Princeton football’s Oct. 23 showdown against Harvard featured an entertaining array of trick plays, flashy runs, and acrobatic interceptions, but for the Tigers, the result was frustratingly familiar: a 45–28 loss that dropped Princeton to 1–5 overall and 0–3 in Ivy League games for the second straight year.
Harvard senior tailback Gino Gordon tortured the Tiger defense, shedding tacklers with an array of cuts, spins, and dips en route to 204 rushing yards on 20 carries. His understudy, sophomore Treavor Scales, also excelled, gaining 134 yards on 16 attempts.
The plucky Tigers countered with creativity, turning two trick plays into touchdowns. The first, which came early in the opening quarter, featured tight end Harry Flaherty ’11, who backpedaled to catch a lateral pass from quarterback Andrew Dixon ’11 and then launched a high spiral to receiver Andrew Kerr ’11 for a 22-yard score.
Head coach Bob Surace ’90 thought the play was a good omen: One of Flaherty’s uncles, Judd Garrett ’90, threw a similar option pass for a touchdown against the Crimson in his senior year. Princeton won that game, 28–14.
This year, Harvard countered quickly with two rushing touchdowns — a 26-yard dash by Gordon and a 46-yard sprint by Scales. Princeton tied the game on a Dixon-to-Kerr touchdown pass in the second quarter, but the Crimson surged ahead before halftime. After adding a fourth touchdown early in the third quarter, Harvard led 28–14.
On the next drive, Princeton pushed into Harvard territory and found more sleight of hand in its playbook, this time running a version of the “Statue of Liberty” play from a spread formation that included just three interior linemen. As freshman quarterback Connor Kelley faked a pass, he slipped the ball behind his back, handing off to tailback Jordan Culbreath ’11. Culbreath rolled left and threw to an open Trey Peacock ’11 for the touchdown. With the extra point, Princeton cut the lead to 28–21.
Harvard added a field goal late in the third quarter, but at the start of the fourth, the Tigers remained within striking distance. That changed quickly when a bad snap sent Princeton punter Otavio Fleury ’12 scrambling toward the Harvard goal line. Fleury gathered the ball and attempted to kick it, but two Crimson defenders converged, blocking the punt and recovering the ball in the end zone. With Harvard ahead 38–21, Princeton’s comeback hopes fizzled.
Dixon, starting in place of injured quarterback Tommy Wornham ’12, played admirably, completing 20 of 29 attempts for 195 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown. Peacock caught 11 passes for 139 yards and remained the Ivy’s leader in both receptions and receiving yards.