Earning Their Stripes: Colgate Defeats the Princeton Tigers in OT to Improve to 6-0

With injuries to their starting kicker and punter, a tough day on offense, and the pressure of being on ESPNU, several things were stacked against the Raiders as they faced off against the Tigers at Princeton on Thursday. However, the defense stepped up and Colgate went to overtime with Princeton with both teams having only seven points at the end of the fourth quarter. After a nail biting double overtime session, the Raiders left New Jersey with a 21-14 victory and a 6-0 record.

After Colgate went three-and-out on their opening possession of the game, Princeton drove into field goal range. However, senior defensive tackle Paul Mancuso blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt by Ben Bologna. The kick was recovered by senior wide out Ty Henry at the Raider 20.

Colgate’s struggled for much of the first half, and was hampered by the fact that they were unable to kick a field goal of any length, with starting first-year kicker Evan Colborne injured. Colgate finally did get on the scoreboard in the second quarter thanks to a little help from the defense. Junior safety Mike Barry picked off Princeton quarterback Tommy Wornham to set up the Raider offense on the Princeton 36 with 8:55 left in the quarter. The offense got down to the 21, where they faced a fourth-and-seven. The Raiders went for it and made it, thanks to a 19-yard pass from junior quarterback Greg Sullivan to senior wide receiver Pat Simonds. Simonds would finish the day with five receptions for 61 yards. On the next play, Sullivan scampered into the end zone from 2 yards out. Colborne was healthy enough to nail the extra point, and give the Raiders a 7-0 lead.

On the ensuing possession Princeton drove down to the Raider seven, only to have another Bologna field goal attempt blocked. The blocked field goal preserved a 7-0 Raider lead going into the break.

The third quarter passed with neither team getting on the board, but Princeton would finally end the shutout with 9:45 left in regulation. Wornham found Trey Peacock uncovered in the middle of the field, and delivered 31-yard touchdown strike. According to head Coach Dick Biddle, a failure to switch off coverage from one man to another resulted in Peacock being uncovered.

Neither team could score in the remainder of the fourth quarter, and the game went into overtime. Colgate won the toss and opted to play defense first. Princeton started off completing an eight-yard pass to Matt Zimmerman, but on the next play Akil Sharp was taken down by Austin Douglas six yards behind the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, on the ensuing third-and-eight the issue in the coverage resurfaced, and Wornham found Andrew Kerr uncovered down the middle for a score. The Tigers made the PAT to grab a 14-7 lead.

Colgate decided to go exclusively with the run on their possession. Sophomore running back Nate Eachus ran for five yards, followed by a seven-yard run by Sullivan to pick up the first and then some. Then Eachus broke off another five-yard run, followed by a six -ard Sullivan rush to set the ball up first-and-goal from the two. Sullivan handed off to Eachus who powered his way into the end zone to cut the lead to 14-13. The ailing Colborne then came in and nailed the clutch PAT to send the game to a second overtime.

Colgate got the ball first in the second overtime. They started with a two-yard run by Eachus, followed by a five-yard Sullivan rush which set up a key third-and-three. Sophomore running back Jordan McCord only got two yards on their next play, but the Raiders opted to go for it. Eachus just squeaked past the marker on fourth to give the Raiders the first. Eachus then ripped off a five-yard run, followed by a four-yard rush from Sullivan to bring up a third-and-one. Eachus again fought hard for short yardage, just picking up the first. On the next play, Eachus ran for three yards to bring the ball up to the two yard line. Eachus followed that up with his second two-yard scamper of overtime to put Colgate up 13-7. Colborne again nailed the extra point to give the Raiders a 14-7 advantage.

Princeton had a chance to tie, but only picked up one yard on their first play, a one-yard Wornham scramble. Then Wornham threw two straight incompletions to bring up fourth-and-nine. On fourth down Wornham faced heavy pressure, avoided it, and got a pass off to Peacock that senior linebacker Greg Hadley just got a piece of. The pass fell incomplete, and the Raiders walked away with a 21-14 victory. Colgate was able to win in overtime despite not throwing a pass in the extra session.

“When we got to overtime we got to do what we like to do, which is run the ball,” Head Coach Dick Biddle said. “When you’re driving 25 yards it’s easier to run the ball for an entire drive than when you have to drive 75 yards, especially when it’s four down territory. Princeton was able to limit the big runs, but we were able to get four yards a carry, which was enough to keep the drives alive.”

Sullivan was just 7-23 passing on the night for 100 yards and a pick. Colgate was averaging 277 rushing years per game going into the game, and weas significantly under that total Thursday, with 218 yards on 3.5 yards per carry. Eachus led the way with 102 yards on the ground and two scores, McCord added 65 yards, while Sullivan chipped in 48 yards and a score. The game was closer than many expected, but Coach Biddle did not seem too surprised.

“We were playing two games in five days which we’ve never done before,” Coach Biddle said. “That obviously affected both teams. Each of the last three years our games against Princeton have gone down to the wire, so we weren’t surprised this one was close. Also, being undefeated means that we are going to get everybody’s best game, we’ve got to adjust to that.”

Defense and special teams were the story of the game, because in spite of the two big mistakes in the passing game, they kept Colgate in the contest despite their worst offensive output of the year. Senior linebacker Greg Hadley led the way with 11 tackles while junior defensive back Coree’ Moses added seven. Paul Mancuso recorded four tackles and was named Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week for his key field goal block in the first half. First-year Trevor Lawler deserves serious credit for doing a solid job punting (35.0 yard average) in his first collegiate game in place of the injured Evan Goldszak. Colborne also deserves props for making all his extra points and handling the kickoff duties despite his injury.

The win against Princeton improves the Raiders’ record to 6-0. Princeton fell to 1-3 after the loss. The victory moved Colgate up to 18 in the FCS Coaches poll and 17 in the Sports Network poll.

Coverage of Colgate’s 31-14 win over Georgetown today will appear in the October 22 print edition.