Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Princeton breaks non-conference winning streak in 16-13 overtime loss to Bryant

football player runs with ball
Junior running back John Volker rushed for a career-high 149 yards in the loss against Bryant.
Photo Courtesy of

On Saturday afternoon, Princeton football (1–1 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) lost its home season opener, 16–13, to Bryant University (2–2 overall, 0–0 Big South) at Powers Field in Princeton. This broke Princeton's non-conference winning streak of 17 games, which stretched back to 2016.

The game was characterized by wet and windy conditions in which neither team was able to display their best, but the Tigers knew that it was more than just the weather that caused this upset.


“We can’t really use that as an excuse for anything, we just got outplayed,” senior linebacker Liam Johnson told The Daily Princetonian about the weather. “It’s really important to recognize what you did wrong and come back better from it.” 

The game, having been moved up from 3 p.m. to 12 p.m. to avoid weather issues, was filled with plenty of rain and wind, limiting the team's playbook and what they were able to do. Junior running back John Volker shared a similar sentiment to Johnson.

“The weather is always tough,” Volker explained to the 'Prince.' “It’s the same for both teams though, so we just had emphasis on ball security and sticking to what we do.”

In fact, it was a result of this emphasis on ball security that the Tigers played a running-based offense. Volker himself managed an astounding 149 rushing yards from just 18 carries, and, in the process, became the first Princeton player to rush over 100 yards since Collin Eaddy ’22 against Brown in 2021.

As a result of the changing weather, both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter. Midway through the first quarter, there was no score on the board and each team had already driven down the field twice to eventually end their drives with a punt. 

Bryant managed two drives up the field to get to a 3rd down and 4 on their 48 yard-line before sophomore linebacker Sekou Roland sacked Bryant quarterback Zevi Eckhaus for his first career sack and tackle.


By the end of the quarter each team had three drives and each ended them with punts before sophomore defensive back Nasir Hill tackled Bryant Eckhaus at the 23 yard line to see the first quarter out.

Princeton started the next quarter receiving the punt and downing it at their 35-yard-line before an interception by Bryant defensive back Avery Dixon saw him running to the 10-yard-line before being pushed out of bounds. An illegal block from Bryant saw the play brought back to the 48-yard-line, saving Princeton from a threatening position.

The end of Bryant’s nine-play drive saw senior linebacker Will Perez recover a fumble by Echkaus on the 36-yard-line. Princeton couldn’t capitalize, however, and a nine-play, 37-yard drive from the Tigers and a six-play, 5-yard drive from Bryant saw the ball back with Princeton.

Princeton’s first play from the 46 yard-line was incomplete as Volker came close to a catch but ultimately couldn’t keep hold of the ball. After a 5-yard rush into Bryant’s 49-yard line, Princeton lined up for 3rd and 5. The Tigers released junior running back Volker and after the offensive line cleared a path, he weaved his way through the defense in the middle of the pitch before dashing down left to complete a 54-yard rushing touchdown making the score 6–0 to Princeton. The Orange and Black, however, were unable to convert the extra point.

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

“He’s really finishing the runs well,” said Princeton head coach Bob Surace ‘90 to the ‘Prince’ about Volker. “[Volker’s] doing a job with that, I thought last year he had a great camp, got banged up in the opener, tried to come back and just never was healthy.”

Volker looks to be key for this Princeton side, with this being his second long rushing touchdown of the season after a 51-yard touchdown against the San Diego Toreros last week. On rainy days like Saturday, it was vital to have someone like Volker able to make these runs and plays, which ultimately scored Princeton many of their points.

“The entire offseason I was really making an emphasis that I wanted to stay healthy,” Volker explained. “Rehab did my body really well. And, you know, I’m feeling great”.

Indeed, much of his support comes from his brother Charlie Volker ’19, also a running back, who was on the Princeton football team from 2015–2019. 

“He’s such an amazing resource to have,” Volker continued. “It’s never like, 'I want to be better than him.' I’m using advice from him and he’s helped me out.” By halftime, Volker had 82 rushing yards and was averaging an astounding 11.7 yards per rush.

The second half saw a much more open game. It started with a 10-play drive by the Tigers for 62 yards with senior quarterback Blake Stenstrom unable to find junior wide receiver Matthew Mahoney or junior wide receiver AJ Barber in the following plays, resulting in a turnover on downs.

A strong defensive sequence helped Princeton hold off another Bryant attempt out of their own half, and Bryant returned the favor as they forced a three and out from Princeton. 

Then, a 34-yard drive from Bryant into field goal range led to their first points of the game from a 40-yard field goal. 

The Tigers responded strongly, going on a long 10-play drive up the field stretching across into the fourth quarter. This brought the Tigers to  Bryant’s 4-yard line, as Stenstrom received the ball and handed it off to sophomore running back Dareion Murphy who completed the play, squeezing through Bryant’s defense for his first career rushing touchdown. The extra point was good and Princeton found themselves up 13–3 with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

A crucial player leading all the way up to this score, however, was senior linebacker Ozzie Nicholas who by the end of regular time had 15 tackles to his name, representing the strength of the defense well.

“I do think we’re doing a good job with how we’re using, you know, all the linebackers,” Surace said. “Will [Perez], Marco [Scarano] and those guys did a really good job."

“He’s the best player on the field,” Johnson told the ‘Prince’ about Nicholas.

Johnson, too, had an impressive game as he completed 8 tackles and 1 sack throughout the regulation time, contributing to a strong defense that forced Bryant to earn 9 of their 16 points from open-play field goals.

Bryant, fighting back into the game, drove down the field for 65 yards in 11 plays, ending up with Bryant quarterback Eckhaus throwing it to tight end Konor Lathrop, who split the Tigers’ defense and went in for the touchdown. Bryant then converted the extra point bringing the score to 13–10 for Princeton.

An attempted punt at the end of a six-play drive saw Princeton fumble the ball, as the wet conditions only worsened. This resulted in a Bryant recovery, and an ensuing drive that culminated in a 38-yard field goal, tying the score at 13. 

With a minute and a half left of regulation time, both teams struggled to progress down the field, and the game headed into overtime.

Bryant received the ball first in overtime, and made slow progress up the field before a mistimed sack allowed Eckhaus to rush to the 20-yard line, giving Bryant just enough yardage to attempt a 37-yard field goal. This gave Bryant a three point lead and the ball back to Princeton. 

Princeton’s turn saw them rush to get a 3rd and 1 on the 16-yard line. The Tigers then attempted a QB sneak as they tried to surge forward for the last yard. Unfortunately, they couldn’t quite make it, and, with the Tigers on 4th and 1, they tried yet another QB sneak for that last yard. Princeton, however, found themselves blocked again as Stenstrom just could not get far enough, despite the Tigers’ collective effort.

“It’s a hard play to practice”, Surace noted. “We did [consider another play]. I think we only needed a couple inches, and I don’t know if we got the snap completely either.”

Although the team in the fourth quarter was up 13–3, the Tigers ultimately lost out in overtime to a strong Bryant team that capitalized on their opportunities when they arose.

“I think it was a variety of factors,” Johnson said when asked about what may have caused the loss. “You can’t really focus on one thing, it’s a collective thing.”

“[In] the Ivy League, obviously, every game is a championship game,” Johnson added. “So you’d rather lose and learn those lessons in a non-league game where it doesn’t matter as much. But, I mean losing always stings.”

On September 16th, Bryant fell to Brown — who ranked last in the Ivy League preseason polls — 29–25. 

Princeton has their first Ivy League match-up this Friday, September 29 at Powers Field against Columbia (1–1 overall, 0–0 Ivy League), in which the Tigers hope to kick-off the conference season with a win. Columbia has the same 1–1 record as Princeton, in what is shaping up to be a great game.

“I'm feeling good,” Volker said to the ‘Prince’ about this Friday’s game. “I think this is a good wake-up call. I think we're gonna respond really well.”

“The level of detail has got to be higher,” Surace added. “We're gonna have to come out and you know, hopefully come out with a lot of energy and play well.”

Alex Beverton-Smith is a contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]