With Princeton’s offense averaging an astounding 47 points per game last fall, it was easy to overlook the role that defense played in the football team’s undefeated season. But in the Tigers’ biggest tests — on the road at Harvard and at home against Dartmouth — key stops proved just as important as touchdown runs.
All-Ivy safety TJ Floyd ’20 knows this as well as anyone. Against Harvard, he made an interception in the end zone in the second quarter and forced a fumble (recovered by defensive end Jake Strain ’20) in the fourth as the Tigers held on for a 29–21 victory.
“Our defensive play in those games really helped us come out on top, and I think that’s something that’s going to carry over into every game this year,” Floyd said. “Defensively our goal is going be to keep the score at zero. If the other team can’t score, they can’t win.”
Floyd intercepted six passes last year — the most by a Tiger since All-American Jay McCareins ’06 picked off nine in 2005 — and Princeton held opponents to 10.8 yards per pass completion, ranking eighth nationally among NCAA FCS teams.
With eight starters returning, including two cornerbacks and two safeties, the defense should be one of Princeton’s strengths. On offense, the team is looking to reload after sending three grads to NFL training camps (quarterback John Lovett ’19 and receivers Stephen Carlson ’19 and Jesper Horsted ’19).
Floyd, who played in all 30 games of his first three collegiate seasons, grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., where the SEC and ACC dominate the college football landscape. His high school coach, Corky Rogers, was the first to encourage him to look at the Ivy League — a nudge he was grateful to receive.
“I didn’t necessarily know what to expect [at Princeton],” Floyd said. “It’s surprised me in a lot of ways. There are some really good athletes, and some NFL guys are coming out of the Ivy League each year.”