Throughout the 2013 Ivy League championship season for the Princeton football team, FCS Head Coach of the Year finalist Bob Surace talked about the depth within his program. That was evident when an Ivy-best 17 Princeton players claimed 2013 All-Ivy League honors.
Quinn Epperly, Anthony Gaffney, Joe Goss, Spenser Huston, Caraun Reid and Roman Wilson each earned first-team honors; Princeton hadn't placed six on the All-Ivy League first team since 1993, and it hadn't had more since Surace was one of eight first-team selections during the 1989 championship season.
Di Andre Atwater, Phillip Bhaya, Max Coale, Seth DeValve, Max Lescano, Jason Ray and Mike Zeuli each earned second-team All-Ivy honors, while Matt Arends, Connor Kelley, Des Smith and Greg Sotereanos each earned Honorable Mention.
The Ivy League will name the finalists for both the Bushnell Cup Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year Dec. 3, and the winner will be announced Dec. 9.
Epperly rewrote portions of the Princeton record book en route to one of the greatest seasons in program history. He matched the single-season passing touchdown record of Doug Butler ’86 (25, 1983), and he came within one of matching the single-season rushing touchdown record of Keith Elias ’94 (19, 1994). He missed the single-season completion percentage record by the slimmest of margins; his 68.0% finished second to Jason Garrett ’89 (68.2%, 1988).
He set an NCAA record with 29 straight completions in Princeton’s 53-20 victory over Cornell; that followed Princeton’s 51-48 triple-overtime win at Harvard, when Epperly set Princeton single-game records for both completions (37) and passing touchdowns (six). He set an Ivy League record by earning the Offensive Player of the Week honor six times, including five in a row; all six of his honors followed Princeton’s six Ivy League victories.
He ended the season ranked first nationally in points responsible per game (26.6), sixth in both completion percentage and scoring, and seventh in rushing touchdowns. Epperly is the only player in Ivy League history to account for more than 40 touchdowns in a single season; he had 43 during the Ivy championship performance.
Gaffney was named to the All-Ivy League first team at defensive back for the second straight season. He didn’t have the same statistics as some of the other All-Ivy candidates, but much of that comes from the respect opposing offenses had for Gaffney. Simply put, they found the 20-game starter and threw the ball somewhere else.
Gaffney did end the season with a pair of interceptions and four breakups, as well as 22 tackles.
Goss has more experience than any member of the Princeton Class of 2014. He started 38 of 40 career games at center, and he was instrumental to the high-tempo success of the Princeton offense, which set both the Ivy League single-season scoring record (437 points) and total offense record (5,116 yards). In both cases, the records were set prior to the final game of the season.
Huston has started 24 straight games at left tackle, including all 10 this season when Princeton ranked in the Top 10 nationally in scoring offense (second), total offense (eighth), and sacks allowed (ninth). He will return next season as one of the most experienced players on the entire squad, as well as the leader of the offensive line.
A returning All-America and 2014 Senior Bowl invitee, Reid led the league in sacks in Ivy games (5.5), and he finished second to teammate Jason Ray in tackles for loss in Ivy games (9.0). A three-time first-team All-Ivy League honoree, Reid overcame double- and triple-teams all season to become one of the league’s most disruptive forces on the line.
He ended his career in brilliant fashion, recording four tackles for loss and three sacks in the season finale at Dartmouth. He is the fourth player in Princeton history to be named to the All-Ivy first team three times, and the first since Matt Evans (1996-98).
Wilson, whose 8.6 receptions per game ranked fourth best nationally, was Epperly’s top threat in the passing game. He caught 86 passes, second most for any Princeton player in a single season, and he matched the single-season touchdown reception record (11) held by Derek Graham ’85. His 919 receiving yards are sixth-best in Princeton history, and second-best in the 28 years.
Wilson also rushed for two touchdowns, including one on a reverse when Princeton trailed Harvard 41-34 in the first of three overtime sessions. That play was overshadowed two overtimes later, when he caught the game-winning six-yard touchdown pass to conclude a 51-48 thriller. It was the second straight season that Wilson caught the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of a comeback win over Harvard.
The 2013 Poe-Kazmaier Trophy recipient, Wilson ended his career second on the touchdown reception list (16), sixth on Princeton’s all-time reception list (125), and ninth on the all-time receiving yards list (1582). He had more games this season when he accounted for multiple touchdowns (four) than games when he was held scoreless (one).
Atwater ranked sixth in the league — fourth among running backs — in rushing with 50.8 yards per game, and he scored a pair of touchdowns for the Ivy League’s top rushing offense. He also had a receiving touchdown in the championship-clinching win over Yale, though he suffered an injury that game that left him unavailable to play in the season finale.
A senior co-captain, Bhaya was the leading force in the backfield and finished second on the team with 65 tackles. He had eight games with at least five stops, including a 10-tackle, one-interception performance against Harvard. In helping to ensure Princeton’s second straight “Big Three” title, he returned an interception for a touchdown in the home victory over Yale.
Bhaya also had six breakups, including at least one in four of Princeton’s last five games.
Coale started 24 straight games for Princeton at right guard, and he helped Princeton break both the total offense and scoring offense records in the Ivy League. He lined up next to Goss for the better part of three seasons; the duo started that run during a 1-9 season and ended it as Ivy League champions.
DeValve was the ultimate wild card for the Princeton offense, lining up in several spots and serving as both a receiver and blocker in the Tiger pass game. He finished second on the team with 49 receptions, and he capped his season with nine catches for 115 yards against Dartmouth.
After averaging only 2.5 catches and 30.3 yards per game during the first half of the season, DeValve became a standout during the final five games. He averaged 7.6 catches and 81.2 receiving yards during that stretch, and he had touchdown catches in three straight games, including comeback wins at Harvard and Penn.
Lescano, who earned second-team honors at return specialist, served as Princeton’s primary punt returner all 10 games, and he took over the kickoff return responsibilities over the final three weeks. In Ivy games, he ranked second in the league in kick return average (25.1) and third in punt return average (5.7).
Ray posted the best season of his career as a senior defensive end/rush linebacker, and he raised his level even more during league play. He led all players in tackles for loss in Ivy games (1.57), and he finished in the Top 20 in both tackles and sacks. He had the game of his life in the triple-overtime win over Harvard, recording a career-high 12 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks in the victory over the Crimson. His tackle on Connor Hempel in the third overtime kept Harvard out of the end zone and ultimately gave Princeton the chance to convert the winning touchdown.
Princeton’s leading tackler, Zeuli ranked seventh in the Ivy League with 7.2 stops per game. He had 5.5 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks, and added five quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
He had two of his best efforts against two ranked opponents; he had a career-high 18 tackles in the season opener against Lehigh, and he added 13 tackles and two sacks in the triple-overtime win over Harvard.
Arends started six games last season at cornerback, but he moved to safety in the offseason and thrived in his first year at the position. He finished third on the team, and first among all underclassmen, with 61 tackles, and he added six breakups and an interception. He recorded 10 tackles apiece in wins over Lafayette and Cornell, and he had at least six tackles in each of Princeton’s last five games.
Kelley averaged 10.6 yards per catch (42-444), and he ranked second on the team with six touchdown receptions. He had two touchdown catches in the win at Harvard, as well as scores in back-to-back victories over Penn and Yale. Kelley also had a career-best 102 receiving yards in a win over Patriot League champion Lafayette.
Smith made the most of his first season as the starting tight end, catching 14 passes for 154 yards and a trio of touchdowns in consecutive games. He had acrobatic grabs in the wins over Lafayette and Harvard, and he gave Princeton a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in a 39-17 victory at Brown.
Sotereanos made 18 tackles in eight starts on the defensive line (he missed the first two games with injury), including a six-tackle effort against Harvard. A three-year starter as an interior defensive lineman, he helped Princeton rank atop the league in total defense in Ivy games only.