Tigers Stay the Course Again to Beat Lafayette, 28-3
BY JAY GREENBERG
The Tiger got zilch from the two and out at the 3 yard line, putting up a big donut on two 1st quarter possessions that seemed to be crying for John Lovett ’19, the old Roman Wilson ’14 end around. Maybe even that jump pass to the tight end, which actually coordinator Andy Aurich ’06 tried, only to have Zach Keller overthrow a wide-open Graham Adomitis.
Huffing and puffing and failing to blow Lafayette’s 0-5 house down, it looked like the Tigers couldn’t get it into the endzone to save their lives, or at least a 13-game winning streak. The passing game, which would total only 170 yards, a good first quarter on some days for the Tigers, was shut down as well as you will ever see it stymied. So what were Aurich and Bob Surace ’90 to do?
Stay with it, that’s what to do. Princeton would not abandon the run until the Leopards had to abandon all hope of hanging in to steal a game late. The Tigers pounded out a 28-3 win that was hard to watch only if you are bored with brute strength and Colin Eaddy’s thighs of steel.
“This is beautiful, like an O-lineman’s dream,” said Bob Surace, who, back in the day was one. “Every play four or five yards. You are just grinding and executing.
“This might be 1989 football, beautiful football, with Judd Garrett (’90) carrying it 40 times. Who knows how the year is going to go” We threw for seven touchdowns at Bucknell, but this might be our style, how this team is”
In a cloud of dust did the Tigers got to 4-0 on Saturday at Princeton Stadium. They did not have a run longer than 20 yards and still plowed for an eventual 231 of them. The defense, won this game, too, by holding Lafayette to just two first downs until Princeton finally ground out two drives and a 14-0 lead. In the meantime, the offense didn’t get frustrated and never turned the ball over in taking what was given to them, and sometime taking what wasn’t.
Eaddy, stuffed inside the 5 twice on the two golden early chances, was a pile-driving man, finishing touchdown runs of one, three and five yards. Two of them when he had looked absolutely finished. By the time Trey Gray finished the fourth drive for Eaddy, the Leopards, who are going to win some Patriot League games, had changed their spots, not so much softened from the pounding as they were gradually figured out.
“They are a two-gap defense (linemen choosing to go either left or right, rather than staying in their lanes),” said Surace. “We haven’t played a two-gap defense since Colgate in 2014.
“We were terrible against it during Tuesday’s practice, got better as the week went along. And we got better as the game along.”
Especially center Alex Deters, who had the toughest calls against a defensive scheme not as simple to counter as he made it sound. “Keep pounding your head against the wall and eventually it will move”, smiled the center.
The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing that has repeatedly failed, expecting a different result. While Kevin Davidson has had more accurate days, Lafayette had excellent coverage and decent pressure and beside, the quarterback had at his disposal backs that can turn two yards into four. This was the only way to go.
It was Ryan Quigley who finally found some room in the second quarter, but Eaddy, who came to Princeton as a breakaway back has put iron into his lower body during the two years in the weight room. “He has run [through tackles] all year,” said Surace. “At his heart is this tough, grind-it-out, three-yards-into-five kind of back and it’s so good to see.”
“That leg drive, Ryan has it as well, (Zach) Keller has shown it too as he has gotten more reps.”
And Friday it started to get results after an early offensive struggle we are not accustomed to seeing. The first Princeton opportunity, set up when Sultaan Shabazz picked a pass that went through a receiver’s hands and Carson Bobo ran through a Lafayette hold to catch the ball at the 8, died when runs by Keller and Eaddy left the Tigers three yards short. A false start by Alex Deters, and a failed try to Andrei Iosivas caused Surace to send in Tavish Rice for a 26-yard field goal attempt that went off the left upright.
The Tigers forced one of their six 1st half 3 and outs. Davidson promptly hit Jacob Birmelin, whose tightrope walk down the sideline ended when his foot touched the line at the 4. Eaddy got stopped at the 2, Keller overthrew an open Graham Adomitis on the jump pass, and Iosivas was well covered again on 3rd down. On 4th and 2 Surace went for it this time and Eaddy’s churning legs on a dive play were stopped just short.
Nevertheless, the Tigers obtained the fallback from the 4th down gamble – the desired 3 and out. With the help of a broken tackle on a short out completion to Dylan Classi, who hoofed it to the 20, this time they cashed in. Quigley made a nice cutback, the first real room created by Tiger running game, to get the ball to the 4. Then Eaddy put his head down from the 1 to put Princeton ahead 7-0.
Jeremiah Tyler then came off the edge to foil Jaden Sutton on a 4th and 1 gamble by Lafayette coach John Garrett ’88 from his own 29. “I thought the wideout was going to take me and he didn’t,” said Tyler. “This was good. Came clean.”
This time Princeton had an even shorter field with which to work and needed only five rushing plays, including two good runs by Quigley to get it to the 5, from where Eaddy pushed the pile to get in.
The Leopards tried to answer. A failed blitz enabled quarterback Keegan Shoemaker to find a wide open Nick Pearson for 41 yards at the Princeton 37, and two more Tiger opportunities to end that drive – one a drop of what should have been an interception by Trevor Forbes, the other a Shoemaker escape of Sam Wright, put the Leopards at the 13. A Delan Stallworth blanket on Scott Zadok on a 3rd down try in the back corner of the end zone forced Lafayette to settle for a field goal and a 14-3 deficit at the half.
The Tigers took the 2nd half touchdown and threw two passes in a nine play 63 play drive to lengthen their lead to 21-3, and on the next possession Trey Gray took over finishing duties for Collin Eaddy, who good to go, was back on the field for the kneel down.
The defense held the Leopards to just seven 1st downs and just 162 yards of offense. “It feels good when we start carrying games,” said Joey DeMarco, who had three sacks. “We want to show we can hold our own. The offense doesn’t need to score every play. That’s a good thing.”
Might even turn out to be a regular thing in league play. If so, in successive weeks the Tigers have shown they can handle it.