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Kevin Davidson put on a show in his first collegiate start at quarterback, leading the offense to a 48-10 victory over Brown.

Throughout the season, Princeton (5–0 overall, 2–0 Ivy) has proved it can beat teams decisively, entering the weekend with four blowout wins in four games. This week, the team showed it could do the same without its star quarterback, with junior Kevin Davidson filling in for injured senior John Lovett at quarterback. Davidson threw for four touchdowns, and the Tigers put up 559 yards of total offense in a 48–10 “Alumni Weekend” win over Brown (1–4, 0–2 Ivy), earning its second Ivy League win and staying undefeated on the season.

“Nobody said a word [about Lovett’s absence],” said head coach Bob Surace ’90. “There’s confidence in everybody, and you saw it in the way we played today.”

Davidson may be a backup quarterback, but the Princeton coaching staff did not treat him that way Saturday. On the first play from scrimmage, offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson dialed up a deep pass, and Davidson delivered a beautiful ball downfield to senior wide receiver Stephen Carlson for a 39-yard gain. Later that drive, Davidson found junior running back Ryan Quigley on the goal line for a short touchdown to give Princeton a 7–0 lead.

“It was a great feeling when Steve came down with that one,” Davidson said of the opening play.

“He has such a strong arm,” Surace said about Davidson. “We were planning to take more shots downfield.” 

On the next drive, Davidson found senior wide receiver Jesper Horsted open downfield, and Horsted did the rest of the work, running for a 62-yard touchdown. Princeton would go on to score touchdowns in four of its first five possessions, taking a runaway 28–0 lead in the middle of the second quarter.

While Princeton’s explosive offense may have grabbed the headlines, the defense was no less dominant in the early part of the game, holding Brown scoreless and allowing just four first downs in the first half. Brown quarterback Michael McGovern was uncomfortable in the pocket all day, as the Princeton defense recorded five sacks. Senior linebacker Mark Fossati, who has played well this season after missing most of last year with an injury, led the way again with 12 tackles and a sack. 

“We came out strong,” Fossati said. “We had guys flying around the ball all day, and we did a great job limiting them.”

“They challenge you every play,” said Surace of Brown’s offense. “It tests your responsibilities every play, and I thought we handled the responsibility portion really well.” 

Entering Saturday, Princeton had yet to concede a single point in the second half in the 2018 season. That remarkable streak came to an end, as Brown kicked a short field goal on its second possession of the third quarter. Princeton responded with a methodical 13-play drive down the field, capped off with a leaping catch by Carlson in the back corner of the end zone to make the score 35–3. Princeton scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter and Brown scored one, much of which happened with backups on the field. 

Davidson finished the game 26 of 39 passing with 304 yards. He wasn’t perfect — he overthrew a few receivers and nearly threw interceptions on two consecutive plays in the second quarter, but his overall solid performance made losing Lovett much less painful for the Princeton offense. 

“Nothing changes,” Davidson said about his transition from a backup to starting role. “Coach Gleeson does a great job of getting everyone ready to go. When your name is called you’ve just got to step up.”

Davidson’s day was made easier by another dominant performance by Princeton’s standout receiving duo of Carlson and Horsted. The pair combined for 21 catches, 296 yards, and three touchdowns. 

“[Davidson] played a great game, and Steve and I were making some plays out there too,” Horsted said.

“They’re two of the best in college football,” Davidson added. “You’ve just got to give them a shot.” 

While Saturday’s game showed Princeton is still a formidable opponent without its starting quarterback, the team would obviously benefit from Lovett’s return as it continues Ivy League play next week at Harvard (3–2, 1–1). Lovett’s athleticism and running ability give Princeton’s offense another threat that Davidson, who had no designed rushes against Brown, doesn’t pose. The team said Lovett would be re-evaluated early next week, and Surace described the injury as day-to-day. 

As for Harvard, Davidson, Horsted, and Fossati each had the same response: “Can’t wait.”