It was a highly productive weekend for a pair of Princeton freshmen, and their work was honored at both the league and, in one case, the national level. Both Anthony Gaffney and Nolan Bieck earned individual Ivy League honors after Saturday's 33-6 victory over Columbia; Gaffney also shared the National Co-Freshman of the Week award.
Gaffney was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after a dominant two-way effort on Kraft Field. He started the game in style, returning the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. It was the first kick return for a touchdown since the 2010 season opener and only the third in the last 20 years of Princeton football.
While Gaffney gave Princeton the lead, he also helped the Tigers maintain it. He recorded two interceptions in the game; it was the first time a Princeton player had recorded two interceptions in one game since Kevin Kelleher did it in a 2007 victory over Columbia.
Gaffney has been a key piece in the vastly improved Princeton secondary. One season after allowing 2.4 passing touchdowns per game, the Tigers have yet to allow a score through the air. According to the NCAA, Princeton is the only Division I program (FBS or FCS) that hasn't given up a passing touchdown this season.
"Anthony Gaffney really ignited the team with that kick return to start the game," head coach Bob Surace said. "We believe he has the ability to be a true impact player in this league. He has jumped right into our defense and contributed immediately. We look forward to seeing how much he can improve moving forward."
Dating back to last season, Princeton has won the Ivy League Rookie of the Week honor eight times in the last 13 weeks.
Bieck showed impressive resilience at Columbia. Following a tough night against Georgetown in the Princeton home opener, Bieck bounced back with four made field goals and three extra points to earn the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week award. He is Princeton's first recipient of the honor since Patrick Jacob won it Sept. 20, 2010.
Bieck connected on field goals from distances of 34, 20, 29 and 24 yards as well as converting all three of his PAT attempts. His first two field goals answered Columbia scores and kept Princeton ahead by a 14-point margin.
"I was proud of Nolan Saturday," Surace said. "He bounced back and provided points when we needed them. He is a confident player, and I believed he would come through for us at Columbia."
Both Bieck and Gaffney spoke at the postgame press conference Saturday, which you can see here (click on video link).