Monday, November 4, 2013

29 For 29

The Cornell band started its halftime show a few seconds late and ran a little past when it was supposed to be finished.

Then the Princeton band did the same.

TigerBlog, in the PA booth, had an eye on the stadium clock, knowing that the Dick Kazmaier halftime ceremony had to be done with four minutes left before the start of the second half.

TB knew the Kazmaier video would be 54 seconds, accompanied by the Princeton's band's version of "The Orange and Black." Actually, it came out even better than TB could have envisioned during the planning stages.

As the band played, the members of Kazmaier's family and Kazmaier's teammates who had gathered for the ceremony were escorted onto the field.

And then it was TB's turn to read the script. Except he also knew it would be too long to read the whole thing.

So he improvised, cutting some stuff on the fly and ad-libbing the end, when he asked the crowd to give Kazmaier not a moment of silence but instead a standing ovation.

One of the parts he cut was the mention of how Kazmaier had gone 15 for 17 against Cornell in 1951, setting a school single-game completion record that stood until that day.

TB cut it from the script. Quinn Epperly cut it from the record book.

After 62 years as the school record, Kazmaier's 88.2% was finally topped by Epperly, who had a magical Saturday afternoon on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

Epperly completed 32 of 35 passes, a single-game percentage of 91.4, which is, well, really ridiculous. Epperly's passes accounted for 325 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and for good measure he added 11 carries for 69 yards and three more touchdowns.

In the process, he wowed all 12 NFL scouts who were at the game with his performance, which was incredible.

Oh yeah. TB forgot to mention that Epperly completed his first 29 passes - that's 29 for 29 to start the game - to set an NCAA record. Twenty-nine for twenty-nine.

Going back to the Harvard game the previous week, Epperly completed 31 straight passes.

TB would guess that completing 31 straight or 29 straight passes even without a defense on the field would be tough enough.

Kazmaier's performance in 1951 against Cornell - 15 for 17, for 236 yards and three touchdowns with 18 carries for 124 yards and two more touchdowns - came in a matchup of unbeatens, and Princeton won 53-15 that day. It also propelled Kazmaier to the Heisman Trophy.

Epperly won't be winning the Heisman Trophy this year, but TigerBlog can't imagine any college football player is playing any better.

How about his last two games?

Combining Harvard and Cornell, Epperly went 69 for 85 (81.2%) for 646 yards and nine touchdowns and no interceptions, with 30 carries for 156 yards and three touchdowns mixed in.

Consider his season to date:
passing - 125 for 167, 1,400 yards, 18 touchdowns, one interception
rushing - 72 carries, 422 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 14 touchdowns

In keeping with the Kazmaier theme, Epperly has thrown 42 incomplete passes all season. His completion percentage is 74.9; the school record is 68.2, by Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett in 1988. The school record for lowest interception percentage is held by Joel Foote, who threw one interception in 131 passes in 1992. Epperly has thrown one in 167 passes.

The FCS record for completion percentage in a season, by the way, is 75.2, set by Northern Iowa's Eric Sanders in 2007.

Epperly is leading an offense that put up 53 points and 605 yards against the Big Red. It marked the fourth time in seven games this year that Princeton has reached at least 50 points; the Tigers did so four times since the middle of the 1965 season.

Nineteen-sixty five, that is.

Princeton is averaging 45.1 points and 544.3 yards per game, both of which would obliterate the school single-season records.

And what does it all mean?

Well, it means that Princeton is the lone undefeated team in the Ivy League at 4-0, followed by 3-1 Penn and 3-1 Harvard. Penn had been unbeaten until losing to Brown 27-0 Saturday. Everyone else has at least two league losses.

Princeton's schedule is not easy the rest of the way, beginning Saturday at Penn and continuing home with Yale and then at Dartmouth. Those happen to be the top three defensive teams in the league in scoring defense.

This will hardly be a cruise to the Ivy League championship for the Tigers, who, let's remember, were 1-9 two years ago (and three years ago) and 5-5 a year ago.

Princeton has gone from a team that struggled to get wins to a team that couldn't be more fun to watch. The man leading the way on the field is Epperly, who has become a can't-take-your-eyes-off-him-at-any-time performer.

Princeton is now 6-1 overall, 4-0 in the Ivy League. There are three weeks to go.

Three huge weeks. Three exciting weeks.


R Thomas ,58 said...

Just a word in Kazmaier's defense.
The team Kazmaier passed against so well was Cornell--- fresh off a win over a very highly ranked Michigan. Yes, THAT Michigan. And if memory serves me right, Princeton scored 53 points that day, to 15 for Cornell. I have never seen a team play so well.Kaz wasn't so bad either.

DT '96 said...

Really enjoying listening to the team on the radio (who are we kidding, on the computer) this year. The fact that Epperly will soon have more rushing touchdowns than KEITH ELIAS blows the mind.