Nov. 19, 2005
HANOVER, N.H. - Following its toughest loss in years, Princeton head coach Roger Hughes told his football team that the season finale at Dartmouth would reveal the character of his team. That character is one that all fans of Tiger football can feel good about, as Princeton dominated the Big Green 30-0 in the 2005 season finale. Princeton ends its season 7-3, 5-2 in the Ivy League, and won its most games since the 1995 league championship season. It also completed a five-game turnaround from 2003 and gave Princeton its second straight season with at least a two-win improvement, a feat unaccomplished by the Tigers since 1964.
The game was Princeton's first shutout since the 1999 season and the first road shutout since the 1998 season. Princeton held Dartmouth to -6 yards rushing and outgained the Big Green 316-89. Princeton forced five turnovers in the game, including the 18th career interception by Jay McCareins, which ended Dartmouth's final drive of the season.
Early turnovers kept Dartmouth in the game throughout the first half, but a late touchdown run by quarterback Jeff Terrell gave Princeton a 13-0 edge at halftime. One disastrous minute of the third quarter gave the Tigers a 27-0 lead and all but clinched the Tigers' seventh win.
That stretch began on yet another highlight film play by McCareins. In a career filled with remarkable play after even more remarkable play, McCareins somehow found a way to do something even he had not done before. A missed 43-yard field goal was caught in the end zone by McCareins and returned 100 yards for a score. A fumbled kickoff and touchdown run by Rob Toresco later, Princeton had its 27-0 lead. Princeton got its first turnover of the game 1:24 into the game, when a fumble by Charles Ganske was recovered by Rob Holuba deep in Dartmouth territory. Ganske was hit by Justin Stull as he made his move to the line of scrimmage, and Holuba was the first to the ball. The Tigers got a first down on an inside screen pass to Toresco, and then on 3rd-and-12, Toresco took an inside draw to the 4-yard-line. That set up a chip shot for senior Derek Javarone, who set an Ivy League record the last time he played at Memorial Field with five field goals in a 2003 contest against Dartmouth. His 21-yard kick gave Princeton a 3-0 lead 10:56 into the game.
Dartmouth gained one first down on its second drive, but a sack by linebacker Nate Starrett on 3rd-and-long forced a punt to the Princeton 23-yard-line. The Tigers converted a first down before it handed a turnover right back to the Big Green. An attempted option failed as the pitch from Terrell was just out of Toresco's reach, and the bounce went away from the sophomore fullback and into the waiting hands of a Dartmouth linebacker. The Princeton defense made sure it would not hurt, keeping Dartmouth from moving even a single yard before forcing a punt.
The ensuing Tiger drive was a highlight film performance by wideout Brendan Circle. He delivered a major block on a screen pass to Derek Davis to free the senior wideout for nine yards, and then he converted two first downs on a deep out and a crossing pass, both of which he made athletic plays to complete the gain. Princeton had a 4th-and-6 at the 32-yard-line, and Terrell completed a slant to Brian Brigham, who used his body to shield the defender, kept his balance and gained eight more yards to the Dartmouth 18-yard-line. Princeton would gain seven more yards before Javarone kicked a 28-yard field goal to open a 6-0 lead with 14:48 remaining in the second quarter.
The Tigers nearly earned a defensive touchdown against Dartmouth for the second straight game on the Big Green's ensuing drive. Freshman quarterback Joshua Cohen threw a screen pass directly into the hands of defensive end James Williams, who ran 10 yards before pitching to Tim Strickland, who seemed to have an open lane to the end zone, but a terrific individual effort by Ryan Fuselier tripped Strickland up at the 1-yard-line. That play saved Dartmouth seven points, as a sack forced Princeton to the 5-yard-line and a tipped pass on third down was intercepted after several bounces by Dartmouth senior Steve Jensen.
Princeton held Dartmouth to one first down before forcing a punt, but a holding penalty on Princeton's ensuing possession forced Terrell into a deep attempt on third down. The pass was picked off by Chris Green and returned into Princeton territory. Dartmouth got the ball to the 13-yard-line, where it faced 4th-and-1. The Big Green originally sent out its offense, but following a timeout, the kicking unit came on. Holder Dave Shula took the snap and rolled left, attempting to fake an option with kicker Erik Hinterbichler before flipping a shovel pass to tight end Brett Lowe. Stull had none of it, stuffing Lowe for a loss of one yard and keeping Dartmouth off the scoreboard.
Following a Princeton punt, Dartmouth called a draw play to Jason Bash, but it was stuffed three yards in the backfield by Abi Fadeyi and Jake Marshall. Bash's efforts to gain extra yards backfired, as he lost control of the ball as he was being driven to the ground. Freshman nose guard Peter Buchignani pounced on the ball to give Princeton possession inside the Dartmouth end of the field.
The Tigers moved inside the red zone on a crossing pass to Dekker that has worked twice for touchdowns this season. This time it took Princeton to the 10-yard-line, and following a pair of short rushes, Dartmouth came on a full blitz to try and force a third field goal. Two Big Green defenders appeared to have Terrell in perfect position, but the athletic signalcaller spun out of trouble, juked one extra linebacker and sprinted between two Dartmouth defenders into the end zone. It was a play that gave Princeton a two-possession lead and stunned a Dartmouth sideline seconds before halftime.
After stopping Dartmouth on its first drive of the second half, the Princeton offense began methodically running the ball down the field, with the key word being 'running.' Led by several bruising runs up the middle by Toresco, the Tigers knocked nearly seven minutes off the clock before being stopped on fourth down at the 24-yard-line.
Dartmouth got two long pass plays to get inside the Princeton red zone, but the Tiger defense did what it has done all season. The No. 1 team in the Ivy League in red zone defense recorded two sacks to force Hinterbichler into attempting a 43-yard field goal. His kick was well short and ended in the hands of McCareins, who was standing on the goal line to protect against the fake. McCareins fielded it and went to work immediately, finding his blockers and sprinting down the right sideline, just as he did on a 93-yard kickoff return to win the game at Harvard. For McCareins, it was a dramatic final highlight to one of the best Princeton football careers in the recent history of Princeton football.
Things went from bad to worse to something beyond that over the next 10-15 seconds. Dartmouth fumbled the kickoff return, which was recovered by Derek Davis and returned to the 15-yard-line. Toresco took the next play 15 yards up the middle.for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead. On Dartmouth's first play of its next drive, Cohen threw a deep ball that was intercepted by Artis, and Princeton went right back to running the clock and clinching its first 7-win season under Hughes and Princeton's best record since 1995. That interception ignited the Tigers' longest scoring drive of the season, a 20-play drive that took 11:44 off the clock and concluded with the 44th career field goal for Javarone, the all-time Ivy League leader.