Before 60 seconds had ticked off the clock, the Tigers faced a 7-0 deficit — Brown’s Alex Jette had returned the opening kickoff 99 yards to score — and had turned the ball over on their first possession, as senior quarterback Kedric Bostic fumbled on the game’s second offensive play. However, it would turn out that the game’s final minute, rather than the first, would prove decisive, as Brown running back Johnny Pena scored the game-winning touchdown with 57 seconds left to play.
Princeton (4-1 overall, 1-1 Ivy League) battled back from their early setbacks, but after four quarters of play the Bears (3-2, 1-1) emerged victorious in Providence, R.I., by a score of 38-31. The Tigers, who had amassed a 4-0 record for the first time since 2006, suffered their first loss of the season and their first against Brown since 2011.
While the home side had a share of the lead throughout the contest, Princeton remained well within striking distance. A fumble forced by junior linebacker Rohan Hylton and recovered by fellow junior Birk Olson prevented Brown from extending their 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. After the consecutive turnovers, the teams exchanged punts before senior cornerback Anthony Gaffney intercepted Brown quarterback Marcus Fuller’s third down attempt. On the ensuing drive, Princeton equalized with a one-yard run by sophomore quarterback John Lovett.
Brown regained and extended their lead early in the second quarter. Running back Andrew Coke’s touchdown run punctuated an 89-yard drive that included two facemask penalties on the Tigers. A Princeton three-and-out returned possession to the Bears, who needed only three plays to score their next touchdown — Fuller connected with receiver Troy Doles on a 55-yard strike. In short order, the Tigers replied as Bostic found Lovett for a 42-yard score. A blocked extra point allowed Brown a 21-13 advantage, one they would retain until halftime.
Continuing their trend of strong third-quarter performances — Princeton has outscored opponents by a 42-5 margin in that frame — the Tigers retook a share of the lead thanks to a field goal from senior place kicker Nolan Bieck, a second touchdown run from Lovett and a successful two-point conversion which saw junior quarterback Chad Kanoff connect with junior tight end Scott Carpenter.
With the score tied 24-24 entering the fourth quarter, the game’s outcome appeared hardly determined. Brown moved the ball effectively on a drive that spanned the final two periods, scoring via a reception by receiver Brian Strachan. Princeton answered with a 67-yard drive of their own, as Kanoff connected with Carpenter once again for a ten-yard touchdown.
Taking over possession with three minutes remaining, the Tigers looked poised to take what would be a decisive lead. Brown’s defense thought differently. For the second consecutive drive, Kanoff threw an interception. With just 42 yards separating them from the end zone, the Bears took over and scored with just 57 seconds remaining on the clock. Princeton’s final efforts fell short and the game concluded with the score of 38-31 favoring the Brown.
Untimely penalties proved a major catalyst in the Tigers’ loss. Eleven infractions for 94 yards were called on the away side.
Kanoff finished his start with 44 attempts for 24 completions and 321 yards. Lovett, a quarterback in name but a hybrid runner/receiver in practice, led the Tigers in receiving (eight catches for 115 yards) and rushing (nine rushes for 63 yards). The sophomore fills the role in the Princeton offense formerly occupied by 2013 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year Quinn Epperly, a passer more renowned for his ability to move the ball with his feet.
Lovett shouldered such a substantial role in part due to injuries to junior and senior running backs Joe Rhattigan and DiAndre Atwater, the Tigers’ two most utilized runners.
On the other side of the ball, senior safety Matt Arends frustrated the Bears attack on more than one occasion. The Minnesota native tallied 12 total tackles, including one 12-yard sack, while adding an interception and blocked kick. Senior cornerback John Hill finished with a game-high 13 total tackles, bringing his season total to 25.
Princeton returns to action with a matchup against long-time rival Harvard in Cambridge. The Crimson, who are currently 5-0, have appeared unstoppable of late, outscoring opponents by a margin of 221-40. It will take a substantial effort from the Tigers to overcome the league-leaders. The contest will kick offnext Saturdayatnoon, broadcast on the Ivy League Digital Network and the American Sports Network.