jason Garrett into second place on the all-time passing and all-time total yards list. The local product from Newtown, Pa., now has 4,620 total yards and 4,326 yards passing in his career. He has also started 19 straight games for the Tigers; next weekend will be his 20th start, tying the most for any Princeton quarterback since the end of the 1980s. Joel Sharp also started 20 games for Princeton at quarterback. Zak Keasey led the defense with 14 tackles, including two for losses, one sack and one interception. The two-time All-Ivy linebacker is now tied for the Ivy League lead in tackles with Justin Stull with 59 apiece. The defensive line and linebackers helped limit Nick Hartigan, who entered the game averaging 138.5 rushing yards per game, to 66 yards rushing.
"I'm really proud of the total team effort," said head coach Roger Hughes after Princeton completed its second 4-1 start of the last three seasons. "The offense, the defense and special teams all made plays when we needed it. The effort and the practices were crisp all week. This team was ready to play on Wednesday."
Princeton, which entered the game as the most penalized team in the Ivy League, didn't have a single penalty outside of a kickoff that went out of bounds. The offensive line opened holes for both Jon Veach (75 yards, one touchdown) and Branden Benson (48 yards, one touchdown), and allowed Verbit time to go 13-for-15.
The special teams were led by the efforts of Greg Fields and Colin McDonough, each of whom made key plays in the win. Following a Brown touchdown that put Princeton behind 7-3, Fields returned a kickoff 77 yards that set up the touchdown by Veach. With Princeton ahead 24-10 in the fourth quarter, McDonough, who was standing in his own end zone, leaped high to catch the snap and got off a 55-yard punt to keep the Bears out of great field position.
Princeton jumped out to a 3-0 on its first drive, going 68 yards on 10 plays before Derek Javarone connected on a 22-yard field goal. Benson did the majority of the running, opening the drive by running over a Brown defender for a first down. Verbit completed passes to four receivers on the drive, including a tough pass to Jon Dekker that set Javarone up for the chip shot.
The remainder of the first half would be a battle of defenses, with each making key plays to keep the opponent off the scoreboard. Brown's best drive of the half was stifled by back-to-back sacks, the first by Chris Lebeis and the second by both Brandon Mueller and James Williams. The rest of the defensive stands were a combination of solid run stopping by the defensive line and linebackers and key pass breakups.
The Princeton offense moved the ball on a couple of drives but couldn't find any more points. Javarone missed a 29-yard field goal into the wind, and the Brown defense came up with a couple of sacks to halt another drive. One sack caught Verbit at his own 2-yard line, but the senior signalcaller was able to hold on to the ball after being hit from the blind side to avoid a critical turnover.
The third quarter was a different story. Brown started its first scoring drive of the season with a defensive play, as Zak DeOssie's sack of Verbit forced a fumble, which was recovered on the Princeton side of midfield by Dan Doublin. The Bears ran a flea flicker on the first play and found Efren Blackledge inside the Princeton 10-yard line. Three Hartigan rushes got Brown to the 2-yard line, where the Bears decided to go for it. Hartigan went off the right side of the line and bulled his way into the end zone for a 7-3 lead.
The ensuing kickoff went to Fields, who went 77 yards down the right sideline to immediately put Princeton into the red zone. Veach matched Hartigan's efforts from there, rushing four times before going in for the touchdown. The score was Veach's 14th in the last 10 games.
Brown evened the score at 10 with an 11-play, 55-yard drive that culminated with a 27-yard field goal by Steve Morgan. A near interception by McCareins was waved off, and quarterback Joe DiGiacomo was able to engineer the drive into the Princeton red zone. This time, Hartigan would be stopped before he could get into the end zone and the Bears were left with the tying kick.
Following a defensive stand by Brown, the Bears looked to go ahead to open the fourth quarter. On the first play of the final session, DiGiacomo's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by freshman Mike Meehan and intercepted by Zak Keasey, who returned the ball to the Brown 21-yard line. Veach led Princeton to the 2-yard line, where the Tigers faced a 4th-and-1 with 12:15 remaining. Benson entered the game and went straight up the middle, where he was hit at the line. The senior back was not to be denied, as he carried his defender into the end zone to take a 17-10 lead with 12:10 remaining.
Following a 3-and-out by the defense, Verbit hit on his third one-play drive of the season. This time, on a play-action fake to Benson, the senior quarterback hit a wide-open Brian Shields, who was 10 yards behind any Brown defender. The sophomore wideout easily caught the pass and jogged in for his first career touchdown.
Brown would have three more possessions, and the last two would end with incompletions on fourth down. Backup quarterback Anthony Vita led Brown on both of the last two drives and used his speed to spark the attack, but a trio of pass breakups on one drive and a sack by Abi Fadeyi on the second one halted all progress.
Princeton is now in a three-way tie for first place in the Ivy League with Harvard and Penn. The Tigers have gone eight seasons without beating the Crimson, but they will get another chance on Saturday, Oct. 23 (1 p.m., Patriot Media TV, WHWH 1350 AM, GoPrincetonTigers.com). The two teams played arguably the most exciting game in league play last season, as the Crimson pulled off a 43-40 overtime win at Harvard Stadium.