Tiger fans don’t need to panic after the football team lost its season opener to San Diego — last year’s 8-2 season, after all, began with a loss. But the team has much to learn from the 39-29 result.

Bad news first: Princeton’s defense let up some explosive plays. The Toreros scored on passes of 29 and 48 yards, and that’s not to mention quarterback Keith Williams’ 82-yard completion to Reggie Bell, which took San Diego from its own 7 to Princeton’s 11 yard line, setting up the first touchdown of the game.

Khamal Brown ’16 had two tackles in his first game since 2012 and Matt Arends ’15 was in on five, one for a loss, but overall it was a disappointing day for Princeton’s defensive backfield. Linebacker Mike Zeuli ’15 led the team with eight tackles and recorded the Tigers’ only two sacks, but his teammates could not keep up the pressure he put on Williams. The worst fears about the defense seemed to be realized: Without Caraun Reid ’14 to terrify the quarterback, Princeton’s opponent was free to carve up the defensive backfield.

Receiver Seth DeValve caught nine passes for 123 yards in Princeton’s loss to San Diego Sept. 20 (Office of Athletic Communications)
Receiver Seth DeValve caught nine passes for 123 yards in Princeton’s loss to San Diego Sept. 20 (Office of Athletic Communications)
The offense got off to a slow start as well. Quinn Epperly ’15, whose completion percentage is usually not a concern, went 25 of 53, throwing two touchdowns but also two interceptions. He was sacked twice, canceling out his 15 yards rushing, although he did score a touchdown on the ground. Epperly by no means had a bad game, but San Diego was able to disrupt his much-lauded rhythm in a way that few teams have in the past.

In general, the Tigers’ rhythm seemed off. Princeton chose to go for two-point conversions after each of its first two touchdowns and failed on both attempts. In other cases, the element of surprise proved more successful: Epperly caught two passes from fellow quarterback Connor Michelsen ’15 for 23 yards. But you don’t have to be surprising to win. DiAndre Atwater ’16 sprinted for 80 yards on 10 carries while Seth DeValve ’15 caught nine passes of 123 yards and a touchdown, and those are two offensive threats San Diego likely saw coming. The Tigers’ trademark creativity will serve them well as the season wears on and the offense seeks to emulate last year’s well-oiled machine, but it may do well to focus on the basics ahead of next Saturday’s home opener against Davidson.

Quick Takes

Field hockey vented its frustration over a close loss last week with wins Saturday and Sunday, the first of which was a convincing 4-0 decision over Dartmouth. Striker Maddie Copeland ’16 notched two goals and midfielder Teresa Benvenuti ’16 had a goal and two assists as goalie Anya Gersoff ’16 recorded her first shutout of the season. The win marked a successful start to Princeton’s quest for its 10th straight league title.

Men’s soccer made an impression in its first ever match against Boston University, coming back from 2-0 deficit to force a hard-fought draw in Beantown. Midfielder Brendan McSherry ’16 scored the equalizer just 20 seconds after coming into the game in the 61st minute, and both defenses held on through two overtimes. The Tigers have hung with everyone they’ve played but have been finding it hard to break through and currently stand at 1-2-2.

Women’s cross country followed up its HYP win with a third-place finish out of 20 at the Meet of Champions in New York City. Freshman duo Gabi Forrest ’18 and Natalie Rathjen ’18 finished third and fourth, respectively, with classmate Lydon Kersting ’18 rounding out the top 25.