Friday, November 7, 2014

145 Years Later

TigerBlog can't help but wonder what William Gummere and the boys were thinking when they woke up 145 years ago today.

Of, for that matter, if TB could transport William from campus that day to today, what in the world would he think about what he had his buddies had started.

It was 145 years ago yesterday that Princeton and Rutgers played the first college football game ever, which Rutgers won 6-4. That game was played in New Brunswick, right where the College Avenue Gym stands today.

A week later Princeton and Rutgers had a rematch here in Princeton, and the home team won that one 8-0. Those two games were more like full-contact soccer than they were anything like modern - or even primitive - football.

Even so, those two games and those two rivals are credited with starting the sport.

What in the world must the players who played - like Princeton captain William Gummere, who later would become Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court - think of what has become of their little pastime.

Could they ever have imagined that it would grow into what it has, something pretty much uniquely American, a sport that overwhelms the national consciousness on so many levels.

And it started out so innocently. It makes TB wonder what they were thinking back in 1869? Fun game, but it'll never take off?

Rutgers is off this weekend after drawing 52,797 fans last week for a 37-0 Homecoming Day loss to Wisconsin. Could anyone who played in that 1869 game ever remotely guessed that such a thing would ever happen from what they started, that a crowd of 52,797 could be considered small by Power Five conference standards?

Princeton won't draw that many fans here tomorrow for its game against Penn, one that kicks off at 3:30 and can be seen on NBC Sports Network. Still, TB figures the crowd will be right around 10,000.

Don't get him started on whether or not that's a good crowd.

Penn comes into the game at 1-6; the Quakers haven't been 1-7 since 1991. TigerBlog remembers the 1981 season, when Penn won its opener in a wildly dramatic game against Cornell - and then lost every other game that year.

More often than not, though, Penn has been a power in its 23 years under retiring coach Al Bagnoli, who coaches on the Princeton campus for the final time. Bagnoli is 16-6 all-time against the Tigers and only once has he lost consecutive games to Princeton, who defeated Penn 38-26 last year at Franklin Field.

More important than any of that, Princeton is still a game back of Harvard in the league race and needs this win to stay there. The Tigers are at Yale and then home with Dartmouth after this game.

The football game is one of four Princeton-Penn games here tomorrow, and the football team is one of nine Princeton teams who will be home this weekend.

Nine? That's a lot.

If you're keeping track, the nine are: football, sprint football, women's hockey, men's hockey, women's volleyball, men's soccer, field hockey, women's soccer, men's water polo.

There are a pair of hockey doubleheaders, today and tomorrow. There is a soccer doubleheader tomorrow.

There are five teams that will be playing in games that will have a direct impact on Ivy League championships, including all four against Penn (as well as women's volleyball).

Should the field hockey team win, it would be assured of at least a share of the Ivy title (though it needs Columbia to lose to Harvard to get the NCAA bid).

Should the men's soccer team defeat Penn, it would be assured of staying in first place heading into the final weekend. Princeton did get a huge non-league win at American Wednesday, one that will help the at-large NCAA resume should it come to that.

The women's volleyball team is a game back of Harvard and Yale with two weekends to go, including one match against each of them. The one against Harvard is tonight, by the way.
The women's soccer team needs a win over Penn coupled with a Harvard loss to Columbia and a Dartmouth loss or tie against Cornell to earn a share of the Ivy League title.

Princeton cannot win the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, and that means that tomorrow's game is the final one for Julie Shackford as Tiger head coach after 20 years.

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