In their four years on the team Princeton football’s seniors have won two Ivy titles, gone on a 17-game winning streak, and blown out plenty of opponents. After all that success, Saturday’s lopsided loss against Yale on Senior Day was certainly not the farewell to Princeton Stadium they wanted.
Yale (8–1 overall, 5–1 Ivy) beat Princeton (7–2, 4–2) 51–14, handing the Tigers their second straight loss and denying them a second straight bonfire.
The most impressive senior on the field was Yale quarterback Kurt Rawlings, who has won four Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week awards in 2019 and may have more hardware coming his way this week. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 338 yards, and six touchdowns, including four touchdowns in the first half. He also made plays with his feet, scrambling nine times for 36 yards.
Meanwhile, Yale held senior quarterback Kevin Davidson to 164 yards passing, no touchdowns, and an interception.
Princeton also turned the ball over twice, succeeded on only one of four fourth-down conversion attempts, and allowed 30 first half points. The 37-point defeat was Princeton’s worst since 2014, when they lost 49–7 to Harvard.
“We practiced well, we had enthusiasm, [but] we didn’t play as well as I would have liked,“ said head coach Bob Surace ’90. “Like anything else, you watch the film [and] you hope to make adjustments and be better.”
It didn’t take long for a seemingly competitive game to turn into a Bulldog rout.
Yale scored the first 10 points of the game, but junior running back Collin Eaddy ran for a 15-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 10–7.
After that point, things quickly went south for Princeton. The Tigers stopped Yale on the following drive, but junior wide receiver Jacob Birmelin muffed the punt. Yale recovered, and Rawlings threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Reed Klubnik a few plays later, putting Yale up 17–7 with 6:05 remaining in the first half.
On its next drive, Princeton failed on a fourth-down conversion in Yale territory, and it took the Bulldogs just three plays and 25 seconds to score another touchdown, with Rawlings finding Klubnik again, this time on a 47-yard touchdown catch.
Princeton started its next drive with little more than a minute left in the half, but the Tigers quickly went three-and-out, and Yale got the ball back with 46 seconds left. That turned out to be enough time for the Bulldogs to score again, as Yale receiver JP Shohfi made an acrobatic catch in the back of the endzone with nine seconds left.
Suddenly, the score was 30–7 as Princeton retreated to the locker room for halftime.
“We were making mistakes in key opportunities,“ Surace said. “We struggled with our rush lanes, [and] the turnover hurt us. We had some opportunities in the pass game, and whether it was protection, the route, [or] the throw, we were a little bit off on those.”
The start of the second half made it clear there would be no comeback. On Princeton’s first possession of the half, Yale’s Kyle Ellis made a diving interception off Davidson. The Bulldogs drove right back down the field to score again, with Rawlings throwing his fifth touchdown of the day to make the score 37–7.
“I think it just started getting away from us,“ senior receiver Andrew Griffin said. “We needed at some point to make a stand, make a score, [or] hit a big play, and none of those things happened.”
Princeton managed to score a touchdown in the third quarter on a short rush from senior quarterback Zach Keller, but Yale was able to run out the clock, cruising to the 37-point win.
Cornell upset Dartmouth on Saturday, so Princeton remains in Ivy League title contention, but they’ll need both Dartmouth and Yale to lose next week to have a chance.
Princeton will finish off its season next week against Penn in Philadelphia.
“Obviously as seniors, we want to go out [on Senior Day] and have a good performance in front of our friends and family,“ Griffin said. “This is not ideal, but we have a [game] next week, we’re still seniors next week, and we can finish off the season how we wanted to.”