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Vol. LXII, No. 42
 
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
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JORDAN RULES: Princeton University junior running back Jordan Culbreath looks for yardage in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Culbreath rushed for a career-high 153 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 27-24 at Colgate.

PU Football Battles Hard at Colgate But Falls 27-24 on Last-Second FG

Bill Alden

Echoing the words of NFL Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, Roger Hughes relished the fact that his Princeton University football team was locked in a battle with Colgate last Saturday as the game went to halftime.

With Princeton leading the Raiders 16-14 at the break, Hughes conveyed a simple message to his players in the locker room.

“I told the guys we were in a heckuva football game,” said Hughes. “There is nowhere you would rather be; this is what we do.”

By the end of the contest, however, the Princeton dressing room was not a great place to be as the Tigers dealt with the disappointment of a 27-24 loss to the Raiders which saw Colgate score the winning points on a last-second field goal.

The Tigers battled valiantly, coming back from a 24-16 fourth quarter deficit to knot the game at 24-24 with 9:23 remaining in regulation.

But when it counted the most, Colgate was able to move the ball and get in position for the game-winning kick as the Tigers dropped to 2-2 on the season.

Hughes acknowledged that his team couldn’t stymie the 4-2 Raiders. “They were able to put together long drives,” said Hughes, whose team was outgained 401 yards to 351 on a day in which Colgate held a 34:59-25:01 edge in time of possession.

“We only got the ball three times in the second half. I wouldn’t say that they seized momentum but they did a good job of getting into manageable third down situations. Our defense needed to make the big play but we just couldn’t do it.”

The loss was particularly disappointing since the Tigers squandered a superb performance by junior running back Jordan Culbreath, who made plays all day in gaining a career-high 153 yards rushing.

Coming into the game, Colgate senior star Jordan Scott was the running back getting all the attention as he led the nation with an average of 203 yards a game.

But the 5’11, 195-pound Culbreath made a statement as he outdid Scott, who ended up with 116 yards rushing on the day.

“Jordan played well; he broke tackles and he looked fast running through their defense,” said Hughes.

“While anything that Jordan does is for the team first but if you are a running back on the field with another running back, you want to show what you can do. One of the best things about the game was how well our offensive line did; they kept getting better as the game went on.”

Princeton pushed the Raiders around for much of the first half. Taking the opening kickoff, the Tigers marched 52 yards to the Colgate 23-yard-line, culminating the drive with a 40-yard field goal by Conner Louden to take a 3-0 lead.

Colgate responded to the Princeton field goal with a 66-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass from Greg Sullivan to Adrien Schriefer as the Raiders went ahead 7-3.

With Culbreath leading the way, Princeton regained the lead. Culbreath made a 20-yard reception and a nine-yard run on consecutive plays to help Princeton get deep in Colgate territory. The Fall Church, Va. native finished the drive with a 15-yard touchdown gallop. Princeton missed the extra point as kicker Connor Louden was hampered by a groin injury so the Tiger lead stood at 9-7.

Early in the second quarter, QB Sullivan hit several key passes to Pat Simonds as the Raiders went on the march again. The Raiders retook the lead as Scott bulled in for a touchdown from the two.

The Tigers’ next possession ended on an interception of a Brian Anderson pass. The Princeton defense made a stand, keeping Colgate from adding points as a Jacob Stein field goal attempt was wide left.

In Princeton’s next possession, QB Anderson atoned for his interception, passing and running the Tigers down the field. Anderson ended the march by racing 24 yards for a touchdown as Princeton took a 16-14 lead into the dressing room.

“We felt pretty good,” said Hughes, reflecting on his team’s performance in the first half. “Offensively, we executed fairly well. We scored three of the four times we got the ball.”

Things didn’t feel good for Princeton in the third quarter as the Raiders took the second half kickoff and proceeded to march down the field. Mixing the passing of Sullivan and the running of Scott, Colgate put together a 13-play, 85-yard drive.

Scott scored a one-yard touchdown as the Raiders took a 21-16 lead,

In the early stages of the fourth quarter, Colgate build its advantage to 24-16 as Stein made a 24-yard field goal.

Showing the character that has marked Princeton in the early going this season, the Tigers didn’t fold. With Anderson hitting Will Thanheiser for a 42-yard pass completion and Culbreath rushing for a 16 yards, Princeton got inside the Colgate 10. Anderson then hit tight end Bill Mitchell for a touchdown. The Tigers went for the two-point conversion and a 24-24 tie and succeeded as Anderson found Thanheiser in the end zone.

Hughes was impressed by how his team battled back. “It was a great drive,” said Hughes. “We had gotten down and we knew to get down there or they were going to totally seize momentum. Anderson made some big plays.”

But Princeton couldn’t come up with the big plays on defense in the waning moments of the contest. Colgate took over at its 20 with 1:10 remaining. Not playing for overtime, the Raiders went to the air. Sullivan hit two big passes to get the Raiders inside Princeton territory. The sophomore QB then made a 16-yard run and hit another pass to Simonds as Colgate got into field goal position. Stein came on with two seconds left and coolly booted a 33-yarder to give the Raiders the win.

In the end, Hughes tipped his hat to Colgate, a perennial Patriot League power.

“They are a big, physical team; they executed well,” said Hughes. “They had a good passing game, Simonds is a good receiver. We got good coverage on him but he was able to get balls even when they were underthrown.”

While disappointed by the loss, Hughes did see some positives coming out of the game.

“We spun a lot of young players through our defensive line to keep people fresh and they did a good job,” said Hughes.

“There weren’t as many missed tackles as last week. Our special teams were better, we had good returns. We pinned them deep on some kick offs, we had good field position.”

In Hughes’ view, competing against a team like Colgate should help Princeton as it heads into the meat of its Ivy League schedule, starting with a home game this Saturday against Brown (2-2 overall 1-0 Ivy).

“We lost to a pretty good team; I can’t see how that won’t help us,” asserted Hughes. “It makes you better to play against good competition. I thought we were more physical and we executed better.”

With Brown boasting a high-powered offense, Princeton will have to execute well, particularly on defense.

“They are scoring a lot of points,” said Hughes of Brown which is averaging 22.0 points a game with 300 yards passing a contest. “They always pass a lot. It’s a league game and the stakes are higher.”

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