In a game full of notable firsts, one thing remained constant as Princeton (3–0, 1–0 Ivy) improved its record to 3–0 in a resilient 21–10 win over Ivy League rival Columbia (1–2, 0–1). The Tigers overcame a slow start, entering the half trailing 10–7 before taking control in the second half, shutting out the visiting Lions the rest of the way.
“I thought our fight was terrific,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said after the game, “This really challenged our resilience.”
Senior quarterback Kevin Davidson went 22–35 with a touchdown and an interception to go with junior running back Collin Eaddy’s 112 total yards and two touchdowns, and senior running back Ryan Quigley’s 55 yards and one touchdown in Princeton’s first true test of the season.
Coming in, Columbia boasted one of the top defenses in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), holding opponents to just 38 combined points in its first two games. That vaunted defense made an early impact, intercepting Davidson, his first interception this season, on Princeton’s opening drive to help set up a field for a quick 3–0 lead.
Princeton would respond two drives later, as Davidson found Eaddy over the middle for a 25-yard touchdown to put Princeton up 7–3. That score would hold until Columbia retook the lead on a drive that took 7:44 off the clock and included a conversion on fourth and one. The drive was capped off with Columbia quarterback Josh Bean finding receiver Ronald Smith in the end-zone with 1:16 left for a 24-yard touchdown, his first touchdown pass of the year. The Tigers would make a push down the field, but missed a 51-yard field goal try as time expired to go into the half trailing 10–7.
This was unfamiliar territory for the Tigers, as it was the first time they trailed at the half so far this season. But that didn’t faze Surace.
“They’re used to me yelling at them up 35 points [at halftime], and [today] I was literally excited. This was a resilience game, it was a mental-toughness test.”
Clearly the Tigers didn’t need to be yelled at, as they came out in the second half firing on all cylinders. After forcing Columbia to punt, Princeton drove down the field, and Eaddy punched it in from the one-yard line, just four plays after he converted a fourth and two. The score put Princeton up 14–10, which would hold heading into the fourth quarter.
After stopping a Columbia drive at the Princeton 15, the Princeton special teams unit blocked Alex Felkins’ field goal attempt, forcing the Lions to walk away empty handed. The Tigers made sure to make the block sting even more by scoring on an eventful ensuing drive. It started when Columbia defensive back Ben Mathiasmeier dropped a surefire pick-six on pass intended for senior receiver Andrew Griffin. On the very next play, Davidson dropped a pass over the shoulder of sophomore receiver Dylan Classi, who brought down a spectacular one-handed catch for 27 yards on third and 10. Finally, a few plays later, Quigley broke out on a run, spun away from a defender, and found his way into the end-zone on a 25-yard touchdown run to put Princeton up 21–10.
The defense would do the rest for the Tigers, forcing a punt on Columbia’s next drive before senior defensive back TJ Floyd intercepted Bean’s pass with nine seconds left on the final drive to officially seal the win.
In the first game that they were truly challenged in this season, Princeton weathered a slow first half and some new challenges, such as Davidson’s first pick and early season star Andrew Griffin being held without a catch, to get a huge win to open up Ivy League play. In an increasingly competitive Ivy League, resilience and adaptability are crucial, and Princeton showed both Saturday afternoon for its toughest win thus far this season.