Monday, November 18, 2013

Ivy League Football Champion

TigerBlog will get right to the point to start your Monday: Princeton has already clinched at least a share of the Ivy League football championship.

Think about that.

Three years ago, Princeton was 1-9. Two years ago, Princeton was 1-9. Last year, Princeton was 5-5 after going 1-3 in its final four.

And now? Champion.

Princeton is 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Ivy League as it prepares to head to Dartmouth for the final game of the season Saturday. A win would mean an outright championship and the first perfect Ivy season for the program since 1964.

The only other team still alive in the race is Harvard, which is at Yale Saturday. Should the Crimson win and Tigers lose, there would be a co-championship.

Still, that's a championship. The 2013 Princeton Tigers. Football champions.

It's been a meteoric rise in so many ways that it's easy to forget where the program was two years ago. For instance, here's a comment that was posted to this blog anonymously at the end of the 2011 season:
I think the whole coaching staff at Princeton should be dismissed, they would be at virtually any other school. It was extremely difficult watching this team over the last two years. The morale of the team must be at an all time low. I understand several players quit during the two year period and it must be most difficult to recruit any top players to such a dismal program. Let's make a change asap and get moving in the right direction.

And this one:
Let Surace "rebuild the program"? I believe the season record for Princeton the year before Surace arrived was 4-6, I would love to see a 4-6 season next year but under this staff it seems very doubtful. This coaching staff does not appear to be rebuilding anything but have broken our program and have driven it to the bottom of the Ivy League.

There were many more just like it. And, to be honest, there was some supportive of what Bob Surace and his staff were trying to do; they were just outweighed by the negative ones.

So what did Surace and his staff do?

Well, they recruited, recruited and recruited, until there was high quality depth everywhere.

And then they did the smartest thing they could have done - they got their best players on the field - even if that meant multiple quarterbacks - and built an imaginative offense that allowed it to happen. And so Kedric Bostic isn't just the third-string quarterback. Or, for that matter, Quinn Epperly wasn't just the backup quarterback.

And then they got buy-in from their guys, so that an army of running backs and wide receivers, for instance, didn't care that they weren't the one single main focus of the offense. It's a chicken and egg thing - do you get buy in because you're winning or are you winning because you got buy in?

Princeton is not only championship-good in 2013; it's also an incredibly fun team to watch.

With one game to play, Princeton has already set the record for the most points by an Ivy team in a season with 413, already 19 points past the record, with a full game to go.

Princeton played three home Ivy League games this year and scored 53, 53 and 59 points. Those numbers were 36, 29 and 31 at halftime and could have been way higher at the end had the games not been such blowouts.

Oh, TB almost forgot to mention something about Epperly's ridiculous season. How about this: With 23 passing touchdowns and 17 rushing touchdowns, he stands two away from the single-season record at Princeton for each.

Princeton's most recent game was a 59-23 win over Yale on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. It wasn't so much a game as it was a giant block party, and the festive atmosphere was everywhere.

Students. Alums. Fans. Perfect weather. Points. Points. More points. 

It was a celebration, a coronation of the championship that Princeton has now won.

It's the kind of school spirit that can only come with a winning football team, with apologies to every other sport, and it's why college football is such a big deal in this country.

At Princeton Saturday, it was easy to forget that it's been only two years from the second of those 1-9 seasons. Or, for that matter, that the team on the field was the one picked to finish fifth in the Ivy League this year.

Honestly, what Princeton wouldn't have settled for 7-3 or so, 5-2 in the league? What Princeton fan could have imagined this season would unfold the way it has?

As the final seconds ticked away, TB focused on Surace on the sideline. When it ended, the head coach pumped his fists, but that was about it.

He's a rock, Surace. When things were at their bottom, he didn't panic. He knew the turnaround was coming.

All season he has come into TB's office to hang out a few times a week, and there'd be no way to tell if he was winless or undefeated, if it was another 1-9 season or things were going well just by his demeanor.

He's never wavered from the task.

Fire the coach? No way.

Clearly he was the right guy the whole time.

And now he's shown what kind of coach his is.

A championship coach. Running a championship program.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

During the Yale game, the ESPN3 color commentator said (and I am not even paraphrasing now), "Princeton was one of the first college football teams and played in the first game. They are re-inventing the sport now."

Anonymous said...

i was hoping you posted those old comments. dont forget the one that said we should be more like columbia. anyone who knows football could see what was happening on the field and that the turn around was coming. nobody knew they would be rewriting record books, but the games were getting closer and even last year i felt two plays from a championship(int. against penn and fumble at cornell).the people who made those comments may run a big business somewhere but they dont know heart,they dont know these kids, and they dont know bob surace!

Anonymous said...

My husband and posted 15,000 miles to attend our son's games this year. We are proud of our Tigers--were his Freshman year and so delighted and in awe his Junior year. An Ivy League Championship---a lifetime memory/achievement--Go Princeton!!

Paul Kalkstein said...

Last Ivy undefeated Tiger season was 1964, right? Awesome team that year, single wing at its very best. Today's Tiger team has formations that bring back visual memories of that glory. But this year is the most fun, evah.

Anonymous said...

I only got to see one game--fortunately, the Yale game--and it certainly is a great team to watch. And give the defense credit too. They played stoutly, and their ability to force turnovers has been key all year. Give credit to Surace and his staff. And give credit to the administration and alums who stood with him in the two bleak years. And give credit to PFA president Anthony DiTommaso and the others who selected Surace in the first place! Go Tigers, win it all!

Anonymous said...

what a shame the Ivy League won't allow its champion to play in the post-season. It's not hard to imagine Princeton making a run in the post-season.