Monday, September 28, 2015

The Home Opener

Okay, that's much better.

Readership numbers rebounded nicely on Friday. TigerBlog hopes he doesn't have to scold anyone again, like he did Friday, after Wednesday and Thursday numbers were down.

So that's that.

Speaking of numbers, TigerBlog isn't sure how many people went to see the Pope yesterday in Philadelphia. At first he heard it would be two million, and then a million. Eventually, the number was in the hundreds of thousands.

It was still a huge throng on the Ben Franklin Parkway. That's the street that Rocky ran on before he ran up the steps of the Art Museum, for those who've never been to Philly.

The signs that give traffic - and missing children - reports on the highways around here for the last few weeks flashed warnings of what the Pope's visit was going to do to the traffic. The Ben Franklin Bridge was closed (it doesn't go anywhere near the Ben Franklin Parkway, by the way). So were parts of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

All of Center City Philadelphia was turned into a maximum security zone. Driving into town was completely impossible.

With all of that, TigerBlog thought the residual backups would affect the area from Bucks County through Princeton, his primary driving areas. Instead, there was none.

TigerBlog Jr.'s friend Matthew got a job parking cars at a train station just outside Philadelphia for the Pope's visit. He had to be there at 3 a.m. Saturday morning, and he was there. Then nobody showed up. He parked maybe five cars in eight hours.

For all that, having Pope Francis in Philadelphia was a huge event for the city, regardless of your religion. And, while some think the security was way over the top, it would have been unforgivable for Philadelphia if something had happened to him while he was here.

TigerBlog has experienced over-the-top Papal traffic in his life. That was back in 1995, when John Paul II was in New York City and TigerBlog had to get to Brown for a football game. It took seven hours.

Why? Because the Pope's helicopter shut down the highway in New York that TigerBlog was on that Friday afternoon. TB didn't realize it was the Pope at first. He thought it was a medevac situation. Instead, it turned out to be the Pope.

This area had all kinds of games and other events changed because of the Pope's visit. One of those was Thursday night's football game between Penn and Villanova.

The Quakers thumped Villanova, who had come into the game ranked fourth nationally. It was a great performance for a Penn team that struggled the last few years and which had been owned by Villanova in the series.

It left TigerBlog wondering what to expect of Princeton's home opener against Lehigh Saturday night. After all, Lehigh had beaten Penn 42-21 a week earlier. 

Where did that leave all of these teams?

Well, connecting the dots, Princeton has doubled up Lehigh, who doubled up Penn, who somewhat comfortably defeated Villanova, who had been ranked fourth in the country.

Princeton's 52-26 win over Lehigh was very impressive. It didn't take long for TigerBlog's favorite play, which is the one where the starting quarterback hands off to the No. 3 quarterback, who throws a pass to the No. 2 quarterback.

Actually, it took even less time for Princeton to impress TB. The Tigers did that right from the opening kickoff, which led to an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown march, for the first of seven touchdowns the Tigers would score on the night.

Coupled with Princeton's 40-7 win over Lafayette on opening night, Princeton has now scored more points in its first two games that it has in any year since 1950. That's a long time ago.

Princeton had incredible balance against Lehigh, with 235 yards passing and 244 yards rushing. Princeton has a bunch of weapons, starting with quarterback Chad Kanoff, running backs DiAndre Atwater, Dre Nelson and Joe Rhattigan and the do-everything John Lovett.

Kanoff, after two collegiate starts, certainly looks like the real deal. Atwater, Rhattigan and Nelson are all different kinds of backs, but they came after Lehigh in waves, leading to the 244-yard night, which followed the 308 rushing yards against Lafayette, which combine to have Princeton as the No. 5 rushing team in the FCS.

As for Lovett, his contribution to the running game was a mere 11.8 yards per carry on his five carries, which went for 59 yards. He was also Princeton's leading receiver in the game with 71 yards, tying for the team lead with four receptions. And he's technically a quarterback.

The offense through two games certainly looks like the one from two years ago, when Princeton won the Ivy League title. The defensive numbers weren't great against Lehigh, with 561 total yards, but the Tigers came up with the stops when they needed. And add to that R.J. Paige's 36-yard interception return and a monstrous game from Dorian Williams, who had 12 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

So what have we learned about the Ivy League after two weeks?

Well, Dartmouth looks great. So does Harvard. Yale doesn't look as great, but the Bulldogs got a huge comeback win over Cornell.

And Penn? Who knows. Are the Quakers the team that lost to Lehigh or beat Villanova?

And where does Princeton fit in? It's too soon to say.

As TigerBlog watched the game, he thought ahead a few weeks, when Princeton finishes with Harvard, Cornell, Penn, Yale and Dartmouth in the second half of the year. The game he was watching at the time will be an afterthought by then.

Still, it's had been nearly 10 years since Princeton got to 2-0, and Lehigh is always a good team. Next up is Columbia in the Ivy opener Friday night and then Colgate and Brown before that five-week gauntlet.

The home opener was a good party. It had a nice crowd, with a lot of students. It had the first real hints of the coming autumn weather.

It ended with a great fireworks show.

And it included a great performance by the home team. What more can anyone have asked, at least in September.

October and November? They won't be easy.

Through two weeks, though, Princeton fans can be excused for thinking their team will be a tough out in the Ivy League race.

1 comment:

HuddleClub said...

What's the word on DeValve?