On Saturday afternoon, Princeton football (8–2 overall, 5–2 Ivy League) fell to the Penn Quakers (8–2, 5–2), 20–19. With this loss, the Tigers finished this season tied for second place in the Ivy League with Penn. Yale (8–2, 6–1), who had handed the Tigers their first loss of the season this past weekend in New Haven, won the Ivy League Championship title outright thanks to their victory over Harvard (6–4, 4–3).
The Tigers looked to be in the driver's seat early in the game against Penn, with a 23-yard touchdown reception by senior receiver Andrei Iosivas that put the Tigers ahead 6–0 within the first five minutes of the game. A rushing touchdown from first-year running back Ryan Butler doubled the Tigers’ advantage in the second quarter, 12–0.
The Tigers’ defense stifled the Penn offense for the entire first half. But a blocked Princeton punt recovered by the Quakers and returned for a touchdown kept Penn in the game, making it 12–7 in favor of Princeton at the half. Penn managed its first extended drive midway through the second quarter, but the Tigers were able to crush their momentum, as junior linebacker Liam Johnson returned a Quakers fumble nearly the entire length of the field to extend Princeton’s lead to 19–7.
Despite the Tigers’ 12-point advantage midway through the second half, the game would prove to be a defensive nail-biter that would be determined by the final seconds of regulation. After narrowing the Princeton lead with a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, the Quakers were once again driving deep into Tigers territory in the closing minutes. On fourth-and-goal, Penn quarterback Aidan Sayin completed a game-winning five-yard touchdown pass to running back Trey Flowers. The Quakers took a 20–19 lead with just five seconds left in the game and would hold on to the victory.
This was the final game for star senior wide receivers Dylan Classi and Iosivas. Classi recorded eight receptions for 108 yards while Iosivas had two catches for 31 yards, including the aforementioned touchdown, in the loss. Both receivers ended their dominant senior years with over 900 receiving yards and 60 receptions each in just 10 games.
Despite the departure of these two key players on the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers will be in good hands next year, thanks to two breakout players from this season, Butler and sophomore wide receiver A.J. Barber.
“I think one of the more rewarding parts of the job of a coach is seeing players develop,” Head Coach Bob Surace ’90 wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian. “For most players it takes time, but occasionally players have the physical maturity needed and also acclimate to Princeton faster. Both Ryan and A.J. are great examples of that and I was very happy for them and the success they had.”
Butler, who operated as the starting running back all season as just a first-year, finished the year with 501 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Barber ended his sophomore campaign with 28 receptions for 245 yards and one score.
The Tigers’ final 8–2 record marks the fourth consecutive season Princeton has finished with an 80 percent or higher overall winning percentage.
Akshay Swani is a staff writer for the Sports and News sections at the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.