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(Photo by Celene Chang of The Daily Princetonian.)

HIGH FIVE: Princeton sophomore kicker Derek Javarone prepares to kick off after one of his five field goals in the Tigers' 21-15 loss at Dartmouth last Saturday. Javarone's performance tied the mark for most field goals in an Ivy League game, providing the main highlight in a day which saw Princeton end its season with a 2-8 mark.
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Princeton Football's Season of Frustration Ends With Painful 21-15 Loss to Dartmouth

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton University football team, its performance in the season finale last Saturday at Dartmouth was essentially a microcosm of the Tigers' frustrating season.

Princeton started the day in fine form as it took the opening kickoff and mounted a 16-play, 64-yard drive which resulted in a Derek Javarone field goal.

The Tigers put together two more scoring marches in the first half which ended with Javarone field goals. looking at heading into the dressing room up 9-0, the Tigers let down their guard as Dartmouth produced a field goal in the last minute of the second quarter to narrow the margin and give the Big Green some much needed momentum.

Sure enough, Dartmouth started the second half by driving 73 yards and tying the game on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Rittgers to Andrew Hall. The teams traded field goals to make it 12-12 heading into the final 15 minutes.

The Big Green excelled down the stretch as they scored a touchdown and added a field goal to build a 21-12 margin. Princeton answered with Javarone's fifth field goal of the game as the sophomore kicker tied the mark for most field goals in an Ivy League game.

But the Tigers saw two of their last three drives end in interceptions and in the end they fell 21-15 to finish with a 2-8 overall record and 2-5 in Ivy play. It was the Tigers' worst season record since going 2-8 in 1986.

The loss left Princeton in seventh place in the Ivy standings and marked the fourth time this fall that the team had let a league game slip away down the stretch with the Tigers having previously fallen to Columbia, Harvard, and Yale on the final play of those contests.

For most of the afternoon, Princeton head coach Roger Hughes thought the Tigers were going to finally write a happy ending in a close game. "I felt we were playing well," said Hughes, who now has a 14-25 mark in his four seasons at the helm of the Princeton program. "We dominated the first half. In the second half, we started shooting ourselves in the foot. I still thought we were doing fine when it was 12-12."

But in the final analysis, Hughes had to make what has become a familiar refrain this fall. "They made the plays and we didn't," said Hughes as he reflected on what transpired over the final stages of the contest.

The Tigers once again made a lot of good plays along the way. They outgained Dartmouth 364 yards to 288 and piled up 21 first downs compared to the Big Green's 15. Quarterback Matt Verbit threw for 260 yards with his main targets having big afternoons as senior Blair Morrison had nine catches for 118 yards and junior B.J. Szymanski hauled in eight receptions for 105 yards.

While Javarone had a career game with his five field goals, it was the Tigers' failure to get into the end zone that doomed them to yet another disappointing setback. "We need to learn how to finish," said Hughes.

Although Hughes was obviously disappointed with the results on the scoreboard this season, he had no qualms with the resilience shown by his charges this fall.

"I told them afterwards that I was proud of how they handled adversity, even before the season started," said Hughes, referring to the fact that the program lost defensive standouts Zak Keasey, Jay McCareins, and Brandon Mueller last spring due to academic ineligibility. "I told them that it was a disappointing year and this is not how we wanted to end it."

Unfortunately, the Tigers' failure down the stretch last Saturday was an accurate reflection of how this fall went.

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