Monday, November 25, 2013

Who Could Ask For More?

TigerBlog is pretty sure that he heard the students chanting "Bon-Fire, Bon-Fire" after Princeton's 59-23 win over Yale in the home finale two Saturdays ago.

He's also pretty sure that he didn't hear anyone chanting "Ivy Champs, Ivy Champs."


Do the students really prefer a bonfire - the prize for beating Yale and Harvard in football in the same season - to an Ivy League championship?

As it turns out, everyone associated with Princeton football got both in the fall of 2013. 

TigerBlog doesn't want to hear one word of disappointment from anyone regarding Princeton's football season. He especially doesn't want to hear a sound about how the Tigers lost to Dartmouth Saturday and had to settle for a tie for the league championship, after Harvard dismantled Yale.

Why is that?

Because of where Princeton football was very recently. From where Princeton football was even in the preseason of this year, when not one person could have foreseen what the Tigers were about to do.

You're not always guaranteed the outcome you want, whether it's in sports or life.

Yes, it would have been great to beat Dartmouth and win the outright championship and have a perfect Ivy season. It just wasn't meant to be.

Maybe if the same exact scenario happens next year and Princeton loses at home to Dartmouth in the final game to share the championship, maybe then there can a little disappointment. Not this year.

Again, remember that Princeton was 1-9 three years ago. And two years ago. And 1-3 down the stretch to end last year at 5-5.

This Princeton team?

It was extraordinary. A one-point loss on opening day and a four-point loss on closing day were sandwiched around eight of the most exciting weeks Princeton football has ever had.

Princeton put up huge offensive numbers, setting Ivy League records for points scored in a season (45.9 per game) and total offense (523.0 yards per game).

And it's not just the numbers. It's how they got there.

Princeton often played two and three quarterbacks at a time. It ran plays from formations nobody ever saw before. It routinely went for two after early touchdowns. It ran trick plays from normal formations and normal plays from trick formations.

It was completely unpredictable.

It was led by Quinn Epperly's amazing season, one in which he led the team with 570 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. He averaged five yards per carry and finished one touchdown off the single-season school record. He had 115 carries for his 18 TDs; Keith Elias had 305 carries in 1993, the year he ran for 19 touchdowns. That's 180 more carries for one more touchdown, and Elias is the best running back Princeton has ever had statistically.

He also completed 208 of 306 passes for 2,137 yards. He threw for 25 touchdowns, tying Doug Butler's school record set in 1983, when Butler threw 398 passes, or 92 more than Epperly did this year. Epperly set NCAA records with 29 straight completions to start a game and 31 straight overall.

When the Ivy League announces the Bushnell Cup for offensive player of the year, Epperly will almost surely be the winner. He has to be, right?

Epperly was the leader of the show for Princeton in 2013. Ask yourself this: Who would be the next player on your list?

It could be almost anyone, which is another great piece to the Princeton football puzzle for 2013.

This was not a one-man show. This was a total team effort, offensively and defensively.

An army of running backs and receivers. Wave after wave of players on both sides of the ball.

Many of them return next year, by the way.

Princeton football took an incredible step forward in 2013.

No, it didn't end the way anyone would have wanted. It came pretty close though.

Princeton fought back from 17-0 down against Brown and 16-0 down against Penn to win on the road. It attempted to come back from 21-0 down at Dartmouth Saturday and almost did, tying it at 21-21 and coming really close to tying it again at 28-28.

In the end, Dartmouth had a little too much for Princeton and won 28-24, handing the Tigers their only Ivy loss of 2013.

Still, it was only a slight blemish on an otherwise incredible year.

TigerBlog wishes he could go back to early September and remember what he thought this team was going to be. All Princeton fans should.

He's pretty sure he would have jumped at 7-3, 5-2 in the league. As it turned out, it was a year that pretty much exceeded whatever TB's most optimistic expectations could have been.

Five games with at least 50 points. The most exciting Princeton football team he's ever seen.

An Ivy League championship. A bonfire.

What Princeton fan could be disappointed in any of that?

Because it didn't end with a win?

TB doesn't want to hear it.


George Clark said...

Great take on a great season...When I arrived at Jadwin for the Lafayette basketball game the football team was practicing under the lights. The Tigers played a rather lackluster first half, jeopardizing the start of what may be a pretty good year. The Tigers' turn-around began with the arrival of a lot of the football players. Coincidence? I don't think so! Thanks, Gridders for a tremendous year.

Anonymous said...

In the span of one glorious week in October, Florida State beat #3 ranked Clemson and Princeton beat Harvard, both wins on the road. An FSU friend and I committed that, if the Tigers won (at least a share of) the Ivy title and the Seminoles played for the national championship, we would go to Pasadena for the BCS finale and, if they win, we're headed to Vegas for bacchanalian rites.

The 2013 football season has been an unexpected joy ride, an inexplicable, ridiculous meteor from deep outer space, crashing into our Siberian tundra to brighten our days and warm our hearts. Sincere gratitude to the players and coaches for all your hard work and your faith in each other after consecutive 1-9 disasters.

May Florida State beat Florida and win the ACC championship game. May Princeton always beat Harvard and Yale to win the bonfire of football, US News rankings and life in general.