An impressive performance by Dartmouth freshman quarterback Dalyn Williams and a series of mistakes, especially in the third quarter, were too much for the Princeton football team during Saturday's season finale. Dartmouth scored 35 unanswered points to rally past Princeton 35-21 for its third straight victory in the series.
Princeton led 14-0 after a short touchdown run by Quinn Epperly, who suffered an early shoulder injury, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by freshman John Hill, but it could not hold on to the momentum against the Big Green.
Dartmouth, which scored late in the second quarter to get within seven points, opened the third with a 54-yard touchdown pass from wideout Ryan McManus, who took the ball on a throwback from Williams, to Bo Patterson, who ran uncovered down the Dartmouth sideline.
Princeton's second play on the next drive resulted in a fumble, and the Big Green capitalized four plays later on a four-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Mitch Aprahamian. Princeton then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Williams was back in the end zone six plays later.
All told, a 14-7 Princeton lead turned into a 28-14 deficit in a five-minute span.
The Tiger offense, which had showed terrific improvement this season under its two-quarterback system, tried to rally without either of the duo able to throw the ball down the field. Connor Michelsen, who started the first nine games of the season, injured his throwing shoulder in the fourth quarter against Yale and was unavailable.
According to head coach Bob Surace, Epperly suffered a shoulder injury on the third play from scrimmage, which limited the Tiger passing to short passes. When time started to run out on the offense, Epperly tried a deep pass in the fourth quarter, but he wasn't able to get enough on the throw and it was intercepted at midfield. That set up Dartmouth's final scoring drive of the game.
Princeton freshman quarterback Kedric Bostic did gain late experience, and he scored on a nine-yard touchdown run, but the Tigers were unable to recover the onsides kick.
While the loss was a disappointing conclusion to the 2012 season, it doesn't take away the great progress made by the program. After back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Princeton stayed in the championship hunt until the final weekend and posted its first winning record in league play (4-3) since 2006. The four-win turnaround marked the program's best in more than two decades.
Both senior co-captains Mike Catapano and Andrew Starks posted impressive final performances in Orange and Black. Starks had a team-best 16 tackles and will likely complete the season among the Ivy League top three in stops, while Catapano likely clinched the sacks title with two more against Dartmouth. Catapano ended the season with 12 sacks, the most at Princeton since David Ferrara had 12.5 during the 1998 season.
Sophomore Will Powers rushed 10 times for 71 yards, while Epperly completed 11 of 18 passes for 101 yards. Junior Roman Wilson completed his breakout season with four catches for 33 yards, while senior lineman Matt Landry posted a career-best 10 tackles.