Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 41
 
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
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BOMBS AWAY: Princeton University senior quarterback Brian Anderson unloads the 52-yard touchdown pass to Trey Peacock in the fourth quarter last Saturday that proved to be the margin of victory in Princeton’s 27-24 win at Columbia in the Ivy League opener for both teams. Anderson hit on 14-of-19 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns in the victory and was named as the Ivy League Co-Offensive Player of the Week along with Cornell receiver Jesse Baker.

With QB Anderson Evoking Echoes of 2006, PU Football Tops Columbia in Ivy Opener

Bill Alden

In 2006, a cool-headed 6’2 left-handed senior quarterback with Midwestern roots traveled to upper Manhattan and led the Princeton University football team to a win over Columbia in the Ivy League opener.

That quarterback, Jeff Terrell, went on to lead Princeton to a 9-1 record and an Ivy championship, winning the Asa Bushnell Cup as the league’s Player of the Year.

Last Saturday, another smooth 6’2 lefty senior quarterback from the midwest led Princeton up to Columbia as the teams clashed in their Ivy opener.

This year’s quarterback, Brian Anderson, did a pretty good imitation of Ohio native Terrell, leading Princeton to a thrilling 27-24 win which saw the Tigers come back from two deficits to pull out the victory before 8,733 at Kraft Field in Wien Stadium.

Looking very much like a Bushnell Cup candidate, Anderson, a native of Jacksonville, Ill., hit on 14-of-19 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns, including a 52-yard scoring strike to Trey Peacock in the fourth quarter that proved to be the margin of victory as Princeton improved to 2-1.

The unassuming Anderson was thrilled with the victory and the manner in which the Tigers prevailed.

“It shows that we are able to win ugly, we would have liked to blow them out,” said Anderson, noting that Princeton pulled a 10-7 nailbiter over Lehigh a week earlier.

“It’s a testament to Columbia that they were fighting the whole game; we had them down 11 points at one point and they just kept fighting. It’s amazing that we are able to win these games. We will take three-point wins every time.”

Anderson, for his part, is not ready to put this fall’s Tigers in the same class as the legendary 2006 team.

“We have only won two games, we have a long way to go,” said Anderson, who was named as the Ivy League Co-Offensive Player of the Week along with Cornell receiver Jesse Baker.

“We have got guys going in the right direction but we are not there yet. Hopefully we do get there; that was an amazing team and a wonderful year.”

Princeton head coach Roger Hughes, though, is starting to get a sense of déjà vu.

“This team reminds me a lot of that team of 2006,” said Hughes. “The team is very close, their work ethic is remarkable. Their attention to detail and commitment is exemplary. I have said even after spring practice that there is something about the chemistry of this team I really like. I am not ready to make them 9-1 yet; we have seven rounds left in the 10-round prize fight but clearly the leadership of our senior class and our captains is similar to that team.”

Hughes especially likes the leadership he is getting from one of those leaders, tri-captain Anderson.

“I am very pleased with how Brian has progressed; not only from last year’s Dartmouth game but just through this season,” asserted Hughes.

“He is getting better and better. The most important thing that Brian does is that everyone on that team wants to play hard for him. He had a play last week where they blocked a field goal and he ran the guy down 71 yards to make the play. The effort on that play simply typifies why our guys love playing for him. I think he elevates the level of their play.”

Princeton needed to perform at a high level in order to escape Manhattan with a victory. Inspired by a homecoming crowd, the Lions roared out of the gate with a 67-yard scoring march that ended with a 15-yard touchdown run by quarterback Shane Kelly to give Columbia a 7-0 lead.

The Tigers answered back as running backs Matt Zimmerman and Jordan Culbreath ripped off several long runs. Princeton knotted the game at 7-7 after a five-yard TD pass from Anderson to Culbreath.

After forcing a Columbia punt, Princeton went to the air to keep rolling. Anderson hit senior receiver Will Thanheiser with a 69-yard bomb down the sidelines to give the Tigers a first and goal. Two plays later, Culbreath found paydirt with a three-yard run as Princeton went ahead 14-7 in the waning seconds of the first quarter.

The team traded punts for most of the second quarter until Columbia went on the march just before the half. Driving 91 yards from its own one-yard line, the Lions added a Jon Rocholl field goal to narrow the gap to 14-10 at the half.

After intermission, Anderson was at it again, guiding the Tigers down the field. Connecting on a 34-yard pass to sophomore Peacock, Anderson got the Tigers deep in Columbia territory. The left QB culminated the drive with a 17-yard TD pass to Thanheiser as Princeton extended its lead to 21-10.

But Columbia was not about to be run out of its building on homecoming. Answering back with a scoring march, Columbia drove 71 yards in seven plays and closed the gap to 21-17 on a three-yard scoring run by Ray Rangel.

Early in the fourth quarter, Columbia forged ahead. Starting at its own 49, the Lions used the passing and running of QB Kelly plus an ill-timed personal foul on Princeton to get to inside the Tiger 10. Jordan Davis bulled in from the one as Columbia grabbed a 24-21 lead.

The lead, though, was short-lived. Anderson completed an 18-yard pass to Thanheiser to get near midfield. Two plays later, Anderson found Peacock with the 52-yard scoring bomb that put Princeton ahead to stay.

Late in the game, however, Columbia made one last challenge as it marched to the Princeton 39. The Tiger defense ended the threat and clinched victory as linebacker Scott Britton forced a fumble that was recovered by Cart Kelly.

A relieved Hughes acknowledged that he was relieved to escape N.Y.C. with a victory.

“I am very proud of our team and the way we came back a number of times,” said Hughes.

“Winning up here in New York City with the great job that [Columbia coach] Norries Wilson is doing up here is very difficult. All of our games over the last couple of years have been very close. I have seen great improvement in their team and how hard they play. Luckily for us, we were able to make the plays at the end of the game to win it.”

As Princeton took the field for its winning march, Hughes didn’t mince words in exhorting his charges to make plays.

“You can’t print what I said but basically it was just how bad do you want it; if you want to have a chance you have to come out and make plays to win the game,” recalled Hughes with his voice rising.

“We had called the same play on the earlier series and for whatever reason, our signals got crossed up and we got a different play called. Trey ran a great route and he made a great catch. I think hopefully the way we won last week, similar to the way we won this week coming from behind, is going to improve the character of this team and our ability to come back in these situations.”

Peacock, who had drawn the ire of Hughes for botching the route in practice on Friday, showed character in coming through on game day.

“We ran that exact play in practice and I corrected my mistake this time,” said Peacock. “So it turned out pretty well.”

Things are turning out pretty well for Anderson, who rode the bench for most of his first three years with Princeton.

“Playing behind Jeff and then behind Bill [Foran] and Greg [Mroz] last year, I was able to sit there and see some of the things they made mistakes on and also the things they did well,” said Anderson, who has hit on 54-of-89 passes for 687 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

“I tried to emulate the things they did well and learn from the things they didn’t do so well.”

Based on Anderson’s play so far this year, he is doing a pretty good job of applying those lessons.

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