Football preview: Princeton vs. Harvard

Thirty minutes into last week’s contest with Brown, the Princeton football team appeared to be back on track. The Tigers led the Bears 13-0 and looked to be in line for their first win since the second week of the season. Instead, Princeton saw its lead dissolve completely and lost 17-13. As has often been the case this season, the main culprit was injury. The Tigers lost junior quarterback Tommy Wornham, senior running back Jordan Culbreath, and senior fullback Matt Zimmerman to injuries during the game.
 
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This week, in the homecoming game against Harvard, Princeton faces the preseason Ivy League favorite, which has had its share of hiccups this year. In its wins, Harvard has looked very good. But the Crimson was blasted by Brown in its Ivy opener, and dropped a 21-19 game to Lehigh last week after leading 17-0 at half time.
 
Harvard’s passing offense is somewhat weaker than it has been in the past, but the running game is dangerous. The Crimson has scored nine touchdowns on the ground in five games. Defensively, Harvard has been aggressive, intercepting five passes and sacking the quarterback 17 times this season. 
 
Both teams will be desperate for a win this week. With one Ivy loss already, Harvard doesn’t want to see its league title pursuit end. Princeton is simply trying to avoid losing its fourth straight game.

History
 
Princeton leads the all-time series 52-43-7, but the Tigers have lost three in a row. Last season’s contest saw Harvard win 37-3. After Harvard scored a touchdown on its opening drive, the Tigers moved the ball well and responded with a 19-yard field goal. From then on, Princeton was unable to generate momentum on offense and surrendered 30 straight points.
 
Harvard last visited Princeton Stadium in 2008, staging a come-from-behind 24-20 victory. Culbreath had two touchdowns and more than 150 rushing yards in the loss.
 
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Trey Peacock ’11 (Office of Athletics Communications)

Players to watch

 
Princeton wide receiver Trey Peacock ’11
With a 107.8 yards-per-game average, Peacock is on pace to become Princeton’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 1983. But for his successful season to continue, the speedy senior will need to get in sync with senior Andrew Dixon, the Tigers’ new quarterback, who struggled in relief of Wornham last week. “It’s always going to be tough when you have a change at quarterback,” Peacock said Wednesday. The senior receivers – Peacock, Andrew Kerr, and Jeb Heavenrich – see themselves as team leaders, he said, and will have to take on extra responsibility this week.
 
Harvard junior defensive end Ben Graeff
Graeff spearheads a vicious Harvard pass rush, leading the team with five sacks. Protecting the quarterback will be of paramount importance this week as Dixon makes his first career start. A former walk-on, Dixon is a slender 6 feet, 2 inches, and 185 pounds. He was knocked out of last week’s game briefly after sustaining a big hit. If he wants to play the entire game this week, he’ll need to watch out for Graeff.
 
Roster notes
 
Princeton will be without Wornham, who is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Culbreath and Zimmerman practiced without contact early this week and are expected to play. Defensive end Caraun Reid ’13 will return to the starting lineup, as will left guard Matt Allen ’12. Center Mike Muha ’12 and free safety Matt Wakulchik ’12 remain injured.
 
Around the Ivies
 
Yale held on for a 7-6 home victory over Fordham last week. Penn knocked off Columbia 27-13 at home to remain undefeated in league play. Colgate eviscerated Cornell 44-3, rushing for 450 yards and six touchdowns. Dartmouth held off Holy Cross 27-19 at home. Beginning this week, all remaining games will be between Ivy opponents. On Saturday, Yale hosts Penn in a battle of Ivy unbeatens, Dartmouth travels to Columbia, and Cornell faces Brown in Providence.
 
Final quote
 
“There’s just a lot of tradition that goes along with these rivalries, and that’s what I reflect on before a game – how many times these teams have met in the past. … I try to keep it even for every game, but a rivalry game gives you a little more juice and gets you a little more excited.”
– Wide receiver Trey Peacock ’11 on facing Harvard  

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