With Harvard ahead 20-0 at halftime, the 10,823 fans in Princeton Stadium were disheartened, likely believing that their beloved Tigers had met their match against the undefeated powerhouse of the Ivy League. But whatever head coach Bob Surace said to the Tigers at halftime, Princeton came out in the second half and provided an offensive explosion that left the Crimson stunned and sent the Princeton fans home delighted.
After a Quinn Epperly touchdown run and a Nolan Bieck field goal closed the Crimson lead to 20-10 midway through the third quarter, Harvard quarterback Colton Chapple (31-of-45 for 448 yards and five touchdowns) answered with two touchdown passes of his own, putting the Tigers down by the largest margin of the game, 34-10, with just 13:02 left to play.
That is where the 2011 Princeton Tigers would have packed it in. But in 2012, the Tigers have earned their stripes.
Princeton quarterback Connor Michelsen (20-of-33 for 237 yards and three touchdowns) went on a fourth-quarter tear, throwing TD passes to Dre Nelson, Matt Costello and Seth DeValve, cutting the lead to 34-32 as they lined up for the two-point conversion to tie the game. But when the pass to tie the game fell incomplete in the end zone, even the most ardent Tigers fans had to feel that Harvard would somehow survive the game in the remaining 2:27.
But when the Princeton defense held, Harvard was forced to punt, giving the ball back to the Tigers at their own 10-yard line with 1:57 remaining—but with no timeouts. Again, Michelsen moved the team downfield, but as they had reached their own 45-yard line, the starting quarterback left the game with an injury.
Out strode sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly, who continued to move the team downfield, where the Tigers faced a third down with two yards to go at the Harvard 36. It was at that point that Epperly (4-of-7 for 50 yards and one touchdown) rolled left and heaved a pass downfield to Roman Wilson, who gathered it in for the winning score with just 13 seconds remaining on the clock.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet,” said Wilson after the game (as reported by The Daily Princetonian). "It’s just an incredible feeling looking up and seeing all the fans, all the alumni.”
The 39-34 win snapped the Harvard winning streak and, more importantly, put Princeton into first place in the Ivy League standings. The Tigers are now 4-2 on the season and 3-0 in Ivy League play. Harvard, who had a 14-game winning streak entering the game, fell to 5-1 on the season.
“Princeton deserved to win,” said Harvard head coach Tim Murphy (as reported by The Daily Princetonian). “They became a team they’d not been.”