Football drops its third straight game

After spending the week learning the tendencies of the two quarterbacks who had split time leading the Princeton football team this season, the Harvard defense found a way to simplify its task: Knock both quarterbacks out of the game.

With Bill Foran ’08 forced to the sidelines by a concussion and Greg Mroz ’08 rendered ineffective by a reinjured throwing hand, the Tigers’ offense ground to a halt in the second half, allowing the Crimson to pull away for a 27–10 win Oct. 20 at Harvard Stadium.

“We were very inconsistent on both sides of the ball,” head coach Roger Hughes said. “A lot of the things that caused us duress were where we didn’t do some fundamental things right.”

Struggling with fundamentals has become a familiar story for this year’s Princeton squad, which lost its third consecutive game and dropped to 1–2 in the Ivy League (2–4 overall). After turning over the ball a combined 17 times in their three previous losses, the Tigers added three more give-aways against Harvard — a fumble and two interceptions. All three came in a horrid second half in which the orange and black gained just 36 yards and failed to advance past midfield. The defense contributed several miscues of its own, as Crimson quarterback Chris Pizzotti picked apart the Princeton secondary to the tune of 365 yards and two touchdowns.

Most of the Tigers’ bright spots came in the second quarter, after Princeton fell behind 10–0 early in the game. With Foran at the helm, Princeton mounted a 15-play drive that resulted in a field goal, employing an assortment of option pitches, end-arounds, and quarterback keepers that kept the Harvard defense on its heels.

The Crimson scored its first quarterback knockout early in Princeton’s next drive, when Foran left the game after a collision. But Mroz kept the offense moving in his first series, and R.C. Lagomarsino ’09 took an option pitch around the left corner, scampering untouched down the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown to tie the game.

Harvard missed a field goal on the ensuing possession, giving Princeton a chance to take the lead, but the Tigers could not capitalize. On fourth down and four at the Crimson 25-yard-line, Hughes elected to go for the first down, but Mroz was flushed out of the pocket and unable to find an open receiver.

“I felt like we were into the wind and out of field-goal range,” Hughes explained afterward, “and from then on we kind of backslid.”

Indeed, the Tigers never threatened again. A field goal just before halftime gave Harvard the lead, and a touchdown on the Crimson’s first possession after the break made it 20–10. Mean-while, Mroz clearly was not himself in the third quarter. Several egregiously off-target throws made it evident that he had injured his right hand and was unable to grip the ball. (A similar injury knocked Mroz out of Princeton’s Sept. 29 win over Columbia.)

With his team running out of chances, Hughes turned to third-string quarterback Brian Anderson ’09 to start the fourth quarter. Seeing his first collegiate action, Anderson showed bursts of athleticism in picking up several first downs with his feet, but otherwise was unable to move the ball. Anderson’s second possession under center was emblematic of all that went wrong for Princeton: Starting from their own 2-yard line, the Tigers were called for three false-start penalties in the span of five snaps.

“It gives you a sense of how fragile offense is,” Hughes said. He was talking about the game, but he could have been discussing the entire season. With four games to play, the Tigers’ hopes of defending their Ivy League title already were all but gone.