The Greatest Individual Game Defensive Performances in Princeton’s Ivy Era
BY JAY GREENBERG
We continue our celebration of Princeton’s 150th year of football with a ranking of the greatest single-game performances by individual Tigers on defense since the creation of the formal Ivy League for the 1956 season.
This part nine of a series of 12 follows lists of the 1) worst weather days 2) greatest single-game team offensive performances 3) top single-game individual offensive performances 4) single-game team defensive performances 5) upset victories, 6) upset losses 7) comeback wins and 8) clutch plays. All are archived on this site.
Still to come are most painful losses, most glorious victories and we will conclude the series by ranking Princeton’s greatest-ever teams of the last 63 years.
This list has been by far the hardest one to compile, for reasons beginning with 1) tackles going uncounted during the fifties and sixties 2) pressures and hurries not being official stats to this day 3) COVID 19 shutting down our access to filing cabinets and old media guides at Jadwin Gymnasium 4) faulty memories and 5) the very subjective, and often underreported, nature of the category.
Nevertheless, having broken down team and individual performances into separate lists on the offensive side, the defense deserves equal consideration. Also, too many persons tried to help with this to abandon their efforts.
Our one concession is not ranking these, as in the other lists. Too many excellent performances below are too close to quantify or even grade by circumstances. We are doing these one alphabetically.
Archie Twice Foils Penn in the Final Minutes. Nov. 4, 1995 at Franklin Field, Philadelphia.
The 22-9 Princeton victory over the two-time defending champion Quakers – ranked second on our list of team defensive performances – was finished off by two fourth-down red zone stops by Jimmy Archie, a two time All-Ivy safety. The first was a bat down and the second a sack that completed quarterback Mark DeRosa’s miserable 13-for-32 day, keeping the Tigers unbeaten on the way to an undisputed Ivy Title.
Barisich Bars the Door. November 4 1972 at Palmer Stadium.
No tackle numbers were kept back in the day to back up this day of days. But in a 10-7 victory over Harvard, Barisich may have played the most dominant game by a defensive lineman in Tiger Ivy history. “By the end, they were triple teaming him,” recalls Bill Cronin, a Princeton All-Ivy offensive lineman.
Afterwards Crimson Coach Joe Restic commented on the impossibility of blocking Barisich. He was an eleventh round pick in the 1973 draft played nine years in the NFL.
Cain Starts the Comeback against Lehigh. October 17, 1987 at Palmer Stadium
Dean Cain, an All-America safety, had three separate days when he accumulated three interceptions. But if this one wasn’t the best, certainly it was the most clutch.
Manhandled physically by a bigger Lehigh team during the first half, the Tigers had managed to hang around thanks in part to the first two picks by Cain. Nevertheless the Engineers, leading 15-13, were driving for a putaway score in the final minutes when a sack by Rick Emery left Lehigh in a third-and-17 at the Princeton 33. Needing an underneath completion of 10 yards to reach field goal position, instead quarterback Mark McGowan threw to the goal line and Cain got there for the pick.
After the Tigers, starting from the two with 2:25 remaining, drove for Rob Goodwin’s game-winning field goal at the buzzer, Cain was reminded by defensive secondary coach Steve Verbit that he had lined up on the wrong side. Lehigh’s quarterback wouldn’t have been the first to be fooled by the guy who played Superman on television changing in a phone booth on the other side of the field. Despite giving every reason for quarterbacks to throw the ball nowhere near Cain, he had a Princeton record 22 career interceptions. “Loved watching him bait the quarterback into throwing the ball his way,” recalls teammate Bob Surace.
Casciola Crashes and Burns Crouthamel and Dartmouth. November 23, 1957 at Palmer Stadium.
With the Tigers leading 20-14 in the third quarter of a final game showdown for the second-ever championship of the formal Ivy League, tackle Bob Casciola made a game changing play on first team All-Ivy-to-be Jake Crouthamel. “It was a sweep,” recalls Casciola, first team All-Ivy that season. “I got in the backfield clear, wrapped my arms around Jake’s waist, the ball came loose, and I crawled over his head to fall on it.”
After the Tigers scored off the turnover and pulled away to a 34-14 victory. Coach Dick Colman called Casciola’s the “best defensive tackle play since (Hall of Famer) Hollie Donan (’51).”
Casciola, later the Princeton head coach, worked with Crouthamel on the staff at Dartmouth, when they became lifelong friends. “ I never brought up the play though,” says Casciola.
Catapano’s Best Was His Last. November 17, 2012 at Princeton Stadium.
Princeton’s rise to three Ivy titles in the Surace coaching era began with the bootstrap efforts of Mike Catapano, whose performance on the field and passion in the weight room inspired a new level of responsibility amongst the players. In Catapano’s senior year, Surace’s third, the Tigers attained their first non-losing season in five.
“Mike was double-teamed most of that year and still won the Bushnell Cup,” recalls Surace. In Catapano’s final game, the Tigers fell short of a winning season in a 35-21 loss to Dartmouth. But it was his most dominant performance, including two sacks of the dynamic Dalyn Williams amongst 3 ½ tackles for a loss. Three of Catapano’s five tackles on the day were solos.
Catarius Holds the Fort. October 22, 2016 at Princeton Stadium.
Linebacker Luke Catarius, one of the surest tacklers inside the box in the Surace era, had 12, including one-and-a-half for a loss, in a 23-20 overtime loss to Harvard. The Tigers ran the table thereafter on the way to a shared Ivy title with Penn, Catarius being one of the leaders of a defense that gave up only 74 points in the seven league games, 28 of those in second halves when Princeton had insurmountable leads.
“That year (Luke) Catarius and (Rohan) Hylton were two of the top four or five linebackers in the league, if not better that that” said Verbit, then the defensive coordinator.
Cody Takes It Back All the Way. September 26, 2009 at Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, Pa.
Lehigh was driving towards a touchdown on its first possession when linebacker Steve Cody picked a pass by JB Clark and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown in what would be a 17-14 victory over Lehigh. The win was additionally made possible because of Cody’s 11 tackles (seven solo) and a pass breakup.
Ironically, it was on that same field where he played his greatest game that a year later Cody suffered a broken leg in the opener that virtually extinguished his chance to play pro football. He did come back to play well in 2011.
Indeed, Anthony Was the D. September 21, 1985 at Memorial Field, Hanover, N.H.
In the debut of Coach Ron Rogerson, linebacker Anthony DiTommaso had a monstrous 19 tackles as the Tigers held off Dartmouth, 10-3. With five minutes remaining in the third period and Princeton holding onto the seven-point lead, the Tiger captain combined with tackle Chuck Wooten for first and second down tackles and then, on third-and-five at the Princeton 47, pounced on the fumble to end the threat. It was one of the great one-series sequences in program history.
DiTommaso added a tipped pass in earning ECAC Defensive Player of the Week plus Ivy Player of the Week honors. The Tigers went 5-2 in the league that year (5-5 overall], a transformational one for the program.
Ellis Gets ‘Em All on the Best Page Ever Written by a Princeton Defense, November 3, 2018 at Princeton Stadium.
So complete was the unit’s performance as the Tigers won the battle of unbeatens over Dartmouth, 14-9, on the way to 10-0, that individual stats were not glittering. But as this was the best team defensive game of Princeton’s Ivy era, the defenders who called the signals deserve the bulk of the singular credits.
“(Safety) Ben Ellis was incredible in that game,” recalls Verbit. “It took tremendous communication in getting the secondary in the right place.”
Ellis combined with Jay Rolader for a second quarter sack, one of his nine tackles, as Dartmouth managed no first downs on its final four possessions and passed for only 103 yards.
Emery Emulsifies Harvard, October 28, 1989 at Harvard Stadium, Cambridge MA.
In Princeton’s 28-14 victory, critical to ending Princeton’s 20-year title drought that season, the nasty All Ivy edge rusher had eight tackles, including two for a loss, The Tigers defense held Harvard to just 90 yards post-intermission.
“After graduating I lived in New York with some guys on that Harvard team,” recalls Emery. “I remember them saying that their quarterback and a couple of running backs had never been hit harder than by that defense.”
Ferrera Makes It an Open and Shutdown Case. September 19, 1998 at Princeton Stadium
In a 6-0 victory over Cornell, David Ferrera, one of the premier pass rushers in program history, had all three Princeton sacks as Princeton debuted a new stadium to a capacity crowd of 27, 800. The Big Red had only 70 yards rushing as the defense made two Alex Sierk field goals standup. “Today was just fun,” Ferrera said afterwards. “That’s what I think football should be for everyone.”
Fossati Calls ‘Em As He Saw ‘Em Almost Perfectly. November 3, 2018 at Princeton Stadium.
A perfect break on the ball and a diving interception to foil Yale’s last hope the following week was the signature play of Fossati’s career. But the linebacker feels his best game was one in which the team played the best defensive game of the Ivy era. He had six tackles and a half-sack as unbeaten Princeton handed Dartmouth its first loss, but everybody else’s stats largely were his.
“Harvard was a setup game that year in that Tom and I would sprinkle in checks to mess with the offense,” recalls Fossati. “But Dartmouth was much more complex with all their quarterback runs, unbalanced formations, and a highly talented skill set.
“When we saw our offense struggling, which we were not used to at all, we knew the defense had to step up to our highest level, both mentally and physically. They also had the biggest offensive line I can ever remember playing against. Most unique though was the tag team Tom (Johnson) and I did on defense.”
Aaron Harris Gets the Stops and the Tigers Off to the Right Start. September 19, 1992 at Schoellkopf Field, Ithaca, NY.
With Cornell touted in the preseason as one of the top contenders, the Tigers hit the road for their opener with no time for championship expectations to build and a number of sophomores who had to grow up fast. Good thing that the A-Train, as nicknamed by star running back Keith Elias, was there.
“Aaron looked you in the eye in the huddle and with his words and actions, you just knew you were going to get it done,” recalls defensive lineman Nick Brophy.
Harris made 17 tackles and had a fourth-down pass breakup on the final Big Red drive as the Tigers held on for 22-20 victory. It was an indomitable performance by one of the greatest of the great Princeton linebackers.
“It was a game we should have put away and Cornell kept coming back,” recalls Harris. “It was exhausting but we had played a lot of sophomores and had hung tough. You could see that this was going to be a legit defense.”
Princeton earned a title share that season with Dartmouth.
In the End, There Was Only One Way for Harvard to Contain Holuba. October 22, 2016 at Princeton Stadium.
With Harvard first-and-goal at the three in overtime of a battle of league unbeatens, Kurt Holuba stopped Joe Viviano at the one and then was pretty clearly held on the next play as the Harvard quarterback went wide for the touchdown, giving the Crimson a 23-20 victory.
Holuba had three sacks among 10 tackles that day. The Bushnell Cup finalist as a junior seemed destined to make games like this one routine. “He was going to play in the NFL,” said Surace. But his torn ACL in 2017 ended the Tigers’ title dreams from a 5-1 start and it ripped again before the 2018 season, when he mentored and cheered Princeton to a 10-0 season. But Holuba did play on a winner in 2016. After falling to the Crimson, the Tigers didn’t lose again on the way to a title share with Penn.
Rohan Was the Man. November 12, 2016 at the Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT.
In Princeton’s 31-3 decimation of the battered Bulldogs, Rohan Hylton had two-and-a-half tackles for a loss, including a sack-and-a-half among eight tackles. Five of them were solos and the All-Ivy middle linebacker was effective in coverage as always. “Explosive speed, both against the run and the pass,” recalls Surace.
The game was the culmination of a remarkable metamorphosis of a defense that had been torched in the first two games by Lehigh and Lafayette into one of the very best in school history. The Tigers wrapped up a title share with a win over Dartmouth the following week.
Doug Does It All. November 12 1966 at the Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT.
Doug James was All-Ivy in 1966, during a period when no second team was named and the Tigers won two championships thanks in large part to his all-around abilities. One of the top return specialists in program history, the safety was used offensively in select situations by Coach Colman, including on a sweep for the Tigers first touchdown in their 13-7 victory on that day in the fog and mist. But James also had a second-half interception before the Tigers won the game on Larry Stupski’s touchdown return of a Walt Kozumbo-blocked punt. And throughout the day James was a roaming bomb deterrent and tackling machine.
“I do recall that somebody, probably (assistant coach) Jake McCandless, told me the following week that I had been in on more total snaps in those games, especially Yale, than any player in the previous (one platoon) decade,” James recalls. “Probably true, in part because I remember I was down to 160 pounds.
“My uniform weighed more than I did at the end. I literally had trouble walking off the field when the game was over.”
Tommy John Leads the Way. November 3, 2018 at Princeton Stadium.
Linebacker Tom Johnson was the only Tiger with double digit tackles (10) in the epic Dartmouth win and that still didn’t tell the whole story. “Schematically they threw as many guys at us as they could have to try and pound the ball,” he recalls. “We knew if we stopped the run the game was ours.
“We worked so hard with Verbs and (linebacker coach) Steve Thomas that week to make sure the defense was on point and we had 11 guys every play building a wall. We had a different answer for everything they lined up in and it was on me and Mark (Fossati) inside to get those calls right and make sure everyone knew their responsibility every play. I remember Scoob (Thomas) at the board giving us last-minute adjustments and we all just ran with it.
“The fact we held them [without a rushing] first down in the last 35 minutes is a testament to how badly those 11 guys wanted it and loved working with each other. Our job was getting guys in the right spot and that day we did it better than I’ve ever seen.”
It Wasn’t Just Beginners Luck for Kazan. October 19 1991 at Palmer Stadium.
In his first start – for the injured Mark Johnson – sophomore defensive end Brian Kazan had three-and-a-half sacks as the Tigers overwhelmed Bucknell, 31-7, to go to 5-0. Two of the sacks–among his 9.5 tackles – came on the same series after a fumbled punt had set up the Bisons at the Princeton 39. Bucknell had five yards net in the first half and eight straight three-and-outs during the game.
Although a starter only for a little more than half of that year, Kazan was named second team All-Ivy and, after missing his entire junior year with a torn ACL, repeated the honor as a senior.
Kelleher Twice the Hero as the Tigers Hold off Harvard. October 21, 2006 at Princeton Stadium.
An interception by Luke Steckel had set up the Tigers’ only second half touchdown in the fourth quarter before the Crimson’s final two possessions ended the same: both in the hands of safety Kevin Kelleher.
When the first, at the Harvard 32, yielded nothing but a blocked field goal, the Crimson, trailing 31-28, had another chance until Kelleher picked off a pass tipped by Jake Marshall at the Princeton 47, enabling the Tigers to take a knee. Princeton won the battle of unbeatens on the way to a 9-1 season and an Ivy title.
Kozumbo Submarines Harvard. November 5, 1966 at Palmer Stadium.
The key to upsetting the Crimson and getting the Tigers back into the Ivy race after being routed at Dartmouth was stopping the outside running game generated by a two-headed monster of Bobby Leo and Vic Gatto, while still stuffing fullback Tom Choquette. Harvard, a two-touchdown favorite, powered on the ground to a 14-3 lead but the defense stiffened, a big factor being ends Walt Kozumbo and Larry Stupski holding the edges. Largely on the running of Doug Martin, the Tiger went ahead 18-14 with six minutes remaining.
The Crimson drove right back to be fourth-and-two at the 20.
“They hadn’t run at me all day, but I thought maybe this time they will, so I had to be moving forward,” recalls Kozumbo. Indeed Choquette ran off right tackle but Kozumbo shed a block and grabbed the fullback low, just before James arrived to keep the ball carrier from falling forward. A measurement found Harvard two inches short and the upset enabled Princeton to finish in a three-way tie for a title in what had been written off as a rebuilding year.
Leal’s Three Picks Stymie Yale. November 12, 1988 at the Yale Bowl, New Haven CT.
The Tigers had failed in 11 consecutive trips to Yale over 22 years, none being more painful than the most recent, when they had blown a 10-point lead in the final 2:23.
This time, Leal set up a go-ahead field goal just before the half with a pick and return of a tipped pass. “What I remember most was getting caught from behind and Jason and Judd (Garrett) giving me a hard time,” said Leal, probably the best cover corner in program history. The third interception and return enabled Judd’s putaway touchdown.
“This year the big slip ups have been by me,” said Leal afterwards. “This is how I should have been playing all year.” The Tigers, stung by a loss at Columbia that ended the Lions’ 44 game losing streak, rebounded to finish 6-4 on the way to breaking a 20-year title drought the following season.
Leech Sucks the Life Out of Macik. November 4, 1995 at Franklin Field.
In that epic team defensive performance that Archie finished, the Tigers dominance started with cornerback Damani Leech. “In the pre-internet days (Penn receiver) Miles Macik was almost mythical, based on how much Verbit talked about him starting from training camp,” recalls Leech. “Verbs wanted to make sure we really focused on stopping Macik if we were going to beat Penn in a key game.
“I remember the locker rooms were freezing when we arrived. There was no hot water working, bleeping all of us off before the game started, as if we needed any more motivation.
“Our defense that year was incredibly talented, front to back. While I took on the lion share of covering Macik, we also played a lot of cover 2 and rolled the coverage to his side, adding support from the safety and linebacker. The D-line kept tons of pressure on their QB (Mark DeRosa). The first half, I remember him yelling at his offensive line in the huddle for not giving him enough time. Right then I knew we had them,”
In addition to holding Macik to three catches for 35 yards. Leech had an interception in the 22-9 win on the way to an outright Ivy title.
Little That the Crimson Could Do to Stop Lerch. October 24, 1992 at Palmer Stadium.
With Kazan, the All-Ivy defensive end, lost for the season before the opener, the Tigers struggled to generate a pass rush until, noting the effectiveness of 5-6 whirlwind receiver Michael Lerch coming off the edge on punt and extra point blocks, Verbit proposed using him similarly on obvious passing downs.
The opposition was unable to crush the gnat it couldn’t catch. After debuting with a sack against Brown — and saying never again after trying inside just once and getting squashed – Lerch added two-and-half sacks in a 21-6 win over Harvard, part of a 9-sack effort by the Tigers on their way to a title share.
“Being an undersized player, I was never going to be a star running back,” he recalls. “Even as a receiver it was a challenge. So being involved in a lot of ways – making a tackle on a kickoff, blocking a field goal, returning a kick, and then making a sack – meant a lot to me. I would say the sacks were the most meaningful.”
Ludwig Debuts With a Splash. October 22, 1994 at Princeton Stadium.
Converted from wide receiver to safety due to injuries suffered by Archie, Tom McInerney and Hans Schroeder, the freshman Tom Ludwig’s end-zone interception off a first-and-goal at the three preserved a 7-7 tie and he recorded two more in the 18-7 win over Harvard.
Ludwig had seven picks that season despite playing only half the games. His 14 over four years is the sixth highest total in program history.
Staś Not Only Runs ‘em Down but Runs One In. October 17, 1964 at Palmer Stadium.
It is not merely the absence of tackling statistics back in the day or faded recall of details that make it difficult to quantify a particular performance of two-time All-America Staś Maliszewski. The relentlessness of his week-in, week out work makes any differentiation practically impossible.
Staś was credited with 19 tackles in the 17-12 win over Cornell that finished off Princeton’s 9-0 season in 1964. But he considers his personal greatest memory of that year to be the first of Princeton’s four straight shutouts. In that game, a 9-0 win over Colgate, Maliszewski picked a bobbled handoff out of the air to run in from the six-yard line for the Tigers only touchdown and then later in the contest ended a Red Raider threat with a fumble recovery at the Princeton 18.
Fifty-six years after he played his final game, the only other Princeton linebacker considered in Maliszewski’s class is Dave Patterson.
Mauney is Money. October 28, 1967 at Palmer Stadium.
In a 28-14 victory over Penn, sophomore Keith Mauney not only was all around the ball, but practically owned it.
Mauney set up the second Tiger score by recovering a Penn fumble on the Quaker eight early in the second period and then scored Princeton’s final touchdown with a 25-yard interception touchdown return. He also pounced on two fumbles, one of them at the Princeton 10-yard line with two minutes remaining and returned four punts for 70 yards.
“He has to be one of the best in the league,” Coach Dick Colman said after the game, Turns out he was understating. Mauney and Maliszewski were the only two Princeton players selected to the first team of the 25-year All Ivy team named in 1981.
McCareins Foils Gessner and Brown. October 19, 2002 at Princeton Stadium.
Jay McCareins, in a small handful of the best athletes ever to play football for Princeton, was a sophomore when he drew the confidence of Coach Roger Hughes and Verbit to cover All America receiver Chas Gessner. McCareins already had won a jump ball with Gessner for an interception when he came down with another with 1:18 remaining, enabling the Tigers to hang on for a 16-14 win. Had he lost, Brown would have been in field goal position.
“It was two-deep coverage, the safety covered the guy on the outside and [Gessner] went inside,” McCareins recalls. “The quarterback threw the ball up into the air and I was fortunate to come down with it.”
It was the second consecutive week that McCareins had stopped a final drive with a pick, that one against Colgate. “These were big turning points for me confidence wise,” he recalls. “They solidified my ability to be a playmaker and become a leader.
McCareins finished the Brown game with nine tackles while holding Gessner to just two receptions for 21 yards.
Methvin Was Only Getting Warmed Up. October 13, 2006 at Princeton Stadium.
After having made the two-point conversion tackle the previous week in overtime at Colgate that kept the Tigers unbeaten, Tom Methvin had the most disruptive game of his career a week later. In a 17-3 domination of a Brown team that had come to Princeton Stadium with a prodigious passing attack, the senior had six tackles, four for losses; and three pass breakups. He was named the Ivy Player of the Week.
Darrell Oliveira Keeps Up the Heat on Penn. November 4, 1995 at Franklin Filed, Philadelphia, Pa.
The 22-9 end of Penn’s two-year reign as Ivy champs was so dominated by the Tiger defense that it probably was the best game ever played by four different players on this list. Darrel Oliveira, one of premier edge rushers in program history, had three-and-a-half sacks of DeRosa, leading the pressure that forced the all-Ivy quarterback into his 13-for-32 day.
Patterson Didn’t Gently Pat Down Penn. November 4 1995 at Franklin Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
That game probably was linebacker Dave Patterson’s best, too, even if they were all so dominating that they unfortunately seem to run together to those who played with him. Considering the stakes – an Ivy title – and the buildup – Penn had dominated the previous two meetings on the way to championships – one has to consider Patterson’s career high 19 tackles that day, including two sacks of DeRosa, the greatest performance of his career. That’s assuming it was possible to do better than his 16 tackles and two forced fumbles against Colgate that same season.
Patterson is Princeton’s all time leading tackle with 352, an average of almost 12 per game. “He terrified the opposition on every play of every game,” said Verbit.
Petrucci Goes Down Hard at Yale. November 10, 1984 at the Yale Bowl, New Haven. CT.
In one of the most galling defeats in program history–and probably the final straw before the dismissal of Coach Frank Navarro – the Tigers were first-and-goal for the put away score but threw four passes and didn’t get in before Yale drove 98 yards in 1:31 for the win in the final seconds. But they were close enough in the end to be devastated largely because of defensive lineman Jim Petrucci.
Among his 12 tackles were three for a loss, including 2,5 sacks. He also intercepted a two-point conversion and ran in a blocked punt for a touchdown. “Touched the ball more that game than in the rest of my career,” recalls Petrucci.
Fortunately, he had another year remaining – and another coach in Rogerson – enabling Petrucci’s revenge. In 1985, he ended the last Yale threat with a sack as the Tigers recorded only their second victory over the Bulldogs in 19 years, 21-12.
Princeton is Back, Caraun Announces. October 13, 2012 at Princeton Stadium.
Coming off consecutive 1-9 seasons and then losing two more to start 2012, the Tigers had recorded consecutive wins over struggling Columbia and Lafayette when they went up against Brown, which had not lost to Princeton in the previous five meetings.
The Tigers held the Bears to less than a yard per rushing play, the highlight being Caraun Reid leading a mass charge to tackle running back Mark Kachmer as he tried to give the Bears breathing room on first down from their one. Reid got credit for a safety that extended Princeton’s lead to 12-0 on the way to a 19-0 shutout. The safety was one of four tackles for a loss recorded that day by Reid, including 2.5 sacks that helped the Tigers become a player in the Ivy race for the first time in the Surace era.
“I’m not surprised,” said Reid afterwards. “But I believe we sent a very physical message to the other teams in the league.
“We beat Columbia, great. But we beat Columbia last year. We have teams that we haven’t beaten in my four years here, so this is like a big checklist. Beat Brown, then beat Harvard.”
The Tigers did the following week, rallying from a 24-point fourth-quarter deficit on the way to ending their streak of losing seasons at five.
Renna Didn’t Go Quietly. November 29, 1993 at Memorial Field, Hanover, NH.
In the finale of the Keith Elias vs. Jay Fiedler trilogy – perhaps the most ongoing and compelling individual rivalry of stars in Tiger history – Dartmouth scored twice in the fourth quarter for a 28-22 win. But Jim Renna, one of he greatest interior presences ever on a Princeton defensive line, went out an underappreciated two-and-a-half sacks of the great and elusive Fielder. Six of Renna’s eight tackles were unassisted.
Cornell Feels the Wrath of Roth. November 24, 1964 at Palmer Stadium.
Coming off a rousing 35-14 rout in a first-place showdown at Yale, the Tigers were sweating bullets trying to close out a 9-0 season against a big, strong Cornell team. The Big Red had countered an early 14-0 lead with a touchdown but missed the extra point, necessitating trying for two when they scored with seven anxious minutes remaining. Don Roth knifed off the edge to slam down powerful Cornell running back Pete Larson to preserve a two-point lead and Princeton, getting a Charlie Gogolak field goal, and a final-drive interception by Lynn Sutcliffe, won, 17-12.
“[Roth] had size, speed, strength and a sense for the game,” recalls teammate Maliszewski. “He knew how to stop a ball carrier.”
Savidge Goes Out on His Shield. November 20, 1965 at Palmer Stadium.
Paul Savidge, a two-time first team All-Ivy defensive lineman, routinely drew double teams that freed Maliszewski to roam and punish. There were no tackling totals officially kept in the day to separate the routinely dominating from the spectacular, but the way Savidge’s career ended may tell us as much as anything.
The Tigers were one victory away from consecutive undefeated seasons and trailing Dartmouth 14-7 in the third quarter when Savidge fought off two blocks as he awkwardly hit the ball carrier.
“I was playing pretty well,” he recalls. “They ran the halfback from the offside, I broke down with a double team and all I remember was being on my hands and knees and seeing a white (jersey). I lunged forward and dropped him, but at a price. I was a hurting unit.”
Savidge, hoping it was just a burner, stayed in for two more plays, making a shoestring tackle on one of them. But unable to get down comfortably in a four-points stance he took himself out and x-rays showed his neck was broken and opportunity to play pro football crushed. He spent four months in traction, deciding from his ordeal to become a doctor.
While Savidge on his way to the hospital, two Dartmouth fourth-quarter touchdowns ended Princeton’s dream of back-to-back titles, 28-14.
Strickland Makes Yale Pay. November 11, 2006 at the Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT.
As the Tigers were roaring back from a 28-14 halftime deficit to beat Yale 34-31 and move into a first-place tie with the Bulldogs, their opponents’ only points in the third and fourth quarters were off an interception and a resultant short field. Strickland, a 40-game starter at Princeton, had seven tackles, three pass breakups and a shared sack in one of the great wins in program history. “Couldn’t believe they kept throwing at him,” recalls Verbit.
The Tigers wrapped up the Ivy title the following week against Dartmouth with Strickland having six more tackles, a forced fumble, and a breakup. He was named first team All-Ivy.
Wins No Longer Stalled, Thanks to Stull. October 18, 2003 at Brown Stadium, Providence R.I.
The Tigers came into the game 0-4 until the sophomore linebacker had 15 tackles, nine of them solo, keying a 34-14 rout of the Bears. It was prelude to a dominance that would make Stull Princeton’s first two-year captain in 103 seasons.
“Third-and-short, they ran to my right and I was able to knock the fullback back into the running back to stop the drive,” recalls Stull. “That one stands out.
“ I know I had games with more tackles but that one was my coming out. Even though we didn’t bounce back to have a winning season, it was an important step in the right direction.”
In the following three seasons, Princeton went 21-9.
He Would Waite For It to Hurt. November 2, 1985 at Harvard Stadium, Cambridge MA.
In Princeton’s 11-6 upset win at Harvard, won on kick return by Tom Urquhart and enabling the Tigers’ first Big Three title in 19 seasons, linebacker Eduardo Waite recorded three sacks while playing with a dislocated shoulder. Waite had left the program but, seeing the renewed energy emanating from Rogerson, had come back for his senior season.
Walker Puts Yale in the Brig. November 11 2006 at the Yale Bowl, New Haven CT.
As Princeton was rallying back from the two-touchdown deficit in the first-place showdown, linebacker Brig Walker had eight solo tackles, two for a loss. Yale had only three first downs in the second half, two of them by Princeton penalty.
“Brig was a special combination of speed and size on the outside,” recalls Verbit. Walker had 11 tackles for a loss in that championship season.
Weiss to the Rescue in the Snow. October 26, 2002 at Schoellkopf Field, Ithaca, NY.
The Tigers improbable rally from a two-touchdown deficit in bad weather was about to be for nothing, thanks to a fumble that set up Cornell in field goal position during the dying seconds of regulation. But defensive end Joe Weiss, a two-time first team All-Ivy selection, culminated his two-sack, 12-tackle day by deflecting a pass that McCareins picked off to save overtime.
Princeton won on Matt Verbit’s pass to Blair Morrison, 32-25. Weiss was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week.
Despite the Bending, Williams Won’t Let Princeton Break. November 5, 2016 at Princeton Stadium.
The yardage differential – 407 yards by the Tigers to 324 by Penn – didn’t reflect Princeton’s 28-0 dominance on the scoreboard in a week eight battle of eventual Ivy co-champions. That was because of repeated big third-down plays by the Tigers as the Quakers neared, or gained, the red zone. Two of the tackles, one on fourth down and one on third, were made by All-Ivy safety Dorian Williams while Princeton led only 6-0. For the day, he had eight tackles, five of them solo, and a pass breakup.
Mike Zeuli Works Three Overtimes to Thwart Harvard. October 26, 2013 at Harvard Stadium, Cambridge MA.
The junior safety turned linebacker, a Bushnell Cup co-honoree the following season, had 13 tackles that included two sacks in Princeton’s classic 51-48 triple overtime victory.
“Best interior blitzer I’ve coached,” says Surace. Included that day was a third-down sack in the third quarter, a second-down sack that put the Crimson into a third-and-21 that helped set up a John Hill interception, and a fourth-and-one tackle on a blitz that turned over the ball at midfield.
Zeuli’s final tackle of the day – to end a three-yard gain on first down in the third overtime, made Harvard’s approach cautious with two more runs. The field goal for which the Crimson subsequently settled enabled Princeton to win the game on a Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson touchdown pass.