Late Field Goal Stuns Football In Heartbreaking 21-20 Home-Opening Loss
A 33-yard field goal by Georgetown's Matt MacZura with 14 seconds remaining capped a game-winning 72-yard drive for the Hoyas, who punctuated Princeton's 2012 home opener with a heart-breaking 21-20 loss for the home team.
Princeton, which led for most of the fourth quarter after a thrilling 53-yard touchdown run by Tiger freshman DiAndre Atwater, left the game knowing it had squandered multiple opportunities, including on that final Georgetown drive. A roughing the passer call on a third-down incompletion kept the drive alive early, and a failed stop on 4th-and-3 set the Hoyas up for the winning score.
For the majority of the game, as was the case in the season opener against Lehigh, the defense held up well. Georgetown scored only one offensive touchdown — the other came on a botched snap that Jeremy Moore recovered in the end zone — and Princeton held Georgetown on 11 of the Hoyas' 16 third-down conversion attempts.
The defense was led by its senior captain duo of Andrew Starks and Mike Catapano. Starks, the two-time Princeton leader in tackles, recorded a career-best 16 stops and added a sack. Catapano added eight tackles, including 1.5 for losses, and added a pair of sacks.
The offense had its moments as well, though none excited the Friday night crowd more than the 53-yard touchdown run by Atwater early in the fourth quarter. Atwater, who was playing against older brother Steve (a defensive back for Georgetown), broke through the line and turned to his impressive speed to run past the defensive backfield. He found the right sideline and hit the end zone for his first career touchdown; it was also the longest Princeton rush in the span of 30 games.
Atwater led the team with 92 rushing yards on 15 carries, while sophomore Will Powers added 29 yards on 10 carries. Powers scored the first touchdown of his career, a two-yard burst early in the second quarter that opened a 14-3 lead for the Tigers.
Princeton trailed 3-0 when a miscue turned into a golden opportunity midway through the first quarter. An intended 27-yard field goal attempt never happened after a wide snap, but holder Tom Moak made the most of the situation. The former two-year starting quarterback at The Westminster School scrambled, then lofted a perfect touchdown pass to Mark Hayes. The pass was just over the outstretched fingers of a Georgetown defender, and it gave Princeton its first lead of the season.
Sophomore starter Connor Michelsen played the majority of the game and completed 11 of 22 passes for 143 yards, and Moak had a team-high three receptions. For the second straight week, junior Roman Wilson led the team in receiving yards (two catches for 62 yards), though Atwater had two long receptions on middle screens that were both called back on penalties.
The 14-3 lead would be cut to 14-12 by halftime, as MacZura hit a 26-yard field goal with 4:03 remaining, and Moore scooped up a botched shotgun snap in the end zone. The Hoyas took the lead on a seven-yard touchdown run by Nick Campanella, but that lead would last only 32 seconds.
Princeton had four sacks for 27 yards, including one by Caraun Reid, and half sacks by Alex Polofsky and Jason Ray. Senior Tim Kingsbury has nine tackles, while freshman cornerback Anthony Gaffney had seven tackles and 88 yards on kickoff returns. Sophomore Khamal Brown recorded his first career interception and matched teammates Reid, Mandela Sheaffer and Phillip Bhaya with six tackles apiece.
Princeton will open Ivy League play next Saturday when it travels to Robert K. Kraft Field in New York City to take on Columbia at 12:30 pm. The game can be heard live on WPRB 103.3 FM and on GoPrincetonTigers.com.