A record-tying day for Columbia quarterback Sean Brackett and an opportunistic Lion defense stifled the Princeton football team Saturday afternoon in the Ivy League opener for both teams. Columbia scored touchdowns on four straight possessions to break open a close game in a 42-14 victory.
After a Matt Zimmerman 4-yard touchdown run gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead, Columbia scored 35 unanswered points to jump out to a 1-0 start in the Ivy League. Princeton falls to 1-2 overall, 0-1 in the Ivy League, and has one more league game to play before closing the season with six straight Ivy games.
Junior quarterback Tommy Wornham completed 27 of 43 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. Senior wideout Trey Peacock had another strong day, catching 11 passes for 125 yards, while classmate Andrew Kerr caught six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore linebacker Andrew Starks led the Princeton defense with 12 tackles, while lineman Adam Shippey added 10 tackles. Dan Fitzsimmons had a sack for the Tigers, who added three pass breakups in the game.
Brackett tied a Columbia record with five touchdown passes in the game, including two in a 20-second span late in the first half. Nick Gerst rushed for 124 yards for the Lions, who will host Lafayette next weekend.
Princeton had the best scoring opportunity of the first quarter, but a fumble by Jeb Heavenrich inside Columbia territory on the Tigers’ first drive ended that opportunity. The Princeton defense held strong on a trio of Lion drives, helping the Tigers to their first scoreless quarter of the season.
Princeton’s first drive of the second quarter yielded the opening touchdown, as Matt Zimmerman took a sweep four yards to the right side for a touchdown. The drive took 13 plays over 80 yards and included a pair of short third-down conversions, including a three-yard run by Zimmerman on 3rd-and-2. Wornham completed five of seven pass attempts on the drive, including three to Peacock for a total of 30 yards. A six-yard completion to Isaac Serwanga on 3rd-and-1 got Princeton inside the 30 and set up the opening score.
A 50-yard kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff set Columbia up for a tying touchdown. Following a 16-yard completion to Andrew Kennedy, Brackett evened the score with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Nico Gutierrez, who found an open spot in a Tiger zone and held off a tackle attempt to fall into the end zone for the score.
A 41-yard rush by Nick Gerst helped Columbia grab a 14-7 lead late in the half. After Columbia made a defensive stop near midfield, Gerst immediately put the Lions deep in Princeton territory. A 14-yard pass to Gerst moved the ball to the 2, and a play-action pass to Clif Pope, who was wide open in the back of the end zone, gave Columbia its first lead of the game.
Princeton tried to cut into the deficit, but a quick pass to Trey Peacock ended up leaving Columbia in position to double its lead. Peacock was hit on a short pass and lost the ball. Ben Popeck picked the ball out of midair and returned it 26 yards to the Tiger 7. Brackett threw a six-yard pass to Kennedy to take a 21-7 lead with six seconds left in the half.
Columbia built the lead to 28-7 early in the second half. After Princeton was stopped on three plays, Brackett hit Kennedy on a 45-yard pass that got the ball to the Tiger 3. Leon Ivory scored two plays later to open the three-touchdown lead.
Meanwhile, the Columbia defense was holding the Princeton offense down. The Tigers’ first good chance in the second half ended on a 4th-and-inches run by Zimmerman, who was hit behind the line of scrimmage and tackled for a two-yard loss.
Princeton returns home next weekend to play its final nonleague game of the season against Colgate.
Columbia added a fifth touchdown on a 13-yard screen pass to Brian DeVeau; Brackett found a well-blocked DeVeau along the left sideline, and his receiver swerved through his blockers and dove into the end zone for the score.
Princeton finally got back on the board with a 31-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline from Wornham to Kerr. The senior wide receiver broke free from his defender as Wornham bought time in the pocket, caught the ball around the 5 and beat the safety into the end zone.
Columbia put away any hopes for a comeback on its next drive. Brackett tied a school record with his fifth touchdown pass, a perfect inside post to Kennedy for a 40-yard touchdown.