In a league filled with talented, experienced teams, one would expect a plethora of thrilling, fiercely competitive matchups. Unfortunately for Princeton, the football team ended Saturday on the wrong end of such a game in its Ivy League opener against Columbia, losing 28-24 after Columbia completed a 63-yard touchdown pass with just 1:12 remaining to secure the win.
Though predicted by media to finish seventh in the Ivy League in preseason polls, Columbia, entering the game undefeated, proved to be a tough opponent. “That’s a team with seniors all over; they’re a good team,” said Head Coach Bob Surace '90. “We are not better than that team.”
The game was tightly contested throughout, beginning in the first half, in which the teams traded touchdowns in each quarter to enter halftime tied at 14-14. Both of Princeton’s first half touchdowns came through passes from senior quarterback Chad Kanoff to junior receiver Jesper Horsted, a combination that has been lucrative for Princeton throughout the season. Receiving the kickoff to open the second half, Columbia marched down the field for a touchdown to put Princeton at a 21-14 deficit that it would struggle to overcome.
After that, however, Princeton’s defense locked down, and Princeton entered the fourth quarter trailing 21-17. After twice driving inside the Columbia 5-yard line and coming up empty-handed, Kanoff found junior Stephen Carlson in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown pass to give Princeton a 24-21 lead with 2:48 remaining. The lead, however, would not hold. On a 3rd-and-11 play, Princeton dialed up a blitz, but Columbia Quarterback Anders Hill found Ronald Smith II cutting across the middle. Smith hauled in the pass, broke a tackle, and outraced the Princeton secondary into the endzone. Getting the ball back with a minute left, the Princeton offense drove into Columbia territory until Kanoff was intercepted with 30 seconds remaining while attempting to throw the ball away.
Though the loss will be difficult to swallow, Princeton can take solace in its performance in several areas. Firstly, the receiving duo of Carlson and Horsted continued to dominate, combining for 16 receptions, 242 yards, and three touchdowns against a tough Columbia secondary. On a number of occasions, one of the 6’4” receivers appeared covered before hauling in an acrobatic catch after Kanoff decided to put the ball in the air anyway. Additionally, the Princeton defensive front was stellar, recording six sacks and shutting down the Columbia rushing attack for much of the game.
Ultimately, however, Princeton was undone by several critical mistakes and an inability to limit Columbia’s passing game. Princeton turned the ball over four times, including a critical fumble by sophomore backup quarterback Kevin Davidson on a 1st-and-goal play from the 3-yard line, and only forced one turnover on defense. The inexperienced Princeton secondary also allowed 400 yards passing, including the final decisive touchdown. “We made some mistakes,” said Surace. “We took them seriously, but we didn’t make enough plays and fell a little short.”
Though Saturday’s game was certainly not the start to Ivy League play Princeton would have preferred, there is plenty of season left for the team to get back on track. Princeton will remain at home next weekend to play its final nonconference game against Georgetown.