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.
“In the past, some of the games like this snowballed — there was anxiety, or whatever it was, and a 17-0 game turned into a blowout,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said. “We came out in the second half, and we did a real good job getting control of the football, field position, and everything else … and the next thing you know, it’s a three-point game.”
The Tigers got some breaks they shouldn’t count on recurring throughout the season. Lehigh’s Jason Suggs fumbled three punts, two of which Princeton recovered (in his defense, Joe Cloud ’13 gave him a workout, booting the ball 12 times). In addition, the Mountain Hawks committed eight penalties to the visitors’ one.
In each of the last two seasons, Princeton has shown some promise against Lehigh, but it didn’t translate to the rest of the season. This year, the Tigers hope to change the story — which will start with their defensive leaders. “Just yesterday, I remember being a freshman and playing my first snap and everything. It’s a long passage,” Reid said. “I know we haven’t accomplished what I feel like we need to accomplish, so it’s good to get another chance.”
FIELD HOCKEY cruised to a 4-1 victory over Dartmouth, avenging last year’s surprising defeat (its only Ivy League loss in the past five seasons), then throttled Delaware 10-2. Next Saturday, the Tigers will visit 2011 conference co-champion Yale — but the more exciting game comes the following day, when Princeton hosts Syracuse in a battle of orange powers currently tied for the No. 2 national ranking.
Chasing a 1-0 deficit for most of Friday’s game, MEN’S SOCCER had plenty of chances to equalize against No. 12 Georgetown — 17 of them, in fact — but several saves and two late deflections allowed the Hoyas to escape Roberts Stadium unscathed. The Tigers recovered to beat Villanova 1-0 Sunday; Princeton is now all but an honorary member of the Big East after opening play with five members of the conference (and going 2-3).
WOMEN’S SOCCER had a rough weekend, falling 7-0 at NCAA power UCLA before losing a 2-1 heartbreaker to UC-Irvine. In the latter game, Princeton led after a 12th-minute goal by Jen Hoy ’13 but had to play 10-on-11 when goalie Claire Pinciaro ’13 was red-carded; the Tigers held on that way for more than an hour of game time before conceding two goals after the 85th minute. (Hoy can certainly score — she has six goals in as many games.)
SPRINT FOOTBALL could not end its long losing streak at home on Friday night, but it came close; late in the fourth quarter, Princeton was 32 yards away from a game-tying touchdown until a fourth-down heave was picked off. The Tigers certainly looked like a different team, and in some ways they were; running back Sean Conrad ’13 and receiver Ross Cadman ’13, both varsity football recruits during Roger Hughes’ time as head coach, were key on offense and defense in their first sprint game.
Kevin Whitaker ’13 is an economics major and Daily Princetonian sports editor.