After a 10-game journey like none this program had seen in more than a century, the 2018 Ivy League champion Princeton Tigers finally took the cheese.
It was a mantra of Bob Surace
's throughout the season — don't take the cheese — to remind a team loaded with both talent and chemistry to never take their eyes off the ultimate prize, and to never be satisfied with the small victories along the way.
But it was after the 10th
win, the culmination of the first perfect season at Princeton since 1964, when senior captain Kurt Holuba
proudly brought bars of cheese into a locker room packed with emotional, joyous players who had just finished off a season they will never forget.
Oh, and there was an Ivy League championship trophy in there as well. That never hurts a celebration.
Led by a four-touchdown day by record-setting wide receiver Jesper Horsted
, the Princeton football team fended off a mid-game surge by Penn and finished its 10-0 season with a 42-14 win in front of 7,756 fans at Princeton Stadium. Many of those fans rushed Powers Field after the final kneel-down by John Lovett
, who broke an Ivy League record when he rushed for a touchdown in his 20th straight game.
The victory clinched the fourth outright Ivy League title in program history, and the first since 1995. It was also the program's second 7-0 Ivy season since league play officially began in 1956, and it featured a moment in the winning locker room between the leaders of those teams, Lovett and College Football Hall of Famer Cosmo Iacavazzi '65. This was only the 13th 7-0 season in Ivy League history, and the first since 2014.
It was by no means easy, even if Princeton grabbed a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. Lovett and Horsted connected on touchdowns of 42 and 3 yards, and Horsted added a 19-yard scoring run to help build the advantage.
The second touchdown of the game made the 2018 Princeton Tigers the highest scoring offense in Ivy League history. Princeton finished the season with 470 points, surpassing the previous record of 437 points, set by the 2013 Ivy League championship team. At least one former captain from that historic squad took the news well.
Only three teams in Ivy League history have ever gone over the 400-point mark, and two of them were led by Surace to Ivy League championships over the last six years; in fact, it hasn't been since the 1960s that three Princeton teams won Ivy titles over a six-year stretch (1964, 66, 69 and 2013, 16, 18). Princeton ended the regular season as the second-ranked scoring offense, the third-ranked total offense and the sixth-ranked rushing offense in the FCS.
Penn would score right before and after halftime to cut the deficit to seven points, and it had a drive to potentially tie the game, but a tackle for loss by Tom Johnson
— who led the Tigers with 10 tackles and a sack in the win — helped thwart that Quaker drive. Princeton regained control on the next drive, going 80 yards in nine plays and finishing with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Horsted, the 28th of his record-setting career. Earlier on the drive, Horsted passed Kevin Guthrie to grab the Princeton record for career receptions; he ends his career with 196 catches and 2,703 receiving yards (which is second most in program history).
Princeton put the game away in the fourth with touchdown runs by Lovett — the record-setter — and Charlie Volker
, who moved to seventh on the all-time Princeton rushing list with 1995 yards.
Johnson had team highs in tackles (10) and tackles for loss (2), and he had one of the team's three sacks. Fellow captain Mark Fossati
added eight stops, while cornerback Delan Stallworth
had nine. Senior Ben Ellis
grabbed a tipped ball by Trevor Forbes
to end a Penn drive in the second half, while seniors Joe Percival
and Mike Wagner
registered sacks in their final collegiate games.
The Princeton defense certainly shined in the national rankings as well. Princeton finished the 2018 regular season ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense, seventh in rushing defense and 11th in total defense. The unit's biggest moments came in Princeton's two closest games, narrow wins over both Dartmouth and Harvard, when they made one critical stop after another to either stay within two points (Dartmouth) or maintain a narrow lead (Harvard). Both units helped Princeton rank fourth nationally in turnover margin (+14).
The Class of 2019 ended their Princeton careers with a 28-12 record, the most wins by any Princeton class in more than two decades, and it was the first to win two titles in three years since the mid-1960s. Because Princeton played only nine games for much of the 20th century, this Princeton team is the first to complete an unbeaten, untied season with double-digit victories since 1903.