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Football annihilates Lehigh 66–7 in nonconference finale

It was a historic day for Princeton football (4–0 overall, 1–0 Ivy League) in its nonconference finale Saturday afternoon against Lehigh (1–3). Senior quarterback John Lovett accounted for 399 yards of offense, seven different players scored touchdowns, and Princeton scored its most points since 1950 in a blowout 66–7 win. 

“I thought our effort was outstanding on both sides of the ball,” said head coach Bob Surace ’90. 

Despite the lopsided final score, Lehigh put up a resistance in the early part of the game. Princeton scored first on a 52-yard run by senior running back Charlie Volker, but Lehigh forced a fumble from sophomore wide receiver Jacob Birmelin later in the quarter and scored on fourth-down touchdown pass to tie the game at seven. Despite that moment of strength the Mountain Hawks quickly found themselves outmatched as Princeton began to move the ball with ease. Sophomore running back Collin Eaddy scored on a shovel pass from the Lehigh 10-yard line early in the second quarter, and Lovett found junior wide receiver Tiger Bech wide open downfield for a 70-yard touchdown pass to make the score 21–7. Volker scored his second TD on a 1-yard rush, and Princeton kicked a short field goal at the end of the half to take a 31–7 lead into halftime.

“I felt like we were in a great rhythm offensively, and we were getting three-and-outs,” Surace said of his team’s second quarter play. “When you score and get the ball back quickly, it puts you in good position.”

Things would not get any better for Lehigh in the second half. Princeton received the kickoff to open the half and took only a minute to score another touchdown, with Lovett first finding senior wide receiver Steve Carlson for a 43-yard pass and rushing it in for a 16-yard touchdown two plays later. Princeton pulled its starters midway through the third quarter, but the backups kept up the onslaught. Junior third-string running back Ryan Quigley scored two touchdowns as Princeton cruised to the 59-point win.

While Princeton’s offense was running laps around the Lehigh defense, the Tiger defense contained the Mountain Hawk offense throughout the day. They held standout Lehigh running back Dom Bragalone to 55 yards on 22 carries and forced two turnovers off Lehigh quarterback Brad Mayes. At one point, Mayes, who completed 16 of 33 passes for just 133 yards, ran off the field in frustration ahead of the rest of the Lehigh offense after an incompletion on third down in the third quarter. 

“There was a big emphasis on stopping the run, and we did really well against a great running back,” said junior defensive end Joey DeMarco, who sacked Mayes and forced a fumble in the second quarter. “Every time the offense might falter, we want to step up and show that we’re a great defense.”

“To hold Bragalone to under 60 yards, that’s impressive,” Surace added. 

Offensively, Princeton had the chance to showcase its staggering number of options. Their three main rushing threats, Lovett, Volker, and Eaddy, combined for 238 yards despite sitting much of the second half. 

“We’ve got two guys [Eaddy and Volker] that we feel great about,” Surace said about Princeton’s running attack. “Obviously John [Lovett] ran it very well as well.”

Princeton’s top two receivers, Carlson and senior Jesper Horsted, combined for 171 yards, and Bech, who was Princeton’s third leading receiver last year but had no catches coming into the game, finished with 79 yards and a touchdown. Princeton’s most potent threat, of course, is its dual-threat quarterback, who was 20 of 28 passing with 288 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 12 times for 118 yards and another touchdown.

“[Lovett] is definitely a threat in more ways than one,” Volker said. “He’s fun to play on the field with.”

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Given that all of Princeton’s four games so far have been blowout wins, the only concern that the team may have is a possible lack of preparation for an inevitable close game in Ivy League play. With that said, Princeton will still be looking for ways to improve. 

“A lot of people will be saying things about the scores and saying we’re unstoppable,” Volker said. “But if you look back at the film, there's a couple plays where we looked sloppy and definitely a lot of room for potential growth.” 

Surace, who is never complacent, also saw a series of holding penalties in the first half as a blemish on Princeton’s commanding win. 

“We were making mistakes that were uncharacteristic,” he said.

Princeton remains at home next week to take on Brown (1–3, 0–1) in its Ivy League home opener as conference play enters full swing. If the Tigers continue to improve from their dominant early season form, the rest of the league should be worried.