10 VIP's (Very Important Princeton Games)
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The Jersey Score! Fletcher's Hail Mary grab sealed a dramatic win in 2003
The Columbia-Princeton rivalry has been filled with extremely memorable and important games.
Even in seasons where neither team seemed like it would make a run for the title, somehow the Lion-Tiger matchups made headlines.
Long-time Columbia fans are well aware of the history between the cross-Hudson River rivals, but here’s a quick primer for the uninitiated.
1) 1933: Princeton 20 Columbia 0
Columbia’s otherwise perfect season was ruined early in the year with a shutout loss at Palmer Stadium. The Lions shook off the embarrassing loss, ran the table in the regular season, and earned a Rose Bowl invite when the Tigers turned it down! The rest is history as Columbia shocked Stanford 7-0 in the soaked Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. But the fact that Princeton left the only stain on the Lions’ greatest season remains a sore point.
2) 1961: Princeton 30 Columbia 20
The 1933 scenario played itself out again in eerie fashion as Columbia’s great 1961 Ivy championship season was somewhat marred by a loss at home to Princeton. The Lions blew a late lead with a bad turnover to contribute to the loss. As a result of the Princeton game, Columbia had to officially share the Ivy title with Harvard, even though the Lions whipped the Crimson in Cambridge.
3) 1971: Columbia 22 Princeton 20
Since the formal creation of the Ivy League in 1956, Columbia had NEVER beaten Princeton in official league play… until this game. The ’71 “Kardiac Kids” pulled out a thriller at Baker Field in a rainstorm. Sophomore defensive back Ted Gregory and junior QB Don Jackson starred in the game that finally got the Lions over the hump. The team finished the season 6-3 and second in the Ivies.
4) 1982: Columbia 35 Princeton 14
In the final Homecoming game at the old Baker Field stadium, legendary CU QB John Witkowski lit up the Tigers with 316 passing yards en route to his Bushnell Cup winning season. This would be the only game Columbia would win all season.
5) 1988: Columbia 16 Princeton 13
Princeton came into 1988 favored to win the Ivy title with stars like Jason and Judd Garrett.
Columbia came into 1988 riding the nation’s longest-ever Division I football losing streak.
On a rainy Homecoming game at Wien Stadium, running backs Greg Abbruzzese and Solomon Johnson shredded the Tiger defense and the Lions held on for a miraculous 16-13 win that ended the 44-game losing streak and set off a massive celebration from Inwood to Morningside Heights.
6) 1996: Princeton 14 Columbia 11
Columbia came into the game 6-0 and looking for revenge on a Princeton team that had dashed its title hopes the year before in a 44-14 drubbing at Palmer Stadium. But the Lions disappointed the packed Wien Stadium crowd with a lackluster offensive effort and a costly taunting penalty by future NFL All Pro Marcellus Wiley. The game ended when a last second FG attempt by Columbia went just wide.
7) 2000: Princeton 27 Columbia 24 (OT)
This was possibly the most painful Columbia loss of the decade. Leading 24-14 with just over two minutes to go, the Lions saw the Tigers score and convert an onsides kick to set up the tying points in regulation.
8) 2003: Columbia 33 Princeton 27
A Hail Mary pass at the end of regulation from QB Jeff Otis to TE Wade Fletcher stunned the Princeton Stadium crowd. Columbia came back from a 20-0 deficit to win the game.
9) 2004: Princeton 27 Columbia 26 (OT)
The Tigers got their revenge for the 2003 game just one year later in front of a hopeful Homecoming crowd in New York. First, Princeton tied the game on a desperation FG drive at the end of the game. Then, they blocked the PAT on Columbia’s TD in overtime setting up their own winning TD and PAT moments later.
10) 2009: Columbia 38 Princeton 0
The Lions stunned the Princeton Stadium crowd with a thorough whipping filled with highlight reel performances by WR Austin Knowlin and several others. It’s was clear the home fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
Of course, last year’s 42-14 Columbia win over Princeton was more of the same and it was also the very first time the Lions had defeated the Tigers two years in a row.
Could they make it three?
Log on tomorrow for my scouting report and see.
But either way, this rivalry has taken on a new tone. There seems to be a more level playing field where either team could win in a close game or a rout.
And with two straight routs in the books, it feels like we’re due for a nail biter at Old Nassau.