POSTGAME AUDIO: Bob Surace
Despite gaining 556 offensive yards and scoring 39 points, its highest point total since scoring 42 on Columbia in 2007, the Princeton football team fell short of knocking Harvard out of first place in the Ivy League. The Crimson was unstoppable for much of Saturday's wild 56-39 victory over the Tigers, who will finally return home next weekend.
Against a Crimson defense that allows a league-best 55 rushing yards per game, Princeton ran for 281 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman Chuck Dibilio rushed for 135 yards and two scores, and he ended the day with 234 all-purpose yards.
Quarterback Tommy Wornham, in his best game of the season, completed 21 of 36 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed nine times for 39 yards and two scores, and he completed a pair of 2-point conversion passes. Wornham moved past both Bob Holly and Ron Beible on the all-time Princeton passing list; he now stands fifth on the Princeton list with 3,858 yards.
Junior wideout Shane Wilkinson caught a career-best eight passes for 108 yards, 36 of which came on a touchdown that sent the Princeton sideline into a frenzy.
That score was part of a 22-0 Princeton run in the second half that turned a 42-16 deficit into a three-point game at 42-39. Harvard, as it did all game, answered with a touchdown drive of its own, and the Crimson never let the lead get away.
Both Andrew Starks and Chance Cross led Princeton with 10 tackles apiece, while Steven Cody added nine. The defensive line duo of Mike Catapano and Caraun Reid showed why they are among the best duos in the league; Catapano had six tackles, including a sack, and both a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry, while Reid had five tackles, including 3.5 for losses, two sacks and two quarterback hurries.
Ivan Charbonneau added an interception, but it was one of the few mistakes by Harvard quarterback Collier Winters, who completed 34 of 42 passes for 403 yards and five touchdowns.
One week after watching an interception returned for a touchdown on its third play from scrimmage, the Princeton offense got off to a considerably better start at Harvard. A long kickoff return by Ivan Charbonneau gave Princeton the ball just short of midfield, and a reverse pass to Dibilio got the ball into Harvard territory after one offensive play.
Three players later, Dibilio shed two tackle attempts and surged into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run. The extra point attempt by Patrick Jacob hit the upright, but Princeton held a 6-0 lead.
The explosive Crimson offense wasted no time claiming the lead, driving 69 yards in nine plays. Senior quarterback Collier Winters, starting in place of Colton Chapple, kept on an option and scored from one-yard out to give the Crimson a 7-6 lead.
Harvard stopped Princeton on its next drive, and it went right back down the field after the punt to claim a 14-6 lead. A beautiful lob down the left sideline barely eluded Khamal Brown's fingers and ended up as a 29-yard touchdown completion to Matt Brown.
The Tiger defense came up with two big stops to make sure the lead didn't get to big in the first quarter, including a stand following a fumbled option pitch. Harvard started in Princeton territory, but an open field tackle by Ivan Charbonneau and a sack by Caraun Reid and Mike Catapano made sure the turnover didn't yield points.
Princeton cut the deficit to 14-9 at the start of the second quarter with a 28-yard field goal by Jacob. Wornham and Dibilio carried the drive with a strong running game. The Tigers were looking for more, but a drop inside the 5 killed the touchdown opportunity.
Harvard went 63 yards in 11 plays and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Treavor Scales to take a 21-9 lead. Penalties killed the Tigers on the drive; a defensive holding moved the ball into Princeton territory, and a face mask on 4th and 1 put the ball inside the red zone.
Princeton had one more chance to score on the final play of the half, but Jacob missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Harvard took full control of the game immediately in the third quarter. After converting on an early third down, Winters hit Chris Lorditch for a 53-yard touchdown pass. The Crimson followed with a quick stop, and Seitu Smith brought the Crimson inside the Princeton red zone with a long punt return.
One play later, Winters hit Alex Sarkisian with a 16-yard touchdown pass to open the lead to 35-9.
Princeton went back down the field for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 35-16. Wornham hit Hayes and Costello, and Shane Wilkinson took a reverse to the 2 before Wornham scored on a short run. On the drive, Wornham moved into fifth on the all-time Princeton passing list.
Harvard answered right back with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Zach Boden to build the lead to 42-16.
Princeton started to make a dramatic rally from there. Dibilio scored on a 42-yard run through the middle and down the right sideline to make the score 42-23. Brendan Sofen converted his second onsides kick in three tries this season when Moak recovered the ensuing kick.
Princeton went 56 yards in five plays, the final being a 36-yard pass down the left sideline to Wilkinson, to cut the deficit to 11. Wilkinson broke free on a wheel route and was unguarded when he caught the pass. Wornham followed with another completion to Wilkinson for the 2-point conversion.
Princeton got a stop, then went right back on the move. A huge 14-yard run on 3rd and 7 by Dibilio, who shed two tackle attempts before the marker, and a brilliant sideline pass to Costello at the 1, set Wornham up for a 1-yard quarterback keeper. He hit Costello for a 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to three points with 13 min remaining.
Harvard answered with an 11-play, 67-yard scoring drive. Winters made a big play on 3rd-and-12, hitting Scales for a 17-yard pass to the 1. Scales went in from 1 to make it 49-39.
Alex Gedeon picked off a pass on the ensuing drive, and Winters iced the win with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate.
Princeton will now return home to face Cornell Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. This series has been filled with tight games over the last decade, including a two-point win for Cornell last season at Schoellkopf Field and a three-point win by Princeton at home in 2009.