October 17, 2018

Sparked by Reserve QB Davidson, Stingy Defense, No. 18 PU Football Drubs Brown, Improves to 5-0

ON THE MARK: Princeton University football player Mark Fossati heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior linebacker Fossati recorded a game-high 12 tackles to spearhead the defensive effort as Princeton defeated visiting Brown 48-10. Fossati was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his heroics. The Tigers, now 5-0 overall and 2-0 Ivy, play at Harvard (3-2 overall, 1-1 Ivy) on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton University football team, it was no John Lovett, no problem as it hosted Brown last Saturday.

With senior star quarterback Lovett sidelined by injury for the contest, junior backup Kevin Davidson got the start for the Tigers.

Davidson made the most of his opportunity, hitting on 26-of-39 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns to help Princeton roll to a 48-10 win over the Bears before an Alumni Weekend crowd of 7,320 at Princeton Stadium.

For Davidson, getting his first career start didn’t alter his game preparation.

“It was early in the week when I found out,” said Davidson a 6’4, 225-pound native of Danville, Calif., who had completed 6-of-7 passes for 80 yards this season coming into Saturday.

“Nothing changes; it comes from our coaches. [Sean] Gleeson (offensive coordinator) does a great job getting everybody ready to go and when your name is called, you have to step up.”

Davidson didn’t waste any time showing he was ready to go, lofting a 39-yard pass to Stephen Carlson on his first play of the game.

“It was huge, we knew the opening play and you have to execute,” said Davidson, who proceeded to lead the Tigers on a 7-play, 75-yard scoring march which culminated with a two-yard touchdown run by Ryan Quigley as Princeton jumped ahead 7-0, setting the tone as it led 28-0 by halftime.

“The receivers do a hell of a job just going up and getting the ball. The line won their one-on-one match ups and that was going to be a big thing coming in. It is credit to the whole team for staying after it.”

Star receiver Jesper Horsted, who made 13 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the win as Princeton improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, was not surprised by Davidson’s stellar performance.

“I see the stuff in practice that you saw tonight; he is putting the balls on target and he is extending plays with his legs,” said Horsted. “If Kevin goes out, we have guys after that too. All of the quarterbacks are looking awesome. I have confidence in all of them.”

The Tiger defense looked formidable as well, limiting the Bears to 76 yards rushing.

“We came out real strong; we had guys flying around the ball all day,” said senior linebacker Mark Fossati, who recorded a game-high 12 tackles to spearhead the defensive effort and was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his heroics. “We did a great job of eliminating what they wanted to do. We played our defense.”

With Princeton’s high-powered offense averaging 52 points a game, the defense has been inspired to match that excellence.

“It is definitely a competition; I think they would say the same thing,” said Fossati, who has helped the Tiger defense hold its foes to 8.6 points a game.

“It is a back-and-forth between us. We are pushing each other. We love seeing those guys go out there and put points on the board early for us. It gives us a little juice; now we have got to get a stop and give it right back to them.”

Fossati, who has returned to the field this fall after suffering season-ending leg injury against Columbia early last season, is savoring being back with the Tigers. 

“It has been real great,” said Fossati, a 5’10, 230-pound native of Upper Saddle River, N.J. who is one of the team’s four captains this season. “I love football, and to get another chance to play with these guys and this coaching staff is a real honor.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace credited his guys with not being derailed by Lovett’s absence.

“John was out and we knew about that possibility early in the week,” said Surace.

“I am just proud of our guys, nobody said a word. There is confidence in everybody that we have got and you saw it in how they played. It was not a perfect game by any means, they typically aren’t but our guys are fighting. I just love our energy and effort.”

Surace loved the way Davidson stepped up. “In those first group of games, we had gotten out to some big leads and he got to play in those situations where he could be nice and loose, and then your confidence builds,” said Surace.

“He had a great week of practice. He has a strong arm and we were going to take more shots downfield.”

The Princeton defense showed its confidence, thwarting a tricky Brown scheme.

“That offense is really hard to defend, you saw all of the different flea flickers and the roll out one away and screen pass the other way,” said Surace.

“It tests your responsibilities every play. Other than a few times late, I thought we handled the responsibilities really well.”

Fossati’s play and mentality has helped spark that unit. “Mark is so much fun to coach, he loves playing football,” said Surace.

“He comes out and has this smile everyday, like this is better than anything I am going to do in the next 20 years. I get a fifth year, I get a chance to play football again. I got it it taken away, which always makes someone hunger for more. I am really happy for him.”

While Surace is happy with his team’s sizzling start as it is now at No. 18 in the FCS Coaches Poll, he knows that archrival Harvard (3-2 overall, 1-1 Ivy) will be hungry for an upset when the teams meet this Saturday in Cambridge, Mass.

“The majority of the games have been classic; the ones they put on ESPN+ Classic that you want to see again,” said Surace.

“You are looking forward to challenging yourself against a really good team. These guys work really hard, and we only get 10 opportunities. At the end of the day, competitors want to raise their level and challenge themselves against good competition. We know we are going to have to raise our level to play a good game against them.”