Monday, September 20, 2010

Half Full

When a TV outlet like ESPN shows up on campus to do a game, it will usually ask the Office of Athletic Communications to find some people to help with basic tasks, such as holding up the big round sideline microphones that you always see during TV games or to be the timeout coordinator.

The TOC, also known as the "Red Hat," is a great job, because the game cannot start until that person says so. He or she will stand on the field, connected to a headset to the truck, and wait for the word; when that word is given, a signal is flashed to the refs.

TigerBlog has been able to recuit some great TOC's through the years, including former men's basketball player Mike Stephens, the former assistant football coach whose name TB can't remember but who went on to UVa to be a strength/conditioning coach a few years ago, former assistant football coach Matt Borich and the most recent TOC, former men's soccer player Devin Muntz.

The job of holding the parabolic mics doesn't seem like as much fun: You have to stand there and hold that heavy, bulky thing up for a few hours.

Last year during lacrosse season, TigerBlog sent an email to all football players looking for parabolic mic holders. Michael Muha, then a sophomore, was the first to respond, which earned him the job, and each time ESPN came back, they specifically asked for Muha.

When TB found out that Muha was going to be the starting center on the football team this year after moving from defense, he was happy for him. In fact, before the game at Lehigh Saturday, Princeton photographer Beverly Schaefer asked what players to concentrate on getting pictures of, and TB said "No. 69," which is Muha.

Unfortunately, Muha got hurt on the first series and did not return; head coach Bob Surace said he would comment on all of Princeton's injuries sometime this week. This would include Steve Cody, the Ivy League's leading tackler a year ago.

TB feels badly for everyone who gets hurt, but he felt especially bad for Muha, who earned the starting spot way out of the spotlight and ultimately had his first day, at least, cut way, way short. Plus, he came across as a pretty nice guy during the lacrosse season, and certainly ESPN thought he was hard-working and reliable.

The injuries to Muha, Cody and Jed Heavenrich were a pretty significant storyline to Princeton's 35-22 loss to Lehigh on the first day of Ivy League football for 2010.

For Princeton fans looking at the big picture, there were certainly a whole lot of good things that happened at Goodman Stadium, though.

Among them:

* Princeton outgained Lehigh by 201 yards and ran 87 plays, which is 23 more than Princeton averaged a year ago.

* quarterback Tommy Wornham was 32 for 51 for 392 yards. As TB said on the radio (he did radio for the first time in about six years or so), those were the kinds of numbers that Princeton offensive coordinator James Perry routinely put up during his days at Brown, when he amassed numbers that no Ivy League quarterback has ever come close to matching.

* Trey Peacock was so impressive at wide receiver that TigerBlog Jr. called him "the next Sidney Rice." Peacock was unstoppable, with eight catches for 196 yards and an 80-yard touchdown reception on which he split two defenders who had no chance of covering him or catching him on the play. The 196-yard day was the eighth-best in school history and the best since 1991, when Michael Lerch went crazy against Brown. Peacock, at 6-3 and 210 pounds, is a big target, and he was easily the best player on the field Saturday.

* Andrew Kerr caught 11 passes for 125 yards of his own. Kerr often kept drives alive with big catches in big spots, and he was fearless in going after the ball.

* placekicker Patrick Jacob kicked five field goals, which got progressively longer are the day went along.

* freshman running back Brian Mills carried seven times for 35 yards in his debut. TB said on the radio that Mills is unlikely ever to be the best Princeton player ever to wear No. 20, but he definitely looked good.

* and then, of course, there was the return of Jordan Culbreath, who led Princeton with nine carries for 56 yards. Culbreath, of course, was playing football against Lehigh 50 weeks after he first was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a potentially life-threatening disease that ended his 2009 season and led to much greater concerns than football. Culbreath, the Ivy League's leading rusher in 2008 with 1,206 yards, has inspired his teammates - and all Princeton fans - with the way he has fought through the disease and returned to playing football. TB said that he wanted to see Culbreath go for 125 yards on 20 carries, but his nine for 56 was great because 1) he looked really good doing it and 2) he was out there in the first place.

Princeton plays four of its next five at home, including this Saturday at 6 against Lafayette.

As an aside, TB wishes that Princeton Stadium was like Goodman Stadium in two ways: 1) the grassy hill behind one end zone is a great place for kids to watch the game and 2) the concourse is littered with great food options and the field is visible the whole time.

So what to make of Princeton after Week 1? Well, the injuries are big, and while it was good to see Jacob nail five field goals, it's better to have five touchdowns and one field goal than the other way around.

At the same time, for Game 1 under Surace and a new coaching staff, there were a ton of positives to build from. And, from an excitement standpoint, Wornham, Peacock and Kerr could hit it big on any given play.

As for the rest of the league? Harvard won easily over Holy Cross behind quarterback Andrew Hatch, back after playing in the SEC with LSU. Penn struggled past Lafayette. Dartmouth made a big comeback to beat Bucknell in a matchup of teams with strong Princeton connections (former OC Joe Susan is the Bucknell head coach; Borich is on his staff; former Tiger linebackers coach Don Dobes is the Dartmouth DC).

Yale came back to take a shootout from Georgetown. Brown had a nice win over Stony Brook in overtime. Columbia lost to Fordham in a low-scoring darby. Cornell struggled in its loss to Wagner.

In other words, who knows?

Princeton is 0-1 and a little banged up - but a team definitely worth watching.

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