Top-Ranked Tiger Defense Pitches 19-0 Shutout, Remains Perfect In Ivies
In one end zone was Spenser Huston, the starting left tackle who had just taken a throwback 15 yards for the game's opening score. In the other, there was defensive standout Caraun Reid, tackling Mark Kachmer for a safety to outscore the Brown offense on his own.
Everywhere in between, Princeton played its best football game in years.
Princeton snapped an Ivy League record 162-game scoring streak by Brown and stayed unbeaten in Ivy League play with a 19-0 victory in front of 6,482 at Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. The Tigers, once projected to finish eighth in the Ivy League, now join Harvard and Penn as the lone unbeatens in league play.
Princeton outrushed Brown 194-17 and held Brown to only 3-of-15 on third down conversions in the win. A significant chunk of the rushing defense came from Princeton's six sacks, including 2.5 from Reid. Princeton had nine tackles for loss in the game, including two more from Ivy League leader Mike Catapano.
While the defense continued its stellar play, it was the offense that brought the crowd to its feet first, and it came from a most unexpected source. After an eight-play drive brought the Tigers into the Brown red zone, starting quarterback Connor Michelsen rolled right before stopping, turning and throwing across the field to Huston.
The two things Huston saw were teammates and the end zone. He ran it in for a 15-yard score, which he later called the first touchdown of his career at any level, to open a 7-0 Tiger lead. Princeton took the next drive 74 yards on eight plays, and freshman kicker Nolan Bieck capped it with a 21-yard field goal to open a 10-0 lead.
Holding Princeton out of the end zone seemed like a win for the Brown defense, but a disastrous two-play scenario that followed built both the lead and the excitement for Princeton, which has now won three straight games for the first time since the 2006 Ivy League championship season.
First, Bieck's kickoff was fielded just short of the goal line, but the returner got confused by his spot on the field and downed the ball at the 1. One play later, a handoff to Kachmer was tackled six yards deep by Reid, the first-team All-Ivy defensive lineman.
Princeton would get one more touchdown from the gritty Will Powers, who led the offense with 14 rushes for 57 yards. He scored from eight yards out in the third quarter, but it was a 37-yard run on 3rd and 21 that kept the Tigers in control of field position all day.
Well, it was that and an overwhelming defense, which hasn't allowed a touchdown in eight quarters of Ivy League play this season. The Tigers forced three turnovers, including interceptions by Anthony Gaffney and Phillip Bhaya, and limited Brown to five plays or fewer on 10 of its 15 possessions.
It was clearly an inspired effort for teammate Khamal Brown, who was lost for the season after an injury at practice Tuesday night. Brown asked to wear his jersey while watching the game, and teammate Tom Moak delivered him the game ball afterwards.
Senior Mandela Schaffer led the defense with nine tackles, including eight solo stops, while junior Alex Polofsky had eight stops and a fumble recovery. Gaffney had five solo stops to go along with his interceptions and another pass breakup, while Ivy League tackle leader Andrew Starks had six tackles.
Michelsen completed 13 of 22 passes for 156 yards, while senior Shane Wilkinson led the receiving corps with three catches for 34 yards. Senior tight end Mark Hayes caught two passes for 40 yards, but it was an athletic 34-yard grab over a Brown defender that put Princeton in position for its second score.
Princeton will remain home next Saturday to take on unbeaten Harvard at 1 pm. The game will be shown live on ESPN3, the online platform for ESPN, and can be heard live on 103.3 FM or GoPrincetonTigers.com.