Multiple Quarterbacks Contribute in Football Opener

Coming into the Lehigh game Sept. 21, one of the major questions Princeton football fans had was who would be starting under center. Despite a full 60 minutes of play in a tumultuous 29-28 loss, that question has yet to be resolved. Quarterbacks Connor Michelsen ’15, Quinn Epperly ’15, and Kedric Bostic ’16 each played a role in the offense during the opener.

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Roman Wilson ’14 caught nine passes for 168 yards and a touchdown in Princeton’s 29-28 loss to Lehigh. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

With a 22-3 lead at halftime, the Tiger offense seemed to be clicking, and the defense able to contain Lehigh’s explosive offensive ability. The second half, on the other hand, told a different story. The Princeton defense was unable to stop the Mountain Hawks from reaching the end zone. The Tigers took back the lead on a 17-yard touchdown rush by DiAndre Atwater ’16 with 8:03 left in the game, but they were unable to convert on 2-point conversion. Lehigh would come back down the field to score once again, giving them the 29-28 lead with 2:45 left on the clock.

Princeton’s last possession ended when a Michelsen pass attempt was intercepted at the Lehigh 37 with 1:50 to go in the game. The Mountain Hawks were then able to gain a first down and run out the clock.

Michelsen, the returning starter, was not the only one taking snaps for the Tigers. Debuting a formation they call Ninja, in which they spread the tackles out to the wide-receiver positions while keeping the center, two guards, and a quarterback and running back in their normal spots, the Tigers aimed to use the abilities of several players to pass, receive, or run. At times the offense positioned Michelsen, Epperly, and Bostic as quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. (Receivers Seth DeValve ’15 and Connor Kelley ’15 also were high-school quarterbacks.)

 “I think the nature of the quarterback position is changing a little bit, and the high-school athlete is back, whether he’s a runner, passer, all those things,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said. “We don’t want to have those guys standing next to me the whole game, so let’s utilize them.”

While the role of the college quarterback may be changing, the simultaneous use of three quarterbacks is still a surprising sight and a potential advantage in confusing the opposing defense. The athleticism of Epperly made him one of the most versatile players on the field as he threw for 100 yards, including a 57-yard completion to senior receiver Roman Wilson; caught two passes for 22 yards; and rushed five times for 19 yards. His running ability helped to lighten the load for Princeton’s running backs.

“We wanted to be careful with how many carries [Atwater] had because he missed some time with conditioning this summer and he’s been building,” Surace said.

Each quarterback contributed differently to the Tiger offensive effort. Bostic did not attempt a pass but was a receiving target for one. Epperly completed six of eight pass attempts, while Michelsen went 19-for-32 for 210 yards. However, two of those 32 attempts resulted in interceptions.

“I felt Connor a couple times got antsy and maybe the decisions could have been better from a guy who’s played so much, but he’s trying to make plays and he’s trying to spark us. I think he tried to force it into a place where he shouldn’t have, we’ll fix that. He’s usually really good about making decisions,” Surace said.

Though the Tigers’ quarterback question has not been decisively resolved, an uncertain quarterback situation might be a useful spark for their offensive production.

Quick Takes

Men’s water polo moved to 6-0 after sweeping Southern Division play with a 15-10 win over Johns Hopkins and a 12-7 win over Navy on Saturday and 9-5 victory over George Washington on Sunday.  The victory over Hopkins marked head coach Luis Nicolao’s 300th career win as head of the program.

Field hockey defeated Dartmouth 7-1 on Saturday to open Ivy League play. Sophomore Teresa Benvenuti scored her first of three goals on the day to put Princeton ahead 1-0 two minutes into the match. Benvenuti’s performance was her first collegiate hat trick. The Tigers (4-2, 1-0 Ivy) fell 4-0 at No. 5 Syracuse on Sunday. 

Women’s soccer returned home after three straight road games to face William and Mary on Sunday.  After falling behind early on a penalty kick, junior Gabrielle Ragazzo found the back of the net in the 81st minute to tie the game 1-1. That score would stand, moving the Tigers to 3-1-2 on the season.

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