September 19, 2018

PU Football Routs Butler 50-7 in Opener, Executing Well in All Phases of the Game

COMING THROUGH: Princeton University football player Charlie Volker fights to break a tackle in a 2017 game. Last Saturday, senior running back Volker rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns to help Princeton defeat Butler 50-7 in its season opener. The Tigers host Monmouth (2-1) on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton University football team headed into its season opener last Saturday at Butler University, Bob Surace was cautiously optimistic.

“It is always hard to predict; we are always going against each other but they have been so good in camp,” said Surace. “They have been focused, they have worked hard. They have done all the things right. It makes you feel good as a coach that they are going to be ready.”

It didn’t take long for Surace to feel very good as senior star quarterback John Lovett returned with a bang after missing 2017 to injury, hitting classmate Jesper Horsted for a 63-yard touchdown pass 26 seconds into the contest.

“We script a lot of plays early on the game and I felt it was great that he came out and got the the two quick completions,” said Surace. “The second one was a touchdown on a deep ball to Jesper, that was really good.”

That score set the tone for the day as the Tigers led 17-0 after the first quarter and built their advantage to 44-7 by halftime, never looking back on the way to a 50-7 triumph.

“We score on the first drive, they kicked off to us,” said Surace, whose team outgained the Bulldogs 540 yards to 239 with Lovett accounting for 177 yards passing (11-of-20) and 48 yards rushing.

“We get a stop and then score. It just seemed like we had a nice thing going in the first two or three drives and then when you are up 17-0, you get a chance to keep rolling.”

Senior running back Charlie Volker rolled through the Butler defense, gaining 162 yards rushing with two touchdowns

“Charlie ran hard; he made some moves in space that were great to see,” said Surace.

“I thought last year we were going to get that; he had an illness and he missed the opener against San Diego. His camp was so good last year and then he had a terrific year but I thought there was another level. You really saw it this training camp. He is ready to be a productive player and one of the  better players.”

Displaying pro level play at receiver, Horsted made seven catches for 140 yards and tow touchdowns.

“We get match ups and he is just comfort for the quarterbacks,” said Surace of the 6’4, 225-pound Horsted, a two-time All-Ivy League performer who came now has 131 catches for 1,796 yards and 17 touchdowns in his Princeton career. “He gives the quarterbacks time and he did that on Saturday and we had a chance to make some big plays.

On defense, Princeton came up with a slew of big plays, making three sacks with two recovered fumbles and holding the Bulldogs to 66 yards rushing.

“We weren’t perfect by any means, but we did a lot of good things,” said Surace. “I was really happy with that.”

Senior linebacker and team captain Mark Fossati led the charge, making a team-high seven tackles as he returned to action after being sidelined most of last season due to injury.

“Fossati was so excited; it has almost been a year since he was able to go out there and play a game,” added Surace. “He really tackled well.”

The Princeton defensive line also played very well, putting pressure on Butler all game long.

“Jay Rolader, who missed the majority of last year, was in the backfield the entire game,” said Surace. “I thought the whole group did well. Sam Wright forced a fumble and Joey DeMarco recover a fumble. Mike Wagner was in the backfield for a lot of the game. Matt Jester, a freshman, played well. He came on really strong at the end of camp, that was good to see for him.”

The Tigers enjoyed a good and quiet flight home from Indianapolis, Ind. “The guys were exhausted; I think everybody was asleep,” said Surace with a chuckle. “It is always nice to play with such energy and accomplish something that you set out to do during training camp. It is a good feeling for the guys.”

Princeton will need to keep up the energy they host formidable Monmouth (2-1) this Saturday in the home opener.

“They have tremendous offensive weapons; they put up yards every game, they put up points,” said Surace of the high-flying Hawks.

“Their quarterback, their running backs, and their receivers are going to present the defense with a lot more athleticism. Schematically, they get after it. They really dominated their conference last year and went to the national playoffs. This is going to be another huge test. They are a very high quality team.”

In the wake of the convincing win over Butler, Surace is optimistic that the Tigers will produce another high quality performance.

“A lot of confidence comes from when we practice well and I thought we practiced well last week and it tends to show in the game,” said Surace.

“I thought our coaches really came up with good plans on all three sides of the ball and our players had confidence that what we thought was going to happen, happened and that was to play fast.”