With 60 minutes of defense and one of magic, Yale (4-5, 4-2 Ivy) stole Saturday’s game from Princeton (6-3, 4-2), 21-14.
By the time the game had reached its final 1:14, the beleaguered Eli captain had had a long day. There were the two interceptions, the three straight incompletions just thrown, and the fact that he had watched most of his first 38 throws from the seat of his pants – all to the delight of the 18,265 on hand at Princeton stadium.
Fourth-and-goal from the ten, the sun setting on the uneven Yale season as well as his own career, Jeff Mroz ’06 heeded the advice of injured receiver Chandler Henley ’06 and changed his play-call.
Florida Z 7-Up was a masterstroke. For the first time all day, Princeton’s cocksure, all-world cornerback hesitated, and Mroz zipped ten yards of history into the diving hands of receiver Todd Feiereisen ’06.
With the newly tied game seeming destined for overtime, persistence bore still more fruit.
On first down, receiver Brian Shields caught a pass in front of defensive end Brendan Sponheimer ’07, who delivered Shields a crushing blow. The ball popped out of the thunderstruck receiver’s hands and into those of skulking linebacker Bobby Abare ’09, who carried it to the Princeton goal line to set up a game-winning quarterback sneak by Mroz.
It is a testament to the Bulldogs’ defense, which forced seven turnovers, that Mroz even had a chance to shine.
“Our defense – I’ve never seen a more dominant second half,” Mroz said.
The Eli defense, which yielded only 95 yards after halftime, got interceptions from Mike Holben ’06 (two), Lee Driftmier ’07 (two) and Nick Solakian ’07.
The win keeps Yale’s slim hopes for an Ivy League title alive. To claim a share of the prize, the Bulldogs must beat Harvard in the season finale next week and Columbia must upset first-place Brown.