November 8, 2006: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
Green, key, bell ... ”
At halftime of Princeton’s Oct. 21 home game against Harvard, a trainer read a list of five monosyllabic words to Jeff Terrell ’07, and the Tigers’ quarterback recited them without hesitation, passing the last in a battery of tests to determine if he had recovered from the jarring hit that knocked him out of the game late in the first half.
Terrell returned at the beginning of the third quarter, and by the time he found Brendan Circle ’08 with a 20-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth, his foggy moments were long forgotten as Princeton earned its biggest win in recent memory, a 31–28 victory over the previously undefeated Crimson.
The matchup of unbeaten Princeton and Harvard teams was a rare one: Both longtime rivals had not been undefeated this late in the same season since 1922. That year, Princeton’s famed “team of destiny” beat Harvard 10–3 en route to an undefeated record. This year, destiny may be too strong a word, but the Tigers’ win included its share of good fortune.
With less than eight minutes remaining, Princeton trailed 28–24, and Harvard’s offense was driving in Princeton territory when the Crimson tried a trick play, a reverse throwback. Running back Clifton Dawson handed off to wide receiver Chris Sanders, and Sanders rolled right before launching a pass downfield toward Dawson. But Princeton linebacker Luke Steckel ’07 streaked in front of Dawson for an interception.
Head coach Roger Hughes said that the Tigers’ offense was prepared for the situation. “We kept telling the offense in the huddle, ‘This is where we want to be — we only need one possession to win the game,’” Hughes said.
Starting from the Princeton 39-yard line, the Tigers lost yards on their first two plays, but Terrell connected with Brian Brigham ’07 on a 19-yard third-down catch to keep the drive going. Three plays later, when an incompletion seemed to force the Tigers into a fourth-down play, Harvard defensive back Daniel Tanner was penalized for taunting after pounding his fist on his chest. Princeton advanced to Harvard’s 24-yard line.
Terrell ran a quarterback draw on first down and the ball squirted from his grasp, but running back Rob Toresco ’08 dove to recover the fumble. On second down, Terrell threw a line drive to Circle at the four-yard line. Circle caught the pass, twisted to his left, and slipped into the end zone with 4:37 on the clock.
Circle, who caught six passes for 114 yards, credited Terrell with strong decision making. “He takes what the defense gives him, and we roll with that,” Circle said.
After Circle’s touchdown, Harvard had two more possessions, but the Princeton defense stopped both Crimson drives with interceptions by safety Kevin Kelleher ’08.
At the postgame press conference, Harvard head coach Tim Murphy questioned the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Tanner but credited the Tigers with taking advantage of its opportunities. “The bottom line is they made more plays than we did, and we made too many mistakes,” he said.
Princeton’s defense played one of its best games of the year, holding Dawson in check with 64 rushing yards on 21 carries. In three previous games against the Tigers, Dawson had averaged nearly 200 yards per game.
Harvard scored early in the first quarter on a 20-yard Dawson pass reception, one play after the Crimson blocked a Princeton punt. The Tigers responded quickly, scoring 17 points on their next three possessions. Terrell ran for a touchdown, threw for a second, and completed nine of 10 passes in one stretch before being shaken up by a strike to the helmet on a running play. Backup quarterback Bill Foran ’08 played well in relief, leading the Tigers to a touchdown with two key runs. Princeton led 24–14 at halftime.
The third quarter belonged to Harvard, following a trend from its first five games, when the Crimson had outscored opponents 51–7 in the third quarter. Quarterback Liam O’Hagan led two touchdown drives as Harvard jumped ahead, 28-24. But the Tigers reversed the lead in the fourth quarter.
The Harvard game was Princeton’s second close contest in three weeks. The Tigers won in overtime at Colgate Oct. 7, stuffing a two-point conversion attempt by the Raiders to preserve a one-point lead. Princeton also beat Brown 17–3 on Oct. 13 behind a strong defensive effort and a 14-point burst in the third quarter. Princeton’s 6–0 start was its best since 1995, the Tigers’ last Ivy League championship season.
Whether or not this year’s football game against Yale helps determine the Ivy League title, fans of a certain age will fondly recall another Yale game, played 25 years ago this month. On Nov. 11, 1981, the Tigers upset the Bulldogs, 35–31, snapping a 14-year losing streak against their longtime rivals, in what the Princeton Athletic News later called Princeton’s game of the century.
Princeton was a 15-point underdog as it brought a 3–4–1 record into the game, including ugly losses to Delaware (61–8), Army (34–0), and Maine (55–44). Yale, on the other hand, led by star running back Rich Diana, was undefeated, and its upset victory over Navy on network television had raised speculation that the Elis might crack the national rankings.
Princeton was led by senior quarterback Bob Holly ’82 and a pair of gifted young receivers, Kevin Guthrie ’84 and Derek Graham ’85. It needed them. After losing running back Larry Van Pelt ’82 to injury earlier in the season, the Tigers all but abandoned their running game and took to the air. In the two games before Yale’s visit, Holly had thrown for almost 900 yards.
When Yale jumped to a 21–0 second-quarter lead on a chilly, gray afternoon, Princeton was forced to throw on almost every down. But the Tigers began to chip away at Yale’s lead, trailing only 21–15 at halftime and taking a slim lead early in the second half. Down 31–29 with just over a minute and a half to play, Holly led Princeton on a 76-yard drive, passing 18 times in 20 plays, including a fourth-and-10 completion to tight end Scott Oostdyk ’82, his old high school teammate. An end-zone pass to Graham, who set a Princeton single-game record with 278 receiving yards, was incomplete, but Yale was called for interference, giving Princeton a first down at the one-yard line with nine seconds left.
Holly looked to the sideline for the coaches to call a play, but when no signal came, he decided to call his own, a rollout to the left. It was a risky call, as Princeton was out of time-outs; if Holly had been tackled short of the goal line, time would have expired. But the senior quarterback saw a crack in the Yale line and dove for the winning touchdown. “Looking at the play on film,” he recalled a quarter-century later, “it looks a lot closer than it seemed at the time.”
Rich Gorelick ’82, who was calling the radio play-by-play for WPRB, remembers the Princeton coaches, perched in an adjoining booth of the flimsy Palmer Stadium press box, pounding the thin wooden walls until it seemed that they would fall apart. Paraphrasing announcer Russ Hodges’ famous call of Bobby Thomson’s 1951 pennant-winning home run for the New York Giants, Gorelick barked over and over again to his delirious listeners, “Princeton has beaten Yale!” Fans who poured onto the field turned the goalposts to scrap.
In all, Holly completed 36 of 55 passes for 501 yards, a Princeton record that still stands. The following week, Sports Illustrated named him its offensive player of the week. Yale’s Diana also set a school record with 222 rushing yards in the defeat.
Not only did the play make Princeton’s season, it made Holly’s career. The Washington Redskins were to play at the Meadowlands the following day and Redskins scout Charlie Casserly, who would soon become the team’s assistant general manager, read about Holly’s exploits in The New York Times. The Redskins drafted Holly that spring, and he was on the sideline as a backup when Washington defeated the Miami Dolphins in the 1983 Super Bowl. Standing on Miami’s sideline, ironically — defeated again — was Rich Diana. π By M.F.B.
Kristin Schwab ’09, pictured, scored the first of Princeton’s four second-half goals as FIELD HOCKEY overpowered second-place Brown 6–1 Oct. 14. Paige Schmidt ’08 scored two goals and assisted on two others. With the win, the Tigers moved within one victory of clinching at least a share of the Ivy League championship.
Parker Henritze ’09 led WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL with 47 kills as Princeton beat defending Ivy champion Cornell Oct. 13 and Columbia Oct. 14 and improved to 4–1 in league play.
WOMEN’S TENNIS player Melissa Saiontz ’10 beat South Carolina’s Ana Marija Zubori 6–4, 6–3 on Oct. 9 to win the top flight at the USTA Women’s Collegiate Invitational in Queens, N.Y. Saiontz was the first Princeton player to win an A-flight singles title since 1999.
WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY placed three runners in the top 50 and finished ninth out of 36 teams in its race at the Pre-Nationals Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., Oct. 13. MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY finished 13th in a 36-team field in its Pre-Nationals race.