Princeton’s Greatest Single Game Offensive Performances of the Ivy Era

  • February 8, 2020

BY JAY GREENBERG

This is part seven of twelve in our series of the greatest wins and accomplishments for Princeton football since 1956, when the formal Ivy League began play. 

Previously published and archived on this site are ranked lists of the worst weather days, greatest team offensive performances, top team defensive performances, upset victories, upset losses and comeback wins.  Still to come are 1) clutch plays 2) individual days by defensive players 3) most painful losses 4) glorious wins and we will conclude the series by 5) ranking the greatest teams.

For this piece, comparing receiving with passing and running days is asking for arguments. But that’s the fun of it. The pass catchers of course, couldn’t have done it without the throwers, who couldn’t have done it without the blockers, who were made to look better by the runners, but all that is understood.  

We considered the importance of the game, the quality of the opponent, the difficulty of the records broken.  Ultimately, the rankings came down to a subjective judgment: In total context, which feat was more spectacular than the last?

25) Bobby Isom carries a Princeton record 44 times as the Tigers upset Harvard, 20-7.  October 22, 1977.

Isom’s 209 yards in that game at Boston are the 14th most in Princeton history. Still, the 4.75 average that day supported a ball control offense that represented the best chance for the Tigers, who were 1-5 and coming off a 31-13 pounding by Colgate. They took the more high-powered Crimson, undefeated in the league coming into the contest, completely out of their game.

“My longest gain couldn’t have been more than 10-12 yards,” recalls Isom. 

“Greg Bauman, our right guard, handled their All-Ivy defensive lineman.  I was right on the hip of (blocking back) Gary Larson every time.  That 44 next to my name should have an asterisk to include Gary and our line.

“We ran the I formation of the day, didn’t have a great passing attack, weren’t very creative. I remember one pitch wide that turned into a big loss. So, it was between the tackles, three to five yards and a cloud of dust, plugging away, plugging away. I was no speed demon, just stubborn. The running back always thinks ‘Give me the ball, give me the ball, and our linemen said, ‘We got this.”’

Isom, who played at 5-11, 205 pounds, doesn’t recall coming out for more than a play or two.  After Harvard cut the lead to 13-7 with a lightning, four play, 69-yard touchdown drive, Bill Powers’ 70-yard punt got the Tigers out of a hole and changed back the game. Princeton resumed pounding and Isom put the contest away by breaking two tackles on a 7-yard touchdown run.

He remembers sitting down on the field as the game ended. “You are never tired until later,” the running back said. He was helped up by tight end Frank Vuono as the Tigers, who would finish 3-6, celebrated one of the great upsets in their history.

“We had a couple of games that year in which we didn’t finish when we had a chance to win, so we came into that one disappointed, but also realistic we could knock these guys out if we didn’t make mistakes,” Isom recalls.  “They were a great target – David vs. Goliath, all or nothing. It happens in sports.

“Offenses have changed, Princeton’s certainly having gone the other way, to so much more balance. Certainly there have been great backs since who could have done the same or more that I did that day.”

Chad Kanoff – Dartmouth 2017

24) Chad Kanoff completes a Princeton record 37 passes in 54-44 defeat at Dartmouth. November 18, 2017.

The last, a 29 yarder to Jesper Horsted that put Princeton ahead, 44-41, completed an 80-yard drive in what turned out to be a too fast 2:16, leaving time for the Big Green to drive 80 yards on a depleted Tiger defense and win the game with one second remaining. (Dartmouth then ran in a fumble on a hook and ladder play on the kickoff to set the final score).

Kanoff, 37-for-46 for 444 yards, the sixth-highest single game total in Princeton history – threw three touchdowns and one interception in finishing with a school record 3,474 yards on the season, surpassing not only the total of the Tigers’ Doug Butler (3,175) but also the Ivy mark of Cornell’s Jeff Matthews by two yards.

“We never talked about slowing down and trying to eat more clock before scoring,” recalls Kanoff. “It wasn’t in our DNA at Princeton. NFL teams have done that, but we scored with three minutes left so I don’t think we could have run the clock out. We almost held them anyway. They scored (on a Jared Gerbino sneak) with one second left.”

“We scored every time we had the ball in the second half. But whether you feel good or bad is totally dependent on whether you won or lost.

 “Of course, there are scales of less bad.”

23) Ralph Ferraro runs for 230 yards in 35-6 victory over Columbia. October 8, 1983.

In a game hyped as a battle of passing attacks led by quarterback Doug Butler of Princeton and the Lions’ John Witkowski, the key play was a 52-yard run by Ferraro that put the Tigers up 28-20.

“One of the plays we ran a lot was counter trey where I would take a step or two in one direction and then went the other way with a tackle pulling in front of me,” recalls Ferraro. “There was a good block on the corner and I zipped up the left sideline.”

“That was the longest run of the day. Otherwise it was pounding away, five or six yards at a clip.”

“I had good acceleration, so when I hit that seam or hole I could get through it pretty quickly. And I was always willing to go in there and take my shots between the tackles as well. The best I ever ran in the 40 was a 4.6. I used to say I was faster in pads.”

The victory pushed the Tigers to 3-1 but they then won only one game of their last six.

22) Cameron Atkinson runs for 233 yards in a 38-30 victory against Dartmouth. November 23, 2002.

Of that yardage, 190 came in the second half, 170 of those on runs of 66 and 84 yards. “On the first, I met a linebacker at the hole and he decided he wasn’t going to put in a good effort to tackle me,” Atkinson recalls.  “I stiff armed him to the ground and was in the end zone a couple seconds later.”

“The one on the next series I recall being a zone read. It was perfectly blocked, everybody did their jobs and I just had to stay in bounds.  There was some pursuit; they were trying to take an angle towards me, but I was long gone.”

The win assured the 6-4 Tigers of their first winning record of the first three seasons under Coach Roger Hughes. “This is the greatest memory I will ever have,” Atkinson, Princeton’s fourth all-time leading rusher with 2,449 yards, said after the game.  Today, he amends that slightly.

“I married a perfect woman and have four beautiful kids so I don’t know if it is my greatest memory to this point,” he says. “But when I think back on my time at Princeton, that stands alone at the top.”

Ellis Moore ’70

21) Ellis Moore runs for five touchdowns as Princeton demolishes Harvard, 45-6 in Boston. November 11, 1967.

Crimson supporters, painfully remembering the Tigers’ 18-14 come from behind upset win the previous season at Princeton that had thrown the Ivy title into a three-way tie, wore T-shirts advocating revenge in the rematch. But the Tigers (6-3 in 1967) won again in a stunning rout.

In running for 138 yards in 31 carries Moore “destroyed the Crimson defense with sheer power, excellent cutting, determined second efforts and twisting dives on the wedge,” according to The Daily Princetonian.

Four of the touchdown runs by the sophomore were one-yard plunges; the other Moore took in from 17.

“The goal line play was a dive literally, that’s the way it was designed,” Moore recalls. “I did the same thing four times.

“At the time, the yardage was a more primary focus of pride for me, the thinking being that anyone can carry the ball one yard into the end zone. But as the years have gone by its been reinforced that if you don’t get the ball into the end zone, what good was the drive? So with the passage of time that number of touchdowns became more thrilling on many greater levels.”

They remain a modern (meaning post 1906 creation of the line of scrimmage) Princeton record.

John Lovett – Columbia 2018

20) John Lovett runs for two touchdowns and throws for two in a 45-10 win at Columbia. September 28, 2018.

Lovett had 176 yards rushing; most memorably a 38-yard run on a second quarter option after Columbia had closed within 13-10. It set up his own two-yard touchdown. On the next drive, Lovett followed up an earlier, perfect, 37-yard sideline touchdown strike to Stephen Carlson by drilling another six yarder to Carlson. The next time Princeton had the ball, Lovett ran 25 yards to the two to set up a Nico Ramos field goal that boosted the lead to 30-10.

The second quarter had turned into Lovett tour de force on the way to Princeton’s 10-0 season. Without taking a snap in the fourth quarter, the quarterback finished with 309 yards of total offense.

“That’s a very impressive football team,” said Al Bagnoli, the Lions’ coach. “I go back a long way (at that point 26 years combined at Penn and Columbia) and, for a quarterback, a running game and an offensive team, it would really be a stretch to think there has ever been anything better.

 “It’s very impressive to see Lovett live. He is a big strong athletic kid and, to his credit, he is throwing the ball a lot better than he did two years ago.”

Added Princeton Coach Bob Surace, “The great (UConn women’s coach) Geno Auriemma used to say, ‘I have Diana Taurasi and you don’t.’ That’s the way I felt in the first half about John.”

“He is playing at an exceptional level, including his decision making and his finish. When the great quarterbacks get in the game, the rest of the guys’ tempos pick up.”

Said Lovett, “To sit here with 45 points and still see so many things we didn’t execute? That’s a great feeling.”

Cosmo Iacavazzi ’65

19) Cosmo Iacavazzi breaks touchdown runs of 47 and 39 yards at Yale as the Tigers pull away to a 35-14 Ivy-clinching win. November 14, 1964.

Iacavazzi won the hyped individual battle with leading Ivy rusher Chuck Mercein–Cosmo had 185 yards on 20 carries to Mercein’s 88 in 20 – as Princeton moved to within one win of its perfect (9-0) season, the first since 1951, and the only one in a 67-season stretch until the 2018 team went 10-0.

With Yale, which came into the game with just one loss, having played the Tigers even through a 14-14 first half, Iacavazzi broke several tackles on the 39-yarder that opened up a two-touchdown margin. On the second play of the next possession he burst untouched through the line and ran away from everyone. Following both scores, he threw the ball into the stands, not an easy toss at the spacious Yale Bowl, drawing a delay-of-game warning from the official. 

“I wasn’t a trash talker but emotion was part of my game and I was so excited,” Iacavazzi recalls.

“I’m very fond of those two runs. They iced the championship.”

Jesper Horsted – Harvard 2017

18) Jesper Horsted catches 13 balls for 241 yards and two touchdowns in a 52-17 win at Harvard. October 20, 2017.

Horsted also threw for a touchdown to Carlson on an end-around option as Princeton handed the Crimson its worst home defeat in 28 years. On the Tigers’ first offensive drive the junior wideout caught three passes, including one for a 20-yard touchdown, in getting the Tigers off to a 7-0 lead. In the second quarter, a 27-yard Horsted catch to the two set up Charlie Volker’s run that pushed the lead to a stunning 17-0.

When Harvard showed signs of life with a 69-yard drive to a field goal, Kanoff and Horsted immediately threw back a haymaker. The receiver spun away from the cornerback and outran two defenders who had appeared to have an angle on him, turning what could have been an 8-yard gain into an electrifying 66-yard touchdown.

“A classic slant route thrown well by Chad,” recalls Horsted. “I saw out of the corner of my eye that the cornerback was anticipating where I was going to be by maybe a little much and thought either I can continue on that path and get [a short gain] or stop and try to make a move and totally pivot out of this.

“The corner didn’t expect me to make that turn and their safety was kind of on the other side of the field so I had a chance to outrun him. Definitely one of my favorite plays in college.”

Horsted also caught passes for 15 and 18 yards in a Tiger march to a later score.

”I think that was my favorite game,” he says. “Chad and I were clicking. At that point we had not done well at Harvard and to go in there as a well-oiled machine was pretty gratifying.”

Kurt Holuba was hurt in the game, the most devastating loss to a defensive line that was ravaged all the way into the third string. The Tigers didn’t win again.

Kevin Davidson – Bucknell 2019

17) Kevin Davidson throws a Princeton record seven touchdown passes in a 56-23 victory at Bucknell. September 29, 2019.

Four went to Andrew Griffin, who tied a Tiger record of Michael Lerch (more on that one later).  Griffin produced major yards after the catch for touchdowns of 57 and 59 yards. Andrei Iosivas caught two touchdowns and Jacob Birmelin one.

Davidson had four misses on Princeton’s scoreless first two series. “I had some pushback from the coaching staff like, ‘“Dude, you played so well last week (49-7 win over Butler), why is this game so crazy?’” he recalls. 

“That kind of lit me up inside. Alright, let’s do this thing.”

A 29-yard sideline bomb to Iosivas to get the Tigers on the board sparked a 25-for- 29 finish for the quarterback.

“With all those guys in the box, there were opportunities deep, and after those first couple of series Kevin got into a zone,” said Surace. “When he got flushed out a little his poise was tremendous and his receivers did a great job navigating. Those are things you can’t coach.”

“On one to Andrew (27-yarder to make the score 21-14), the play wasn’t blocked as well as it should have been and, on the move, Kevin stuck it in hard. It was a terrific player making that play.”

Davidson threw five touchdown passes later in the season at Brown, among his 20 for the year, the fourth highest total in Princeton history. He is the only one to throw seven.

“Some incredible guys have played quarterback at Princeton,” he says. “I’m excited to have my name with those in that fraternity.” 

Chad Kanoff – Harvard 2017

16) Chad Kanoff completes 20 straight passes during a 421-yard day during a 52-17 win at Harvard. October 20, 2017.

Attempt No. 21, early in the third quarter following a perfect first half, was dropped by Tiger Bech. By then Princeton led 31-10. On the way to 573 yards of Tiger total offense, Jesper Horsted had 13 receptions for 246 yards (see above) and Stephen Carlson had 11 for 103. 

Kanoff finished 31-for-35 for 421 yards and two touchdowns.

“I wasn’t aware until John [Lovett] told me at halftime, ‘You know, you haven’t thrown an incompletion, ” recalls Kanoff.  “Then I started thinking about it and I wish I hadn’t known at all. I was just playing.

“When you don’t miss at all, that’s unusual. Harvard’s defense plays off, so it should be a high completion percentage game, but not having to throw the ball away even once doesn’t happen all the time. It’s just a function of a good offense, including of course the blocking, when you have a streak like that.”

Collin Eaddy – Yale 2018

15) Collin Eaddy runs for 266 yards in 59-43 win at Yale. November 10, 2018.

Starting in the place of the injured Charlie Volker, the sophomore ran 75 yards untouched up the middle for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. After Jeremiah Tyler intercepted freshman quarterback Griffin O’Connor on Yale’s second snap, Eaddy scooted 17 yards off right tackle without a Bulldog coming within five yards. It was a stunning 14-0 after just 54 seconds on the way to 489 yards in total rushing offense.

Eaddy, supplemented by Ryan Quigley’s 113 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, added a third touchdown to boost Princeton’s lead to 52-21 on the way to the ninth win in a perfect season.

“It was a pretty cool experience,” said Eaddy afterwards. “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 greatest blessing was to have the reserve strength to post a near all-time rushing day in the absence of an All Ivy back. 

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

“I had told him, ‘you practiced so well and are healthy. This is your time.’ After the first play I said, ‘Halfway there (to 150).  Collin said, “I have more.’”

Quinn Epperly ’15

14) Quinn Epperly completes an NCAA record 29 straight passes in a 53-20 victory over Cornell. November 2, 2013.

“What is amazing is some of those plays were options where he had to make a decision like this,” said Surace after the game, snapping his finger.  “Do I hand the ball off or throw it?”

“The game is in slow motion for Quinn. And you could tell (early) he was on fire. Our long run for the day was 21 yards by (Kedric) Bostic in the third quarter, our long throw was a 20-yarder to Roman (Wilson).  Cornell was going to play off, not give up big plays and Quinn kept hitting perfect drive routes, dig routes and slant routes.”

Helped during the streak by a pass interference call – fair to assume Seth DeValve would have caught the ball – and some quick forward flips to Wilson crossing in the backfield on end-arounds, Epperly didn’t miss until the third quarter, when Princeton led 43-13. He finished the day 32-for-35 for 325 yards, including three touchdowns to Wilson and one to DeValve.

“At halftime one of the other quarterbacks asked me if I had an incompletion,” Epperly said afterwards.  “I said, ‘I don’t remember one.’

“When they [announced the record] over the loudspeaker in the middle of a drive, I was like, ‘I can’t think of this; we need to score here.’ We were in a zone, the receivers made some excellent catches and the linemen, well I don’t think I had any pressure on me all day. Honestly, we should have scored on every drive.

“I have been truly blessed; especially today on a couple of those I got a little help from my receivers.  So it’s awesome to be a part of it and I’m just glad we got the win.”

Kevin Guthrie ’84

13) Kevin Guthrie catches 16 passes in 46-28 win over Bucknell. September 24, 1983.

After sophomore Doug Butler, making his first start, threw two interceptions and a fumble as Bucknell jumped to a 28-0 lead, the Tigers roared back to win going away. Guthrie, the fearless over the middle possession receiver in a tandem with deep threat Derek Graham, set a record that still stands 37 years later.

It was a memorable performance to everyone but the person who did it.

“At some point in the game, I don’t remember. I took a helmet-to-helmet hit,” Guthrie recalls, sort of.  Literally, I was knocked out.

“I remember at halftime trying to figure out whether I could play and all that sort of stuff. But after the game I didn’t remember much of the second half.

“I tended to catch passes on two kinds of plays.  Fifteen yarder behind a linebacker in the middle of the field, a crossing route, and then there was another play where I ran out of the slot.  There wasn’t a play in that game I broke away for 50 yards.”

“I don’t think about that record every day, but as you get older it’s like a favored old shirt or sweater you haven’t thrown away. The older it’s become, it’s a cooler thing than ever to have.

“Jesper broke my [career reception] record as a senior and the single season one he broke the year before.  Like the old shirts, you don’t really care about them much until they get thrown away. So it’s nice to cling to one that’s left.     

“When Surace got the job, I used to kid that my records would be safe for a while. We had a center as a head coach. Behold, now they throw the ball like crazy. Jesper is incredible talent. Love that guy, just phenomenal.

“These records are not held by the best receiver. We threw a lot. It’s all about opportunity.  So it’s fun to have something standing a test of time.”

Doug Butler ’86

12) Doug Butler throws for 469 yards in 41-33 win over Lafayette, November 5, 1983.

That season Butler had already passed for 424 yards against Harvard, 417 versus Bucknell, and hit Navy for another 399 when he recorded the second best day in Princeton history with this one over the Leopards, producing the Tigers’ only win in the final six games that season.  “My whole career were one, two, three-point games, a number of which we lost,” Butler recalls.

They won this one by overcoming a 33-21 deficit in the final 11 minutes, starting with an interception runback for a touchdown by Dave Brodess, and completed with a Butler touchdown throw to Graham and a 3-yard run by Ferraro.

With Lafayette constantly changing defenses, Princeton coach, Frank Navarro, had put his receivers in motion and trusted his quarterback to audible, which Butler said he did on 60-70 percent of the plays. He completed 32 of his 53 attempts, including three touchdowns, earning ECAC 1-AA Player of the Week honors and also was named player of the week for all of college football by Sports Illustrated.

“I’m proud of that,” said Butler, who still holds the Princeton record for most yards per game, career with 25.4. “But we were used to throwing 400 yards that season, so the games that year kind of blur together.

“In training camp my sophomore year, Kevin and Derek were excited about the possibility of me playing because, coming off of Bob Holly, they liked my arm.  They just wanted to catch the ball and we did that a lot.  They were two and three in the country that year in receiving behind only Jerry Rice.”

Derek Graham ’85

11) Derek Graham compiles 278 receiving yards in an epic 35-31 upset win over Yale. November 14, 1981.

As Holly threw for a still current Princeton record 501 yards (more later), Graham recorded one of two 15-catch days in his career, helping the Tigers back from a 21-0 deficit to the nationally ranked Bulldogs and drawing a pass interference call in the end zone that set up Holly’s winning 1-yard touchdown run with four seconds remaining.

“The defensive back (Pat Conran) that was lined up to cover me the whole game was a kid who coincidentally that summer in Los Angeles was interning for a law firm and somehow got introduced to me,” recalls Graham. “I would go with my high school quarterback and run pass patterns against him and there was nothing I couldn’t do against him.

“Early in the first quarter I went over to our offensive coordinator (Ken Bowman) and told him that anything he called I could beat this guy. What was stunning is that they made no adjustments that I recall. They ran a three-deep secondary and stayed with it. And it wasn’t like I had one catch in the first half and 14 in the second.

“Kevin {Guthrie} and I were lucky to be in a good offense.  Now if you are a kid coming out of high school, because of the internet you understand your options and the offenses run by the schools recruiting you.  You figure out the offense that would be good fit for your talent.

“But when I showed up I had no idea.  I went to Princeton because it was a great school and at 175 pounds, I could play football there. But lo and behold we threw like crazy, which was very different than most places. I could not have known I would get two basically NFL quarterbacks (Holly and Butler).

“Given the evolution of the passing game, I’m absolutely shocked that Kevin and I still hold any records. Our receptions were pretty much all downfield. We didn’t throw one bubble screen or come in motion and have the quarterback pitch it forward like two feet. And we didn’t get to play varsity as freshmen.

“My point is: Wow, the game has changed so much to where production is really high and Kevin and I still have some records. I’m amazed we are even in the top ten.”

Keith Elias ’94

10) Keith Elias runs for 273 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-28 victory at Lehigh, October 3, 1992.

After recording a school-record 299 yards the previous week against Lafayette (more later), Elias took only three scrimmage plays to break a 54-yard touchdown.  He received a pitch, followed Peter Bailey through a hole created by Chris Theiss and J.C. Stilley, stepped out of one Lehigh defender’s grasp after five yards and another after 15 and went down the sideline to the end zone.

In the third quarter, Elias took a pitch, found a hole between the blocks of the pulling Scott Miller and Chris Cyterski, and, with a cleanup block by wide-out Michael Lerch, broke three tackles within the five yards past the line of scrimmage. It seemed nobody could bring Elias down low and when the chasing Hector Martinez tried to tackle high, Elias stiff armed the defensive back four different times between the 30 and the 20, then stepped out of his grasp and ran into the end zone.

”That run, of all of his runs, was the one I remember the best,” recalls Stilley. “Keith punched the last guy in the face four times and kept going.” Elias averaged 7.58 yards per his 36 carries, bringing his yardage in back-to-back games to 473 yards, a new 1-AA record, on the way to an Ivy title that season.

 “He backed up his own confidence by giving confidence to the whole team, made your line better and your quarterback better,” recalls Joe Susan, then the offensive coordinator. “He forced teams to play with one safety, which caused one-on-one confrontations on the outside, which really helped Michael Lerch.

“It wasn’t Elias alone because there were other good offensive players on that team. But it ended up being his team. Everybody in the stadium knew he was going to get the ball and he still got yards. That’s a special player.”

9) Jordan Culbreath runs for 276 yards in 28-10 win over Dartmouth, November 22, 2008.

In recording the second greatest rushing yards total in a game in Princeton history, the junior walk-on scored on a run of 58 yards on the game’s third play and another of five yards that had been set up by his 52-yard jaunt. Culbreath secured the Ivy rushing title in becoming the eighth Tiger to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. His 40 carries were the third most in a game in program history.

“I don’t think there are enough superlatives in the dictionary,” said Coach Roger Hughes afterwards.

Said Culbreath: “The line did a great job. I felt like I wasn’t even getting touched.”

He meant until the line of scrimmage. In carrying for 11 of Princeton’s 18 first downs, there were plenty of hard yards in short gains in addition to the two explosive runs, both on cutbacks that opened up the sideline.

The win, culminating a 4-6 season, sent a young Tiger team into an off-season of hope before Culbreath was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a deadly cancer, two games into 2009.  When family members were not a match for a bone marrow transplant, a trial immunotherapy program saved Culbreath’s life. He returned to football in 2010 before suffering a knee injury that ended his career.

“The way things went for me, not being able to reach my full potential, that Dartmouth game gives me a highlight to look back upon,” he says  “It helps makes me okay with how everything went afterwards.”

Judd Garrett ’90

8) Judd Garrett compiles 335 all-purpose yards in a 41-35 win at Bucknell.  October 15, 1988. 

He ran 27 times for 233 yards and caught 11 passes from his brother Jason for another 102 as the Tigers, who totaled 608 yards in total offense, needed almost all of them to hold off an 0-6 opponent.

Garrett ran over three tacklers and outran pursuit on a 54-yard touchdown and caught a 9-yard scoring pass as the Tigers bounced back from the most ignominious defeat in Princeton football history – at Columbia to snap the Lions’ 44- game NCAA record losing streak – the previous week.

“We had a 10-game season by senior high school year, and I had over 300 carries so I was averaging over 30,” recalls Garrett, second all-time at Princeton in both carries (687) and yards (3,109) behind Keith Elias (4,208).  “I was kind of used to it, as opposed to today’s football, when it is an exception.

“That was always the emphasis my Dad (Jim) ingrained in me with the number of reps – probably a little too much in retrospect – during long hot summer workouts.  You don’t come off the field; get up and you go back in the huddle.

“He played college football in the fifties, so it was definitely old school. But it was second nature to me.  I never thought of taking myself out.”

Charlie Gogolak ’66

7) Charlie Gogolak boots six field goals in 32-6 win over Rutgers. September 25, 1965.

The revolutionary kicker – both in soccer style, and unprecedented usage of a specialist by Coach Dick Colman – hit from 52, 42, 41, 39, 37 and 21. He fell just one short of a 65-year-old college football record, one set when field goals counted for more points than touchdowns.

The make from 52 was the second longest in Princeton history – the 65-yarder by James Haxall against Yale in 1882 was by dropkick – until Gogolak nailed a 54-yarder against Cornell later that season.  But Go-Go says he never hit one better than from 52 on his biggest day.   

“Crushed it,” Gogolak recalls. “People closer to the goalposts than I was said it would have cleared from 60.

“I hit it so well, I can still feel it, like the best golf drive I ever hit. I didn’t get the 54 yarder as well. I was stunned when it was good.”

6) Quinn Epperly throws for six touchdowns in 51-48 overtime win at Harvard.  October 26, 2013.

Two of the touchdown throws were to Connor Kelley, and there were singles to Des Smith, Matt Costello, Seth DeValve, before the coup de grâce, a six-yarder to Roman Wilson for the winner in the third overtime. Epperly’s longest completion of the day was for 25 yards. But he did not throw an interception as his counterpart, Connor Hempel, tossed two and fumbled away the ball once.

Epperly’s 37 completions ­– in 50 attempts for 321 yards – broke Bob Holly’s 32-year old Princeton record, although the completion mark was tied by Kanoff four years later in the above-described loss at Dartmouth. The six touchdowns were a record until broken by Davidson in 2019.

“That was the first game I started that year,” recalls Epperly, who previously had been used in tandem with Connor Michelsen mostly in goal line situations. “Most people think I was on top of the world, the big man on campus, but really I was worrying about playing time.  I needed to do what I did because this was my opportunity to get a starting role.

“I remember we came out hot, scored a touchdown in seven plays on the first drive. That set the tone.

“It’s cool to look back. I was recruited just a little bit by Harvard and had a pretty terrible experience. I went to their camp and left in the middle of it. They were calling me by the wrong name all day when I thought I was performing as well as anybody out there.  When I decided to go to Princeton.  I remember writing down my goals and one was beating Harvard.  

It was pretty awesome to have games against them in consecutive years come down to last-second plays (Epperly had thrown a touchdown pass to Roman Wilson to complete a rally from a 24-point fourth quarter deficit in 2012) and we beat them on both.”

John Lovett – Cornell 2016

5) John Lovett accounts for seven touchdowns in 56-7 victory at Cornell. October 29, 2016

Lovett threw for four, ran for two and caught another. He connected with Isaiah Barnes for 95 yards on one, hit Trevor Osborne on a 35-yard post pattern for another, and nailed a 6-yard bullet to Graham Adomitis in the corner of the end zone tossed in for good measure. 

Because the NCAA keeps running and passing touchdowns separately, there is no such thing as a record for combined running, receiving, and throwing touchdowns in one game. In other words, no such measurement for this unusual level of athleticism and versatility.

Lovett’s quarterbacking duties at that stage of his career were limited mostly to short yardage and goal line situations. On the two rushing touchdowns, he bulled for three yards, twinkle-toed 10 yards for another, and, on the pass, dove to the marker with a Kanoff delivery.

While Kanoff was 17-for-23 for 198 yards, Lovett was 10-for-11 for 194.

“Johnny plays with such confidence,” said Surace after the win, which followed an overtime loss to Harvard and revived Princeton’s drive to a share of the Ivy title. “And he just keeps getting better with his decision making.

“See, the way it works is, first we surround them. Then we send Lovett in to get them. Johnny can do everything. Well, maybe he couldn’t play guard, but with us down a punt returner (Tiger Bech) this week, Johnny practiced as the backup there. We have had discussions about using him in certain situations on defense. Honest.”

Jeff Terrell ’07

4) Jeff Terrell throws for 445 yards and three touchdowns, plus runs for another in bringing Tigers from behind a two-touchdown deficit to 35-31 win at Yale, a first place tie with the Bulldogs, and an eventual championship. November 11, 2006.

Twelve of the catches were by Brendan Circle, who caught two of the touchdowns.  The third, which put Princeton ahead for good midway in the fourth quarter, went for 57 yards down the sideline to Brian Brigham.

Terrell was 32-for-47 with one interception. The 472 yards of total offense, which included a 4th down scramble that kept a drive alive towards one of the touchdowns to Circle, remain the second most in Princeton history.

“The receivers and I had been playing a long time together,” recalls Terrell. “There were a number of routes where receivers could make an adjustment based on the coverage he saw.

“I had such a good sense for how they would react and make throws in gaps that otherwise wouldn’t have been there without the chemistry we had developed.

“What I remember on the winning touchdown to Brian was that the cornerback for Yale was a freshman.  We had been attacking that side of the field. Suffice it to say we had baited him all day.

“It was a perfect call (by offensive coordinator Dave Rackovan), an out and up route. Because of the success we had with medium, high, routes, sure enough he backed in on it, and when Brian turned upfield he was wide open.

“I just had to put it in a place where he could run under it. It was a pretty easy throw.”

3) Keith Elias runs for 299 yards, including four touchdowns, in a 38-35 victory over Lafayette, September 26, 1992.

The final score, which broke Homer Smith’s 40-year-old Princeton yardage record, was best described by tackle Chris Theiss, who is acknowledged to be in the top handful of offensive linemen in Tiger history.

“I’m picking up a linebacker and I feel somebody grabbing the back of my shirt,” recalls Theiss.  “I thought, ‘That’s kind of weird,’ but as I hit my block, there’s still somebody grabbing my shirt and then all of a sudden Keith flashes by me to a touchdown.

“When I saw it on film, somebody had tripped him at the line and he was falling forward, so he reached out to pull the back of my jersey to catch his balance.  He got his feet back under him, waited to catch my block, and took off.  That was the kind of play where the guy’s amazing athleticism made everyone look great.”

Another 70 yarder, into the teeth of the Lafayette defense, is best described by then offensive coordinator Susan: “The pile just continued to move,” he recalls, “and then he broke free.”

Elias, in a rotation of two series to one for Erick Hamilton, averaged 11.96 per his 25 carries, yet was stuffed a half-yard short of 300 on a drive that failed to run out the clock. “If I had gotten the first down the game was over,” Elias recalls.  “I didn’t like putting the defense in that position.”

They held on.  And Elias’ Princeton mark has held for 28 years.

Michael Lerch ’93

2) Michael Lerch totals 463 yards of offense, including 370 yards and four touchdowns receiving, in a 59-37 victory at Brown, October 12, 1991.

The touchdowns, thrown by Chad Roghair, went for 45, 64, 79, and 90 yards and Lerch added 78 yards in kickoff returns and 15 on rushes to set a 1-AA (now FCS) record for all-purpose yards with 463. The receiving yards tied a 1-AA record. The 463 total yards are the most ever recorded by a Princeton player by a whopping 128.

Brown coach Mickey Kwiatkowski put an extra defender in the box against Elias, leaving Lerch, the 5-7, 160-pound dynamo, in man coverage. He had a field day.

“We’ve been waiting to take advantage of Lerch’s speed,” said Coach Steve Tosches. “It was just a matter of people daring to play man to man.” 

Most of the big gains were made after the catches.

“If you underthrow him by a step, he’ll make a move and still beat everybody,” said Roghair, who tied the Princeton and Ivy records with five touchdown tosses. 

“I deliberately did poorly on the returns so I could get more receiving yards,” jokes Lerch.

“On the 90-yard touchdown, two defenders happened to run into each other. I wouldn’t give me any credit for that. I actually fumbled one of the kickoffs, although if you ran the film back, I believe it would show that the ground caused the fumble. Anyway, when I met my Dad on the field after the game, his comment to me was, ‘Nice fumble.’ That actually was him being nice. He was a football coach, thinking like a football coach in the seventies and eighties: No room for mistakes.

“It’s something you look back at mostly in disbelief. No one sets goals like that. So you never think something like it is going to happen. I didn’t find out until I got back to my dorm room–and there were like 30 messages on my machine from newspaper reporters–that I had broken an NCAA record. Mine lasted for 10 years so that was kind of cool but I think more about the friendships at Princeton than that day.”

1) Bob Holly throws for a still school record 501 yards and runs in the winning touchdown with four seconds remaining as the Tigers rally from two deficits to beat Yale for the first time in 14 seasons. November 14, 1981 at Palmer Stadium.

With Graham catching 15 passes, Holly threw for four TDS in leading Princeton back from a 21-0 deficit against the undefeated Bulldogs, who came in nationally-ranked in all of college football.

With the Tigers down again, 31-29, and 76 yards to go in just 1:39, Holly led the winning march, taking the ball in himself on an option play after a pass interference call against Graham put the ball on the one with nine seconds remaining.

Because of the quarterback’s (35-for-55) performance, the win drought against Yale, and the two comebacks, the win is largely considered the most glorious by Princeton in the 20th century of the Ivy era, never mind the Tigers were out of title contention, finishing 5-4-1.

“During the course of the game you’re just kind of playing,” Holly recalls  “We were having fun, knowing it has to end at some point with somebody winning. 

“Afterwards somebody told me about 500 yards and it struck me as a very big number. Then, it was only like the 15th time it has been done in college football. Of course by now there have been a lot more but the record has lasted forty some years at Princeton, which has had some pretty good quarterbacks and prolific offenses, especially recently. So it’s something I’m really proud of.”

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