After the second week of the 2009 season, Jordan Culbreath had far more than a football season to worry about. His year would be finished, and he would be close to learning of an aplastic anemia diagnosis that threatened far more than his athletic career. One year later, Culbreath scored a double-overtime touchdown to lead Princeton to a wild and emotional 36-33 double-overtime win over Lafayette.
A 24-yard field goal by Patrick Jacob with 45 seconds remaining in regulation sent Princeton into its 15 overtime game in program history. The Tigers started off with possession and did little offensively, but Jacob booted a 39-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 30-27 lead. For Jacob, it was his eighth field goal in nine tries through the first two games of the season.
Lafayette kicker Davis Rodriguez matched Jacob's clutch effort with a 35-yard field goal, forcing a second overtime. He gave the Leopards a 33-30 lead with a 26-yard field goal, but the Tiger offense took the field knowing it was 25 yards away from its first win of the season.
Junior quarterback Tommy Wornham, who was a double threat tonight, opened the second overtime drive with a 12-yard run. A late hit added six more yards, giving Princeton a 1st-and-goal at the 7. Culbreath ran for five yards, and Wornham tried a sneak that gained no added yardage. On third down, an enthusiastic Princeton crowd all wanted the touchdown.
And it wanted Culbreath to get it.
Head coach Bob Surace, who picked up his first victory at his alma mater, watched Culbreath take the handoff and surge through the middle of the line for the score. That ignited a wild celebration for a team that will head into next weekend’s Ivy League opener with a wealth of positive energy.
Wornham ended the game with 214 yards in the air and completed 23 of 43 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He added 49 yards rushing on nine carries, including several important rushes late in the game. Culbreath gained 61 yards rushing on 11 attempts. Senior Trey Peacock caught seven passes for 98 yards, while classmate Andrew Kerr caught five passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Jon Olofsson led Princeton with 16 tackles, including two for losses. Olofsson was moved to middle linebacker after the loss of Steven Cody last week, and he led a defense that held Lafayette’s last four scoring drives to field goals. Sophomore Andrew Starks added 13 tackles, while junior lineman Mike Catapano recorded six tackles, a sack and a pass breakup while making his home in the Lafayette backfield.
Princeton led 3-0 after the first quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Jacob. The kick followed a six-play, 10-yard drive that was set up by Weston Palmer’s first career interception. The senior cornerback split a pair of receivers and picked off Ryan O’Neil at the Princeton 20-yard-line.
That play could have led to Tiger touchdowns on two occasions. Peacock took an end around into the right corner of the end zone after a long completion to Kerr, but the play was called back on the first of consecutive holding calls. Wornham nearly hit Kerr for a long touchdown pass, but the referee ruled that the receiver did not get a foot inbounds.
Lafayette didn’t let the deficit last long. A 12-play, 78-yard drive culminated with terrific individual efforts by both O’Neil and wide receiver Kyle Hayes. O’Neil was driven out of the pocket by Mike Catapano, but he bought himself enough time to find Hayes around the Princeton 3-yard-line. Hayes went up, made the catch and maintained his balance; he spun away from Blake Clemons and scored a 22-yard touchdown.
The Princeton offense accepted Lafayette’s challenge. Long completions to Jeb Heavenrich and Kerr got Princeton to the Lafayette 22, and a throwback to Harry Flaherty got the ball to the 2. Flaherty was open after Wornham took the snap, ran to the right side of the pocket, stopped and threw it back to Flaherty. The senior tight end didn’t score, but it set up a touchdown two plays later. It came on a similar throwback, except it was Kerr who was the recipient. It would be another close play, but this time the senior wideout got the call and gave Princeton a 10-7 lead.
Both teams would be stopped on their next drives, but O’Neil and Hayes connected once again for a touchdown. Hayes broke free of the coverage and was wide open on a deep post; he caught the ball around midfield and went untouched for the 78-yard touchdown.
Lafayette drew first blood in the second half when freshman Roman Wilson muffed a Leopards punt; Lafayette recovered just outside of the red zone and scored on a 1-yard rush by Vaughn Hebron.
Down 11, the Princeton offense went right to work. A 30-yard sweep by Culbreath, which ended with a 15-yard facemask penalty, moved the ball to the Lafayette 22. An end around by Wilson got the ball inside the 5, and senior tri-captain Matt Zimmerman finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass that he caught along the left side of the end zone. The Tigers tried to cut the deficit to three points, but the 2-point conversion pass was picked off.
A 27-yard field goal by Rodriguez capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive by Lafayette that extended the lead to 24-16.
Wornham had two long third-down runs on the ensuing drive to get Princeton to the Lafayette 21. A 12-yard run just before the third quarter ended got the ball to the Lafayette 33, and then an 18-yard run of 3rd-and-16 moved the ball to the 10. Naturally, the drive ended with Wornham keeping it up the middle and scoring from five yards out. Wornham connected with Peacock right on the goal line for the 2-point conversion, leaving the game tied for the first time since it was scoreless.
Rodriguez gave Lafayette another lead with a 21-yard field goal, capping a 16-play, 68-yard drive. It was the second straight drive that Princeton allowed a lot of yards, but not a touchdown.
Needing at least a field goal to force overtime, Princeton took over at its 33 with 5:13 on the clock. Consecutive passes to Kerr and Peacock sent the Tigers to the Lafayette 38. Zimmerman rushed twice for nine yards, and Wornham converted on a third down with a two-yard keeper. After two plays gained two yards, Wornham hit tight end Harry Flaherty, who shook off a tackle attempt and took the ball to the 13. Princeton would get five more yards before sending Jacob out for his clutch 24-yard field goal.
Princeton will play its only road game over a five-week span next week when it travels to Columbia for the 2010 Ivy League opener. The game will begin at 12:30 and can be heard live on WPRB 103.3 FM and on GoPrincetonTigers.com. The Tigers will return to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium on Oct. 9 for its final nonleague game of the season, a 1 p.m. showdown with Colgate.