Playing in front of a national television audience for the first time in program history, the Georgetown football team (3-1) defeated Princeton (0-2), 21-20, on a late field goal by junior kicker Matt MacZura in another down-to-the-wire finish for the Hoyas.
The Blue and Gray turned to their third-string quarterback, sophomore Stephen Skon, after junior Aaron Aiken went down with an injury in the second quarter. Skon responded well, leading the Hoyas on a number of impressive drives in his first collegiate game. No drive he orchestrated was more important than his last one, which produced the game-winner.
“That last drive was unbelievable,” Head Coach Kevin Kelly said. “We made the play at the end to win the game.”
From the opening kickoff, Georgetown seemed energized by the ESPNU cameras, as Aiken led the offense down the field and inside Princeton’s 10-yard line. And while the drive did not reach the end zone, MacZura’s 25-yard field goal nevertheless gave the Blue and Gray an early lead.
Princeton, looking much improved after two straight one-win seasons, responded immediately. The Tigers used a crafty fake field goal to take a 7-3 lead on a 10-yard pass with just over five minutes left in the first quarter.
After Georgetown stalled, Princeton got the ball back and kept its momentum going with a 50-yard drive, which ended in a 2-yard touchdown run to take a 14-3 lead.
On the Blue and Gray’s next possession, Aiken hurt his ankle while being sacked, and the Hoyas were forced to punt. Things looked grim at that point for Georgetown: The defense was struggling, and Skon was making his debut.
But the Hoyas stepped up, especially on defense, where the team’s standouts made their usual key contributions. Junior linebacker Dustin Wharton had 12 tackles and a sack, star senior linebacker Robert McCabe contributed 10 tackles and another sack and senior cornerback Jeremy Moore pitched in with a vital fumble recovery in addition to his 10 tackles.
“I talked about being good teammates, and if we’re all good teammates, we’ll be a good football team,” Kelly said. “Aaron went down, it was 14-3 and our guys — offense and defense — stepped up and rallied.”
After forcing a punt, Georgetown trimmed the lead on Skon’s first drive, marching downfield before eventually settling for a 26-yard MacZura field goal.
The drive was indicative of the Blue and Gray’s red zone offense for much of the day, which showed improvement after a dismal performance against Yale. The Hoyas were 4-for-4 in the red
zone this week, coming away with three field goals and a touchdown.
“We’re not there yet, but we’ve improved on both sides of the ball in the red zone,” Kelly said.
On Princeton’s next possession, a snap went over the head of Tiger sophomore quarterback Connor Michelsen, and the ball-hawking Moore recovered in the end zone. While the Blue and Gray missed the extra point, they were nonetheless able to trim the lead to 14-12 heading into halftime.
Friday marked Moore’s second straight week with a defensive touchdown, as he continues to show a knack for finding the ball in important moments.
“Jeremy plays at a different speed,” Kelly said. “He’s fearless, and he has a great knack for anticipation of the ball when it’s in the air.”
After the break, both defenses held firm for much of the third quarter until Georgetown broke through with a two-headed rushing attack of junior running backs Nick Campanella and Dalen Claytor. The duo drove downfield and scored on a 7-yard Campanella rush, giving them an 18-14 lead.
The Tigers showed impressive resolve by responding instantly and retaking the lead on a 53-yard touchdown run by freshman DiAndre Atwater. A missed extra point gave Princeton a 20-18 lead at the beginning of the final quarter.
Both teams failed to gain any ground for much of the fourth, as the Tigers’ kicker Nolan Bieck missed a 35-yard field goal, his third fllubbed kick of the game. That set the Hoyas up for one more chance at their own 12-yard line with 5:34 left.
Skon showed tremendous poise, leading his team on a methodical 15-play, 72-yard drive that ended in MacZura’s game-winning 33-yard kick with 14 seconds left.
It was a bounce-back game for the junior hero MacZura after he had missed two field goals in the Yale loss. The kicker seems to have a habit of coming through in the clutch: His goal Friday night was his second game-winner of the young season.
“Matt, field goal-wise, is 5-for-7 this year. He missed two last week, but he nailed three this week. And obviously, there was the big one right at the end,” Kelly said.
The Blue and Gray return to the Hilltop for a Homecoming matchup with their third straight Ivy League opponent, Brown. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday.