Monday, September 25, 2017

Manic Saturday

Susanna Hoffs?

Was that the answer to the trivia question on the Princeton-Lafayette football telecast Saturday?

The question was - who was the Cincinnati head coach when Bob Surace (now Princeton's head coach) and John Garrett (now Lafayette's head coach) were hired there in 2002? The obvious answer would have been Marvin Lewis, who seems to have been there forever.

Ah, but when the question came on the screen during the third quarter, it spelled "Bengals" with an extra "a" instead of the "e," which made it sound like "Bangals," and ultimately "Bangles," an all-female rock band for whom Hoffs was the lead singer. Their biggest hit was "Manic Monday;" the real trivia question is this: Who wrote that song?

The Bangles had a few really good songs, including "Eternal Flame" and a great version of "Hazy Shade of Winter." They were not, though, football coaches.

The actual answer to the question was Dick LeBeau. And TigerBlog doesn't mean to harp on the typo in the trivia question, since he makes way more than his share of typs each week. And it was corrected between when the question was asked and when it was answered a few minutes later.

By the way, he knows it's "typos." He did that on purpose, to be funny.

Also by the way, it was Prince who wrote "Manic Monday."

Princeton defeated Lafayette 38-17, improving to 2-0 on the young season heading into this Saturday's Ivy League opener against Columbia on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

The Tigers

TigerBlog spent eight years as the football contact in the Office of Athletic Communications. For eight years, he went from being the football contact to men's basketball to men's lacrosse, with a few other sports mixed in as well.

He turned football over to his colleague Craig Sachson for the 2002 season, and Craig has been all over things ever since. In fact, Craig hasn't missed a single game in that time.

The win over Lafayette came in Sachson's 152nd game as Princeton's football contact. In that time, Princeton has won three Ivy League titles, and its overall record is 76-76.

Surace came to Princeton well into the Sachson era. In fact, this is the eighth season as head coach of the Tigers for Surace, and his overall record is 35-37. He has won two Ivy titles, in 2013 and a year ago.

While 35-37 isn't as good as Sachson's record, it is important to keep in mind that Surace started out 2-20. Yes, it's easy to forget that now, but that was where Surace was after 22 games.

And since? How about 33-17. That's pretty good.

As for the game against Lafayette, there were things that were pretty and things that weren't. Added all up, it was a game that was never really in doubt, even if it was still just 10-10 midway through the second quarter.

Chad Kanoff had another big game, going 31 for 41 for 256 yards and three touchdowns. If you're wondering, it's just the 13th time in program history that a quarterback has completed at least 30 passes in a game.

Okay, one more trivia question - two Princeton quarterbacks account for six of the first 12 games with at least 30 completions, with three apiece. Name the two.

Jesper Horsted caught six passes against Lafayette, with two of the touchdowns. Charlie Volker, playing for the first time this year, had 111 yards on 20 carries, and one TD of his own.

With two weeks gone in the Ivy League season, what is known?

A few things.

First, everyone who was ready to write off Harvard after the Crimson lost to Rhode Island in Week 1 needs to check out the score against Brown from this past weekend. It was 45-28 Harvard.

Then there was the basketball game that Penn and Lehigh played. Final score of that one? It was 65-47 Penn.

That game featured 1,167 combined yards between the teams. No team had ever scored that many against Penn in a game the Quakers won, and Penn hadn't scored that many itself in a game since 1946. The 112 combined points were the most in any game in the 141 year history of Penn football.

Yale sprinted away from Cornell in the second half to get to 2-0, joining Columbia, Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth, who defeated Holy Cross. Penn and Dartmouth play each other in a big Ivy opener as well this coming weekend.

It's way too early to figure out what's what in the league. All you have to know is that every game is huge.

Oh, and speaking of things you have to know? The two quarterbacks with three games of at least 30 completions are Quinn Epperly and Doug Butler.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Teammate Vs. Teammate

TigerBlog was driving near the Lincoln Tunnel yesterday when he had a really strange encounter with a blue Honda.

There was a broken down truck in one lane back where cars merge about a mile past the tollbooth at the New Jersey Turnpike. The blue Honda first came onto TigerBlog's radar when it wouldn't give the courtesy of an alternate merge as everyone had to move from two lanes to one.

Then, after that, the same blue Honda got stuck behind another truck and, seemingly in a hurry, tried to veer back into the lane next to it, only that's where TigerBlog was at the moment.

TigerBlog gently - gently, he promises - tapped on his horn, and only when the blue Honda actually reached the line that separates the two lanes. And what did the driver of the blue Honda do? Flipped TigerBlog the middle finger.

Now this isn't particularly shocking in that area, right? What made this noteworthy wasn't really apparent until TigerBlog actually drove past the blue Honda and saw the driver.

It was a woman who looked like she was closing in on 80. Seriously. At the very least, she had to be at least 70. Someone's grandma flipped off TB.

What the heck? TigerBlog had to laugh at that. 

It made TB wonder what was so awful about her Thursday morning that she could be in that bad of a mood.

It also made him wonder when the last time Princeton football coach Bob Surace has done the same. TigerBlog will guess this - never.

TigeBlog actually can picture Surace in a similar situation. He's moving into the lane of the person next to him. That person honks.

Surace would wave, smile, mouth "I'm sorry" and say "hah, yeah, that's my fault." Yeah, that's more like it, TB imagines.

Surace takes his team on the road for the first time this season when the Tigers are at Lafayette tomorrow night. Kickoff is at 6.

The Lafayette coach is a familiar one to Princeton in general and Surace specifically. John Garrett is in his first year as the head coach of the Leopards, and yes, it's that John Garrett.

Back in the late 1980s, there were three Garretts who played football at Princeton - John, Jason and Judd. All three were All-Ivy League honorees. The latter two were Bushnell Cup winners as Ivy League Player of the Year, and Jason is now the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Surace was himself an All-Ivy League center. He and Judd Garrett were teammates on the 1989 team that won the Ivy League championship.

Now Surace is coaching against his former teammate, John Garrett, who was a senior when Surace was a sophomore. They also coached together in the NFL, with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The two actually filmed a video together this past summer, and you can see that HERE.

It's definitely worth watching.

How often are there games that match former teammates as head coaches against each other. TigerBlog, off the top of his head, can think of another one that will come up with this year for Princeton - men's basketball against Cornell (actually it will happen twice), when Mitch Henderson coaches against Brian Earl.

There have to be others, right?

Princeton is looking to build on its 27-17 win over San Diego last week in preparation for next week's Ivy opener against Columbia.

Lafayette? The Leopards are 0-3, with losses to Monmouth, Sacred Heart and Villanova last week Lafayette has its league opener next week, at Holy Cross.

Garrett, in his first year as the coach in Easton, is trying to rebuild his team around freshman quarterback Sean O'Malley, who has been the Patriot League Rookie of the Week once already this year. A Beverly Hills native, O'Malley has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes, for 582 yards and five touchdowns.

Lafayette has struggled defensively, allowing 476 yards per game. Princeton, in Week 1, had 435 yards of offense, of which 352 came though the air.

This is the 50th meeting between Princeton and Lafayette, and the Tigers lead the series 42-4-3. Of those 49 games, 37 have been played in Princeton.

Once the game starts, of course, the fact that the coaches are longtime friends goes out the window.

That does make for a nice little storyline, though.

TigerBlog talks a lot about how the friendships that form on Princeton's teams last forever. Every now and then, though, they have to take a four-quarter pause. 

That's okay. It'll resume as soon as the game is over.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Happy 5778

According to that exalted Talmudic scholar known as "Wikipedia," the earliest that Rosh Hashanah can fall is Sept. 5. The latest is Oct. 5.

That puts the start of Rosh Hashanah this year at essentially the exact midpoint. This is interesting to TigerBlog, because somewhere, at someone's family celebration, somebody will be saying that the holidays this year have either come too early or too late.

This, of course, is a staple of the Jewish High Holy Days. They either come early or late, never on time, even if they come directly in between the earliest and latest they could by virtue of the calendar.

TigerBlog's people all over the world are celebrating the Jewish New Year, the start of the Year 5778. Among the other things that are guaranteed to be said is this: "We should only be together on wonderful occasions."

The holidays conclude this year with Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, a day of 24-hour fasting to atone for ones sins that begins Sept. 29.

TigerBlog has great memories of these holidays from when he was a kid. They were very serious for the late, great MotherBlog, who instilled in her two sons early on that these were days that were meant to be taken seriously and respected for their significance. They're a time of celebration and self-reflection.

Schools were always closed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as they continue to be in pretty much every school district around here these days. In fact, TB was looking at the local high school football calendar and saw that most games have been moved off of Friday night to Saturday afternoon or night this week.

Even with school closed, MotherBlog did not permit anything other than whatever holiday-related events she had scheduled. There would be no playing outside when TB and BrotherBlog were little.

TigerBlog has gone to work on the holidays when there have been athletic events, usually football games. That will be the case for this Yom Kippur, which will be continuing during Princeton's home football game against Columbia on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

There are no Princeton Athletic events today. In fact, there are probably fewer athletic events on Thursdays than on any other day of the week through the years.

There is the first Ivy League event of the 2017-18 academic year tomorrow, when the two-time defending league champion women's volleyball team hosts Penn. That's a 7:00 start in Dillon Gym.

As of right now, six of the eight women's volleyball teams in the league have a better than .500 record, including Princeton (7-3) and Penn (5-4). This tells you exactly nothing about how the league race will play out.

The second Ivy event of the year will be Saturday, when the women's soccer team hosts Yale at 4. For this one, numbers can tell you quite a bit.

The Princeton women's soccer team is off to an amazing start to the 2017 season. The Tigers are 7-1-0, with the only loss by a 1-0 score last weekend to West Virginia, last year's NCAA runner-up.

Princeton entered the national rankings last week, and the Tigers actually jumped four spots to 16th even with that loss. What's more important, though, is the RPI numbers.

Princeton is ranked eighth in RPI, which is impressive enough. Then throw in some of the wins Princeton already has: North Carolina State (13th in RPI), Wake Forest (15), Monmouth (65), Villanova (89) and New Hampshire (90).

That's five Top 100 RPI wins already.

The next opponent, Yale, is doing some resume building of its own. The Bulldogs, who are 6-2-1 on the year, are 91st in RPI. Harvard, by the way, is 77th.

In other words, this is a huge way to start the league season. Doing it at home doesn't hurt.

It is very, very difficult in a sport like soccer, men's or women's, to run the table. On the women's side, it's happened only twice since Princeton's magical run in 2004 to the NCAA Final Four - by Princeton in 2012 and Harvard in 2013.

The only men's team to do so in the last 10 seasons was Princeton in 2009.

The point is that there is some margin for error, and the championship can't be won in the first game. On the other hand, when you play a single round-robin schedule, every game is huge.

A matchup of two Top 100 teams Saturday is a great way to start. Especially with no admission charge.

And happy 5778 to everyone. Hopefully there's some peace in the world to come.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Welcome Jordyn

Ah, there's nothing like a good event meeting to bring out the laughs.

Actually, TigerBlog would like to talk to you about humor, in all seriousness. Does that sound funny, because he didn't mean it to be.

One of the best parts of the Princeton Department of Athletics is that its administrative staff is filled with people who like to laugh. With the constant flow from 37 varsity teams and 1,000 varsity athletes and everything that goes along with it, being able to laugh is a really, really good thing.

There's a difference between being silly and keeping the mood light. Around here, the people are pretty good at avoiding the former and focusing on the latter.

Because of that, TigerBlog hasn't seen much of what would be considered "burn out" here. Yes, the people who work here do a ton of stuff. At the same time, they feel like they're also a part of a team, like everyone is working for the same goal.

The reason for this is that it's not like working in an environment that is deadly serious at all times. Yes, there are moments when that is necessary. Just not all the time.

This of course starts with the two Ford Family Directors of Athletics with whom TB has worked, first Gary Walters and now Mollie Marcoux Samaan. And yeah, they have slightly different senses of humor, but they both have good senses of humor. There's a time to be serious, and a time to laugh. They both get that.

The event meeting yesterday reminded TigerBlog about the value of humor.

As it was ending, Brendan Van Ackeren mentioned that there wasn't much difference these days between being in his office and being at home. Pretty funny stuff, right?

Oh wait. Maybe you need a little context.

Brendan is married to Lisa Van Ackeren, the softball coach here. His office (and hers, actually) is on the Jadwin balcony, where the Office of Athletic Communications was for the first 46 years or so of the building's existence.

Lisa Van Ackeren was Lisa Sweeney when she pitched against Princeton for Lehigh in the NCAA tournament a few years ago. Brendan was a football player for the Mountain Hawks. He's also a graduate of the same high school as none other than Pete Carril, as they both went to Liberty High School in Bethlehem.

Lisa has led Princeton to the Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament each of the last two years.

Anyway, if you go upstairs these days, you'll see that the balcony has a large sheet that separates it from the construction going on in the lobby. The sheet keeps the balcony somewhat clean, but it does not keep it quiet, not with the major construction project that is going on in the lobby.

In fact, it's pretty loud up there these days.

Down in the new OAC, on E level? Peaceful quiet - unless the neighbors (the wrestling team) start blasting their music.

The construction is supposed to be finished by Nov. 1. TigerBlog has seen the plans for how the lobby will look, and it should really be spectacular. As the construction goes, you can see how it's starting to take shape. 

So that's one half of Brendan's joke. The other is that he and Lisa have someone new staying with them at home, and that would be Jordyn Van Ackeren, their newborn daughter.

Jordyn turns one week old today. If you've ever been around a one-week old, they tend to make more noise than an entire construction project, or at least close to it.

TigerBlog gave the Van Ackeren's the same advice he gives all soon-to-be first-time parents. If there's a TV in the bedroom, leave it on all night, without the sound when the baby falls asleep. Then, when the baby wakes up, the light from the TV will be enough so that you don't have to turn any lights on, which means that the baby doesn't think it's play time. Plus, with the TV on, you can watch it while you change and feed the baby.

Genius.

Having your first newborn is a bit intimidating. TigerBlog remembers almost being frightened when the nights would roll around, because each one seemed to last forever. And he was so jealous of other people who had babies who were even four months or six months old, because they seemed so much easier to take care of than an infant.

Speaking of first newborns, TigerBlog called his first newborn and got no answer. Then he got a text message that said he was at dinner and would call him back when he was finished. That was nine days ago. And he was such an angelic little newborn.

As for Brendan and Lisa, TigerBlog wishes them all the best with the baby. His tip is a simple one. Pretty much everything else you have to figure out for yourself.

And they'll catch up on their sleep. It'll just take a decade or so.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Golfing With The Hoopsters

The first person TigerBlog saw when he got to Springdale yesterday afternoon prior to the start of the Friends of Princeton Basketball golf outing was Amanda Roman.

Amanda spent four years as the manager of the women's basketball team. She was the fifth member of the great class of 2013, the one that won four Ivy League championships and reached four NCAA tournaments.

TigerBlog wrote about Amanda a few times, since she is the daughter of a friend of his from Penn and TB is the one who connected Amanda with Courtney Banghart and the basketball program in the first place. Also, Amanda was a huge "Homeland" fan, and she actually wrote a guest blog about the final episode of the season in 2012.

Anyway, it's always good to see Amanda. She's from a golfing family, and her father Jon played at Hofstra.

Oh, and she's engaged. She works for the Jets. She's marrying a guy who works for the NFL. TigerBlog is happy for them.

As you remember, the last time TigerBlog was at Springdale was for the men's lacrosse golf outing, back in July. TigerBlog, of course, is an awful golfer, and he made that perfectly clear with the way he played that day.

This time, TigerBlog didn't even attempt to play. He did stop by for lunch, and afterwards, to see some familiar faces after they got done playing 18.

Miles Clark was there. Miles graduated in 1996 and is now a lawyer in Washington, D.C., with two kids. If there would be a "basketball managers" Hall of Fame, Miles, like Amanda, would have made it on the first ballot.

In addition to the two managers, there were also former players, men's and women's. There was a big turnout from the team of 1983, who was honored as the 35th anniversary of its Ivy title looms.

TigerBlog met Jeff Pagano, someone he knew a lot about but had never talked to before. Then he saw him hit one shot, with a driver off the 10th tee, and he hit it perfectly straight and really far. Apparently he's a really good golfer.

He also saw Howard Levy, Rich Simkus and one other member of the 1983 team. A year later, that third member would score more points in an NCAA tournament than any other Princeton player other than Bill Bradley. Can you name him?

The NCAA tournament in 1983 was a 52-team event, and Princeton defeated North Carolina A&T 53-41 at the Palestra in a play-in game. After that it was off to Oregon State, where Princeton defeated Oklahoma State before falling to Boston College.

Give up on the other player? He scored 38 in the play-in game in 1984, when Princeton defeated San Diego.

Yes, his name is Kevin Mullen. You know him as Moon Mullen.

There aren't too many Division I schools anywhere who can measure up to the basketball programs at Princeton.

The women's team has made eight straight postseason appearances, including six to the NCAA tournament. The women earned an at-large bid to the NCAAs two years ago, something no Ivy League team had ever done before.

The men's team has won 27 Ivy League championships and has carved out a unique place in the history of college basketball. Princeton's basketball resume includes an NCAA Final Four in 1965, an NIT championship in 1975, nationally ranked teams in the 1990s, an offensive philosophy that continues to impact the way the sport is played and, most recently, a 16-0 run through the league that no other team had ever been asked to do before, what with the advent of the Ivy League tournament.

More than all of that, though, Princeton basketball has this incredible loyalty among the people who have played here. It even manifests itself in the coaching tree, as the last four head coaches - John Thompson III, Joe Scott, Sydney Johnson and Mitch Henderson - are all alums.

Henderson had a painter's cap, if that's the correct term, from the 1983 team's appearance in the NCAA tournament. It was Henderson who read the rules of the Shotgun start before sending all of the golfers out to their starting holes.

Somewhat shockingly, Henderson is entering his seventh year as the head coach of the Tigers. He has never had a losing season at Princeton, either overall or in the Ivy League, and he has averaged 10.5 Ivy wins in his six years, a figure that doesn't include the two Ivy tournament wins a year ago.

His Princeton teams play like NBA teams in terms of offensive tempo, and they continue to defend extraordinarily well, despite all of the extra possessions in the games these days. He has recruited great players to Princeton. and the on-court product is exciting and successful.

Beyond all of that, though, he is the perfect person to be running the show, with the way he combines coaching ability with a great understanding of the value of his alumni base and the history of this great program. It's not hard to see why those alums, from all eras, have great respect for what he's done here.

The men's and women's teams aren't too far away from the start of practice, and they're both hoping to extend the season into the NCAA tournament come March.

Yesterday wasn't really about any of that. This was about celebrating, where Princeton basketball is now and where it has been in the past.

And there aren't too many places where that's done better than it is here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Kicking Off With A Win

Just when TigerBlog started to think that all of the college football games on his TV late Saturday afternoon were deadly dull, along came Florida and Tennessee to change all of that.

Did you see how this one ended?

The teams were tied at 20-20 in the final minute of regulation. Florida had the ball, in its own territory, seemingly going nowhere after wasting nearly 30 seconds without calling a timeout. As it turned out, that might have been a genius move, since it meant there was no time left on the clock after Feleipe Franks hit Tryrie Cleveland between the "8" and "9" on his uniform from nearly 70 yards away for the winning touchdown.

It wasn't a Hail Mary, per se. It was just Cleveland, wide open behind the defense somehow as time was running out. And it was Franks, who threw the most perfect deep ball ever thrown, for the win.

Other than that, it was a dull late afternoon of games on TV. Lots and lots of games. Seemingly on every channel.

Back when TigerBlog was a kid, there were a handful of games on per weekend, if that. And they all seemed to have Oklahoma, and the wishbone offense that the Sooners ran, in them. The wishbone was actually a fascinating offense, one that relied on force, deception and intelligence - but back then just seemed dull, since the Sooners almost never threw it.

There were also two Sunday college football highlight shows, narrated by a man named Bill Flemming. According to his Wikipedia page, he was born in 1926. That's nuts. That's making TB feel a little old actually.

One of the shows was one of the top games of the week. The other featured a few games that were showcased.

Now, it's wall-to-wall college football every Saturday, starting at noon, and sometimes before noon. When TB was a kid, that time slot, by the way, belonged to "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle."

The Princeton Tigers opened their season this past Saturday, with a noon kickoff, and defeated the University of San Diego 27-17.

The story of the game was quarterback Chad Kanoff, who threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to Stephen Carlson, who caught two passes total a year ago. Carlson became the first Princeton player to have at least three receiving TDs in a game since Michael Lerch had that legendary game against Brown in 1991, with TD catches of 64, 79, 90 and only 45 yards.

Kanoff's big game vaulted him into third place all time in passing yards at Princeton, and in doing so moved ahead of Jeff Terrell and Jason Garrett. That's two Bushnell Cup winners and two all-time Princeton greats, not to mention the current head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

By the way, of the 15 highest single-game passing yardage totals in school history, a total of 11 of them were between 1981-85. Look at the scores from some of those games when you get a chance.

The 352 yards that Kanoff had through the air did not move him into the top 15, but they were the second most in Princeton Stadium history by a Princeton quarterback, behind only the 367 Connor Michelsen had against Brown in 2014.

Kanoff now has 4,388 passing yards for his career. He trails only Doug Butler, with 7.291, and Matt Verbit, with 5,202.

Kanoff would catch Butler by averaging 320 per game for the next nine games, by the way.

Jesper Horsted set a Princeton Stadium record with 12 receptions against San Diego. Horsted, a junior, is also a big-time baseball player at Princeton.

As for Carlson, what is known about him? He's from Jamestown, the one in New York, the one that appears to not be far from Lake Erie. Like Horsted, he's a junior with good size, at 6-4, 225, and he had one reception against both Lehigh and Penn last year.

From his bio on goprincetontigers.com, it appears that he's an engineer and that he likes to play the saxophone.

Next up for Princeton is a trip to Lafayette, this coming Saturday at 6. Lafayette is off to a tough start at 0-3, with losses to Monmouth, Sacred Heart and Villanova.

Lafayette is coached by John Garrett, a 1988 Princeton grad and the brother of Jason and Judd. John is in his first year as the head coach of the Leopards.

After that, it's back to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium for the Ivy opener against Columbia.

As for the opener, it was a chance to play, and to play an opponent that's used to winning more games than it loses. John Lovett, last year's Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League's Offensive Player of the Year, was on the sideline Saturday with his No. 12 and his arm in a sling, which wasn't a good sight.

But seeing how Kanoff was throwing the ball? That was in fact a very good sight for Princeton fans.

In fact, there were a lot of things to like about the 2017 debut beyond just the final score. Now watch how quickly the weeks fly by, and see if Princeton can get to November with some meaningful games to play, which is always the goal of every season.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Time For Kickoff

TigerBlog can't be the only one struck by the contrast between the two most recent college football behind-the-scenes shows he's seen.

One of them is "Last Chance U" on Netflix. The other is "A Season With Navy Football" on Showtime, the first at East Mississippi Community College and the other at the United States Naval Academy.

It would appear that at first glance, other than the fact that there are cameras following football players and coaches around all week and then at that weekend's game, that these two teams have nothing in common.

The differences are glaringly obvious. On one side, the story centers around players who, as the title suggests, have already had their big-time opportunities and failed, leaving them at a small community college in Mississippi, where they hope to turn things around to get another chance. The struggles to keep the players engaged academically as they chase the minimum standards they need for Division I eligibility are obvious, and the saintly academic advisor became a national star for her efforts - until she just couldn't take it anymore and left.

What comes across from her is the frustration of trying to keep these kids on course when, by appearances at least, their academic progression is more important to her than to the players themselves. Heck, how many scenes are there when she has to ask the players if they have a pencil or a notebook?

And that doesn't even take into account the news that broke yesterday of one of the players featured in Season 2 who was just arrested in connection with a fatal stabbing.

It makes for quite the contrast with the students at the Naval Academy, obviously. Even the academic advisor for the football players is a Marine Corps officer.

The two head coaches couldn't seem less similar if it was all scripted. Buddy Stephens, from EMCC, comes across as simply a jerk who turns a blind eye to anything that can't help his team win games, often by as many points as possible. Navy's Ken Niumatalolo, much like Princeton's Bob Surace, seems like the exact guy you'd let coach your kid.

In "Last Chance U," the singular goal is use football to get to the NFL, which several who have come through the program there have achieved and which most have not and will not. In "A Season With Navy Football," the goal is to play football now and serve their country later. It is for them a calling, and it's very inspiring.

The biggest difference between the two teams can be summed up in one word - discipline. There is next-to-none of from the players at EMCC. There is an abundance of it from the players at Navy. Yes, that is the point of a service academy. It's a military institution, and the military relies on discipline. The slightest bit of it at EMCC, though, would go a really, really long way for the players, both on the field and in the classroom.

There are two similarities that come jumping out from the two shows.

First, in some ways, football is football, whether it's at a junior college or the top level of Division I. The preparation, the practice, the way that the players reveal themselves through how they practice and play and, more than anything else, the dynamic that exists between head coach and assistant coaches, head coach and players and assistant coach and players.

The other is way more subtle. As much as the players seem to not care at all about going to school on "Last Chance U," they are still IN school, which they wouldn't be were it not for football. And they are forced, as a result, to go to class, to do the work - or they won't have any chance of advancing. As for the Navy players, they are also forced to learn the balancing trick of football and athletics, with the unbelievable demands of the Academy added on.

This is what here at Princeton is called "Education Through Athletics." It's about the life lessons that college athletics teach and the way that athletics becomes an extension of the educational experience, not a competitor with the educational experience.

Navy, EMCC, Princeton. That part is the same.

TigerBlog's only complaint about the Navy show is that it's only 30 minutes. He thinks 45-60 minutes would be much better.

Oh, and it just has to be driving the people at Army nuts.

Speaking of football, the 149th year of Princeton football begins tomorrow at noon, when the Tigers host San Diego.

Princeton enters the 2017 season hoping to be where it was at the end of 2016 - celebrating an Ivy League championship. That task would be easier with a healthy John Lovett (you remember him from his first-team All-America season a year ago after his amazing 31-touchdown season), and it'll be interesting to see how his absence impacts the offense - and who steps in to his role.

Defensively, Princeton will be led by lineman Kurt Holuba, who is as good as it gets in the Ivy League. 

San Diego comes across the country after having played two games. The Toreros are 1-1, with a win over Western New Mexico and a loss to Cal-Davis. The opponents and the scores are irrelevant; it's the advantage of having played two games already against a team playing for the first time. 

Princeton has two non-league games to start the season, tomorrow against San Diego and then next Saturday at Lafayette, before opening the league season at home against Columbia Sept. 30.

There are all kinds of events before the game tomorrow as well. From the pregame story:
Prior to the game, there will be a Youth Clinic on the neighboring Weaver Track (10:30-11:30). Princeton student-athletes, representing a variety of varsity sports, will come to Weaver Track to work with the children and teach them the general skills and techniques associated with their respective sports. In the past, the student-athletes have staffed approximately 15 sport and activity stations, including basketball, soccer, lacrosse, track & field and volleyball, to name a few.

There's something really special and really fun about the first football game of the year. The weather for practice has been really good, and the weather for the game should be relatively perfect.

It's time for kickoff for Princeton.

It's a 10-week sprint to the finish, one that, for Princeton, hopefully will mirror 2016.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Really Nice Touchdown

TigerBlog came back into the office yesterday at one point and was greeted with this question from his colleague Craig Sachson:

What was Maggie's last name?

With all due respect to all the other Maggies who have ever played sports at Princeton, TigerBlog knew immediately which one Craig meant.

"Langlas," he said. "From Missoula, Montana."

Maggie Langlas, Class of 2000, was a 1,000-point scorer and first-team All-Ivy League selection as a women's basketball player here. She reached her 1,000th career point in the same game as her teammate Kate Thirolf, also a first-team All-Ivy honoree, and that game was played at, of all places, the University of Hawaii.

Interestingly, as far as trivia goes, Langlas and Thirolf reached 1,000 points on the same court in Hawaii where Gabe Lewullis of the men's team had done so the previous season. Princeton had three straight players reach their 1,000th point at the University of Hawaii.

Langlas and Thirolf also aren't the only Princeton duo to reach 1,000 points in the same game. Just three years after they did it, Maureen Lane and Allison Cahill both went over 1,000 points in a triple-overtime win at Yale.

In addition to being great basketball players, Maggie Langlas and Kate Thirolf were both student workers in the Office of Athletic Communications. Back then, at football games, someone needed to be assigned to sit by the phone and answer it when wire services called looking for the score of the game, as well as call several outlets at the end of each quarter or after a score.

Maggie, then a freshman, jumped right in, during the last season at Palmer Stadium. TigerBlog can still hear her as she said:
"It's 7-0 Princeton."
Pause.
"What kind of touchdown?"
Pause.
"It was a very nice touchdown."

That's Maggie in a nutshell. It's likely that you have never met anyone nicer than Maggie Langlas.

Anyway, a quick search seems to reveal that she is now Maggie Langlas Ward, a lawyer involved in issues related to sports. Click HERE to see.

As for current Princeton Maggies, there's Maggie O'Connell, a sophomore on the women's volleyball team. This Maggie was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and a first-team All-Ivy selection a year ago, when Princeton won its second straight Ivy League title and advanced to the NCAA tournament.

Maggie O'Connell is from Katy, Texas, which is close to Houston. Hopefully Hurricane Harvey was kind to her and her family.

The women's volleyball team is off to another strong start for 2017-18. This weekend, the Tigers will be in Washington, D.C., playing at a tournament at American. Princeton takes on the host team tomorrow night at 7 and then plays Howard and Iowa Saturday.

Speaking of tomorrow, there is another soccer doubleheader on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, a big one at that. It's the reverse of a week ago, as the women's game will be first, followed by the men.

It begins at 4, when the women take on West Virginia, in a game that will be televised on ESPNU. The second game, which starts at 7, will match the men against SIU-Edwardsville.

Admission, of course, is free.

The women's game is a matchup of Top 20 teams. West Virginia, ranked sixth, owns wins over then-No. 1 Penn State and then-No. 5 Georgetown.. The Mountaineers also are coming off a season in which they went 23-2-2 and reached the NCAA championship game, where they lost 3-1 to USC.

Princeton is off to a 6-0 start, one that included a sweep of nationally ranked North Carolina State and Wake Forest on the road. Those wins pushed Princeton into the national rankings this week, at No. 20.

Princeton had shut out its first five opponents before New Hampshire scored a goal in last Sunday's game, leaving it at 1-1 midway through the second. Princeton responded in a big way, getting two goals to win 3-1. It's the kind of test that a team that's had everything come easily so far needed to have, and maybe that was the best sign from the Tigers so far this year.

Or maybe the best sign is that Princeton has gotten 14 goals this season, and they've come from six different players.

After West Virginia, Princeton will host Delaware Sunday at 4. If you want to see West Virginia twice this weekend, come back at 1 Sunday, when the Mountaineers take on La Salle on Myslik Field.

As for the men's game, SIU-Edwardsville is the defending Missouri Valley Conference champ. After that, the Cougar won two games in the NCAA tournament a year ago, beating Michigan State and Butler before a 2-1 loss to Wake Forest in the third round.

SIU-Edwardsville is 2-3 this year. Princeton and SIU-Edwardsville actually have a common opponent, Syracuse, whom Princeton tied 1-1 and whom the Cougars lost to 2-1.

So that's tomorrow's doubleheader.

Remember, admission is free.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

No. 1 Again

On the day after the iPhone 8 was introduced to the world, TigerBlog would like to salute something that long ago seemed to vanish from its former role, which was to simply annoy the bejeezus out of people on a regular basis.

He speaks of the busy signal.

If anything is the 180 degree opposite of the most updated version of the iPhone, it's the busy signal. Hey,  there isn't a Princeton student around who has ever gotten one.

Basically, a busy signal was a beeping noise that you heard when you called someone who was on the phone at that time. For however long that person was on the phone, you'd get a a busy signal each time you dialed that number.

The average telephone call back then - you know, those long ago days of the 1970s or so - was probably much longer than today's. People don't like to talk on the phone like they used to, not with the ability to text. In fact, people often will send a text that says "can you talk" rather than simply calling.

As TB has said before, if technology had evolved in reverse order, then you would hear people say things like "why are you texting that person when now you can actually talk to them and hear their voice?"

Ah, but the busy signal. Beep. Beep. Beep. Then you'd have to wait a minute and try again. Beep. Beep. Beep. Then a few more minutes. Beep. Beep. Beep.

You'd be trying to call your mother to say that you forgot something or your friend to make sure they're still meeting you, but someone's younger brother or sister was on the phone, talking about nothing for 30 minutes with some other little kid. And there was nothing you could do about it, other than scream at your own phone as you slammed it down, shouting "get off the @!#$!#@$ phone already."

Well, not quite nothing. You could call the operator (do they still have operators?) and request an emergency break-in call.

The busy signal was pretty much wiped out by call waiting. Early call waiting on landlines (they were just called "phones" then) didn't come with call waiting, and nobody yet had an answering machine, so the choice was to either click over to the other call or be left wondering who in the world it was, what hugely life-changing call you just had let slip away. This led to a whole different world of poor etiquette, the "yes you are important but the other line is buzzing at me and it is probably more important than you" moment that dominated those days.

Caller ID was a big invention. TigerBlog had a friend in college named Paul, and when Caller ID first came along, one of his other friends told Paul that now that people would know it was him when he called that nobody would ever answer him again.

It all seems so quaint and nostalgic, talking about busy signals and phones that didn't go with you when you left the house. As everyone knows, those days are long gone.

Hey, even an iPhone 5 looks like it should be in the Smithsonian.

TigerBlog wonders what number iPhone the current freshman class will take to its 50th Reunion, in 2071. TB mentioned that yesterday, when he spoke about freshman athlete orientation.

Those freshmen will be taking their iPhones to their first day of classes here at Princeton. Today is Day 1 of the fall semester, which starts fairly late compared to most other schools.

TigerBlog remembers vividly his first day of classes at Penn. He had a politics class in the University Museum, and he walked down Spruce Street from his dorm in the Quad on a warm, sunny September morning.

As he walked past the hospital, there was some minor construction going on, and he could smell the tar as it was being put down. Anytime he's smelled that since, it's taken him right back to that moment.

That was the first class his freshman year. His first class his sophomore, junior and senior years? No idea.

The start of classes at Princeton will bring with it a more structured routine for the fall teams that have already been competing. To this point, it's just been practice and games, without any of the dynamics that go along with the academic side of things here.

That changes today.

In addition to the news of the iPhone 8, yesterday also saw the release of the U.S. News and World Report annual college rankings. Princeton, again, was the No. 1 ranked university in the United States.

The idea that Princeton combines that sort of academic record with the athletic success it has enjoyed through the decades is something that there's an understandable amount of pride in among the people who work in this department. It's why they do what they do, to help an incredible group of young men and women have the best possible experience they can.

It's worth remembering, obviously, that neither of those accomplishments - academics and athletic - happens accidentally. When Princeton coaches recruit and say that in coming here, athletes can play the sport they love on a championship level while also getting the best possible undergraduate education, they're completely serious.

So the fall season has started in seven sports, and the eighth, the football team, opens Saturday.

School opens today.

The goal around here, as it is ever year, is to be the absolute best at both.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Class of 2021

TigerBlog loves the P-Rade.

You know, the one at Reunions each year. It's awesome. The 25th Reunion Class, and the Old Guard, and then everyone else, all decked out in their beer jackets, with the random splashings of orange and black, stripes and checks.

What does that have to do with early September?

TigerBlog will get to that in a second.

Yesterday was Freshman Student-Athlete Orientation. It's an annual gathering of the incoming athletes, along with the current captains, in the McCosh 50 lecture hall.

It's quite a contrast from the event that kicks off Reunions, when the senior athletes gather for the Gary Walters Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet. That's the finish line for the athletes.

The event yesterday is something of the starting line. Yes, many of the fall athletes have already competed, so it's not quite like the first day they're all on campus.

What it is, though, is one of the few times the entire athletic class will be together at the same time., and TigerBlog is always struck by a few things about the event.

First, Princeton has 37 teams. There are more than 200 freshman athletes, and they come here from incredibly different backgrounds, different states and countries, with different experiences as they grew up. A football player from Texas, for instance, had a much different high school experience than a women's squash player from Egypt. That's obvious.

And yet they're both here, Princeton freshmen, ready to compete for the same school, hoping to have the best possible experience. Even within their sports, most of them are tossed together here as total strangers. And yet they now have that bond, Princeton Athletic Class of 2021.

As he does every year at freshman athlete orientation, TigerBlog looks around the room and wonders what the next four years holds for each of them. And, as always, he wonders one other thing.

Somewhere in the room yesterday were the 2021 winners of the von Kiensbusch Award and the Roper Trophy, the top senior athlete awards - unless one or both of the winners is like last year, when Ashleigh Johnson won after taking a year off from school to train for the Olympics. But hey, you get the point.

In addition to the winners, there will also be a handful of finalists for the awards. Who will they be?

So those are the things that TB thinks about each year.

Yesterday, he added something new to that, something rather wild to consider. Hint - this is the part that involves the P-Rade.

The event itself is meant to give the newbies a sense of what to expect, what pitfalls there might be, how to avoid those pitfalls. There were introductions of the members of what Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan refers to as "The Team Around The Team," something she's upfront about having swiped from men's volleyball coach Sam Shweisky.

It's the end of a long run of orientation activities, and it's the lead up to the start of classes. Marcoux Samaan's message is to "control the controllables" and then not to let stress overwhelm you about everything else.

Marcoux Samaan also showed team pictures from her playing days here, with the women's hockey and women's soccer teams. When TB first saw the pictures, he was pretty sure, though not 100 percent sure, he could pick her out. He turned out to be right.

There were a few other pictures displayed as well.

Mostly, those featured alums. Former athletes, like Chris Young, David Hale, Ross Ohlendorf and Will Venable, who were all active Major Leaguers at the time they spoke at a Princeton Varsity Club event. There were several pictures like that. Gary Walters, Marcoux Samaan's predecessor, was in one of them.

There were others too. Steve Mills, the president of the New York Knicks. Bill Powers, the benefactor of Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. Chanel Lattimer, a former track and field athlete and an all-time great Office of Athletic Communications student worker. Ralph DeNunzio, Bill Ford, Janet Morrison Clarke. John Berger. Frank Sowinski. So many who have given so much of their time and resources to make the experience for the athletes better.

And as TB looked at those pictures, he began to think beyond the senior athlete banquet. He began to think about when this group would become alums, and then become the ones who help the generations to come.

He thought of them in the P-Rade, perhaps on their 50th reunion, which would be the P-Rade of 2071, as opposed to the current year of 2017. That's sort of freaky, no?

Anyway, TigerBlog was getting way ahead of things with that one. Well, not really.

The trip that they're all starting to take together now leads directly to things like that. It was Courtney Banghart, the women's basketball coach, who told the group that the next four years will fly by. She's right.

Not that the Class of 2021 will be at its 50th in a blink of an eye. But time does move quickly sometimes.

Best of luck to all of them. Hopefully, they have a winning, satisfying, educational experience as Princeton athletes - like so many who've come before them have.