Oct. 22, 2005
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - In its finest team effort of the season, the Princeton football team rallied in the fourth quarter and ended a nine-year drought against Harvard with a 27-24 victory in front on 12,023 at Harvard Stadium. The Class of 2006 led the way, especially in the 14 seconds of the fourth quarter that Princeton trailed.
A 52-yard touchdown pass from Liam O'Hagan to Ryan Tyler gave Harvard a 24-20 lead with 7:21 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the first time Princeton trailed in the game, but it wouldn't last long. Senior Jay McCareins, who has all but cemented his status as a First-Team All-Ivy selection, took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown. Its first kickoff return for a touchdown since 1992, the play gave Princeton a lead that it simply would not relinquish to the defending Ivy League champion.
Harvard would have two possessions after McCareins' return. Princeton would get sacks on both possessions, neither of which would yield a first down. The Crimson punted to Princeton with 2:19 remaining in the hopes of getting a stop and one final chance.
It never happened.
A nine-yard run for Rob Toresco on 3rd-and-7 gave Princeton a first down and forced Harvard to use its final timeout. Toresco ran for gains of 5 and 3 yards on the next two plays, setting up a 3rd-and-short. Another first down would clinch the win, the end to a long drought and the assurance that Princeton would maintain control of its Ivy League destiny.
The play called for Toresco to carry off left tackle. Seems natural, since you would want the fate of the game to rest in the hands of your senior co-captain Ben Brielmaier. "I knew when the play came in that if I could blow my guy off the ball two or three yards, Robbie would get the yards," Brielmaier said. "When I looked up and saw he got it, it was the most exhilirating feeling I've felt in football."
It was a both exhilirating and exhausting contest by two determined squads. Princeton, which won all three games that it scored first, wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. On its first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jeff Terrell, who completed 15-of-26 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown, handed to senior wideout Derek Davis on a reverse. Davis avoided a loss of yardage by breaking a tackle in the backfield, found the right sideline and a pair of blockers and sprinted 72 yards for Princeton's longest touchdown run since Branden Benson rushed for an 84-yard score last season at Colgate.
The extra point failed, and Harvard cut the deficit in half on a 39-yard field goal by Matt Schindel. Princeton got the lead back to six points by going on a 14-play, 64-yard drive that ended in a 32-yard field goal by Derek Javarone. The kick was the 39th of Javarone's career, giving him the all-time mark at Princeton.
Harvard would take the lead on its ensuing drive, as Clifton Dawson rushed for gains of 19 and 17 yards before breaking off a 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Dawson would end the game with 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Princeton wouldn't waste much time reclaiming the lead, moving 66 yards in seven plays and scoring on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Terrell to sophomore Brendan Circle. The sophomore wideout beat his man to the back right corner of the end zone and caught the perfect lob pass from Terrell. The Tigers got the lead to 17-10 with a two-point conversion on a quarterback draw from Terrell.
Princeton maintained its 17-10 lead until early in the third quarter, when Dawson busted through the line and accelerated for a 29-yard touchdown. Princeton showed its resiliency once again, driving 64 yards in nine plays to set up a 28-yard field goal by Javarone. It was his 40th career field goal, leaving him one behind the all-time Ivy League record of Penn's Jason Feinberg.
Harvard looked for the lead on its ensuing drive. Starting on its own 26-yard-line, the Crimson marched 69 yards to the Princeton 5-yard-line by rushing Dawson on 13 of 16 plays. It set up a 4th-and-1, and instead of taking the field goal, Harvard challenged the Princeton defense by giving it to Dawson a 14th time. The Tiger defense won this one, shutting down every gap and stopping Dawson well short of the marker.
Princeton didn't move the ball on its next turn, and Harvard would eventually take the lead on the 52-yard touchdown pass to Tyler. That good feeling would last 14 seconds for Harvard, as McCareins would soon score his third touchdown of the season to give the Tigers their eventual winning margin.
Toresco led Princeton in rushing with 76 yards on 24 carries, while senior tight end Jon Dekker, whose two best career games have come at Harvard Stadium, caught seven passes for 71 yards. Princeton controlled the ball for 32:33 and converted on 9 of 17 third down chances.
The win sets up a showdown with Cornell next weekend at Princeton Stadium, which will be televised live on the YES Network beginning at noon. Cornell (3-3, 1-2) defeated Princeton 21-20 last season in Ithaca, N.Y.
Fans in the local area can watch Saturday's Princeton-Harvard game Monday night, Oct. 24, at 9:30 p.m. on Patriot Media TV.