At Warp Speed, Tigers Clinch a Title Share

  • November 10, 2018

BY JAY GREENBERG

NEW HAVEN—With the deepest cache of returning weapons in memory and additional motivation from a promising 2017 gone bad in the end, the Tigers came to camp in August dreaming of an Ivy championship and the school’s first perfect season since 1964.

Never, however, in the 149 years Princeton has played football–or even in the next 149—could players dream of the start they had Saturday in their title-share clinching 59-43 victory over Yale.

Collin Eaddy, starting in place of the injured Charlie Volker, ran 75 yards untouched up the middle for a touchdown on the first play.  Jeremiah Tyler intercepted freshman quarterback Griffin O’Connor on Yale’s second snap and, on the initial touch of the following series, Eaddy scooted 17 yards off right tackle without a Bulldog within five yards.

It was 14-0 after 54 seconds and 21-0 after 4:38, when Tyler tipped a pass, Tom Johnson intercepted it, and Ryan Quigley ran right for 37 yards and another touchdown.

A lift needed to be rented to pry jaws off the ground. Certainly, we had to look a lot harder for the right word to describe it than Eaddy and Quigley had to search for these holes. We have settled for flabbergasting until we think of something better, even though it was the fifth time this season the Tigers hit 50 points, and even though it was fairly clear coming in that Yale’s offense was far better than its defense.

This certainly was proven, in both ways, over three hours and 41 minutes that really lasted a little too long for the Tigers’ taste.  

As Princeton played off the ball and rushed just four in order not to give up the big play, Yale made some anyway. O’Connor threw for 465 yards and got the Bulldogs back to within two touchdowns and a couple two-point conversions with still six minutes to play. Yale got a sack of John Lovett and the ball back too, with still four minutes to work with before Mark Fossati’s sideline interception secured Princeton’s second title in three seasons and the third in six years.

So as O’Connor, hurried into some mistakes early, settled in, Princeton’s fast start essentially won the game.

“It was definitely a blessing,” said Quigley. “I wouldn’t say we were surprised though. We put a lot of work in, had a lot of trust in our line.”

That unit gashed Yale for most of the astonishing 489 yards rushing that Princeton accrued, credit to Eaddy and Quigley for several pile-driving first-down finishes. Eaddy’s 266 yards in his first start, the most by a Princeton running back since Jordan Culbreath had 276 against Dartmouth in 2008, included some serious dragging of tacklers and so did Quigley’s 113.

“It was a pretty cool experience,” said Eaddy. “My first college start and to play like we played today.  

“We really played for Chuck. He texted us that he wanted us to do what we did today. It’s just a blessing.”

The blessing is to have the reserve strength to post a near all-time day despite the absence of a returning All-Ivy running back.  

“I told my son (A.J.) who is on the trip, that Collin is going to have 150 yards today,” said Coach Bob Surace. “He had that amount at halftime.

“And I had told Collin, ‘You practiced so well, you are healthy, this is your time.’ After the first play I said, ‘Halfway there (to 150). He said “I have more.’

No mas, said the body language of the Yale defense. Had Eaddy not slipped on what appeared to be a first-down run at midfield on the next possession, the lead was well on its way to 28-0.

Yale used that break, a first-down sideline catch that should at least have been reviewed and an arguable pass interference call on Delan Stallworth to drive 78 yards in 10 plays and get on the board via Alan Lamar’s one-yard plunge. So it was a game for 1:06, all it took for the Tigers to answer in six plays, all on the ground, culminating in an 18-yard Quigley touchdown on a superb display of balance-keeping for the final five.  

“Mid second quarter, Sean (offensive Coordinator Gleeson) asked Mike Willis (TE Coach) how many plays we had run,” said Surace. “And he told Sean through his headset that it was just 13. And we had 28 points.”

As the defense had turned it over twice in that time–and suffered a possible pick-six drop by Christian Brown–big plays were made repeatedly by Tyler.

“In the first half he completely dominated,” said Surace. “Actually, he has been playing like that all year and it doesn’t always show up in the stats.

“The three games that we’ve had to play the whole way, it has seemed like every big play was his. Harvard, he made the big fourth down stop.  Last week, there were a couple brilliant plays. And today, the interception, the tip, the (four) tackles (including one for a loss).

“All year long he has had his hands on the football, applied pressure, played the run.”

Alan Lamar had 110 yards regardless, even though the Bulldogs, behind from the start, had to throw. On a windy day, Lovett passed only 19 times, ran for 126 himself. Not that the stiff breeze seemed to bother O’Connor once he settled in, but it was huge for the Tigers to not have to throw the ball. That first quarter barrage was into the wind, and we don’t mean Eaddy’s and Quigley’s tail wind.

 “We had a really good game plan and we executed some plays,” said Surace. ”The Game of the Century and all that last week (against unbeaten Dartmouth, but on Sunday we had our best Sunday. 

“Tuesday we had a great practice, measured some things scientifically like we do all the time (with body sensors) and it was the best we measured since I have been here. Nearing the end of a season, that’s how much energy we had left and it was a comforting feeling.   When I went to address the guys before he game they were pushing me out the door.”

Then they pushed Yale around to a 42-7 lead; Lovett extending his streak of games with a rushing touchdown to 19, tying the record of Yale’s Mike McLeod and Jesper Horsted making a 52-yard how-the-hell-did-he-ever stay-on-his-feet touchdown catch and run.

O’Connor made some throws and oh, did Reed Klubnik, JP Shohfi, and Melvin Rouse II make some catches, in a few cases against almost perfect coverage, to actually bring some tension into the fourth quarter. On a slippery grass field, and just a four-man Princeton pass rush for virtually all of the second half, the Yale offensive line proved every bit as good as the Tiger coaches insisted it was all week.

But it was far too much of a deficit for the Bulldogs to make up, of course. After the Fossati interception, Quigley put his shoulder down on third-down and the Tigers were running out the clock and dancing on their sideline in celebration of a title.

“They can enjoy this, it’s really hard to win an Ivy League title and they know the work they put into it,” said Surace. “But be smart. Tomorrow, back to work”

“I told them we have two options, smoke cigars and sip champagne and I’ll just roll the ball out next week (to get ready for Penn), or, we can go and prepare for win No. 10. I think they are ready to go.”

None of these kids were around in 2013, when the Tigers went to Dartmouth in Week 10 with a chance for a rare outright title, fell behind by three scores and wound up just short. There was no reason to believe that Princeton let up that day and none for any cautionary tales this week as the Tigers go for something that is as good as the Ivy League presidents allow: 10-0.

“Absolutely it’s thrilling to have a share,” said Quigley. “But we had a goal set at the beginning of the season.

“And we want to reach it next week.”