September 25, 2019

Stallworth, Davidson Produce Superb Performances As Princeton Football Drubs Butler 49-7 in Opener

SHOWING HIS WORTH: Princeton University defensive back Delan Stallworth corrals a Butler player last Saturday in the season opener for the Tigers. Junior Stallworth made a team-high eight tackles and had an interception to spearhead a stifling defensive effort as Princeton rolled to a 49-7 win over the Bulldogs. The Tigers, who have posted 11 straight victories, will look to keep on the winning track as they play at Bucknell (0-3) on September 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Last fall as the Princeton University football team rolled to a 10-0 record, the defense flew under the radar, overshadowed by an offensive unit that averaged an Ivy League-record 47 points a game.

Boasting eight returning starters, the Tiger defense was primed to come out flying as Princeton opened its 2019 campaign by hosting Butler University last Saturday evening.

“This camp, we emphasized running to the ball,” said junior defensive back Delan Stallworth. “When we came out here tonight, everybody was excited to play for the first game.”

The Tigers proceeded to run Butler out of the building, cruising to a 49-7 win before a crowd of 10,625 at Powers Field.

Stallworth picked up where he left off after a 2018 campaign that saw him earn second-team All-Ivy League honors.

“I felt good after the first hit, it was right back to football, playing and having fun,” said Stallworth, a 5’10, 180-pound native of Cincinnati, Ohio who led the Tigers with eight tackles on the game, including two for a loss.

In addition to his hard hitting, Stallworth also snared his first career interception, coming up with the turnover in the waning moments of the second quarter.

“They ran basically the same play the possession before that so I was kind of looking for it and got the same thing,” recalled Stallworth, who returned the ball 19 yards to the Butler 24-yard line, setting up the final touchdown of the half as Princeton built a 42-0 lead by intermission.

“He threw it a little bit outside and I was right there to make the pick. I am thinking end zone every time, maybe a little too much.”

The Princeton defensive backfield appeared to be in midseason form, holding the Bulldogs to 91 yards passing in the first half.

“Everybody in the secondary has experience even though we are pretty young, we only have one senior,” said Stallworth

“We go out there, expecting to make plays. We have confidence, that is probably the most important part of being a defensive back. We have that and it shows out on the field.”

Stallworth and his defensive mates also have plenty of confidence in their offensive counterparts.

“I always have faith in our offense,” said Stallworth. “We run a great scheme, we have great players over there. We always look for our offense to put up points.”

With two great quarterbacks, Chad Kanoff and John Lovett, having graduated in the last two years, senior Kevin Davidson was primed to follow in their footsteps as he got the start at QB on Saturday.

“John and Chad were just tremendous mentors throughout,” said Davidson.

“They both called me yesterday and said it is your time, play like we know you prepared to play,”

Davidson played extremely well, completing 18-of-21 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns.

“It just comes back to preparation with the receivers and the offensive line,” said Davidson, a 6’4, 225-pound native of Danville, Calif.

“We were all working so hard this summer and it showed on the field. We are excited to improve, nothing is 100 percent. It is back to the drawing board and we will be ready to go next week.”

Davidson’s connection with the new-look receiving corps, which featured junior Jacob Birmelin (3 catches for 87 yards), sophomore Andrei Iosivas (3 catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns), sophomore Carson Bobo (3 catches for 54 yards), senior Andrew Griffin (2 catches for 51 yards) and sophomore Dylan Classi (1 catch for 44 yards), was forged last year.

“We kind of had this in mind,” said Davidson, noting that he took a lot of reps with the group during the 2018 season.

“This was going to be the receiving corps coming in and that helped us to prepare all offseason.”

That extensive preparation helped Davidson take an even-keeled approach to the opener.

“I was relaxed all day today and throughout the game,” said Davidson who started the Brown game last fall when Lovett was sidelined due to a wrist injury and completed 26-of-39 passes for 299 yards and four touchdowns.

“It is just being clam throughout, that is what I did in high school. Now that I am playing more, it is the same mindset throughout, win or loss.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace was excited by his team’s fast start. “I thought we came out of the gate really energetic and poised, our execution was really good,” said Surace, whose squad outgained the Bulldogs 440 yards to 119 in the first half on the way to its 11th straight victory.

“We have the bad play in the red zone (a misfired snap on a fourth down and one at the Butler 9 on Princeton’s first possession), we had a little adversity and our guys executed well from that point on for the next six or seven series. It was fun to see. I thought our defense ran to the ball great. Our offensive execution throwing the ball was good; there were some tight throws and we really made those and we caught the ball really well.”

Surace was not surprised to see Davidson have a great night. “The biggest thing is that he has practiced so well in the spring and in camp,” said Surace of Davidson.

“I think he feels really comfortable. There was very good protection and there were very good routes. We made some good catches but he threaded some throws and they were big time throws.”

The Tigers got some big time play on the other side of the ball from Stallworth.

“He had a couple of tackles for a loss, his energy was outstanding,” said Surace.

“It is his first interception, he will be so happy about that because I have been on him. He just hasn’t had the ball thrown at him a lot, that was a really good play.”

Seeing a number of new faces excel, particularly on offense, was a good sign for the Tigers.

“I do think they are good players, they have really done a good job when their opportunities have come,” added Surace. “They were ready for tonight.”

While Princeton did a very good job against Butler, the Tigers have some fine-tuning to do as they get ready to play at Bucknell (0-3) on September 28.

“You get better from game one to game two, that is a huge jump; I don’t mean to be a broken record, but I do believe that,” said Surace.

“I thought in the first half, we executed almost perfectly. I don’t know how many plays we ran but if it was 45 plays, we executed 40 of them. I don’t even know if we executed at that high of a percentage last year. It got sloppier as the game went on. We have to figure out the right mind-set for 60 minutes; that is something we are going to have to work on.”

Stallworth, for his part, believes that the Tiger defensive unit can help instill that mind-set.

“We have a lot of talent coming back and a lot of talent coming in,” said Stallworth.

“There is still definitely room for improvement; we are looking to do big things this year.”