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Tigers Overpower Columbia, Post Dominant 53-7 Win In Ivy League Opener

Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications                                                                      Release: 10/05/2013
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Courtesy: Beverly Schaefer
Dre Nelson scored one of Princeton's seven touchdowns in a 53-7 victory over Columbia.
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There isn't much information readily available about the 1907 teams at Wesleyan and Bucknell, but both were brought up Saturday in the press box at Princeton Stadium. It didn't have much to do with those squads, though; it was all about an offense that most Tiger fans haven't seen in quite some time.

After gaining more than 500 yards in back-to-back games, Princeton took a step up and gained 629 offensive yards in an impressive 53-7 victory over Columbia Saturday in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, who held Columbia to -6 yards rushing in the win, scored on eight of 10 drives during the game; of the two they didn't, one came on a kneel-down seconds before halftime.

As for Bucknell and Wesleyan, those were the last two opponents that Princeton scored at least 50 points against in back-to-back games. The stretch that lasted for 106 years ended Saturday, as the Tigers followed their 50-22 win at Georgetown last week with an even better showing Saturday.

One week after rushing for four touchdowns, the first time somebody had done that since Keith Elias, junior quarterback Quinn Epperly threw for four scores and ran for two more. He completed 19 of 25 passes for a career-best 272 yards and four scores, three of which went to Roman Wilson (nine for 144). Both Epperly's four touchdown passes and Wilson's three touchdown catches were the best totals at Princeton since Chad Roghair and Michael Lerch went for five and four, respectively, on Oct. 12, 1991.

Of course, the offense was able to find plenty of rhythm because the defense made sure it was constantly on the field. Princeton limited Columbia to five first downs, a 2-of-14 conversion rate on third downs, and eight three-and-outs on its 14 overall drives. Junior Garrit Leicht had a team-high six tackles, while Jason Ray added five, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Princeton had four sacks, including the first of the season for Caraun Reid, and freshman Alex Ford recorded an interception during his first career game.

The win moves Princeton to 2-1 overall, 1-0 in the Ivy League. The Tigers share first place with Harvard, Yale and Penn, which won a thrilling four-overtime home game against Dartmouth Saturday afternoon. The Tigers will host Lafayette next Saturday at 1 pm (ESPN3) in their final non-league game of the season.

This game was all but decided in the first half, when Princeton scored five touchdowns, held Columbia to only 10 rushing yards and built a 36-7 lead by scoring touchdowns on five straight drives. Wilson, who has 12 touchdowns in Princeton's last 11 games, made a spectacular 13-yard catch for the first score; he tipped the ball back to himself and secured it just inside the home sideline.

Columbia went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and Epperly drove Princeton 62 yards on nine plays and finished the drive with a three-yard run for a 14-0 lead only 34 seconds into the quarter. It was Epperly’s fifth touchdown run in the last two games, but it was far from the last scoring play he would be part of during the half.

The Lions’ next three drives accounted for negative 11 yards, and Princeton followed all three with touchdown drives. Following a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 20-yard pass from Epperly to DeValve, Princeton marched 63 yards in 13 plays and scored on a nine-yard pass to Wilson.

Trailing 29-0, Columbia got on the scoreboard on a 70-yard pass from backup quarterback Kelly Helinski to Scooter Hollis. The Lions got some help on the play from the umpire, who unintentionally picked off a Princeton defender, and Hollis sprinted the rest of the way untouched.

Unfortunately for the Lions, that left more than enough time for an opportunistic Princeton offense. After one first down, Epperly hit Matt Costello on a 39-yard streak down the sideline to get back into the red zone, and the junior found Wilson once again in the right corner of the end zone for the 20-yard touchdown.

NOTES: Freshman linebacker Rohan Hylton continues to impress, as he had 2.5 tackles for loss in the game … the Tiger offense 92 plays in the game and averaged 6.8 yards per play … Princeton had 12 players rush at least one time, including the first career runs for Joe Rhattigan, Zach Smith and A.J. Glass … the two-point conversion came off a pass from holder/punter Tyler Roth to fullback Joe Bonura … junior quarterback Connor Michelsen took a hard hit in the first half and didn't return; head coach Bob Surace said afterwards that he was held out for cautionary reasons … kicker Nolan Bieck made his first field goal of the season, an 18-yard kick in the third quarter … Princeton has 134 points already this season; three years ago, during Surace's first season at Princeton, the Tigers scored a total of 165 … Columbia converted two third downs in the game; Princeton scored three touchdowns on third down during the second quarter … Princeton had a touchdown wiped off the board twice on its opening drive because of penalties.

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