Epperly-to-Wilson Puts Princeton Over the Top, Again

After a storybook comeback in last year’s Harvard game, the Princeton football team seemed to have used up all its luck. As the Tigers dropped three of their next four games, Quinn Epperly ’15’s lob to the end zone, which was caught by Roman Wilson ’14 for the winning touchdown, looked more and more like a fluke. But one year later, on Oct. 26, the Tigers went to Cambridge and proved that they didn’t need luck to take down Harvard — they had the talent.

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Quinn Epperly ’15, show in action against Columbia, continued his remarkable season with a record-setting win at Harvard Oct. 26. To date, he has thrown for 15 touchdowns and run for 11. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

This year’s game ended in an almost identical fashion to last year’s. Needing to score, Epperly chucked it into the corner of the end zone and Wilson, with a Crimson player right on him, came down with it. Last year’s score put the Tigers up late in the final quarter of a game that ended 39-34. This year’s touchdown ended the third overtime period in a game that saw Princeton put up 51 points to edge Harvard’s 48.

What was striking about Saturday’s game was how different Princeton’s offense looked this time around. With quarterback Connor Michelsen ’15 sidelined by an injury, it was the first time in Epperly’s college career that he took every snap. Last season, he split time with Michelsen against Harvard, and each had his moments. As the tape of the final touchdown shows, however, Epperly’s pass could just as easily have been one of the worst moments of his season. He was under pressure and threw off the wrong foot, leaving it up to Wilson to get around the defender and make an outstanding catch.

This season, the game-winning touchdown exemplified how far Epperly, and Princeton’s offense, has come. Filled with confidence during his best passing game ever — he broke one school record with 37 completions in the game and another with six passing touchdowns — Epperly faked a quarterback dive, selling it completely, and delivered a perfect throw to his favorite target, Wilson.

It was the kind of thing the Tigers did all game. After a 2012 season full of haphazard play and bizarre scoring, Princeton now looks like a well-oiled machine. Head coach Bob Surace ’90 and offensive coordinator James Perry appear to have figured out how to get the most they possibly can out of every player.

Wilson, for example, scored a touchdown on the ground earlier in the Harvard game on a reverse. Quarterback Kedric Bostic ’16 broke a nice run from the tailback position. The Tigers have been known to play three quarterbacks in the backfield on the same play. And Epperly, once trying to hit his receivers, can now sell a play action or fake a pass while still managing to collect himself and deliver passes right on target — at one point late in the game, he had five touchdowns and only five incompletions.

“That’s something we do almost every week,” Surace said of his team’s unorthodox formations and play-calling. “James Perry and the offensive staff are very creative.”

Strong safety Matt Arends ’16, who had six tackles against Harvard while his defense recorded six sacks, said the Tigers’ ability to stop the Crimson was due largely to their newfound faith in themselves.

“We have total faith in our offense, especially how this year’s been,” Arends said.

Quick Takes:

Men’s hockey started off its 2013-2014 campaign in style, defeating Dartmouth at the Liberty Hockey Invitational at Newark’s Prudential Center. The Tigers won 3-2 on Tucker Brockett ’15’s first career goal, which ended the game just 45 seconds into overtime. Women’s hockey also hit the ice running with a 3-2 defeat of Dartmouth. Princeton found itself down a goal twice during the game, but it battled back each time and won on a late goal by Hilary Lloyd ’17 in her first regular season collegiate match. Both the men and the women lost their second game of the weekend, the men to Yale and the women to Harvard.

The No. 9 field hockey team extended its Ivy League winning streak to 18 with a 3-1 defeat of Harvard. Sophomore standout Teresa Benvenuti ’16 continued to lead Princeton’s offense, netting her eighth goal of the season in the win. The Tigers are now 5-0 in the league; their final two Ivy games are against the third- and second-place teams, Cornell (3-2) and Penn (4-1).

In its last games before the CWPA Southern Division Championship, No. 15 men’s water polo went undefeated. The Tigers downed George Washington, Fordham and Iona, putting up an impressive 17, 11, and 13 goals in each game, respectively. Jovan Jeremic ’17, a very pleasant surprise for Princeton this season, scored 13 of those goals. One of only two non-West Coast teams in the Top 15, the Tigers will look to capture the Southern Championship Nov. 9-10 after finishing third and advancing to Easterns last season.

 

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