Opportunistic Princeton Tops Yale, 29-7

Collin Bibb - Interception. (photo by Jack Warhola)

Pair of Interceptions for Bibb

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Princeton football team was admittedly caught by surprise when the Yale offense, already without its top three quarterbacks, came out without sophomore starting tailback Tyler Varga and managed to put together an early touchdown drive Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. But the Tigers adjusted, holding the Bulldogs scoreless for the final three quarters as two Yale drives ended with fumbles deep in Princeton territory. And aided by a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Trocon Davis that broke a 7-7 tie late in the second quarter, Princeton was able to score the final 29 points of the game to come away with a 29-7 win.

With three quarterbacks injured since the Penn game three weeks earlier, Yale had been deploying Varga in that spot and using the Wildcat formation. But with Varga injured for this game, the Bulldogs turned to junior wide receiver Henry Furman, who had converted from quarterback prior to the start of the season.

Seeing his most extensive action of the year, Furman threw for 184 yards while completing 18 of 28 passes. That included a touchdown on Yale's second drive, and the Elis got nearly half of their total offense for the day (135 of 348 yards) on their first three drives. Yale also ran the ball effectively even without Varga, as senior tailback Mordecai Cargill totaled 101 yards on 24 carries and sophomore tailback Kahlil Keys added 35 yards on 13 carries.

"Kahlil Keys and Mo Cargill stepped up and did a nice job," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "When one guy goes down, we expect the next guy to step up. You look at Hank [Furman] today, we asked a lot out of him from day one."

The Tigers' defense had held two other Ivy opponents to six or fewer points, but the Bulldogs surpassed that mark even with multiple starters missing.

"We did not know that their running back wasn't going to play," said Princeton head coach Bob Surace. "We prepared all week for the Wildcat. They came out, to their credit, and jumped us really good. We kept fighting and fighting and fighting."  

Yale (2-7, 1-5 Ivy League) nearly had a touchdown on the seventh play of its second drive, but junior tight end Michael Leunen was ruled out of bounds after a diving catch on a pass from a scrambling Furman. But two plays later, Furman rifled one to sophomore wide receiver Grant Wallace on a slant into the end zone to put Yale up 7-0 at 6:27 of the first.

The Yale defense, meanwhile, was stout early on against a Princeton team that had racked up 33 or more points four times in the previous six games. Princeton did not get its first first down until its final drive of the first quarter, and that drive eventually got to the Yale nine. But a touchdown to wide receiver Roman Wilson was wiped out by an offensive pass interference call. An interception by senior defensive back Collin Bibb in the end zone ended that drive, giving Yale the ball at its own 20.

Aided by a personal foul call on Yale and a fourth-and-four conversion from the Yale 27, Princeton drove 77 yards for the game-tying touchdown at 6:48 of the second. Wilson scored on a one-yard run after Yale had denied two straight runs inside the five.

Yale's next drive featured an 18-yard run by Furman, but ended with a fumble at the Princeton 30. Bibb then got the ball back for Yale three plays later, stepping in front of a pass for his second interception of the day to give the Elis the ball at the Princeton 39.

Mistakes continued to cost the Elis on the ensuing drive. A touchdown run by Wallace on a reverse was negated by a holding call. Another gadget play then turned into further trouble for the Bulldogs when Cargill took a pitch and tried a pass across the field to Furman that was intercepted by Princeton defensive back Trocon Davis in the end zone and returned all the way for a touchdown that put Princeton up 14-7 with 55 seconds left in the first half.

Princeton (5-4, 4-2 Ivy) extended its lead on the opening possession of the third quarter, driving 65 yards for a touchdown on a one-yard quarterback keep by Quinn Epperley. After a high snap on the point after touchdown, kicker Nolan Bieck ran the ball in to make the score 22-7.

Another Yale drive ended with a fumble into the Princeton end zone which the Tigers recovered with 5:23 left in the third. A sack by sophomore linebacker EJ Conway helped end the Tigers' next drive after just four plays.

Back-to-back tackles by senior safety Ryan Falbo in Yale territory forced another Princeton punt early in the fourth, putting the Yale offense at the Eli 20. But the Bulldogs gained just 15 yards and had to punt, setting Princeton up at its own 31 with 11:15 to play. The Tigers then killed off 6:57 while driving for a leaping nine-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Matt Costello with 4:23 to play that effectively ended a chance of a comeback for the Bulldogs.

A potential touchdown pass sailed just past Wallace's outstretched arms in the end zone with 3:47 to play, and after a Yale incompletion on fourth-and-10 Princeton took over and ran the clock out. With the win, the Tigers remain in contention for the Ivy League title. Penn wrapped up at least a share of the crown with a 30-21 win over Harvard; if the Quakers lose next Saturday at Cornell Harvard and/or Princeton (both 4-2 in the league) could share the title.

Yale visits Harvard for The Game next Saturday at Noon.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity

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