Talent, Creativity Propel Football to Ivy Title

Tailback Dre Nelson ’16 scored the first of Princeton football’s eight touchdowns against Yale Saturday. The Tigers lined up in what has now become something of a signature formation with three quarterbacks — Quinn Epperly ’15, Connor Michelsen ’15, and Kedric Bostic ’16 — in the backfield. Though each was a threat to run or throw the ball, head coach Bob Surace ’90 and offensive coordinator James Perry were not satisfied with that level of complexity and instead had the ball snapped straight to Nelson. He ran to the outside and went the distance thanks to a block from third-string quarterback Bostic.

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Dre Nelson ’16 weaves through the defense on the first of his two touchdowns against Yale. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

Nelson added 35 more yards and another score as the game went on. He was one of four Tigers to run for over 30 yards. That stat, and his run, demonstrate the creativity and resourcefulness that have made the difference between the 1-9 Tigers of two years ago and this year’s Tigers, currently 8-1 and guaranteed at least a share of the Ivy League title.

It’s easy to look at the Tigers and see only Epperly, who is having one of the best seasons of any college quarterback and has set innumerable records. Against Yale, however, Epperly accounted for a relatively low percentage of Princeton’s points — he was responsible for only half the touchdowns. His accuracy was good, but not perfect, giving his receivers ample opportunity to show off their skills. Roman Wilson ’14 had 115 yards and a touchdown, making several catches on the sideline with his feet just barely in bounds. Connor Kelley ’15 showed off his athleticism on a touchdown grab when he had to elevate and out-maneuver a Yale defender. The defender was flagged for interference, but Kelley still made the catch.

Plays like that have lifted the Tigers to heights that didn’t seem possible just two years ago. All the players mentioned above were recruited when the Tigers were at the bottom of the Ivy League standings, yet Surace and Perry managed to attract them and have figured out some very original ways to use them.

Thanks to that creativity, the Tigers are now one game away from their first outright Ivy League title since 1995. Though victory in the sure-to-be-frigid conditions in Hanover next week is by no means a sure thing, the Tigers will be heavily favored.

Perhaps more importantly for some students than the outright title is the second straight bonfire, which is a sure thing. After the Tigers earned a bonfire with a miracle victory over Harvard last year, it was talent and ingenuity that gave them the Big Three sweep this time around. After the season finale in New Hampshire, the bonfire will take place on Cannon Green Sunday, Nov. 24.

 

Quick Takes

After winning its first-round game against Penn State, field hockey was eliminated from contention for its second-straight NCAA title Sunday with a 3-2 loss to top-ranked Maryland. The Tigers outlasted a Nittany Lions comeback in a 5-4 shootout Saturday but were felled by consecutive unassisted goals from the Terrapins’ Jill Witner, who tied the game just before the end of the first half and found the net again three minutes into the second to give her team the lead. Power duo Sydney Kirby ’15 and Allison Evans ’15 scored the Tigers’ two goals.

Women’s basketball silenced those who were wondering about the potency of its offense after the departure of Niveen Rasheed ’13 with an 81-58 win over Marist in its home opener. The Tigers were led by Kristen Helmstetter ’14, who put up 18 points, but got contributions from a variety of other players, including Vanessa Smith ’17, who had 11 points off the bench in her second collegiate game.

Women’s hockey had a solid weekend, breezing past New Hampshire before earning a hard-fought tie with No. 5 Boston College. Kelsey Koelzer ’17 netted her first career goal to even the score 13 minutes into the final period and Kimberley Newell ’16 had an excellent day between the pipes, making 32 saves and keeping one of the best offenses in the nation scoreless through the first period, the third period and overtime.

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