Tigers Strike Fast, Overwhelm Butler 50-7
BY JAY GREENBERG
INDIANAPOLIS – Butler’s best chance probably disappeared when it won the coin toss and decided to defer receiving to the second half. As perfunctory as that decision seems, ultimately it never is the best of ideas to give Princeton the ball for any more possessions than absolutely necessary.
Two plays, both passes to Jesper Horsted, was all it took for the Tiger offense to pick up where it left off in 2017. The first was along the sideline for eight yards, just to get the 2018 juices going, the next for 63 down the sideline for the season’s first touchdown.
Wham, bam, no muss, little fuss, and no sign of an opening drive of the opening game cobwebs. Same big play All-Ivy receiver with the massive strides catching a perfectly-led throw. Different quarterback, just not a new one, as John Lovett also picked up exactly where he left off in 2016, when he was the Ivy Offensive Player of the Year. No sense easing into it with weapons like these.
“We scripted the early plays yes,” said Bob Surace. “There is a lot of confidence in both outside receivers. Had a good matchup and he won it.”
The Tigers scored on all but one of eight first half possessions, led 44-7 at the half on the way to a 50-7 victory. Lovett and Charlie Volker each ran for two touchdowns, Horsted caught a second touchdown pass, and the Tigers, with 540 yards, 370 in the first half, overwhelmed a Pioneer League team that had been off to a 2-0 start.
Playing without Kurt Holuba, who was injured late in training camp, the Princeton defense nevertheless forced two turnovers, both converted into touchdowns. Pace Temple, Butler’s all Pioneer League receiver, was a full load as expected catching seven passes, including the lone Butler touchdown, but the longest was for 17 as sophomore cornerback Delan Stallworth had big help from safety Drew Ellis. The Tigers pass-rush-by–committee, fresh destructors coming in on almost every down, still left quarterback Will Marty little time and really, no other option besides Temple.
With Butler down 24-0, running back Brad Sznadjer found the one big hole of the game in the Tiger line and weaved 48 yards to the Princeton 12, setting up a touchdown slant from Marty to Temple, but Volker took the first subsequent play from scrimmage for 47 yards to set up Horsted’s second touchdown. Ray of hope for Butler: Just 57 seconds.
“The mindset was so great,” said Surace. “Let’s go right back at them. We wanted to play physically with our offensive line, especially with the quarterback we have and we did it.
Lovett, off for an entire season, had a few early misfires of open receivers, but threw with pinpoint accuracy on multiple attempts after his opening drive bullseye. The senior tank disguised as a quarterback also did what Lovett does, getting around containment on a 21-yard run for Princeton’s second touchdown and, when seemingly stopped on a third-and-seven on another drive, carrying three defenders for five additional yards for a first down at the Bulldog 39.
One play later, Collin Eaddy broke a tackle on a 36-yard run to the four, and Lovett dove successfully for the pylon on the next play.
Surace shortened the clock and Butler’s torment, by staying mostly on the ground in the third quarter and emptying his short travel bench in the fourth, when Kevin Davidson took over at quarterback. Despite Sznadjer 48 run, the Bulldogs netted only 48 yards rushing for the game, Marty going down three times attempting to pass, and another time fumbling from a hit by Jay Rolader, Joey Demarco picking up the ball and running 15 yards to the five to set up one more scored
The only thing that was unsuccessful was repeated attempts to get freshman Tre Grey, his first touchdown on the final Princeton possession. But Nico Ramos, who has the field goal job while Tavish Rice, who kicked off 10 times, builds leg strength from off-season surgery, made his third field goal of the game to set the final score in the Tigers’ fourth consecutive opening-day victory, following losses in Surace’s first five attempts.