Punt Block TD, Swarming Defense Powers Princeton To 28-0 Shutout Of Penn To Stay Alive In Ivy Race
Jesper Horsted had never blocked a punt in his career, but his eyes lit up when Hunter Kelley misplayed the snap on Penn’s first attempted punt of the game. Seconds later, Jeremiah Tyler picked up the swatted ball, spun out of a tackle and scored a touchdown to ignite what Bob Surace considered the most complete performance in his seven years at Princeton.
The Tigers needed this game desperately, and they played like it. Led by a defensive effort that produced Princeton’s first shutout in more than four years, the Tigers posted a 28-0 victory over Penn to end the Quakers’ 10-game Ivy winning streak and keep the Tigers within one game of the Ivy League lead.
Surace talked during the week about a team defensive effort, and his unit posted its best one in years against a team that ranked second in the Ivy League in scoring offense (29.7 points per game). Nobody had more than eight tackles (Dorian Williams and Henry Schlossberg both had eight), nobody had a sack, and there were only two tackles for loss, but Princeton got one big play after another to keep Penn from putting any points on the board.
Senior cornerback James Gales had his third straight game with an interception, while classmate Rohan Hylton recovered a fumble inside the final two minutes to keep the shutout alive. The defense limited Penn to a 6-for-13 conversion rate on third downs, and a 1-for-4 rate on fourth downs. They held All-America wideout Justin Watson to under 90 yards, and they kept the Ivy League rushing leader, Tre Solomon, to a season-low 38 yards.
The Tiger offense, which took the field with a 6-0 lead thanks to the Jeremiah Tyler touchdown, was as balanced as usual, with 10 different players catching at least one pass, and four different players combining for 186 rushing yards. Senior Joe Rhattigan led the Tigers with 66 yards, and his 12-yard cutback score in the fourth quarter clinched the victory, while FCS rushing touchdown leader John Lovett added a one-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The most important offensive drive, however, came at the start of the second half. Leading 13-0, Princeton took the kickoff and marched 80 yards on 15 plays while taking off more than half the time in the quarter. Both Lovett and senior quarterback Chad Kanoff (17-24, 160 yards) completed all five passing attempts on the drive, including a four-yard crossing pass from Lovett to Frusciante for the Tigers’ third touchdown of the game. Kanoff followed with a two-point conversion to Frusciante to build the lead to 21-0. Both Frusciante and Horsted ended the game with five receptions.
Princeton will play its final road game of the season at 12:30 pm next Saturday at Yale. The game will be streamed live on the Ivy League Digital Network.
NOTES: Jesper Horsted‘s punt block is Princeton’s first Caraun Reid blocked one in the 2012 finale against Dartmouth; ironically, that block was also returned for a touchdown (John Hill) … this was the first time Princeton shut out Penn since a 21-0 win by the Tigers in 1978 at Palmer Stadium … Lovett’s rushing touchdown was his 15th on the season; he needs four to tie Keith Elias’ record of 19, set in 1993 … the victory clinches Princeton’s second winning season this decade, and its fourth since 1998; the Tigers haven’t had a losing season since 2011, though — besides the 8-2 Ivy championship season in 2013, the Tigers went 5-5 in 2012, 2014, and 2015.