EASTON, Pa. - A 21-point third quarter stretched Princeton’s 8-0 halftime lead to 29-0 as the Tigers pulled away for a 35-14 win over Lafayette on Saturday at Fisher Stadium.
The decisive third quarter featured two rushing touchdowns and a pick-six. Princeton QB Quinn Epperly scored on a 23-yard run eight minutes into the second half. Phillip Bhaya followed with a game-breaking interception and 32-yard return for touchdown that pushed the Tigers’ advantage to 22-0 with 5:40 left in the third.
The Leopards (3-2) were forced to punt on their next possession and Princeton took over near midfield. Six plays later, Roman Wilson scampered 34 yards for the score and a 29-0 advantage. Princeton ran for 262 yards on the ground, as four ballcarriers had 40 or more yards.
"They got the momentum and kept it and even when we tried to get a little of it back we just couldn't get stops on third down and we gave up a lot of big plays,” said Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani.
"There are so many plays where we're right there, but we're not finishing plays and not finishing drives,” Tavani continued. “You can go crawl in a hole or you can get back up tomorrow, which we'll do and we'll figure it out."
Sophomore tailback Ross Scheurman put the Leopards on the board to start the fourth with a 65-yard touchdown run. It was Lafayette’s longest play from scrimmage this season and the longest run of Scheuerman’s career. Scheuerman finished with 125 yards on the ground, the Leopards’ first 100-yard rushing game since Pat Mputu’s 116-yard performance against Fordham on Oct. 22, 2011.
The Leopards were without starting senior quarterback Andrew Shoop, who missed the game due to injury, and starting linebackers Kasheem Hill (suspension) and Ben Aloi (season-ending knee injury).
Princeton (2-2) opened the game in the hurry-up offense, converting three first downs, before facing a 4th-and-inches situation on Lafayette’s 28-yard line. Senior Rick Lyster came up with the stuff in the Tiger backfield to keep Princeton from opening-drive points. Failed drives were the story of the first quarter, as each offense struggled to move the ball. Lyster ended the day with nine tackles, two for loss.
The second quarter played out similarly to the first as each defense continued to have its way. Neither team entered the opponents’ red zone until the final two minutes before intermission. Princeton broke through late in the half as a 10-yard run from Akil Sharp put the Tigers ahead, 6-0. Princeton faked the PAT, lining up all but the snapper, holder and kicker off to the left side and snapping to the tailback, Jason Ray, who ran behind his line for the two-point conversion.
Lafayette’s final drive of the half stalled and the Leopards trailed 8-0 going into the break.
On Lafayette’s second drive of the second half, starting QB Zach Zweizig connected with Mark Ross for a 41-yard strike. Zweizig faked the handoff to two crossing tailbacks in the backfield and hit Ross down the middle of the field. The Leopards’ drive stalled after that and Lafayette was forced to punt.
Princeton scored three times in the next six minutes, including twice in 36 seconds, to pull away to a 29-0 lead at the end of three quarters.
The Tigers’ offense continued to move the ball in the fourth, scoring on a seven-play, 60-yard drive that was culminated by Sharp’s 1-yard run.
Lafayette’s final possession churned out 72 yards on eight plays. Zweizig completed a 29-yard toss to Ross for a touchdown that ran the final to 35-14. Zweizig finished the day 17-for-28 for 194 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown while Ross managed five catches for 103 yards.
Defensively, junior linebacker Mike Boles led the way with 12 tackles, and position mate sophomore Colton Kirkpatrick recorded 1.5 sacks to go along with his 10 stops. Jared Roberts added 10 tackles for the Leopards. Princeton sacked Zweizig four times, including 2.5 sacks by Mike Catapano, who also forced a fumble.
Lafayette will look to snap a two-game slide, facing its second straight Ivy League opponent in Yale on Oct. 13. Kick-off is set for noon.