POSTGAME AUDIO: Bob Surace
At halftime, the Princeton football team was in position for its first signature win under head coach Bob Surace. One stretch of 2:10 in the third quarter effectively ended those aspirations and sent the football team to a 37-9 loss to Penn Saturday at Franklin Field.
Trailing 14-9 entering halftime, Princeton got the ball first in the second half and drove to the Penn 34, but a 4th-and-2 pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Almost nothing good happened for Princeton for the next 10 minutes, starting with an 11-play, 40-yard drive that concluded when Penn kicker Connor Loftus connected from 43 yards out to build a 17-9 lead.
Princeton went 3-and-out on the next series, and Penn needed only two plays to add seven more to its lead. Junior quarterback Billy Ragone hit Ryan Mitchell for a 54-yard touchdown down the middle of the field to open a 24-9 lead.
Princeton quarterback Tommy Wornham tried to get the offense moving on the ensuing drive. After a 4-yard rush by freshman Chuck Dibilio, who made some Ivy League history of his own, Wornham scrambled away from pressure and looked for Tom Moak along the Penn sideline. The pass was intercepted by Matt Hamscher, who took the ball all the way across the field, picked up a block and dove inside the pylon for the 30-9 lead.
The loss sends Princeton to 1-7 overall, 1-4 in the Ivy League, while Penn keeps its championship hopes alive with a 4-1 Ivy record. The Quakers will play at Harvard next weekend; with a win, there could be a three-way tie atop the league standings between Penn, Harvard and Brown. The Bears moved to 4-1 with a win at Yale, which will resume the second-oldest rivalry in college football next weekend when it comes to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium for the 134th playing of the Princeton-Yale game.
Dibilio, the four-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, kept his brilliant season going with 130 rushing yards on 29 carries. He now has 824 rushing yards this season, the most for a true freshman in Ivy League history. The only freshman who rushed for more was Harvard's Clifton Dawson, a transfer from Northwestern who was ineligible to win Rookie of the Year honors in the Ivy League.
Dibilio also remains in the hunt for the Ivy League rushing title, which has never been won by a freshman. Reigning champion Nick Schwieger of Dartmouth holds the lead (unofficially, as Ivy stats will be posted later this weekend) with 629 yards in Ivy games. Dibilio is second with 571 yards.
Dibilio was atop a tandem of four freshmen who led Princeton in rushing Saturday. Quinn Epperly, who played about half the game at quarterback, rushed five times for 33 yards, while both Jon Esposito and Will Powers saw their first carries. Esposito ran three times for 19 yards, while Powers had three rushes for four yards.
Powers' biggest contribution came on special teams, as he blocked a punt for the second consecutive week. After Princeton stopped Penn on its first offensive drive, Powers came through the middle of the line and blocked Scott Lopano's punt. The ball bounced to the 11, where Powers dove on it to give Princeton the ball. Penn held up defensively, and Patrick Jacob connected from 25 yards to open a 3-0 lead for Princeton.
The Princeton defense played well through most of the first half, and it was again led by its dynamic duo up front. Junior Caraun Reid led the team with eight tackles, including four solo stops, while senior Mike Catapano recorded two sacks and a pass break-up. Steven Cody also had five tackles and a pass breakup for Princeton. The Tigers held Penn to less than 100 yards rushing for the first time in 20 games.
Princeton would get another short field off another blocked punt. While Powers again charged up the middle, he was joined by classmate Seth DeValve, who blocked the punt deep in Penn territory. Red zone issues continued to plague Princeton, though, and the Tigers were left to settle for a 31-yard field goal. Jacob added a career-long kick of 44 yards later in the game to give Princeton its final points.
Junior Shane Wilkinson caught eight passes for 88 yards to lead the Tiger receivers. Epperly completed nine of 20 passes for 104 yards, while Wornham completed nine of 18 for 76 yards.