NEW YORK - Princeton used a pair of special teams touchdowns to jump out to an early 14-0 lead en route to 33-6 win over Columbia Saturday at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium. Columbia's Connor Nelligan topped the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career, grabbing 11 catches for 102 yards.
Columbia won the toss and elected to defer, giving Princeton the ball to begin the game. Princeton's Anthony Gaffney fielded the opening kick from the six-yard line and began to make his way through the Columbia coverage team. Gaffney received a block at the 35 yard-line and made his way to the left sideline, giving him a clear path to the end zone. With the point-after attempt good, Princeton held a 7-0 lead just 11 seconds in.
Neither offense was able to string together a long drive for the remainder of the opening quarter, with each team punting three times.
The Tigers' began their fourth series with 34 seconds left in the first quarter, with Di Andre Atwater rushing for nine yards to end of the period. That run would begin a 13-play, 80-yard drive for the Tigers that culminated in a touchdown off a fake field goal. Tom Moak, the Princeton field goal holder, took a high snap and rolled left. On the run, Maok found Des Smith as he crossed the goal line for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The good PAT made it 14-0 in favor of the Tigers with 10:37 remaining until halftime.
Columbia responded on the next drive with its first points of the game. Alec Fisher gave Columbia good starting field position, returning the kick-off to the 30 yard-line. The Lions began the series with three positive-yardage plays. Marcorus Garrett gained seven yards on the ground and Brackett hit Nelligan for complete passes of 10 and 12 yards.
A pass interference call on the Tigers moved the Lions up to the Princeton 37 with a new set of downs. Two more completions from Brackett, both screen passes, and three runs from the Columbia running back, put the Lions in a 4th and three situation. Luke Eddy came on and drilled a 26-yard attempt to close the gap to 14-3 with less than six minutes left in the first half.
Princeton took over at its own 42 following a squib kick from Eddy at the 5:44 mark. The Tigers quickly moved 28 yards up field, using a 13-yard completion from Quinn Epperly to Seth DeValve and a personal foul on Columbia, giving Princeton the ball at the Lions' 25. The Columbia defense buckled down, holding Princeton to a field goal. Nolan Bieck would hit the 34-yard attempt for Princeton, making it 17-3 at the break.
Following punts from each side, Columbia began its second drive of the third quarter at its own 41. Brackett completed a trio of passes to three different receivers on the drive, moving the Lions down to the Princeton 24. The drive would stall there though, with Eddy hitting his second field goal of the game from 41 yards to get Columbia within 11, 17-6.
Princeton would extend its lead back to 14 three series later, using a 20-yard field goal from Bieck. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Princeton scored its third touchdown of the game on a 44-yard touchdown from Epperly to Roman Wilson, making it 27-6. The Tigers tacked on two more field goals, and went on to secure a 33-6 victory, its first of the season.
Garrett led all rushers with 61 yards on 20 carries, but Princeton as a team tallied 111 yards on the ground. Brackett finished the game 18-of-35 for 174 yards, while Connor Michelsen and Epperly finished with a combined 210 yards through the air.
Columbia makes its first road trip of the season next week, visiting Lehigh for a 12:30 p.m. contest in Bethleham, Pa.