On Saturday, the football team opened the defense of their Ivy League title with a victory over Columbia. The 21–10 win over the Lions was characterized by some eye-opening plays, and trends that may carry over into the remainder of the season. Here are three takeaways from the game.
With Samuel Wright leading the charge, Princeton’s D-Line put pressure on Columbia
Princeton entered the game Saturday with only two sacks on the season. Junior defensive end Samuel Wright outdid that mark himself, registering 2.5 sacks against Columbia.
With his 2.5 sacks and seven tackles, Wright led a defensive front that kept pressure on Columbia quarterbacks Josh Bean and Ty Lenhart throughout the game, recording four sacks and containing the Lions to 35 yards of total rushing. Junior linebacker Jeremiah Tyler was also stellar with 3.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, and 10 total tackles. The Tigers held Columbia to just 10 points total and zero second half points, crucial in a game in which Princeton’s offense was less prolific than usual.
“We always have high energy,” Wright said. “With only 10 games, there’s not a lot of opportunities to get to strap it on for game day ... We play with excellence for each other.”
With 3.5 sacks in three games, Wright has emerged as a leader on Princeton’s defensive line and is a sack away from breaking his career-high of four sacks in 2018.
Dylan Classi made an early contender for catch of the year
Sophomore wide receiver Dylan Classi had one of the most impressive catches you will see all year in the fourth quarter against Columbia. With two defenders draped around him, he reached over his shoulder and with one hand hauled in a pass from senior quarterback Kevin Davidson for a 31-yard gain.
“Ultimately it came down to trusting he would be at the right spot,” Davidson said. “The corner bit down a little bit and gave him a chance, and he made a catch of the year. Absolutely catch of the year so far.”
Making the catch even more impressive was the fact that it came at a critical juncture in the game. The play allowed Princeton to convert a third-and-10 with 11:30 remaining in the game and a 14–10 lead. A few plays later senior running back Ryan Quigley broke a tackle and found the end zone on a 25-yard rush to give Princeton a comfortable two-possession lead.
Princeton started a bit slower than usual
Over the past year, Princeton fans have grown accustomed to their team running up points early in games and taking a comfortable lead into halftime. That wasn’t the case against Columbia.
The Tigers didn’t score their first points until there were only 2:23 minutes remaining in the first quarter, extending their first quarter scoring streak to 28 games, dating back to October 2016. Princeton also trailed 10–7 at halftime. The Tigers trailed at halftime only once last year, in an eventual 14–9 win over Dartmouth.
Ironically, head coach Bob Surace ’90 said he was less critical of his team in the locker room at halftime against Columbia than he was against Butler and Bucknell, games which Princeton led 28–14 and 42–0 at halftime.
“They’re used to me yelling at them up 35 points,” Surace said. “I thought we got sloppy in the past two games. Even though the score was different, I thought our fight was terrific [against Columbia].”