A Look Back: 10 Plays That Helped Princeton Win The Ivy League Game Of The Decade
It’s rare when games live up to the hype that the undefeated, Top 20 showdown between Dartmouth and Princeton received last weekend. This one, a classic throwback that never lost an ounce of tension until John Lovett knelt with the ball and the final seconds ticked away, more than lived up to the talk, and it will take it’s place among the historic games played in 60+ years of Ivy League competition.
The team, as has been its strength all season, is in Yale mode today. Since the rest of us aren’t lining up to play in that game, here’s one more look back at that thriller by breaking down 10 plays that helped bring Princeton one of its biggest wins in a generation.
1) 6:58 left in Q1:Charlie Volker takes a 3rd and 3 run between Graham Adomitis and Reily Radosevich for a first down. It was the only third down conversion Princeton made on its opening touchdown drive, but if the Tigers don’t get it, then they go 3-and-out after Dartmouth’s opening touchdown drive. Volker is a short-yardage beast, but Adomitis and Radosevich deserve credit for this one. The hole was significant.
2) 0:20 left in Q1: Dartmouth hadn’t been stopped at any point in the 1st quarter, and it faced a 3rd and 5 inside Princeton territory. The Tigers gave a pre-snap look that seemed to indicate a full blitz, but Mark Fossati and Tom Johnson both dropped into a zone and took away two passing options on the right side. Derek Kyler tried to run for it, but was stopped short. It turned into a punt to the Princeton 1, and eventually a safety, but it was the first win for the Tiger defense (and not the last).
3) 2:40 left in Q2: Miles Simon breaks through the line and has a full head of steam heading to the end zone before Ben Ellis gets a hand on his ankle and TJ Floyd drives him into the ground at the 2. In the moment, it was a momentum play for Dartmouth, which seemed destined for a two-possession lead over the next play or two. It never happened, and that tackle saved it.
4) 1:30 left in Q2: Dartmouth certainly hurt itself with two false starts, which set up a 3rd and goal from the 9. The Big Green had two receivers run routes to the end zone on the right side of the field, while a slot receiver came across the field into open space on that side. Had Kyler had time and made the throw when he wanted, maybe that crossing route works. He didn’t. Princeton got pressure up the middle, and then off the right side, which left Kyler rolling away from the end zone and eventually throwing it away from the 18-yard line. The ensuing field goal was missed, and Princeton seemingly had momentum despite trailing at halftime for the first time all season.
5) 2:05 left in Q3: Princeton had been on the wrong side of the field position see-saw throughout the 3rd quarter, and now faced a 3rd-and-8 at its own 28. Jesper Horsted, who just had a pass knocked away one play earlier, ran an inside route and got just inside DeWayne Terry as John Lovett threw the pass. There was so much traffic in the area, so it’s a pass that must have been based purely on trust. Terry tried to jump the route, but Horsted snagged it away from the cornerback’s swinging hand.
6) 0:40 left in Q3: On the ensuing 2nd-and-11, Lovett throws it a bit ahead (possibly to avoid an official, who needed to duck on the throw) of Horsted, who makes a one-handed grab, somehow keeps his balance and sheds a tackle, and gains 12 yards for the first down. Both of these catches were part of the 91-yard drive that ended with a fourth-down stop on the 5, so they didn’t immediately translate to the scoreboard, but they put the Princeton defense in position to control the fourth quarter. Plus … they were simply spectacular catches by one of the best receivers in Princeton history.
7) 6:40 left in Q4:Cody Smith lined up in the backfield and served as a lead blocker for John Lovett, while Princeton had both of its top tight ends (Graham Adomitis and Sam Johnson) in the game on 1st and goal at the 5. It’s the jumbo version of the jumbo package, and all three ended up making blocks on the go-ahead score. While Smith and Adomitis, as well as a pulling George Attea, provided the outside wall, it was Johnson who drove an end inside, clearing the path for Lovett’s 39th — and biggest — career rushing touchdown. Princeton, which led every single moment of the second half in each of the first seven games, had finally grabbed the lead.
8) 5:53 left in Q4: Dartmouth faces a 3rd-and-6 at the 29. On its original scoring drive, it converted a similar play with a wide receiver screen that was well blocked by another receiver on the perimeter. This time, a play was called that looked to be a receiver screen, but actually had the other receiver fake a block and run past the corners who expected the screen. It may have turned into a big play, had former NCAA sack leader Mike Wagner not been driving Derek Kyler into the ground. There was pressure from both sides as well, so there was little chance Dartmouth could get off a longer-developing play, but Wagner was the one who assured its failure.
9) 3:10 left in Q4: Dartmouth got the ball back with a chance to win the game, and got a nice 8-yard pass on first down. On 2nd and 2, Kyler has three receivers go over the middle or left side of the field, then hits Rashaad Cooper on a screen pass with nothing but FieldTurf and Jeremiah Tyler in front of him. If Cooper avoids the tackle, he gets the first down and probably a decent chunk more. Instead, Tyler — who had a critical drive-stopping tackle at Harvard as well — took his legs out for a 3-yard loss. That left Dartmouth in passing situations for third and fourth downs, and both were incompletions.
10) 1:35 left in Q4: Whatever hope was left for Dartmouth vanished when Ryan Quigley took a 3rd-and-2 carry into the middle of a surging line and kept his legs pushing until he and his victorious teammates finally fell over the 15-yard-line. Quigley has proven to be dangerous both running routes and in the open field, but this was just a victory of will by both himself and an offensive line that faced its toughest opponent of the season.