Three and a half minutes were left on the clock as host Lehigh prepared to run a third-down play with the game on the line. A conversion would allow the Mountain Hawks, undefeated and ranked 13th in the Football Championship Subdivision, to run more time off the clock and force Princeton to dip into its well of timeouts; a failure would give the Tigers possession with a chance to win the game. Quarterback Michael Colvin dropped back and threw under pressure — but the ball never got near his target, as defensive lineman Caraun Reid ’13 knocked it away at the line of scrimmage.
Though he was relatively quiet for parts of Saturday’s game, Reid has plenty of experience making big plays with his big arms. He batted down three passes and also blocked three kicks last season. He’s also rather adept at using the rest of his body. He recorded eight sacks and 16 tackles for losses in 2011 en route to first-team All-Ivy honors.
Here’s the scary part for the rest of the league: That wasn’t even Reid at his best. After missing the final nine games of the 2010 season with a pectoral injury, he had surgery in the off-season, which limited his ability to practice and bench-press that summer. Reid felt the effects throughout the season, but it didn’t show in his play. “I was expecting to have a good season, but not to the extent I had last year,” he says. “It was surprising, because I thought I was really weak.”
In many ways, Reid doesn’t look like a football player off the field. He dresses well, wears glasses, and is a member of the a cappella group Old NasSoul. But his size is a giveaway — after putting on 20 pounds with a full off-season of lifting, the defensive tackle stands at 6 feet, 2 inches, and 300 pounds — an intimidating figure for opposing linemen.
Reid isn’t the only standout senior in the Tigers’ front seven, which looks like Princeton’s biggest strength at this stage. Defensive end Mike Catapano ’13 and linebacker Andrew Starks ’13, the two defensive captains, also have earned all-Ivy recognition in the past. The defense led Princeton’s second-half resurgence Saturday, stopping Lehigh on several other third-down plays and holding the hosts scoreless after halftime.
The Tigers’ offense also turned its fortunes around in the second half. Connor Michelsen ’15 was named the starting quarterback — which he knew on Monday but the rest of us didn’t learn until game time — and played all but two series under center, hitting some receivers and overthrowing some others. Running back Akil Sharp ’13 was quiet in the first half, but he eventually found his stride, scoring Princeton’s first touchdown with an impressive 13-yard scamper and fighting for a second score from one yard out.