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Princeton tops Harvard, 31-28, to remain atop the Ivy League;
Three INTs in final period halt Crimson
Princeton, NJ - In an exciting battle between two 5-0 football teams, Princeton (1-AA #22) scored the final TD in a come-from- behind victory and intercepted Harvard (1-AA #15) three times in the final period to triumph 31-28 to go 3-0 in Ivy League play to remain tied for first with Yale (5-1, 3-0), who defeated Penn (4-2, 2-1) this day as well. Jeff Terrell's TD pass to WR Brendan Circle with 4:37 left in the game put the Tigers ahead 31-28 after PU LB Luke Steckel intercepted a Crimson pass at his team's 39. DB Kevin Kelleher would pick off two more passes on two subsequent Harvard series to ice the game for the team in Orange and Black. For CFF, it was the most exciting and best played game we'd seen all season, but it wasn't without its officiating controversy. The usually complacent Ivy League crowd cheered both teams on in a battle for conference supremacy. P Colin McDonough of Princeton had his first punt attempt blocked, but with the help and despite hindrance of steady winds, he booted four punts over 60 yards to help his team win the battle of field position in the 99th meeting of these two rivals. This was only the second in the series where both teams heralded unblemished records after a minimum of five games. Princeton won that game back in 1922, 10-3, and became known as the "Team of Destiny" as penned by the late, great sports writer Grantland Rice. The Tigers went on to win the national championship that year. Don't look now, but the two teams who started all of this back in 1869, Princeton and Rutgers, are now 6-0 and 7-0 respectively! Resume the series? We think not.
DT Michael Berg got things going in Harvard's favor early when he blocked Colin McDonough's first punt attempt of the day at the PU 18. On the first play at the Princeton 20, Harvard struck like lightning as QB Chris Pizzotti's screen pass to SR RB Clifton Dawson (64 yards on 21 carries and 3 TDs) in the left flat went the full distance into the end zone. PK Matt Schindel's PAT put the Crimson up, 7-0. Princeton's offense didn't take much time to retaliate. QB Jeff Terrell (33-17-1, 223 yards, 2 TDs) capped a 75-yard scoring drive with a fake to the dive back before taking it over right tackle himself for a 29-yard gallop into the end zone. Corey Louden's conversion tied the score, 7-7. Princeton got great field position again on its next series when CB Tom Hurley picked off Pizzotti's tipped pass to take the ball over for the Tigers at Crimson's 29. Harvard stopped the drive at the five before Louden's FG was good from 22 yards away to give PU the lead, 10-7. The Tigers got even better position to start its next series as the snap from center sailed over P Schindel's head on his next punt attempt. The Tigers were sitting pretty at the Harvard 12. Terrell connected with TE Jake Staser in the right side of the end zone with defenders all over the TE's back from six yards out as time expired in Q1 to extend the Tiger lead, 17-7. But, the visitors from Cambridge, also undefeated and averaging 32.2 points per game this season, were not ready to let their historic foes win that easily. Three of the first four scores in the first period resulted from good field position due to turnovers.
In the second stanza, DT Michael Berg penetrated the line for a sack this time to force a PU punt from the 15. McDonough's punt bounced backwards for a net punt of only 14 yards. Harvard countered next with new QB Liam O'Hagan, last year's starter who was re-instated back on the team after a five-game suspension by Head Coach Tim Murphy for "team rule violations." His first pass to TE Matt Forbotko got the Crimson to the Princeton 15. On third down, an unsportsmanlike call against LB Luke Steckel after forcing Dawson out of bounds gave Harvard new life near the goal line. We could not see the foul from our low seats from the opposite 15-yard line on the same side of the stadium. From the four, Dawson went through the right side to cut the Tiger lead, 17-14. Princeton's next series netted only four yards, and seemingly worse for the Tigers, QB Terrell, had to be helped off the field after a hard hit after his short gain out of the pocket. However, McDonough's ensuing 65 yard punt placed the Crimson back at their own 12. The Tigers keyed on Dawson who averaged 195.7 yards on the ground against them in three career games versus the Tigers. Though he added 3 TDs to his career 8 against Princeton on this day, they held him far below his average to only 64 yards rushing. A rugby-style punt from the 14 gave PU possession at midfield. Bill Foran, special teams extraordinaire for the Tigers, stepped in to replace Terrell, and the offense didn't skip a beat. On fourth and six at the HU 25, he scrambled out of trouble to gain a first down at the eleven. He handed off to TB R.C. Lagomarsino on an inside counter play for a ten-yard TD run with :58 remaining in the first half. Louden's extra point ended the scoring at the half for a 24-14 Princeton lead.
We had purchased a $10 reserved seat just prior to the game and sat in row 6 at about the 15-yard line on the Princeton side. A fan behind us complained to his wife that he couldn't see that well and they finally moved. There was a lot of good action right in front of us during the first half, but he was right. We couldn't see the action on the opposite end of the field very well. We scoured Princeton Stadium for empty seats among the 16,284 on hand, and during halftime moved to the upper deck on the Harvard side where it was sunny but very windy. The Princeton side from there was impressively full of students and fans compared to many Ivy League games we've been to. An undefeated record and the Crimson or Elis, especially, bring out the Princeton followers. Also, for as small and as casual as Ivy League bands go relative to the powerhouse marching bands of D-1A schools, both bands sounded pretty strong this day. For our future schedule of must-see venues, Harvard ranks as one we want to attend among 1-AA schools. It would have to be against these Tigers or Yale.
Terrell returned at QB for the Tigers at the start of the second half. Despite a blocked punt and a short punt in the first half, McDonough's next punt was like his last going 68 yards to the Harvard seven. The Crimson gambled on this series to get back into the game as O'Hagan got a first down on fourth and one from his own 16. A long pass to Corey Mazza (4 catches for 79 yards) got Harvard down to the 12. Dawson eventually dove in from the one with a buck and spin move to get Harvard to within three, 24-21. Princeton countered with a drive to the Harvard 30 before DB Andrew Berry picked off a fourth and nineteen and returned it all the way to the 48. Harvard was on the move again. At the Princeton 15, with a tackler about to nail him, O'Hagan threw a TD pass to Mazza to gain the lead for The Crimson, 28-24. Princeton drove to the Harvard 41 as Q3 expired.
The two teams exchanged punts several times before Harvard started to move again. A one-handed grab by WR Matt Luft put Harvard at the Princeton 47, but on the next play, a HB option by Chris Sanders was intercepted by Tiger LB Luke Steckel who extended his body to make a diving catch in step with the Harvard, intended receiver. From their 39, PU moved into Harvard territory. On a third and four, the Tigers may have gotten the break of the game. As Terrell's pass fell incomplete, a yellow flag went a mile into the air. Though we saw no flagrant act, Harvard's Daniel Tanner was called for a dead ball foul for taunting. Possibly because of last weeks' post-game fight between the Ivy League's Dartmouth and Holy Cross, the refs may have been a bit oversensitive about violations this week. From the 28, Terrell fired down the middle to WR Brendan Circle, who caught it at about the five and spun off a Harvard defender into the end zone for another Princeton six. The Tigers re-took the lead, 31-28, with 4:37 left to play. Harvard started from its own 20, and the Princeton student section was brimming with more emotion than we can remember at a Tiger game before. DB Kevin Kelleher answered their call with an INT at the Harvard 21. Harvard's "D" wouldn't budge, however, and blocked Louden's FG attempt from the 22 with 2:17 left. The Princeton fans chanted "Defense! Defense!" while Harvard's fans countered "Offense! Offense!" On fourth and seven from the 25, Harvard fans got their wish as O'Hagan got a first down with a 17-yard pass to Mazza. On the next play, Princeton fans got theirs when O'Hagan's pass was tipped into the air and picked off once again by Kelleher, who was subsequently named player of the game. With 1:09 left, PU ran out the clock to retain its undefeated mark to stay atop the Ivy League standings. In New Haven, CT, Yale kept pace with a 17-14 OT win over Penn. Harvard visits Dartmouth (1-5, 1-2) next week. The Tigers travel to Cornell (2-4, 0-3). Penn (4-2, 2-1) should rebound against Brown (2-4,1-2) to set up another key Ivy match-up the following weekend at Princeton. We plan to be there if things work out accordingly. And if the Tigers prevail and Yale (5-1, 3-0) continues its winning ways, we may find ourselves visiting New Haven on November 11. We've never seen the local Ivy season as interesting in quite a while. This could be fun!
Extra Points: It was brother against brother! No, twin against twin for that matter as Soph WR Adam Berry of Princeton went head to head and toe to toe against CB Andrew Perry of Harvard, his twin brother! In Q4 Andrew broke up a pass intended for his brother in one of the non-scoring drives to force a punt. He also had the INT that lead to Harvard regaining the lead temporarily. Adam had two catches for 29 yards. The brothers from Bel Air, MD should have two more of these match-ups in the future.
Wandering through the pre-game tailgate festivities, we noted a banner for the Harvard Club of Princeton. You have to figure in this world of higher academia, a lot of Crimson grads must teach at Princeton, and vice-versa. But if crimson is the color of blood, based on Harvard's true colors, we all have maroon running through our veins.
There were windy conditions throughout the day, but after a shaky start, Princeton punter Colin McDonough booted four of his kicks over sixty yards no matter which direction he kicked. He got favorable bounces on these as well.
With non-conference play already in the books for the Ivy League this season, they dominated the Patriot League 14-4. It's a shame that the Ivies don't get an automatic bid to the 1-AA play-off like the Patriots do, and its their own choice. Against the Atlantic 10, they went 0-3. Against other competition they went 2-1. Unlike 1-A's who have increased schedules to 12 games and other 1-AA's who now play 11 and qualify for play-offs, the Ivies stick to their ten-game slate. We'd like to see them in the NCAA play-offs more than anything. All their other sports get to play in post-season competition. Why shouldn't the gridders? It would be interesting to see how they stack up against other leagues at this level. The Patriots have fared well in recent years. They could possibly do the same.
As Harvard fell this weekend, so did another one of the four 1-AA unbeatens, Hampton of the MEAC. The team they lost to was South Carolina State who we plan to see this weekend at Delaware State for our first MEAC meeting. Only Princeton and Coastal Carolina remain spotless. We plan to see Hampton play in the first game between the two schools when the Pirates come calling on the Tigers next year. We think the Tigers look to be in good shape next season as Coach Roger Hughes has a QB ready to step in for Terrell after graduation as Bill Foran effectively drove the offense yesterday.