After a 50-point explosion last weekend, the Tigers (1-1 overall) look to build on their offensive momentum as they begin Ivy League play against Columbia. They have won the past two meetings between the two teams, including a 33-6 victory last year on the road. Though the preseason poll predicted Princeton to finish fifth in the Ivy League, a win would put them in the top half of standings.
The Tiger offense appears to have improved significantly this year, gaining more than 500 total yards in both games this season. They managed that feat only once last season and three times in the last three years combined and are currently ranked sixth in the FCS for total offense.
Junior quarterback Quinn Epperly has accounted for 207 total yards this season, including five of Princeton’s 11 touchdowns. Last week against Georgetown he rushed for four touchdowns, becoming the first Princeton player to do so in a single game since Keith Elias ’94 did so in 1993. Epperly has contributed, either passing or rushing, to fourteen touchdowns in his past seven games.
Fellow junior quarterback Connor Michelsen has added 391 yards passing through two games, while senior running back Brian Mills has 140 yards rushing and sophomore back Di Andre Atwater has run for 170 yards. Senior wideout Roman Wilson leads the receivers, averaging 114.5 receiving yards per game. Adding to the offense on special teams has been sophomore Anthony Gaffney, who leads the team with an average of 21.9 yards per kick return on special teams.
While the Lions have started the season slowly, falling quickly to 0-2, the Tigers are being careful not to take this opponent lightly or treat them any differently than they did Georgetown or Lehigh. A win would give them a share of first place in the Ivy League with Harvard, Yale and the Penn-Dartmouth winner, as well as their first winning record through three games since 2008 and a two-game win streak.
“For our gameplan, we want to continue to get better as a unit and stop the run,” Gaffney said. “They have a great running back with big play potential, so we want to box him in and force them to throw then let our rush and our defensive backfield handle everything from there.”
On the other hand, a loss would drop them into a tie for last and make the road to earning an Ivy League title significantly more difficult, especially given that a team with two league losses has not received a share of the title since 1982.
“As for this being the first Ivy League game, this is a big step towards one of our goals,” Gaffney said. “Every game is important and while we’d love to win all our games, the two non league games are in the past and we have an Ivy League title in mind.”
The Tigers will host Columbia on Saturday at 1 p.m. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN3, as will the rest of the Tigers’ remaining home games.