Overpowering Defense, Late Lovett TD Guide #14 Princeton To Thrilling 14-9 Comeback Win over #20 Dartmouth
The emotions that poured from Powers Field seconds after the final whistle — and the effort over 60 grueling minutes that drove some to postgame tears — were befitting of a game that will move into the ranks of the biggest in Ivy League history. The 14th-ranked Princeton Tigers hadn’t played a game of that significance in 25 years, and they hadn’t won one in far longer, but they used every ounce of emotion and effort to keep pace with #20 Dartmouth, and then they thrilled an energetic home crowd with a fourth quarter comeback that few will forget.
Princeton moved to 8-0 for the first time since 1995 and grabbed sole possession of first place in the Ivy League (5-0) with a 14-9 comeback win over Dartmouth in front of 8,014 fans at Princeton Stadium. The Tiger defense shut Dartmouth out for the final 52:10 of the game, more than enough time for 2016 Bushnell Cup winner John Lovett to score the final touchdown his team needed to grab the program’s biggest win in a generation.
Lovett capped a four-play, 34-yard drive (which was nothing compared to what the Tigers had done only minutes earlier) with a five-yard score on a quarterback sweep to give Princeton its first lead of the day with 6:33 remaining in the game. The defense answered with a 3-and-out, highlight by a third-down sack by Mike Wagner, which forced a Dartmouth punt with just over 5:00 remaining. Princeton drove to the Dartmouth 25, but a Big Green defense that had been impressive all day picked up a fourth down stop to give its offense one final chance.
A critical tackle for loss by Jeremiah Tyler took the Big Green out of its comfort zone, and two consecutive incompletions gave Princeton the ball back needing only one first down to ice the game. Sophomore Collin Eaddy picked up the first eight yards on two runs, and junior Ryan Quigley iced the win by dragging the Dartmouth defense past the marker.
Lovett ended the game with 22 carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns, which moved him ahead of former teammate Quinn Epperly ’15 and into second place on Princeton’s career rushing touchdown list with 39. He also completed 22 of 30 passes for 161 yards, including nine to senior wideout Jesper Horsted, who helped change the complexion of the game with two incredible catches on a 23-play, 91-yard drive that last 8:59 and amounted to zero points.
How did a drive that ended without points change a game? Dartmouth, the first team to hold a second-half lead over Princeton this season, had controlled field position throughout the third quarter until the Tigers went on their 23-play journey across Power Field. It ended with another 4th-and-short stop inside the 10, but it left Dartmouth in the shadow of its own end zone against a Princeton defense that didn’t allow a single first down over the final 25:29 of the game. The Big Green didn’t manage any yards on the ensuing drive, and a short punt and seven-yard return by Tiger Bech set up Princeton at the Dartmouth 34-yard-line.
Thirty-four yards later, Princeton finally had its lead.
Both teams traded touchdown drives to open the game, but both defenses settled right afterwards and started throwing haymakers the rest of the afternoon. Dartmouth had a second-quarter sack to open a 9-7 lead that stuck on the scoreboard far longer than most likely expected, but the Tiger defense never allowed that advantage to grow. Senior captain Tom Johnson had a team-high 10 tackles, while defensive backs Delan Stallworth and Ben Ellis added nine apiece. Wagner, whose sack remained one of Princeton’s biggest tackles of the season, added seven, while Mark Fossati, Jay Rolader and TJ Floyd had six apiece.
Princeton limited Dartmouth, the second-ranked offense in the Ivy League coming into the game, to 213 total yards in the game. The Big Green was limited to only three third-down conversions in 12 tries, and they were kept out of the end zone after Dartmouth had driven to the Princeton 2 late in the second quarter. A false start moved it to the 7, and Dartmouth could only manage three more yards before a low snap threw off a field goal attempt, that went wide.
Princeton will now try to move to 9-0 for the first time since 1964 next Saturday when it takes on Yale in a 12:30 game in New Haven, Conn. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.
NOTES: Jesper Horsted moved into second place on Princeton’s career receptions list (183), and he needs 10 to match the record held by Kevin Guthrie; he now has 2,473 receiving yards, 173 behind Guthrie for second place on that Princeton career list … John Lovett now has rushing touchdowns in 18 straight games, one shy of the Ivy League record held by Yale’s Mike McLeod … the 14 points was the fewest Princeton has scored in a win since Week 3 of the 2015 season, when a driving, windy rainstorm caused havoc in a 10-5 win over Columbia; prior to that, it was a Week 2 14-10 win over Lehigh under the lights at Princeton Stadium … this is only Princeton’s second eight-game win streak of the 2000s; the previous one came during the 2013 championship season, and it ended with a 28-24 loss at Dartmouth … during the game, Princeton Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan joined Dartmouth AD Harry Sheehy and members of the New York Yankees organization to celebrate the upcoming 2019 game, which will be played Nov. 9 in Yankee Stadium during the celebratory 150th season of college football; tickets for that game will go on sale this January.