October 3, 2018

No. 23 PU Football Routs Columbia 45-10 in Ivy Opener; QB Lovett Triggers Dominant Performance for 3-0 Tigers

TOUGH LOVE: Princeton University quarterback John Lovett looks for an opening in a 2016 game. Last Friday evening at Columbia, senior star Lovett rushed for a career-high 174 yards with two touchdowns and passed for 135 yards and two scores to help Princeton roll to a 45-10 win over the Lions in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The 23rd-ranked Tigers, now 3-0 overall, host Lehigh (1-3) on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Early in the second quarter of its Ivy League opener at Columbia last Friday evening, the Princeton University football team was clinging to a 13-10 lead over the Lions.

With Columbia having marched 75 yards to score a touchdown to draw within three points and 14:51 remaining in the first half, it seemed like the momentum could be shifting to the hosts.

But Princeton senior quarterback John Lovett shifted into high gear, rushing for a one-yard touchdown, hitting Stephen Carlson for a six-yard TD pass, and engineering a 58-yard march in the waning moments of the half that ended with a Nicola Ramos field goal as the Tigers turned the tight contest into a 30-10 lead by halftime.

That 17-0 run proved pivotal for No. 23 Princeton, which went on to win 45-10 over the Lions before 5,327 at Robert Kraft Field in improving to 3-0 overall.

“We had a nice drive and a touchdown and then an interception followed by a touchdown and then got the ball again and got a field goal,” said Princeton head coach Bob Surace.

“Then we got the ball to start the second half and we got a long run by Collin Eaddy and a 13-10 game is now 38-10. That is sometimes how it goes; we had a really good stretch there. Our effort was so good and you kind of felt like we are close to getting this thing in our favor.”

The Tiger ground attack, which rolled up 360 yards, was particularly impressive considering that Columbia entered the evening yielding just 35 yards a game on the ground to rank second in the nation in rushing defense.

“I thought we were going to do better than 35; we had a really good plan and I thought we looked good in practice,” said Surace.

“I wasn’t expecting 360. We weren’t going to ignore the run just because they are really stout. We did some really nice things schematically. The players bought into it and prepared real well. We really finished our runs; that was a huge part of it as well.”

The play of Lovett, who rushed for a career-high 174 yards with two touchdowns and passed for 135 yards and two scores, was a huge factor in Princeton’s success.

“There is a comfort level with the great quarterbacks,” said Surace of Lovett, who was later named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week, the sixth time he has earned the honor, which matches him with Keith Elias ‘94 and Quinn Epperly ‘15 for eighth-most all-time Player of the Week honors in league history.

“We have had a few of them in the past few years; they take the entire team up with their energy level, their confidence, and their poise. The receivers run their routes harder, the line blocks harder, and the backs finish their runs harder. John just exudes that with some of the plays he made in terms of effort.”

Sophomore running back Eaddy made some great plays, gaining a career-high 102 yards on six carries, highlighted by the 66-yard TD jaunt early in the third quarter.

“It just seemed like every time we needed a first down, he was going down the field for 12 yards,” said Surace.

“Collin has practiced well; he had a terrific camp. We feel that he and Charlie [Volker] have given us a really nice one-two punch.”

The Tiger defense enjoyed another nice effort as junior defensive back T.J. Floyd had two interceptions and senior lineman Mike Wagner came up with two sacks.

“I thought they are playing a young quarterback and if we can disrupt him, we may have some opportunities for turnovers,” said Surace, whose team held the Lions to 80 yards rushing and 133 passing.

“T.J. Floyd made two terrific plays on interceptions. Wagner has been a terrific guy in terms of pass rush throughout his career, and the strip sack he had was a really nice play.”

In reflecting on the team’s dominant 3-0 start, which has seen it outscore its foes 146-26, Surace credited the defense with setting an aggressive tone.

“I love our effort, we are just running to the ball on defense,” said Surace, citing the play of Jeremiah Tyler, Tom Johnson, Mark Fossati, and Ben Ellis.

“Those guys in the middle of the field are really hustling. We are making errors here or there; we are not perfect but we are overcoming the imperfections because of our effort and that has stood out.”

Surace is also getting a very good effort on the other side of the ball.“Offensively it is just the finish,” said Surace. “Our running backs are finishing their runs, our linemen are making blocks, and our receivers are finishing catches. We are doing a good job with that; those are good qualities to have. If you have talented players and they do those things and they execute, you have a good chance to be successful.”

Princeton will need keep doing those things in order to be successful as it hosts Lehigh (1-3) this Saturday.

“The second we get a relaxed mode or think we have arrived, we are not going to get there,” said Surace.

“We have a lot of good senior leaders who understand that the hour or two hours we practice has to be essential so that we are locked in. We handled the first three weeks really well with the preparation. If we are going to be successful this week we are going to have to do the same thing. It doesn’t mean we are going to win if we prepare, but if we don’t prepare, we are not going to win.”

While the Mountain Hawks uncharacteristically bring a losing record into the contest, Surace knows they are a dangerous foe, having defeats to such formidable teams as Navy and Villanova.

“Lehigh has played an incredible schedule; they are not afraid of challenges,” said Surace.

“Navy goes to a bowl game every year; Villanova goes to the FCS playoffs every year; and the two other teams they played (St. Francis and Penn) are predicted to be at or near the top of their conference. They got a bye last week, so they have two weeks of preparation on us.”