Nov. 6, 2004
PRINCETON, NJ - A superb effort by the Princeton football team ended in stunning disappointment, as Derek Zoch's 27-yard field goal pushed No. 20 Penn to a 16-15 win over Princeton in front of 15,891 at Princeton Stadium. Zoch's kick, which followed a 22-yard miss seconds earlier that was blown dead on a Penn false start, held on as the margin of victory when Princeton kicker Derek Javarone missed a 41-yard kick inches to the right with 18 seconds remaining in the contest.
Penn (7-1, 5-0) keeps its 20-game Ivy League winning streak alive and will battle Harvard next weekend for at least a share of the Ivy League title. Princeton (4-4, 2-3) will have to regroup next weekend when it travels to Yale. Zoch, a freshman attempting his first kick, missed the 22-yarder to the right, but a false start on Penn gave him the chance at a 27-yard kick. He split the uprights on that one, giving Penn a 16-15 lead with 2:54 remaining. Senior quarterback Matt Verbit led Princeton on a 12-play, 56-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion pass to Greg Fields and an 11-yard run of his own. Princeton got to the 19-yard line, but a pair of rushes by Branden Benson resulted in a loss of five yards and set Javarone up for the 41-yard kick, which had the distance but sailed right of the goalpost.
Princeton outgained Penn 335-289 and rushed for 196 yards against the No. 2 defense in the Ivy League. Jon Veach led the way with 97 yards, while Benson had 57 and near hero Greg Fields had 22 yards and a touchdown. Fields ended the game with 175 all-purpose yards, including 90 yards on punt returns. Verbit was 17-for-30 for 139 yards, while Penn quarterback Pat McDermott was 14-for-27 for 198 yards and a touchdown.
Junior linebacker Justin Stull recorded a game-high 11 tackles while teammate and Ivy League leader Zak Keasey recorded 10 tackles. Keasey also recorded a sack, and teammates Peter Kelly and Doori Song both recovered fumbles.
Princeton's first drive of the game moved the Tigers into Penn field position, which would pay them benefits down the road. Running Jon Veach between the tackles, Princeton got inside the Penn 40-yard line before Colin McDonough sent a punt inside the Quakers' 2-yard line. The Tiger defense forced a 3-and-out, and Greg Fields returned his first punt 47-yards to the Penn 12-yard line. Penn's defense kept Princeton out of the end zone, but Derek Javarone converted on a 27-yard field goal.
Princeton had the opportunity to build on that lead after freshman Bill Foran stripped Duvol Thompson on the kickoff return, and classmate Song recovered the fumble. Two plays later, Fields took a reverse and recorded a first down, but he was stripped from behind by Luke Hadden, and Penn's Kevin Stefanski recovered the ball at the 9-yard line. Any reversal in momentum was short-lived, as the Princeton defense came back on the field and held Penn to three plays before another punt. Punter Josh Appell wasn't about to give Fields another return, as he sent a high, short punt that was downed at the Penn 47-yard line.
Princeton doubled its lead on the ensuing drive, going 32 yards in eight plays before Javarone connected on a 32-yard field goal to open a 6-0 lead. It was Javarone's first successful field goal of more than 30 yards all season.
Following a third straight 3-and-out, highlighted by a sack from Zak Keasey, a 38-yard punt return from Fields put Princeton in Penn territory once again. Verbit barely overthrew Brian Brigham on the first play, and an interception by Chad Slapnicka on third and long ended the drive.
It would remain 6-0 until late in the second quarter, when the Penn offense engineered an 89-yard drive over the span of 10 plays, which ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Von Bryant. McDermott threw a long completion to get Penn its initial first down of the game, and then Mathews finally found running room to get the Penn offense in gear. The score would send Penn into halftime with a 7-6 lead.
Penn's first drive of the first half moved into Princeton territory before the Quakers turned the ball over on a disputed fumble call. An attempted screen pass was ruled to be a backwards pass, and thus a lateral, and since it wasn't caught the ball was considered live. Peter Kelly jumped on it to give Princeton possession, and the Tigers responded with an eight-play, 53-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown run by Fields, who scored on a reverse for the second straight week. A long run on a draw play by Veach and a crossing pass to Fields keyed the drive that gave Princeton a 12-7 lead. The Tigers attempted to make it a full touchdown lead, but Verbit's two-point conversion run was stopped a yard short of the end zone.
Princeton would increase the lead to 15-7 on a 14-play, 55-yard drive that ended on the first play of the fourth quarter. Javarone hit a 33-yarder to give the Tigers an eight-point lead.
Penn moved 66 yards on seven plays to cut the deficit to two points. The final 39 yards came on passes to Gabe Marabella, including a 19-yard strike in the end zone on a play that appeared to be a bootleg. McDermott drew the defense in before hitting an Marabella in the end zone. Dan Castles made a key one-handed catch on third down to keep the drive going.
Although Princeton held the ball for the next 4:11, the Tigers were forced to punt and Adam Francks returned it 13 yards to the Penn 31-yard line. McDermott drove them again to the 5-yard line, where Zoch connected on his second attempt, following the false start, and forced Princeton into its final drive.
Princeton will play its final road contest of the season next weekend when it travels to Yale for a noon showdown. The two teams played a thriller last season, with Yale rallying to tie the game on the final play of regulation and then winning 27-24 in double overtime. Next week's game will be televised live on the YES Network, marking three straight Princeton games that have been shown on national television.