The football team outmatched its season’s first league opponent, routing Columbia by a margin of 53-7. This win, coupled with last week’s defeat of Georgetown (1-4 overall, 0-0 Patriot League), marks the first time since 1907 that the Tigers (2-1 overall, 1-0 Ivy League) have scored 50 or more points in back-to-back games.
The win also gives Princeton its first winning record through three games since the 2008 campaign.
Junior quarterback Quinn Epperly led the Princeton attack with poise. In a career day, the third-year signal caller completed 19 of 25 passes with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also led the team in rushing attempts with 11 rushes for 54 yards and two scores. All of this happened before the completion of the third quarter — his final snap came with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter in the form of a one-yard rush for a touchdown.
“It’s what we’ve been practicing for,” Epperly said of the unprecedented offensive output. “We knew what we were capable of. We know this is what should be the usual, and we haven’t been performing up to that standard in years past. So this is really just the beginning of what should be a very high-scoring offense.”
Epperly’s classmate, quarterback Connor Michlesen, shared the backfield with him at the start of the game as part of the now-standard two-quarterback set. He left the game, however, after taking a big hit on four-yard scramble. It was announced at halftime that he would not return for cautionary reasons.
Senior wide receiver Roman Wilson jived well with Epperly, racking up 144 yards on nine receptions and three touchdowns through the first half.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise,” he said of his and Epperly’s performance. “Every play I just try to beat my guy as much as possible. We did it today.”
The other Princeton passing touchdown came from Epperly to junior wide receiver Seth DeValve. His classmate and fellow receiver junior Matt Costello also featured prominently in the passing game, hauling in four receptions for 49 yards.
The dynamic sophomore backfield duo of tailbacks Di Andre Atwater and Dre Nelson helped establish the rushing attack early and often. Atwater averaged 4.7 yards per carry with 10 attempts. Nelson’s longest run went 55 yards to the Columbia (0-3, 0-1) nine-yard line and, and he finished the drive off with a nine-yard touchdown run.
The offense worked efficiently and effectively, running 92 plays for 629 yards. For context, even top FBS teams seldom reach such a play-per-game rate, with only eight teams in college football’s top subdivision topping 92 plays last week.
With a lead of 36-7 at halftime and 46-7 after three quarters, Princeton was afforded the luxury of featuring five different quarterbacks to finish out the contest. Sophomore Kedric Bostic, freshman Chad Kanoff and senior Malik Jackson all appeared under center for the Tigers.
The Princeton defense smothered its opponents early on, only allowing 10 yards on 14 plays and one first-down conversion through the first quarter. By halftime, the Lions had only managed one more first down. Seventy of their 93 yards in the first half came off one passing play to Scooter Hollis, on which sophomore strong safety Matt Arends faced a pick by the umpire during pursuit.
Senior linebacker Jason Ray said his defense expected first-team All-Ivy tailback Marcorus Garrett to make a serious impact.
“Garrett was our focus all week. I think the coaches really put together a great game plan, and we went out there and executed.”
The Tigers held Garrett to just 22 rushing yards.
“When they have such long drives, we have time to rest,” Ray said of the offense. “And, since Lehigh, we really had a focus of getting off the field on third down. And when we come on the field fresh after the offense scores on a 12-play drive, it really makes a big impact on us, being able to give it all we have on those three downs and get off the field.”
Head coach Bob Surace ’90 insisted that he will not allow his team to get complacent after two big wins, calling on the old coaching maxim, “You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”
“You can’t take anybody lightly,” he said. “We need to continue to practice well — practice with effort — and play focused football. I told them I’m going to watch that video, and there are as many corrections this week as there’s been. So we’ve got to get better.”
Epperly said his career day was a culmination of the team’s hard work.
“We’ve been out here every day — not only me but all the guys who have been up here all summer — working, throwing multiple times a week, working out every day. So I just think the work that we’ve been putting in is definitely starting to pay off,” he said.
Princeton takes on its final non-league opponent, Lafayette, next week at Princeton Stadium.