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Football's defense throttles Columbia in Ivy League opener

<h5>Senior wide receiver Dylan Classi plays in Saturday’s game against Columbia.</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of <a href="https://goprincetontigers.com/news/2022/10/1/football-princeton-opens-ivy-schedule-with-24-6-win-over-columbia.aspx" target="_self">goprincetontigers.com</a>.</h6>
Senior wide receiver Dylan Classi plays in Saturday’s game against Columbia.
Courtesy of goprincetontigers.com.

After starting the season 2–0 in an out-of-conference play, Princeton (3–0 overall, 1–0 Ivy League) defeated Columbia (2–1, 0–1) 24–6 in New York, earning their first Ivy League win of the season. The game was competitive in the first half, with the Tigers taking a 14–6 lead into halftime. In the second half, however, the Princeton defense shut out Columbia to fuel a dominant victory for the Tigers. 

Princeton began the game with a strong three-minute, 46-second drive down the field to go up 7–0. The drive ended when first-year running back Ryan Butler scored a one-yard touchdown on the ground. On perhaps the Tigers’ best offensive drive of the game, junior quarterback Blake Stenstrom built his momentum from the first two weeks of the regular season. The drive included completions of over 20 yards to senior wide receiver Dylan Classi. 

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Classi, who finished the game with six receptions for 133 yards, told The Daily Princetonian that he has been impressed with Stenstrom’s play so far this season.

“I think it’s a testament to Blake’s commitment and dedication to this program and his teammates,” Classi said. “He’s been able to establish chemistry with the wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs and it comes down to his work ethic and the way he practices every day.”

As the game went on, the Tigers’ defense forced turnovers to create easy opportunities for Stenstrom and his cohort. With under two minutes remaining in the second quarter, senior linebacker Will Perez recorded an interception off of a deflected pass to give Princeton possession at midfield. 

With just seventeen seconds remaining in the first half, the Tigers’ offense capitalized on this opportunity, and Stenstrom completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jo Jo Hawkins. Princeton went into halftime with a 14–6 lead.  

The Tigers’ defense continued to put on a clinic in the second half as senior linebacker Joseph Bonczek recorded his first two career interceptions, and Princeton shut out Columbia. In the end, the Tigers forced three turnovers and prevented Columbia from scoring any points on all 13 of their possessions. Columbia was only able to score six points by returning a Princeton fumble in the first quarter. 

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Princeton would add 10 points to their lead in the second half, after recovering a muffed Columbia punt inside the five-yard line. The offense easily converted the mistake into a touchdown, and a late field goal from sophomore kicker Jeffrey Sexton in the fourth quarter secured the last of the points. 

The Tigers will look to maintain their undefeated record in an away game against Lafayette this Saturday, Oct. 8.

Akshay Swani is a staff writer for the Sports and News sections at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at ns9735@princeton.edu.

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