After an abysmal first quarter where nothing seemed to be going in its favor, the football team got some momentum going in the second quarter and went on to score 39 unanswered points to defeat Brown 39-17 Saturday.
The night game was only the fifth time Brown (3-2 overall, 0-2 Ivy League) had put up its portable lights at Brown Stadium for a night contest.
The Tigers (4-1, 2-0) came into the game fourth in the nation in scoring, but they went down 17-0 to start the game on a few botched special teams plays and a 71-yard touchdown run by Bears running back John Spooney.
However, it all changed when junior quarterback Quinn Epperly hit a 24-yard pass down the middle of the field to junior receiver Connor Kelley to begin the first real drive of the night for the Tiger offense. The Tigers would score on an eight-yard run by senior running back Brian Mills, but then miss the extra point attempt to go into halftime down 17-6
“We went into halftime, not one guy panicked,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said. “I didn’t see one guy hanging his head on the sideline, and we just played one play at a time.”
Epperly connected with junior receiver Matt Costello on the opening drive of the second half to set up an 18-yard Epperly touchdown run. Epperly had three rushing touchdowns on the night, two of which came in a 19-point Tiger third quarter. Epperly has now rushed for 11 touchdowns this season.
“We came out in the beginning and made a few mistakes, but we knew that if we executed the way that we had been doing in practice all week, we would be fine,” sophomore running back DiAndre Atwater said. “Everyone believed in themselves, and each other, and just played Princeton football the way it should be played.”
Junior quarterback Connor Michelsen contributed the lone passing touchdown of the night for either team, a 28-yard completion to senior tight end Des Smith. The score gave the Tigers an 18-17 lead from which the Bears would never recover and solidified the shift in momentum. Whereas ten minutes before the Tigers had been down 17-0 and the game felt over, the offense seemed to have found its stride at this point and there was no looking back.
Once the offense got going, Princeton scored 25 points within 13 minutes. Whereas the Tigers had only 67 yards of total offense in the first quarter and ended the game with 566 yards total offense, Brown had 146 yards in the first quarter, but finished the game with 319 yards of total offense.
“We gave up 17 points, and I think about seven of them were by the defense,” Epperly said. “So [the] defense played great, [and the] offensive line played fantastic and really took over in the second half.”
The Princeton defensive line seemed to come alive in the second half, lead by senior lineman Caraun Reid who had 1.5 sacks for six yards. Freshman defensive back Dorian Williams led the team with eight tackles and forced a key fumble in the third quarter on a drive that could have tied the game and swung the momentum back in Brown’s favor.
“We talk all the time as a defensive unit, just focus on one play at a time; assess the previous snap, take responsibility for your actions, move on to the next play,” senior defensive lineman Matt Landry said. “We were extremely confident as a group [and] with each other playing the rest of the game; we had a lot of time left and all we could focus on was ourselves.”
The Tiger defense came up big when they had to, limiting Brown to 2-12 on third down conversions and giving the offense a chance to come back in the game.
Princeton will hit the road again next week as the Tigers head up to Cambridge to face Harvard for a rematch of last year’s dramatic showdown next Saturday at 1 p.m.