Princeton Stuns No. 20 Harvard, 39-34

Photo: Gil Talbot
Photo: Gil Talbot

PRINCETON, N.J. – In an improbable finish, Quinn Epperly threw a 36-yard touchdown pass off his back foot with 13 seconds left as Princeton completed a 39-point second half and 29-point fourth quarter to shock 20th-ranked Harvard by a score of 39-34 at Princeton Stadium.

The touchdown capped a frantic 30 minutes of play for the Tigers, who were held to just 51 first half yards but finished with 419 while scoring 29 points in the fourth quarter alone – the most ever allowed by a Harvard team.

Princeton improves to 4-2 on the season and is the lone undefeated Ivy League team at 3-0. Harvard sees its national-best 14-game winning streak come to a halt and now sits at 5-1 and 2-1 in the league.

Despite scoring 34 points on 634 yards of offense, it could have – and needed to be – much more as Harvard turned the ball over twice deep in Princeton territory, had an extra point and chip shot field goal blocked as well as a punt. Harvard also committed 12 penalties for 99 yards including a crucial unsportsmanlike conduct call on the final drive after a sack.  

Princeton came into play among the national leaders in several defensive categories, ranked second in points per game (11.6) and 12th in total defense (306 yards/game). Harvard scored on three of its four possessions and took a 20-0 lead into the locker room with a staggering advantage in total offense with 415 yards compared to just 51 for the Tigers.

Princeton drove 86 yards on 15 plays in the first series of the second half, capped by a one-yard run from Epperly to make it a 20-7 game. Harvard fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Princeton recovered settled for a field goal and a 20-10 score.

Once it finally got on the field, Harvard's offense answered quickly with a precision seven-play, 75 yard drive in just 2:20. Colton Chapple, who had a career day, found tight end Kyle Juszczyk, who also had a career day, for an 8 yard scoring play on a slip-screen to give Harvard a 27-10 lead.

Alexander Norman then intercepted Conner Michelsen to stop a Princeton drive and the Crimson marched right down again, driving 66 yards on 10 plays with Chapple finding Cameron Brate for a 14 yard touchdown pass for a 34-10 lead with 13:02 remaining. It all fell apart from there however.

Princeton scored the final 29 points and converted a pair of two-point conversions, blocked a punt and  got within 34-26 after Conner Michelsen found Matt Costello for a 31 yard score with 7:43 left.

Harvard's Paul Stanton, Jr. calmed the crowd slightly as he returned the ensuing kickoff to the 43 to give the Crimson good field position. Three plays later, Harvard drove all the way to the five yard line but could go no further and Princeton blocked a 22 yard field goal attempt with 4:45 remaining.

Princeton again marched down field with a 20 yard TD pass to Seth DeValve. The two-point conversion was knocked down by Norman as the score stood at 34-32 with 2:27. After the onsides kick went out of bounds, Harvard held possession at the 40 yard line but the Crimson came up a yard shy on its series and elected to punt as Princeton took over at its 10 yard line with 1:57 left.

It looked like the Crimson would hold out following a big sack but two Harvard players were whistled for celebration towards their side line in a call reminiscent of a situation in 2006 during Harvard's last setback to the Tigers. The penalty was followed by another extra life as Harvard dropped a sure interception with 38 seconds left before Epperly heaved a pass to the far corner of the end zone for the winning score.

Chapple set a single-game passing record with 448 yards on 31 of 45 passing while tying his own single-game mark of five touchdowns. He also ran for 82 yards. Juszczyk had 14 receptions for 192 yards and a single-game record of three touchdowns. He had 10 catches for 147 yards and two TDs in the first half alone.