PRINCETON--Tim Donovan stood in the Holy Cross huddle on the sidelines and listened to the special teams coaches telling the players to believe in themselves and to believe that something good would happen.
He would later admit it was hard to believe while he was standing there, but he did despite the overwhelming odds.
There were two seconds to play. Holy Cross was down, 26-24, and the Crusaders were about to receive a Princeton kickoff following a 35-yard field goal by Chris Lutz that had given the Tigers the lead.
It was simple. The Crusaders needed some kind of miracle--a fluke play or an unbelievable ending.
They got all of the above as Donovan scored on a 55-yard run with a lateral on the final play of the game as Holy Cross returned the kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown and stunned Princeton, 30-26, on Saturday.
"We knew it was going to happen, it was weird," Donovan said. "In the huddle, everyone was just saying 'believe, believe something.' It was get something done. Make something happen."
The person who got something done was Darin Cromwell.
Lutz squibbed the kickoff and Cromwell fielded the ball at the Holy Cross 30, eluded some tacklers and started to run around the left end of the Princeton defense. At his own 45, Crowwell was grabbed by the jersey by a Princeton defender and lateraled to Donovan streaking down the sidelines. He outraced everyone into the end zone, as Holy Cross players ran wildly onto the field and Princeton players slumped to the ground in disbelief.
"The defender got a hand on me, around my stomach," Cromwell said. "At that point I figured a few more guys are coming my way and I have to pitch it now. And then I saw Tim coming right up."
Donovan took the awkward pitch in full stride and outran Princeton cornerback Vince Avallone to the end zone.
"The guy with the ball was going down and then I saw [the] the right side on the fly," Avallone said. "I got within five yards of him. I just had my heart in my throat."
"You could practice that play and do it 100 more times and it would work," Holy Cross coach Mark Duffner said.
Princeton coach Steve Tosches said some of his players heard a whistle on the play, and he also questioned whether Donovan had stepped out of bounds or the lateral was legal.
However, both Donovan and Cromwell said the lateral was definitely legal and that neither one heard a whistle on the play.
"As soon as I crossed the goal line I said, 'where is the flag,'" Donovan said. "Next thing I knew I was being piled on. It's one of those plays that is hardly ever penalty-free."