The 2012 Princeton football team has shown all season that it is a team on the rise. But as the last two weeks have shown, there are still obstacles this team has yet to clear. Untimely penalties and four turnovers, including three in the final 10 minutes, left Princeton on the disappointed end of a 28-21 first-place showdown in the Ivy League.
A tipped pass at the line of scrimmage turned into a 15-yard interception return for a touchdown during a fourth-quarter surge for the Quakers, who will face Harvard next weekend at Franklin Field for at least a share of the Ivy League title.
Princeton led 28-21 with 10 minutes remaining and had driven deep into Penn territory, but a pass for Roman Wilson in the end zone was picked off by David Twamley. That play kept the Quakers within one possession, and they took advantage on Princeton's next drive. After getting pinned inside the 20, sophomore quarterback Connor Michelsen attempted a screen pass, but the ball was tipped at the line by a blitzing Daniel Ritt. The ball bounced directly to C.J. Mooney, who had nobody between him and the end zone. The 15-yard return evened the score at 21, but put all the momentum on Penn's side.
Princeton went 3-and-out on its next drive, and a short punt gave Penn good field position at its own 42. A personal foul call turned a third-down incompletion into a 1st and 10 for Penn at the Princeton 36. Penn converted on two more third downs, including a third-and-goal rush from three yards out by quarterback Billy Ragone to give the Quakers a 28-21 lead with 2:59 remaining.
Princeton took over at its own 28 and moved to the Penn 34, where it faced 4th-and-4. Michelsen hit Roman Wilson, who caught a touchdown pass for the third straight game, for 12 yards to the Penn 22. A 14-yard pass to Des Smith moved the Tigers to the Penn 8, but the next two plays resulted in only two yards. On third down, Michelsen's arm was hit on a pass attempt by Steve Lias, and the ball popped out. Penn defensive lineman Brandon Copeland fell on it first to clinch the victory.
The Tigers built their 28-21 lead primarily through the air, completing 34 of 56 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Michelsen was 28-for-46 for 272 yards, and he hit both Wilson (21 yards) and Will Powers (30) for scores. Sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly added a three-yard touchdown pass to Mark Hayes during the second quarter.
Powers led the rushing attack with 39 yards on 11 carries, while Matt Costello caught seven balls for 68 yards. Wilson added five receptions for 72 yards, including one for his fourth touchdown reception in the last three weeks.
Senior linebackers Andrew Starks and Tim Kingsbury shared the team lead with 15 tackles apiece, and both had a tackle for loss and a breakup. Senior Mike Catapano, who played without injured linemate Caraun Reid, recorded a pair of sacks among his five tackles. Junior Phillip Bhaya set up Princeton's first touchdown of the day with an interception and 44-yard return.
Princeton will return to the field Nov. 10 at noon when it takes on Yale in the second-longest rivalry in college football (134 games). The game will be shown live on the YES Network, and can be heard live on WPRB 103.3 FM and on GoPrincetonTigers.com.