The Princeton football team spent much of its final tune-up before the 2011 Ivy League opener shooting itself in the foot, and the result was a disappointing 34-9 home loss to Bucknell Saturday night on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.
Princeton turned the football over six times, the most in a span of 54 games, and set up the first 17 Bucknell points with offensive miscues. The Bison, led by its talented sophomore quarterback Brandon Wesley, did the rest; Bucknell controlled the ball for nearly 39 minutes and executed a back-breaking 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive midway through the second half.
"You can't be 2-0 down in turnovers and expect to win," head coach Bob Surace said. "Forget 6-0. Give Bucknell credit for the plays it made, but we have to fix this. We can't make those mistakes."
The Princeton coaches will have one week to fix the mistakes before the Ivy League season opens Saturday night at home against Columbia (6 p.m.). The Lions have won two straight over Princeton and have averaged 40 points in the two games.
For the second straight week, Princeton got out to an early lead. A nine-play, 31-yard drive ended with Patrick Jacob matching his career long with a 43-yard field goal.
The Princeton defense, which contained Bucknell throughout the first half, forced two consecutive punts to follow, but the second pinned the Tigers at their own 4. On the first play, freshman Chuck Dibilio, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week, got tackled by Josh Eden in the end zone for a safety. It wouldn't be Eden's last huge play of the half.
On its next offensive possession, quarterback Tommy Wornham missed the shotgun snap. Eden recovered it on the 9-yard line to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Wesley. That also wouldn't be Eden's last huge play of the half.
Instead, that play came when Princeton was pushing for a score just before halftime. He got in the middle of a quick pass by Wornham, picked it off and ran 27 yards for a touchdown. That put the score at 17-3 at halftime.
Wesley added two more touchdown runs in the second half, although Princeton did score its lone touchdown of the game on a 12 yard pass from Wornham to sophomore tailback Brian Mills.
Junior linebackers Andrew Starks and Tim Kingsbury both led the Princeton defense with nine tackles apiece, while senior Steven Cody added seven. Junior lineman Caraun Reid recorded six tackles and Princeton's lone sack of the game, while senior Mike Catapano added two tackles for loss.
Freshman Matt Costello led the receiving corps with five catches for 70 yards, while sophomore fullback Jason Ray added three for 28 yards. Junior Akil Sharp had four carries for 36 yards.