Looking back at some of Princeton’s finest moments against the Elis

Athletics at Princeton: A History

Princeton vs. Yale, a football rivalry that stretches back 140 years, has produced some extraordinary victories for both teams. PAW selected eight that stand out in Tiger gridiron lore. Use the links below to navigate the list, and add your favorite Princeton-Yale memories in the comments.

Princeton vs. Yale, a football rivalry that stretches back 140 years, has produced some extraordinary victories for both teams. PAW selected eight that stand out in Tiger gridiron lore. Use the links below to navigate the list, and add your favorite Princeton-Yale memories in the comments.

1893

The 1893 captain, Thomas Trenchard 1895.
The 1893 captain, Thomas Trenchard 1895.
Athletics at Princeton: A History
A Thanksgiving Day crowd of an estimated 40,000 spectators — in The Daily Princetonian’s words, “the largest and most fashionable that ever witnessed a football game” — gathered around Manhattan Field to watch the Tigers and Elis square off in the season finale. They sat or stood wherever they could find room, circling the field, filling the nearby hills, and even climbing onto the 155th Street viaduct. 

While both teams entered with 10-0 records, Yale was the betting favorite, according to the New York Tribune. Near the end of a back-and-forth opening half, halfback William Douglas Ward 1895 broke through with the decisive touchdown, and the staunch Tiger defense, which allowed just 14 points all season, carried Princeton to the upset victory.

A Thanksgiving Day crowd of an estimated 40,000 spectators — in The Daily Princetonian’s words, “the largest and most fashionable that ever witnessed a football game” — gathered around Manhattan Field to watch the Tigers and Elis square off in the season finale. They sat or stood wherever they could find room, circling the field, filling the nearby hills, and even climbing onto the 155th Street viaduct. 

While both teams entered with 10-0 records, Yale was the betting favorite, according to the New York Tribune. Near the end of a back-and-forth opening half, halfback William Douglas Ward 1895 broke through with the decisive touchdown, and the staunch Tiger defense, which allowed just 14 points all season, carried Princeton to the upset victory.

1903

John DeWitt 1904
John DeWitt 1904
Wikipedia/Chicago Daily News
As in 1893, the two sides entered their annual rivalry game unbeaten — this time, for a contest played in New Haven. John DeWitt 1904, Princeton’s All-American guard and a future track-and-field Olympian, returned a blocked field goal 80 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

In an era that placed great value on the kicking game (field goals were worth five points), the Tribune reported that DeWitt had been performing “far below what was expected of him” as a kicker. With the score tied in the second half, he failed to convert a field goal from 35 yards out, leaving Yale with a chance to pull ahead. But Princeton’s defense held, and DeWitt received his shot at redemption. From the Tribune account:

“Amid a deathly silence, he lifted the ball straight and true through the forty-two yards of space between the goal posts of the Elis, and the game was won. Princeton’s partisans leaped into a delirium of joy.”

As in 1893, the two sides entered their annual rivalry game unbeaten — this time, for a contest played in New Haven. John DeWitt 1904, Princeton’s All-American guard and a future track-and-field Olympian, returned a blocked field goal 80 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

In an era that placed great value on the kicking game (field goals were worth five points), the Tribune reported that DeWitt had been performing “far below what was expected of him” as a kicker. With the score tied in the second half, he failed to convert a field goal from 35 yards out, leaving Yale with a chance to pull ahead. But Princeton’s defense held, and DeWitt received his shot at redemption. From the Tribune account:

“Amid a deathly silence, he lifted the ball straight and true through the forty-two yards of space between the goal posts of the Elis, and the game was won. Princeton’s partisans leaped into a delirium of joy.”

1925

Jake Slagle ’27
Jake Slagle ’27
The Daily Princetonian Archives
Long before SportsCenter and YouTube, Princeton halfback Jake Slagle ’27 etched his name into Tiger football lore with an 82-yard fake punt known simply as “Slagle’s run.” How remarkable was his weaving dash through the Yale defense? Grantland Rice compared it to the breathtaking runs of Illinois star Red Grange, and PAW deconstructed his route in a 27-frame photo essay. Reviewing the grainy images, it appears that he evaded at least six different defenders at close range.

Slagle’s score gave the Tigers the lead early in the second quarter, and Joe Prendergast ’27 added two rushing touchdowns for Princeton, which never trailed the favored Elis in a game witnessed by 78,000 at the Yale Bowl.

Long before SportsCenter and YouTube, Princeton halfback Jake Slagle ’27 etched his name into Tiger football lore with an 82-yard fake punt known simply as “Slagle’s run.” How remarkable was his weaving dash through the Yale defense? Grantland Rice compared it to the breathtaking runs of Illinois star Red Grange, and PAW deconstructed his route in a 27-frame photo essay. Reviewing the grainy images, it appears that he evaded at least six different defenders at close range.

Slagle’s score gave the Tigers the lead early in the second quarter, and Joe Prendergast ’27 added two rushing touchdowns for Princeton, which never trailed the favored Elis in a game witnessed by 78,000 at the Yale Bowl.

1935

Princeton coach Fritz Crisler
Princeton coach Fritz Crisler
The Daily Princetonian Archives
Fritz Crisler, one of college football’s legendary coaches, had a losing record against Yale in his six years at Princeton. Both of his wins against the Elis came in New Haven, and both completed undefeated seasons.

The 1935 game marked the second of those victories. Yale had bounced back from two early-season losses and beat Harvard a week before the Princeton game. But the Tigers put all fears to rest early: Jack White ’38 and Pepper Constable ’36 each scored two touchdowns as the team racked up 38 points, Princeton’s highest total in its history against Yale. Crisler eventually left the Tigers to become head coach (and later, athletic director) at Michigan. He led the Wolverines to consecutive wins over Yale in 1938 and ’39.

Fritz Crisler, one of college football’s legendary coaches, had a losing record against Yale in his six years at Princeton. Both of his wins against the Elis came in New Haven, and both completed undefeated seasons.

The 1935 game marked the second of those victories. Yale had bounced back from two early-season losses and beat Harvard a week before the Princeton game. But the Tigers put all fears to rest early: Jack White ’38 and Pepper Constable ’36 each scored two touchdowns as the team racked up 38 points, Princeton’s highest total in its history against Yale. Crisler eventually left the Tigers to become head coach (and later, athletic director) at Michigan. He led the Wolverines to consecutive wins over Yale in 1938 and ’39.

1950

The 1950 Tigers celebrate in the locker room after their win over Yale.
The 1950 Tigers celebrate in the locker room after their win over Yale.
Alan W. Richards/PAW Archives
Princeton’s 1950 team was an offensive juggernaut, averaging 41 points per game in its first seven contests, and the trip to New Haven was a crowning achievement for coach Charlie Caldwell ’25’s single-wing attack. The Tigers ran for 373 yards, passed for 102 more, and scored 47 points — at the time, the most ever for a visiting team at the Yale Bowl.

Previewing his fantastic 1951 season, halfback Dick Kazmaier ’52 was in fine form, running for the opening touchdown and passing for another. The Tigers became the first team in more than three decades to claim the Big Three championship in four straight years.

Princeton’s 1950 team was an offensive juggernaut, averaging 41 points per game in its first seven contests, and the trip to New Haven was a crowning achievement for coach Charlie Caldwell ’25’s single-wing attack. The Tigers ran for 373 yards, passed for 102 more, and scored 47 points — at the time, the most ever for a visiting team at the Yale Bowl.

Previewing his fantastic 1951 season, halfback Dick Kazmaier ’52 was in fine form, running for the opening touchdown and passing for another. The Tigers became the first team in more than three decades to claim the Big Three championship in four straight years.

1964

Cosmo Iacavazzi ’65 during the 1964 Yale game.
Cosmo Iacavazzi ’65 during the 1964 Yale game.
Robert Matthews/PAW Archives
Princeton (7-0) and Yale (6-0-1) were the best teams in the Ivy League; their respective running backs, Cosmo Iacavazzi ’65 and Chuck Merecin, were among the league’s elite players. But on this afternoon, the Tigers, paced by Iacavazzi’s 185 rushing yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, emerged as the season’s undisputed champions.

Afterward, coach Dick Colman praised his star as “the finest running back of his kind I have ever seen in action or in motion pictures.” Princeton topped Cornell the following week to finish 9-0 — 49 seasons later, the 1964 Tigers remain the program’s last undefeated team.

Princeton (7-0) and Yale (6-0-1) were the best teams in the Ivy League; their respective running backs, Cosmo Iacavazzi ’65 and Chuck Merecin, were among the league’s elite players. But on this afternoon, the Tigers, paced by Iacavazzi’s 185 rushing yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, emerged as the season’s undisputed champions.

Afterward, coach Dick Colman praised his star as “the finest running back of his kind I have ever seen in action or in motion pictures.” Princeton topped Cornell the following week to finish 9-0 — 49 seasons later, the 1964 Tigers remain the program’s last undefeated team.

1981

The Daily Princetonian Archives
Yale coach Carm Cozza had the Tigers’ number: After losing his first Princeton-Yale game in 1966, his teams racked up 14 straight wins. The 1981 team was among his best, entering Palmer Stadium with an undefeated record; Princeton, at 3-4-1, hardly seemed like a threat to end the streak.

After falling behind early, 21-0, Bob Holly ’82 and the Tigers’ passing attack began to pile up yards — and points. Trailing 31-29 with less than two minutes remaining, Holly guided his team down the field. A controversial pass-interference penalty gave Princeton the ball at Yale’s 1-yard line, and Holly decided try running it in — a gutsy call for a quarterback with no time-outs remaining. He dove across the goal line and into Palmer Stadium history. Princeton Athletic News later named it the game of the century.

The Prince devoted most of its Monday issue to the game, but the ecstatic coverage is best summarized in three short words: “We beat Yale.”

Yale coach Carm Cozza had the Tigers’ number: After losing his first Princeton-Yale game in 1966, his teams racked up 14 straight wins. The 1981 team was among his best, entering Palmer Stadium with an undefeated record; Princeton, at 3-4-1, hardly seemed like a threat to end the streak.

After falling behind early, 21-0, Bob Holly ’82 and the Tigers’ passing attack began to pile up yards — and points. Trailing 31-29 with less than two minutes remaining, Holly guided his team down the field. A controversial pass-interference penalty gave Princeton the ball at Yale’s 1-yard line, and Holly decided try running it in — a gutsy call for a quarterback with no time-outs remaining. He dove across the goal line and into Palmer Stadium history. Princeton Athletic News later named it the game of the century.

The Prince devoted most of its Monday issue to the game, but the ecstatic coverage is best summarized in three short words: “We beat Yale.”

2005

Jeff Terrell ’07
Jeff Terrell ’07
Bill Allen ’79 — NJ Sport/Action
In 2005, Princeton’s hopes for its first Ivy title in a decade died in the final two minutes of the Yale game, when the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns and won 21-14.

In 2006, captain and quarterback Jeff Terrell ’07 reversed the Tigers’ fate, passing for the game’s final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and leading Princeton to a 34-31 win. Terrell’s 57-yard scoring strike to Brian Brigham ’07 with 7:36 remaining proved to be the decisive play. The next Princeton drive ran out the final 4:51 on the clock and ensured the first Big Three bonfire in 12 years.

Princeton and Yale both finished 6-1 in Ivy games and shared the league championship.