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Princeton Football defeats Harvard, creates five-team tie atop Ivy League

Football players in black jerseys run onto a football field as a cheerleader runs in front of them carrying a flag.
Princeton continued their strong defensive performance during the Homecoming matchup against Harvard, extending their record of not giving up more than 30 points to 17 straight contests.
Photo Courtesy of @PrincetonFTBL/Twitter.

On a windy Saturday afternoon, a crowd of more than 8,000 people saw Princeton (3–3 overall, 2–1 Ivy League) extend their winning streak, stretching back to 2017, against Harvard (5–1, 2–1) to six games, as the Tigers sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter of their Homecoming game. 

The Tigers were coming into the game fresh off a 28–27 overtime loss to Brown last week, despite being up 21–7 heading into the fourth quarter.


But this week, Princeton football managed to pull ahead in a tense fourth quarter that began with both teams tied at 14. Courtesy of a late touchdown by junior tight-end Connor Hulstein, Princeton secured the 21–14 victory against the Harvard Crimson. This win pushed Princeton's lead in the all-time series against Harvard to 60–48–7. 

“It feels really good,” junior wide receiver Luke Colella told the ‘Prince’ about the Harvard matchup. “I’m proud of our guys, I’m proud of our coaches, and I’m proud of this whole culture — we’re running the league.”

Coming into the game, Harvard was ahead in the Ivy League at 2–0, with six other teams behind them even with 1–1 records. For the Tigers, this victory puts them atop the league. Five teams now have 2–1 conference records, reflecting the intensity and closeness of the season so far.

Princeton started off the first half with strength, especially on defense. Each team traded relatively short drives before sophomore defensive back Nasir Hill caught a crucial interception near Princeton's end zone and following a penalty on Harvard, the Tigers started their position on the Harvard 42-yard line.

The prime field position set up junior running back Jiggie Carr to rush 34 yards down the left side of the field for a Princeton touchdown and the first score of the game. 

With 36 seconds to go in the first half, Princeton drove to the Harvard eight-yard-line for a 3rd-and-3, senior quarterback Blake Stenstrom received the snap, looked out right, and fired into the hands of unmarked junior wide receiver AJ Barber, who ran into Harvard’s end zone to complete the touchdown. Junior kicker Sam Massick got the extra point, and Princeton led Harvard 14–0 heading into the second half.


In the second half, the Crimson came out more aggressive against the strong Tigers defense, a defense that held Harvard to one rushing yard the entire first half with many plays going for negative yardage. 

Several three-and-outs for the Tigers gave the Crimson the ball and allowed them to score two touchdowns on ten-play drives, covering 63 and 38 yards respectively. The first came from a pass out right by Harvard quarterback Charles DePrima on Princeton’s 12-yard line, and the second evened the score at 14 on a rush from Princeton’s one-yard line. 

For the most part, however, DePrima's efforts were neutralized by the Tigers defense. This was no small feat, as the dual-threat quarterback led the Crimson in both passing yards (783) and rushing yards (517) coming into the game. 

“You can’t let him scramble,” Coach Bob Surace ’90 said to the ‘Prince’ about DePrima. “In the third quarter we kept him in the pocket, but we didn’t push, and that was partly [because] their offensive line is good, but when you’ve got people that he can’t see, that’s a hard throw.” 

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“He’s outstanding,” Surace continued. “The way he plays doesn’t let you sleep at night.”

The Tigers’ offense didn’t let up, and in the fourth quarter they tied together all the small things that had previously been holding them back. Crucial to this was freshman punter Brady Clark, who pinned the Crimson at the three-yard line on a 51-yard punt late in the quarter.

This punt put Harvard into a tough position and allowed Princeton to get the ball back after a short six-play drive only to their 15. 

Princeton came into this game with an impeccable defensive record league-wide. Prior to this game, Princeton ranked first for the fewest first downs allowed in the NCAA FCS with 76, and second in rushing yards allowed at 73.0 yards per game.

The ensuing drive from the Tigers spanned eight plays, and pushed the Tigers deep into Harvard territory, to the Crimson 10-yard line. 

On the final play of the drive, Stenstrom caught the snap, dashed out left, and threw a spiraling pass to junior tight-end Connor Hulstein for his first career touchdown. Suddenly, after the extra point, the Tigers found themselves up 21–14 with 1:28 to go.

“He’s been hurt and that’s been a big factor,” Surace said to the ‘Prince’ about Hulstein. “He’s such a big threat for us, he’s a unique player.”

Princeton didn’t allow any hopes of overtime, as a huge sack by senior linebacker Ozzie Nicholas pushed Harvard back to their 15 for 3rd-and-16. Finally, another crucial interception by senior linebacker Will Perez sealed the game for Princeton as they gained possession and counted off the clock.

“[The mentality was] finish, we say it every day in practice,” Colella said to the ‘Prince’ about the team’s mentality heading into the fourth quarter. “Finish every play, every snap, the more we do that, the better off we’ll be.”

Princeton showed some of their best offensive football all season. The Orange and Black topped their average points per game total (16.4), and their defensive prowess meant that the 21 points scored was enough to secure the win.

“Blake [Stenstrom] stayed poised back there, the O-line played probably their best game and the running game was getting to it,” Nicholas noted about Princeton’s offense. “I’m so impressed by those guys, through adversity and through everything they’ve learned how to grow and continue to grow.”

Stenstrom had another impressive game throwing for 244 yards and two touchdowns while Colella had a career-high 98 receiving yards from five receptions. 

“We saw [his progress] in the spring,” coach Surace told the ‘Prince’ about Colella. “He works his tail off to the point where I have got to tell [him] you’re not going to be ready for Saturday!”

Princeton also had a strong defensive performance — something which has become normal occurrence this season for them. The Tigers extended their 17 straight contests without giving up more than 30 points, dating back to Nov. 5, 2021 at Dartmouth.

Collectively, Princeton's defense forced three interceptions, more than all of their previous games combined. Notably, Nicholas also continued his streak of having at least ten tackles with ten more against Harvard. 

“They play a very important part in every game, we could not do it without them,” Colella told the ‘Prince’ about the Tigers’ defense. “Some of those guys are the life of this team and props to them every week, game in and game out.”

This momentum-shifting victory will lead the Orange and Black into their matchup at Cornell (3–3 overall, 2–1 Ivy League) next Saturday, where they will hope to continue the strong form they showed against Harvard.

“I’m excited to get another opportunity with my brothers,” Colella continued. “I couldn’t ask for a better place to be and I’m just excited to keep the season rolling.”

This game was of crucial importance for Princeton football and their season ahead. A victory against Harvard keeps Princeton in the running for the Ivy League title, which they last won sole possession of in 2021. Similarly, a victory against Harvard who are ranked #17/#18 in the FCS shows the strength of this young Princeton team. 

It will be the leadership of this team that will decide how Princeton’s season unfolds, and if they can guide them in the right direction, Princeton has every hope of winning the Ivy League title once again.

Alex Beverton-Smith is a contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’

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