They Know This Horse’s Name Now. Princeton Overwhelms Harvard, 52-17
BY JAY GREENBERG
BOSTON – The fact of the matter is, the Tigers didn’t need all four horsemen to send Harvard down to an apocalyptic 52-17 defeat Friday night.
Not to imply that, after 573 total yards, three more touchdowns by Charlie Volker and a 31-for-35 game for 421 more yards by Chad Kanoff, that Princeton is by any means a one trick pony. But it was the game-breaking ability of one horse that blew away Princeton’s greatest nemesis with another of the greatest individual performances in the 148-year-old history of this program.
He is the appropriately named Jesper Horsted. And a national audience on the NBC Sports Network saw him catch 13 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns and then throw for one, too, to his almost-as-unstoppable flanker buddy, Stephen Carlson.
As Horsted was recording the third-greatest one-game receiving yards total for Princeton ever, all those smart Harvard guys had no answer for the 6-4 junior receiver with the soft hands and the stride that seems to lengthen week-by-week with his confidence.
Horsted caught three passes, including one for a 20-yard touchdown on Princeton’s first offensive drive, getting the Tigers off to the fast 7-0 start that could have prevented last year’s excruciating overtime loss to the Crimson. In the second quarter, a 27-yard Horsted catch on a slant to the two set up Volker’s run that pushed the lead to a stunning 17-0.
When Harvard showed signs of life with 69-yard drive for a Jake McIntyre field goal, Kanoff and Horsted immediately threw back a haymaker with an electrifying 66-yard touchdown on what should have been a eight-yard gain for a first down. Horsted spun away from the cornerback and outran two defenders who had appeared to have an angle on him.
He has broken tackles like that before and gotten caught,” said Coach Bob Surace. “For whatever reason, we were fast today. We looked fresh and fast.”
Harvard came right back with a 44-yard Jake Scott to Dan Werner completion that set up Charlie Booker’s two-yard run, but scored too quickly, leaving 1:28 on the clock for Kanoff, who was a perfect-20-for-20 in the first half. Horsted caught passes of 15 and 18 yards as the Tigers marched once more. A blatant hold of Carlson by the clearly frustrated Crimson secondary set up a 14-yard run by Volker through a massive hole up the middle.
It was 31-10 at the half on the way to Harvard’s worst home defeat since 1989, a much longer time ago than Princeton’s last win here in overtime in 2013. But three straight losses to the Crimson, two on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, made four years ago another lifetime to these seniors who had never defeated Harvard.
“To beat a team like Harvard that I haven’t beaten before, beat them the way we did, on this kind of stage, in a nationally-televised game, it’s incredible,” said guard Erik Ramirez.
It was Princeton’s second road annihilation of an Ivy foe in two weeks, and, just like 53-0 at Brown, the Tigers (5-1 and 2-1 in the Ivy) again accomplished this with their play on the other side of the ball, too. Princeton held Harvard to just the two drives in the first half and then a late touchdown against the reserves.
The plague on defensive linemen seems unending but except for one Jake Scott 26-yard-run that set up a second-quarter field goal, the Tigers contained the escape. Through another extraordinary game by middle linebackers Thomas Johnson and John Orr and three exceptional plays by cornerback Chance Melancon, Princeton only bent.
After dropping a likely pick six on Harvard’s first possession, Melancon outfought a receiver for an end zone interception, forced a fumble that set up 30 more yards of catches by Horsted and a Volker fourth-down plunge, plus had a third-down pass breakup that forced the Harvard field goal.
“Chance is the best we have ever had at forcing fumbles,” said Surace.
Smith got outside the pocket once to set up the field goal, and the Tiger never put him down all night. But Harvard converted only three-of-ten third down chances.
“I looked out on the field and we have five freshmen out there (on defense),” said Surace. “I can’t feel sorry for myself. They don’t.
“You talk about living a dream (Princeton’s performance of the last two weeks). To me holding Booker, an all Ivy back, to 77 hard-earned yards is a dream.”
Running back Collin Eaddy, another freshman, started the next drive with 19 yards in carries, the savvy Kanoff whipped a ball to Graham Adomitis in the end zone as he was being blatantly held to draw an interference call, and Horsted took a handoff and lobbed a throw to an impossibly wide open Carlson in the end zone to make it 45-10.
The Crimson, in their basic defense that dares the pass, couldn’t cover either of those guys. Carlson, with 11 catches, may have achieved more separation that even Horsted.
Was Horsted surprised?
“A little maybe, but I’m more focused on adjusting to whatever defense they were playing,” said Horsted. “The openness was largely attributable to the good play calling as [Harvard] tried to adjust
“I just do what I am told.”
So do all of them. The incredible shrinking defensive line notwithstanding, the Tigers keep getting better, from the quarterback-out on the offense and the secondary-in on the defense.
“Everything that is so fulfilling as a coach is showing up with Chad right now,” said Surace. “It is really [gratifying] to see that.
“We all see it, the players respond to him. He is playing at a tremendous level.”
With a third straight week of 50-plus points, the scoring well seems as bottomless as do the reserves on defense.
“With the guys we have lost up front, we need the guys in the back to get better each and every day and they are,” said Defensive Coordinator Steve Verbit. “Every man in this defense stepped up today.
“This is going to be one the best bus rides I have ever had in my time in Princeton. Winning on the road is always phenomenal. And we have had some tough games here. The one two years ago was not pretty.
“Back-to-back efforts like last week and this week, well, this is a pretty special group. And the best thing about it is they will come back to work tomorrow.”