Monday, October 23, 2017

Quite A Night In Cambridge

TigerBlog didn't figure that he'd be spending some of his weekend explaining to people that no, it wasn't that Edgar Allen Poe.

TigerBlog read some of Edgar Allen Poe's stuff in high school and college. Let's just say that he's not TB's favorite author.

Anyway, ol' Edgar, who seemed to have something of a dark side, had a nephew who played football at Princeton and set a bunch of records back before the modern rules of football existed. He was also the captain of the team of 1890.

That team was the last Princeton team to score at least 50 points in three straight games. Before the 2017 team, that is.

Princeton has now put up 50, 53 and 52 points in its last three. Those numbers could have been higher too, had the Tigers not called off the dogs.

The most recent outburst was also the most shocking. Princeton put those 52 up at Harvard Friday night, coming home with a 52-17 victory that was complete dominance from start to finish.

TB, for one, was not expecting that game to be a blowout. In fact, his exact pregame words were "this one will be tough from start to finish."

As it turned out, it wasn't. 

TigerBlog didn't watch the game on TV from the start. He was at women's hockey instead.

From Baker Rink he checked his phone to get scoring updates from Cambridge. It was 7-0. Then 10-0. Then it was 17-3.

At one point, he stopped looking at just the score and went to the livestats, to see if anyone was having a big game.

Turned out, someone was. More than one someone, actually.

Chad Kanoff, when TB first looked, was 6 for 6. Then he was 10 for 10. Then 14 for 14.

What? No incompletions?

TigerBlog was the PA announcer the day Quinn Epperly set the NCAA record by completing his first 29 passes in a win over Cornell. Would Kanoff approach that?

As it turned out, he wouldn't. His 22nd pass would be incomplete. This came after about as good a first half as it is possible to play.

Kanoff  finished the first half 20 for 20 for 323 yards and two touchdowns. That's absurd, by the way. You can watch football forever and never see a quarterback have those kinds of numbers for a half.

His second half was 11 for 15, for another 98 yards. Most of that time was spent trying to keep the clock moving, of course.

Added together, Kanoff was 31 for 35 for 421 yards and the two scores. Add everything together and he's completing better than 76 percent of his passes. That means if he completes three of his next four, his percentage will go down. That means that Kanoff is having a ridiculous year.

Kanoff was just short of the FCS record for completion percentage by an individual in a game. Ah, but if you add in Jesper Horsted's 1 for 1 (for a TD to Stephen Carlson) then Princeton set the record for team completion percentage in a game.

Speaking of Horsted, he looked completely unstoppable as well. He caught 12 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Horsted, who had the third best single-game receiving yardage total in program history, now has 55 catches for 712 yards and eight TDs.

He's now tied for 13th on Princeton's single-season receptions list and on pace to be No. 1, with 9.17 catches per game. That would take him to 91, with the record of 88 held by Kevin Guthrie from 1983.

He's also fifth in touchdown catches in a season with those eight. The record is 11.

With all the attention focused on Kanoff and Horsted, it's easy to overlook a few people. Stephen Carlson had 11 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Charlie Volker had three more three rushing touchdowns, giving him seven in two weeks. And the defense was outstanding, pretty much wiping out Harvard until long after the matter had been decided.

Pretty much anyone who played for Princeton was great. The offensive line kept Harvard off Kanoff, and when that happens, you saw what the result is.

Harvard, keep in mind, came into the game ranked eight in the FCS in total defense.

So what does it all mean?

Well, Columbia is the lone Ivy unbeaten. There are four teams at 2-1, including Princeton and Cornell, who meet at 7 Saturday on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

Princeton needs to keep winning, is what it means. Keep winning and hope Columbia loses.

Each game is like its own season. There are four little seasons to go - Cornell, at Penn, Yale, at Dartmouth. Yale and Dartmouth are the other two 2-1 teams, so none of this will be easy.

Before you worry about that, though, take a minute to think about what Princeton has done the last three weeks, and especially last Friday.

It's not easy to go into Harvard Stadium and do that to Crimson. Nobody had done that there since Princeton did it in 1967 with a 45-6 win.

And also take a second to think about what Kanoff did in the first half, because you won't see that again for awhile.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Dog Days

TigerBlog, as he has said many times before, has visions of a retirement where he'll be the nice old guy who's always out walking his dog - near his beach house.

He has no dog right now, of course. As such, he lives vicariously through other people's dogs. Such as these guys:


The one on the left is Laker. He and TB go way back, all the way to when Laker was just a puppy. Laker belongs to a family whose son played lacrosse with TigerBlog Jr. and whose daughter played against Miss TigerBlog.

In the program on Senior Night for TBJ's high school lacrosse team, TBJ wrote a long entry thanking a bunch of people for their support. Laker's owner was on the same page as TBJ and wrote simply: "shout out to my parents and my dog." Keep in mind, he has an older brother and younger sister as well.

The one in the middle was at a lacrosse scrimmage a few years ago. He has the bluest eyes TB has ever seen on a dog. The one on the right sat on TB's chair at a field hockey game last year.

Then there's this guy:



His name is Fred. TigerBlog ran into him in Baltimore a few years ago. A dog with shades riding in a sidecar? TigerBlog wrote this about Fred back then:
Who is Fred? The coolest dog in Baltimore, and possibly on the planet. He might even be cooler than Snoopy, and Snoopy can fly a plane and play shortstop, despite not having fingers. He might be cooler than Underdog, who fights crime and can fly.


Everybody knows Snoopy was cool. Don't ever sell Underdog short either.


To this list of dogs whom TB has run into you can now add Aggie. Check out Aggie's face:


Is that a great face or what? Aggie might not ride in a sidecar or anything, but that's a great face.

By the way: MTB plays field hockey with a girl named Samie whose brother is engaged to a woman who is Aggie's owner.

TigerBlog wouldn't dare put Aggie's picture on the webpage if Princeton was headed to New Haven for a some huge games this weekend. Instead, all kinds of Tigers are in Cambridge.

It starts tonight, with the football game, which kicks off at 7:30 and can be seen on NBC Sports Network. It'll be the 110th meeting in the series, one that Princeton leads 54-48, with seven ties.

The importance of this game is pretty obvious.

Princeton and Harvard are both 1-1 in the Ivy League. Dartmouth and Columbia are the last two unbeatens at 2-0, and they play tomorrow in Hanover.

Princeton and Harvard have played some wild games in recent years, including a 51-48 Tiger win in three OTs in 2013. A year ago, it was Harvard who handed Princeton its only league loss as the Tigers earned a share of the Ivy title.

Princeton and Harvard were the preseason co-favorites. Both would love to get back their losses - Princeton's to Columbia and Harvard's to Cornell - but that's not how it works. Tonight's winner is right back in the mix. Tonight's loser will have its second league loss, and two-loss teams have not won a lot of Ivy titles (and none since 1982).

There are also three other Princeton-Harvard games tomorrow in Cambridge, two in soccer and one in field hockey.

The soccer doubleheader begins with the women at 1 and then has the men at 4:30. Princeton lost to Columbia a week ago, and while its RPI dropped only one spot - from sixth in Division I to seventh - getting at least a share of the league title will require a Columbia loss and for Princeton to win out.

Princeton will need to win out and have Columbia have at least a loss and tie to get the league's automatic NCAA bid. Of course, with that RPI and a ton of Top 100 wins, Princeton has a great shot at an at-large.

The field hockey game is at noon and is a huge showdown, as Princeton is ranked 14th, Harvard is ranked 15th and both are unbeaten in the league. The winner will have the inside track for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

If you recall, it was Harvard who won the league last year, leaving Princeton to get into the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid. And then it was Princeton who advanced and advanced again to reach the Final Four.

There are other big games too. The women's volleyball team is at Penn tonight, hoping to put last weekend's sweep at the hands of Cornell and Columbia in the past.

And for home events? There is opening weekend for the women's hockey team, who hosts Providence tonight at 6 and then tomorrow at 3. Admission is free for those two games.

That means you can go to the game tonight and get home in time to see most of the football game. And, if you like, you can switch back and forth to Game 6 of TB's beloved Yankees against Houston.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Root, Root, Root For The Home Team

TigerBlog can't believe what he's been doing.

He's been, egads, rooting for the ... Yankees? What? No way. How was this possible?

What could possibly get him to root for the Yankees? They've long been one of his three least favorite teams in professional sports.

The other two? One of them is coached by a Princeton alum who is among the nicest people TB has ever met, and the other is the Patriots (whose coach, by the way, had a nice five-minute chat with TB about lacrosse when they met on the field at Gillette Stadium prior to the NCAA championships last May).

What is allegiance in sports all about anyway? TigerBlog couldn't stand an entire generation of Yankees players. They were arrogant and overrated and each time they won the World Series there was some sort of fluke involved. TB hated them.

This group of Yankees? They seem sort of likeable and easy to root for, as does the manager, Joe Girardi, a CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame member from Northwestern.

It seems like Aaron Judge especially is impossible to root against. Yes, he strikes out a lot, but he hits the ball a long, long way. And he plays hard.

He also seems like a good teammate and someone who is respectful of the game. He seems humble. He doesn't come across as a total phony " 'I always wanted to wear the pinstripes' " when all he really wanted was the big dollars the team threw at him" type who dominated the team for years.

TigerBlog's favorite pro sports teams has always been the Giants, the football ones. He barely paid attention the other night when they won their first game of the year, beating the Broncos in prime time.

Weird, huh?

It all asks the question of why do you root for teams? Do you root for your team no matter what, forever, blindly, because it's always been "your team?" Or do you say "hey, those guys are a bunch of jerks" as your subconscious drifts to a different team, whose players seem to be nicer?

As much as TB hated the Yankees, he always loved the Knicks. For the last 20 years, that's been tougher and tougher to do, especially with the makeup of the team in recent years. Now that Carmelo Anthony has been traded and Princeton's Steve Mills has a bigger role, maybe it'll be easier.

For colleges, allegiance seems a little deeper. For one thing, people usually root for the school they attended, unless they went to one school (you can call it "Penn") and then spent their entire professional life at that school's arch-rival (you can call it "Princeton).

For another, the rosters turn over every four years, so even if there is someone that you're not a fan of, he or she is gone relatively quickly.

One of the best things about Princeton has always been how easy it is to root for the athletes here. They're a lot like how Aaron Judge appears to be - they play hard, they're humble, they're approachable. They make great role models.

Did you see this video on goprincetontigers.com? The one where the freshmen women's basketball players interview themselves? Don't they seem like the kinds of players you want on your team?

TB has spent the week talking about videos and how they give insight into what Princeton Athletics is all about. The women's basketball one, featuring the team's freshmen, is another one of those. It's very simple. They're just asking each other basic questions about themselves, you know, whether you prefer cake or pie, or morning or night, or what your favorite movie is.

They are getting to know each other. The viewer is getting to know them. The best part is that they just seem so friendly.

Princeton has incredible loyalty from its alums, and there are all kinds of reasons for that.

First, let TB say that the level of that loyalty has always impressed him. He can't imagine someone who went to Princeton could ever do what he did, which is completely flip sides of the rivalry with Penn, or Harvard or Yale.

That loyalty is ingrained on Princetonians from the time they get here, it ways that isn't done (or at least wasn't done) at Penn. Beyond that, though, the loyalty among athletic alums is reinforced by the quality of the people who make up the current generation of Princeton athletes.

It's really a remarkable dynamic.

As for the Yankees? Well, they're certainly making it easy to root for them. 

Did you see Judge after he scored to make it 4-0 yesterday? He was smiling like a little kid.

Damn Yankees. Making TB root for them like this. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Updating

If you have an iPhone, then you recently did the update to the software.

Pretty much everyone who updates an iPhone complains about it after. It always seems to take things that were working fine and make them a bit different, even a bit more complicated. Nobody likes having a feature that worked well removed in the update.

For some strange reason, TigerBlog's voicemail disappeared after he did the update. What was that about?

For the most part, he's okay with that. If he gets a call and doesn't answer, it gets recorded as a missed call, so he knows who called. On the other hand, he doesn't always know what that person wanted.

He'll probably set up his voicemail again at some point. Of course, he probably gets 100 text messages for each call. Maybe more, actually.

Anyway, while he's on the subject of updates, here are a few from yesterday.

TigerBlog tweeted the link to yesterday's entry, as he always does, and this time there was a reply.

It came from @brownbearsILN. What did it say?


Truer words have never been spoken, people. If you want to see what this cookie actually looks like, here it is:


TigerBlog, as you may recall, did not actually end up eating that cookie. That took a lot of will power.

So that's one update from yesterday.

Here's another update from yesterday.

TigerBlog mentioned that Jesper Horsted was chasing the record for receptions in a season at Princeton. Right now he's on pace for 84, which would leave him four shy of the record of 88, set by Kevin Guthrie in 1983.

TigerBlog should have also mentioned that Horsted has six touchdown receptions through the first half of the season. If he matches that in the second, he'll have 12, which would be one more than the single-season school record currently shared by Derek Graham (also in 1983) and Roman Wilson (in 2013).

By the way, if you don't know much about Princeton football in the early 1980s, well, it was pretty wide-open stuff. Here were the scores of the last four games of 1981, for instance:
Princeton 38, Penn 30
Maine 55, Princeton 44
Princeton 35, Yale 31
Princeton 37, Cornell 14

Of course, the current Tigers are in a run of several years of high scoring offense as well. In fact, since the start of the 2013 season, Princeton has played 45 games. In those 45 games, the Tigers have averaged 34.5 points per game.

That's a lot.

Princeton's next game, by the way, is at Harvard Friday night. That's a 7:30 kickoff, on NBC Sports Network.

The last update is about video. Yesterday TigerBlog mentioned two videos, one that had women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart mic'd up at a practice and the other that featured two-sport athlete Jesper Horsted.

As TB said, those are a great way to tell the stories that make up Princeton Athletics. Yesterday saw the launch of a new series whose design is to do that, and a little more.

You can see Episode 1 of "Hard Cuts, A Season Inside Princeton Basketball" HERE. It is well worth the time.

The series will be a season-long look at what makes up the Princeton men's basketball program. It's about more than men's basketball, of course. It's about what it's like to be a Princeton athlete and what goes into putting a program together.

TigerBlog thinks the entire series is going to be really good, and really effective.

The men's basketball team opens its season in little more than three weeks, when the Tigers will be at Butler on Sunday, Nov. 12. The women's team, by the way, plays its first game two days earlier, at Jadwin Gym, against George Washington.

The Ivy League released its preseason media poll yesterday, and Princeton was picked third. What does that matter? It doesn't.

Princeton enters the 2017-18 season coming off a great year, one that saw the Tigers go 14-0 in the Ivy League and then win two more games - after trailing in both - to win the first Ivy League tournament.

Harvard is the preseason pick. Yale got the most first-place votes. Princeton had three first-place votes and was a solid third.

It should be a really good season of Ivy League basketball, for the men and women.

The Quaker men were picked to finish in fourth. If the preseason picks come true, then the same four teams will be in the second Ivy tournament that were in the first. Also, if those picks come true, then Penn will again be the fourth seed playing at home in the Palestra, where the tournament will be again.

Ah, but that's months away. For now it's preseason practices. Then it'll be non-league games, lots of travel, the entire Ivy season and see where it goes from there.

And you can see it all on "Hard Cuts."

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Cookie, The Records, The Videos

Cody Chrusciel, TigerBlog's Office of Athletic Communications colleague and the voice of among other things Princeton football on the radio, brought TigerBlog back a souvenir from his trip to Brown this past weekend.

If you've ever covered a sporting event at Brown University, you know that its press boxes are famous for their giant chocolate chip cookies. Cody texted TB a picture of a large stack of them Saturday, and then yesterday he delivered one to him.

Gary Walters, the Ford Family Director of Athletics emeritus, saw the cookie and speculated that it has 1,000 calories. TigerBlog isn't sure, but hey, he's seen salads that have 1,200 or more calories, so, you know, everything in moderation.

Besides, TB won't be back at Brown until lacrosse season, so why not eat one cookie now?

Ah, but as he went to do so, he kept hearing Gary's voice ... "1,000 calories. 1,000 calories." So he gave it to Maya, the very amiable young woman at the Jadwin desk as TB was leaving. Her response was "Free Cookie. Yay."

As TB said, Cody is the voice of Princeton football - and a lot of other things. He does men's lacrosse on the radio as well, and he fills in on the broadcasts of any number of other sports for the Ivy League Network.

He also does the voiceovers for numerous videos that he and John Bullis produce. His voice is the one narrating the Jesper Horsted video that Cody produced last week.

Didn't see it? It's right HERE.

The Horsted video is a good one. He's a two-sport athlete here, with pro potential in both baseball and football. He won Ivy League titles in both before his sophomore year was over.

Horsted is the leading receiver on the Princeton football team. Actually he's the leading receiver in the Ivy League and the fifth leading receiver in the FCS.

Horsted is on pace for 84 receptions this season, which would be four shy of the school single-season record. He only had seven last Saturday against Brown, largely because on the lopsided nature of the 53-0 win over Brown. This weekend, at Harvard, figures to be much more competitive.

By the way, that's a 7:30 pm kickoff Friday night at Harvard, on NBC Sports Network. TigerBlog is reasonably sure this will be the first Princeton-Harvard night football game, though maybe he's wrong.

Speaking of Princeton in the national leaders, Chad Kanoff ranks first in the FCS with a 73.9 completion percentage. The record for a single-season at Princeton is 68.2 percent, held by Jason Garrett, the current head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

TigerBlog, by the way, hasn't seen too many people who could throw a football as naturally and perfectly as Jason Garrett.

The FCS record for completion percentage in a season is 75.2 percent, set by Eric Sanders of Northern Iowa 10 years ago. The Ivy record is 70.5 percent, set by Penn's Gavin Hoffman.

In addition, Kanoff's career completion percentage is 62.4, which would tie him for seventh best all time in the Ivy League. Garrett, at 66.5 percent, is the Ivy and obviously Princeton record holder.

Kanoff actually leads the Ivy League in completion percentage, passing efficiency, passing touchdowns and passing yards. That's not too bad.

Anyway, the whole point of this was to talk about the video about Horsted.

TigerBlog thinks videos like that are the perfect way to tell stories about Princeton athletes. Horsted has a good story. The video captures who he is. It showcases Princeton's coaches well. It's the right length.

Another kind of video that TigerBlog likes is the mic'd up series. The most recent example is when Courtney Banghart, the women's basketball coach, was mic'd up.

You can see that one HERE.

The OAC is constantly looking for new and better ways to tell stories, across as many mediums as possible. Video. Written word. Social media. All of it.

It's a challenge, but it's also fun. It's interesting to see what works and what doesn't, what can be better, all of it.

John Bullis made a series of "All-Access" pieces a few years ago that were great, but they were also a little long at 15-20 minutes. There were videos a year ago that were 30-45 seconds, which in some cases (social media) work well and in others aren't long enough.

TigerBlog has said it often, but he would never have been able to stay here as long as he has had it not been for the evolution of the profession. It's gone from helping the media to constantly attempting to find the best ways to be creative. It makes each day fun and challenging.

Remember, TigerBlog has been doing this since before there was a webpage and when the primary way of communicating with other schools was through mail.

Now?

As he said, each day is a different challenge.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Muddling Through

TigerBlog was watching the Princeton-Brown football game on the Ivy League Network when something curious dawned on him.

Brown Stadium is one of those rare facilities that still has natural grass. And since it appeared to be a rainy morning in Providence, there were the players, with dirt on their uniforms.

Back when TB was a kid, there were two kinds of fields - natural grass and the rock-hard carpeting that was the original artificial turf. There was always something special about games in rain or snow on grass fields, as basically everyone on both teams would be slipping and sliding all over the place. And best of all, they'd all be covered in mud long before the game ended.

The advent of artificial turf fields brought with them clean uniforms, even in the worst weather. These days, most fields are made of FieldTurf, which is softer and plays like natural grass, with one major difference - no grass stains.

It's a sign of progress, TB supposes. FieldTurf drains well, and maintenance is easier and less costly. It's not the near-cement that old artificial turf was.

It just doesn't allow for dirty uniforms. And there was a certain charm to that.

And there they were again, Saturday, on the ILN. Dirty uniforms. It was like old times.

TigerBlog can't vouch for what the uniforms looked like at the end of the game, since he only watched the first half. This one was over long before then.

The final would be Princeton 53, Brown 0. It was a 36-0 game at the break.

For that matter it was 9-0 Princeton by the time TB turned the game on, and this was shortly after the kickoff. There are days like this, when everything goes right and teams win easily. Or, conversely, when nothing goes right and teams are never in it.

For Princeton, Saturday was one of the better ones.

Here was Princeton's drive chart from the first half - field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. You're going to win a lot of game when you do that.

For that matter, here was Charles Volker's first half drive chart - not a touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, not a touchdown.

Volker, the Ivy League sprint champion, would carry 16 times for 163 yards and four TDs. One of those TDs was a 96-yard run, the longest run in the history of Princeton football. And Volker, with that sprinter's speed, as gone almost the second he touched the ball.

As Volker was going the distance on the 96-yarder, TB flashed back 14 years, when the longest pass play in Princeton history happened on that same field, as Matt Verbit and Clinton Wu connected on a 99-yard TD. 

Volker wasn't a one-man show, obviously.

Chad Kanoff had another good day at quarterback, going 21 for 27 for 237 yards and two touchdowns. Jesper Horsted caught seven more passes with another touchdown. The defense allowed just 170 yards.

And what does it mean?

Mostly it means that Princeton is now 4-1, 1-1 in the Ivy League, heading into a huge game Friday at Harvard. In fact, Princeton and Harvard are two of four teams who are 1-1 in the league, along with Yale and Cornell.

There are still two unbeatens, though only one of them will be that way at the end of next weekend. Dartmouth, who edged Sacred Heart in its final non-league game 29-26, and Columbia, who is now earned an OT win over Penn, will meet this coming week in Hanover.

This is a very crowded horse race right now. Princeton lost its Ivy opener against Columbia on a late TD pass from the Lions, but the Tigers aren't out of things at all. Each game is huge from here on out, obviously.

Columbia and Dartmouth are both 5-0 overall, in addition to being 2-0 in the league. Princeton finishes the season in Hanover against the Big Green.

The really interesting thing about Ivy football so far in 2017 is that no score is really all that stunning. Well, no result anyway. TigerBlog didn't expect Princeton to beat Brown 53-0, obviously.

As he checks the other scores each week, though, nothing is really all that shocking. That's the sign of a completely wide-open league.

If Princeton wins out, it still needs someone to beat Columbia to earn at least a share of the title. Will that happen? Who knows this year.

Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell and Harvard can all win at least a share of the championship by winning their remaining games. That's also the sign of a balanced league.

Each team has five Ivy games remaining. The goal is to be playing big games in November. 

Nothing that's happened so far for Princeton changes that. So enjoy the 53-0. And then forget it.

Princeton starts that final drive Friday night at Harvard. Do not expect this one to be one of those days like this past weekend. Nope, this one will be tough from start to finish.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thoughts, On CAANJ And Football

You know what's in the back of TigerBlog's car?

The 2016-17 College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey Cup, which TigerBlog accepted on behalf of Princeton yesterday. Princeton was honored for having the highest finishing Division I team in the state of New Jersey in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup.

Olivia Hompe, the all-time leading scorer in lacrosse at Princeton, was named the Division I Female Scholar Athlete of the Year at the same awards luncheon.

Princeton wins the Division I CAANJ Cup every year. The award used to be based on a points system, and now it goes to the top finisher in the Directors' Cup standings. There are Cups for junior college, Division III, Division I and now, awarded for the first time yesterday, Division II.

TigerBlog used to be the president of the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey. There are 44 colleges who play sports in New Jersey across all levels, and five conferences have their offices in New Jersey.

That's a lot of athletes who compete in this state. They do so from vastly different perspectives, on very different campuses. Their common denominator is intercollegiate competition, and with that comes all of the benefits that college athletics brings - the life lessons that collectively make up what Princeton likes to call "Education Through Athletics."

TigerBlog accepted the award for Princeton yesterday from the current CAANJ president, Stevens Tech Director of Athletics Russell Rogers, who had just read an introduction that covered Princeton's athletic success from the past academic year.

When TB said a few words, he mentioned that athletic success is something that should never be taken for granted. Neither is the opportunity to be part of a University as unique and special as Princeton.

Yes, TB said, Princeton has a great advantage in resources and history and tradition, and of course, there's the "Princeton University" piece itself. But athletic success or any other kind of success is something that has to constantly be earned. If you start thinking it's just going to happen, that's when it's going to stop.

He also talked about the organization as a whole - thanking Terry Small of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, who does so much to keep it going - and about what he mentioned above, how the values that comprise Education Through Athletics are shared by so many athletes on so many campuses in the state and how much respect TB has for those who are combining their academic careers with their athletic ones in such positive ways.

Maybe it's because he was so actively involved in the organization, but TigerBlog always enjoys the CAANJ banquet each October.

The weather, by the way, finally started to feel like October yesterday, though it's supposed to get back into the 80s Sunday. Despite the fact that it's been shorts weather since school started, this weekend is the midpoint of the Ivy League football season, and it's been a rather unpredictable one to say the least.

The three presumptive preseason favorites - Princeton, Harvard and Penn - are a combined 1-3 in the league, while Dartmouth and Columbia are the lone unbeatens in the league. There are two league games this weekend: Princeton is at Brown and Penn is at Columbia.

Princeton and Penn finished last season tied for first (though, as TB recalls, Princeton beat Penn 28-0 during the year). This year, neither can afford another loss this early.

Or can they?

Should Princeton or Penn lose, that would be two league losses. In most years, that would be season-ending. This year? Who knows?

The top team in the league seems to change almost possession by possession, let alone week by week. Nothing that happens the rest of the year will be shocking. Seriously, any team can beat any other team.

What does this mean for Princeton?

The Tigers are at Brown tomorrow and then Harvard a week from tonight. And then home against Cornell, who beat Harvard last weekend. Princeton is 0-1 after being stunned late by Columbia, but the Lions are 4-0 overall now.

What it means is that each game is big, no game is a sure thing and no game is unwinnable. Princeton, like every other Ivy team, is looking for some consistency and the chance to start to string some W's together.

After this weekend, each team in the league will be done with its three non-league games (including Dartmouth at Sacred Heart tomorrow). After that, it'll be five league games for each team in the last five games.

What will be the record of the league champ this year? It's almost never 5-2, not since 1982 anyway (Princeton did win at 5-1-1 in 1995), but this year seems a little more unpredictable than most.

In Ivy League football, no game can be taken for granted. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Broken Cup

The U.S men's national soccer team will not be going to the World Cup.

This is somewhat astonishing. When TigerBlog was a kid, the Americans never reached the World Cup, and very few people - no one that TB knew - remotely cared about that. Seriously. Nobody even talked about it, even as the Cosmos were selling out Giants Stadium. Think about how different times are now when it comes to soccer in this country.

The U.S., in fact, did not reach the World Cup between an appearance in 1950 and its return in 1990. Since then, the Americans have reached every single World Cup, until the next one.

The U.S. was eliminated Tuesday night, when the 2-1 loss to Trinidad-Tobago was paired with wins by Honduras (over Mexico) and Panama (over Costa Rica). As a result, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama advance directly to the World Cup in Russia, while Honduras plays a two-game series against Australia for a spot

Panama, by the way, was on the verge of being eliminated, needing a U.S. loss or tie and a win over Costa Rica, who had qualified for Russia last weekend. Panama was getting the help it needed, but Costa Rica scored first in that game.

It is TigerBlog's contention, by the way, that soccer games are much more exciting when one team scores early, than if they stay 0-0 for a long time.

Anyway, Panama tied it and then won it just before the final whistle in stoppage time, which sends Panama to the World Cup for the first time ever.

For the U.S., this is a major embarrassment and step backward. TB would point out that in the last three World Cup cycles, the Americans have gone:
* qualified and won group in 2010 - with Princeton alum Bob Bradley as coach
* qualified but didn't win group in 2014 - without Bradley
* didn't qualify at all - still without Bradley

For all the commentary about Bradley, the U.S. program would have been much better off had he stayed the head coach all this time. Why is it that people downplay the value of continuity?

In case you missed it, Taylor Twellman had a thought or two about the situation:


The Americans were falling apart about the same time that Princeton was beating St. John's in men's soccer, 1-0. The goal came from Jeremy Colvin with five minutes to go, but the real star was freshman goalkeeper Sam Morton.

Here's video proof of that:



Morton, from outside of Atlanta, had more than just that save in the final seconds. He was spectacular the whole game.

It was a great night for a player who was making his collegiate debut. Princeton has won three games so far this year, two of which have come against Big East opponents Villanova and St. John's during the last two weeks. The other is against FDU, who was ranked 21st at the time.

This weekend, the challenge is another nationally ranked team, Columbia, who comes to Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium for the front end of a doubleheader, beginning at 4. The women's game between Princeton women and Columbia follows at 7. Sean Driscoll's Tigers are currently ranked 11th nationally.

The Princeton women and the Columbia women are the only two unbeaten teams in the Ivy League. Yale is next, at 2-1-0, with only a loss to Princeton.

Somewhat wildly, there are only four games left to the Ivy women's soccer season. Princeton has had an extraordinary year, with only a loss to last year's national runner-up West Virginia next to 11 wins. Princeton's RPI is even better than its national ranking, at No. 6.

Princeton has a great shot at an at-large NCAA bid, but winning the league would take the suspense out of the selections. Closing it out will not be easy though. It never is, not in soccer, where perfect Ivy seasons are rarities.

Admission to the doubleheader is free. It's a chance to see teams based in the U.S. play meaningful games. Unlike the next World Cup, which, by the way, TigerBlog will still watch with great interest.

Speaking of which, TigerBlog asked Jim Barlow if he wanted to write a guest blog - he's great at them - about what U.S. soccer should do. There's a lot to Twellman's rant in the tweet above, but he does make some really good points.

The U.S. shouldn't be losing to Trinidad and Tobago with the World Cup on the line, not with all of the effort and money and players and everything else that U.S. soccer has going for it. This is one of those times where it's necessary to say "this isn't working" and start over.

Anyway, Barlow didn't commit to writing his guest blog, though TB senses there might be one in the near future. In the meantime, his suggestion for what U.S. Soccer should do to start to fix things?

"Hire Sean Driscoll."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Field Hockey, Then And Now

As TigerBlog stood up on the walkway outside the press box that faces onto both Sherrerd Field and Bedford Field Sunday afternoon, he looked off to his right - and back nearly 30 years.

When he first started covering Princeton sports for the newspaper, he worked for someone named Harvey Yavener, who, as TB has written several times before, was a legendary local sportswriter for a long, long time around here. It's likely that nobody ever wrote more column inches about Princeton sports in a newspaper than Harvey Yavener.

As TigerBlog has also said, Yav was way ahead of his time when it came to the coverage of women's athletics. During years when your average male sportswriter outwardly mocked the notion of writing about "girls' teams," Yav was out there on the campuses of the five colleges he and TB covered - Princeton, Rider, Rutgers, Trenton State (now the College of New Jersey) and Mercer County Community College - covering women's sports of all kinds, interviewing women athletes from all those sports.

To Yav, games were games. The biggest football game equaled the biggest crew race which equaled the biggest track meet. It didn't matter how many people were in the stands. It didn't matter what gender the athletes were. A big game was a big game.

Today, at places like Princeton, that thinking is commonplace and just how it is. Back then, it was unique.

There were a handful of women's sportswriters that TB knew, and they almost all covered women's sports. It wasn't until there was crossover, when a male writer like Yav covered women's games, that there began to be steps towards equality of coverage.

When TB first started working with Yav, he covered football and men's basketball, but he was sent to events where there would be no other male writers, other than those from the school papers themselves. He'd often be the lone writer - male or female - at the front end of a women's/men's basketball doubleheader, for instance.

In fact he'd often be the only writer at events, especially women's events. TB knows for sure that those experiences helped him develop the sense of equity that has dominated his experience here in the Office of Athletic Communications all these years.

And that's what he was thinking about as he watched the game field hockey Sunday between Princeton and the No. 1-ranked UConn Huskies. How he first watched field hockey, back when Beth Bozman was first building Princeton into the national powerhouse that it has remained ever since.

Princeton used to play its games on Gulick Field, which was a grass field that was elevated above Lourie-Love Field, the old home of Princeton soccer. Today Plummer Field, part of Roberts Stadium, sits where Gulick once did, though it is level with Myslik Field, as opposed to up on a hill.

Field hockey on grass was a much different game, and still is, if you watch it on the high school level. Gulick Field was a nice place to watch a game, as was Lourie-Love, but there were zero frills involved.

Contrast that experience with what field hockey looks like now at Princeton, and you have something that is radically different.

Bedford Field is a beautiful facility with the most pristine artificial turf you will ever see. The stands Sunday weren't packed, but there was a nice sized crowd to watch the game, even on a rainy day.

As for the on-field product? The level of athleticism in field hockey has skyrocketed through the years, helped along by a few factors: more players, way better facilities and equipment, much greater strength and conditioning by the players, better coaching on the younger levels and a change in athletic culture that has encouraged girls to pursue their athletic dreams the same way boys do.

If you hadn't seen field hockey since its days on Gulick Field, you might not have recognized it Sunday. The game is incredibly fast, and the players combine speed and strength with an amazing amount of skill.

It's a complex game, with some interesting rules, but it's easy to pick up. And you have to love that there is no offsides rule at all.

And even if you'd never seen the sport before, you could tell that the UConn-Princeton game was one on a very high level.

Prior to the game, there was one number that instilled fear of the Huskies, and it wasn't their national ranking of "one." It was the number "12," as in the number of goals UConn had put up in a 12-0 win over Villanova last Friday.

UConn then scored quickly against Princeton and built it to 2-0 in less than 10 minutes. Would this be another massive blowout? Hardly.

Princeton came back and tied it at 2-2, and in fact the Tigers spent much of the game taking it to the No. 1 team in the country. UConn would break Princeton's heart with three second half goals for a 5-2 lead, but the Tigers would get one back before falling 5-3. In all it was very respectable.

And entertaining.

Princeton is 6-6 on the year now, as it prepares to play at Brown and at Northeastern this weekend. Don't let Princeton's record fool you - the Tigers have played the toughest schedule in Division I field hockey.

Princeton is also 3-0 in the Ivy League, as is Harvard, also ranked in the Top 20. Princeton will be at Harvard one week from Saturday for a massive game. If you remember last year, Princeton reached the NCAA Final Four, but it was actually Harvard who won the league. Princeton got an at-large bid to the tournament and then took full advantage.

TigerBlog watched the second half of the game Sunday from field level, at the scorer's table. The game was even faster from that perspective. 

TigerBlog loves that he has the perspective of what women's sports were like when he first started covering them compared to how they are now. He came along about 10 years after the prehistoric age of Princeton sports, when the real pioneers who had to establish the beginnings of women's sports here participated, but he's seen enough to really appreciate the growth that has occurred.

It was all on display for him Sunday. Right in front of him, with the game on the field, and across the roadway and back a few decades, to how it used to be.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Pair Of Aces

As you know, TigerBlog is awful at golf.

There was a time when he wasn't this bad. He was just merely very below average. He actually broke 100 once, at Ivy football media day, back when that was an annual outing.

His downfall has always been his short game, especially the sand traps. And that he gets bored after a few holes.

TigerBlog did once play with someone who had a hole in one. This was back in the early 1990s, in North Carolina. 

It was a par-3, about 155 yards, and the green was slightly elevated. The ball disappeared as it reached the green, leaving only the sound of the contact it made with the flag stick. When TigerBlog's group reached the top of the green and saw no ball, that meant it was either in the hole or had bounced far beyond it.

As Bill Murray might have observed, it was "in the hole."

And what was the reaction of the person who had the hole in one? "This will really help my score."

So yes, that was understated a bit.

The fall is not the championship season for Princeton golf or tennis, but both teams in both sports have some important competitions. And Princeton's men's golf team has taken full advantage of the fall to make a little history.

Princeton has had a pair of golfers, sophomore Evan Quinn and freshman Jake Mayer, have both knocked in holes-in-one so far this fall. Mayer did it two weekends ago at Yale. Quinn did it this past weekend in Illinois.

That's two golfers from one team with aces on consecutive weekends. That's not too shabby.

A little investigation with head coach Will Green revealed that there have been several holes in one during his tenure. Still, two in two weekends is unique stuff.

The championship season for golf and tennis is the spring. Still, two aces were worth a fall mention, no?

There is one home event for Princeton this week, and it's tonight, when the men's soccer team hosts St. John's, with gametime at 7. Admission is free.

Princeton defeated its last Big East opponent, Villanova, 2-0, on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium a week ago.

As for the women's soccer team, it took the Tigers less time to score two goals to turn a loss into a win than it did for you to read from the start to this point.

Princeton gave up a goal to Brown in the first half and then played from behind the whole way, finally breaking through with 15 minutes to go, when Courtney O'Brien scored after a bit of a scramble in front.

And then, 56 seconds later, she scored again. You can see them HERE.

That's two goals by Courtney O'Brien in less than a minute. When was the last time a Princeton player did that?

TigerBlog thought that maybe Esmeralda Negron did it in the 2004 game at Cornell. TigerBlog was at that game, and he remembered Negron scoring a bunch of goals (turned out to be three) in a short time. It turns out that the shortest interval between goals was eight minutes.

If it's happened before at Princeton, TB can't think of it off the top of his head. And if it has happened, it can't be something that too many players have ever done.

The 2-1 win over Brown improved Princeton to 11-1 overall and 3-0 in the league. The Tigers are ranked an incredible sixth in Division I in RPI. That's ahead of powerhouses like UCLA, Florida State, Florida and Penn State.

Up next for Princeton is the only other unbeaten team in the league, Columbia, in a game Saturday at Roberts Stadium, in the nightcap of a doubleheader that begins with the men's game at 4. Admission to both games will be free.

Princeton has had an incredible season to date, but the Tigers saw a year ago how fast it can slip away. That's why the win over Brown was so big. It was a home loss to Brown last season that started a late season slide that cost Princeton postseason.

This time around, Princeton has outscored its first 12 opponents by a combined 27-3. That's ridiculous.

At the same time, none of it will matter Saturday, when the Tigers need to keep it going against Columbia, or with challenges after that against Harvard, Cornell and Penn still to go.

Winning championships aren't supposed to be easy, right?

And, how about one last thing for today.

TigerBlog mentioned a few weeks ago how hard Odell Beckham Jr. had made it to root for the Giants. TB was surprised at the response to Beckham's season-ending injury Sunday. It's almost like some people were happy about it.  

TigerBlog isn't saying he agrees with that thinking. But he can't help but think that, hey, this is what Beckham brought on himself.

Not to get all high and mighty or anything, but it's a reminder to TigerBlog of why he likes Princeton sports so much.

It's easy to root for the players.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The View From Field Level

TigerBlog has seen pretty much every Fifth Quarter on Powers Field after a Princeton football game since Princeton Stadium was built.

This past Saturday, he saw it from a different vantage point than he ever has before. The field itself.

The Fifth Quarter, if you've never been to a Princeton football game, is what happens on Powers Field after the game goes final. It's a 15-minute period in which fans are invited down to the field to run around, throw a ball, do whatever little kids want to do. And it's where the players meet their families - and sign autographs.

TigerBlog usually sees this from the solitude of the PA booth, high atop the stadium. This past Saturday, though, TB wasn't able to get to the game for the start, so he ceded the PA responsibility to basketball/lacrosse voice Bill Bromberg.

When TigerBog did get there, he got to do some things that he doesn't usually get to do. He watched a little from the stands. He went down the field for awhile. And, after Princeton defeated Georgetown 50-30, he stayed on the field for the start of the Fifth Quarter.

TB's conclusion: Princeton Stadium is a great place to watch a game. There are no bad seats, and most of them are pretty much right on top of the field. The visuals throughout are appealing.

TigerBlog spends most of his time watching football - and lacrosse - games from press boxes. They're high up. They're warm when it's freezing out, which comes in handy for early season lacrosse. They have food and all.

But there's nothing better than watching a game from field level. He used to do that for lacrosse, back before stats were kept electronically, and he does miss it.

From the field, there's the sound, the smell, the colors, the reactions, everything that's missing from the press box. That's what TB got to experience Saturday from the field.

At one point, TB was standing in the end zone after a Georgetown touchdown. As Princeton awaited the kickoff, he asked his colleague John Bullis - one of the two OAC video guys - if he would like to return one kickoff in the game. Bullis said this: "Yeah, and I don't even need pads."

TigerBlog said he would try it, though he would have to insist on the pads.

As for the game itself, Princeton trailed 10-0 before scoring the next 50 points. Then Georgetown scored the final 20.

Chad Kanoff had a great day, going 25 for 29 for 313 yards and four touchdowns. In the process, he moved past the 5,000 yard mark for his career and past Matt Verbit for second place all-time at Princeton with 5,234 yards.

He trails only Doug Butler, who had 7,291 yards in his career in the early 1980s. That leaves Kanoff six games and the need to average 343 yards in those games to catch Butler.

Will he do it? Unlikely, but then again, TigerBlog said the same thing about Olivia Hompe last spring and she ended up breaking the record for points in a career in women's lacrosse.

As Kanoff continues to throw the way he has been, it appears that Jesper Horsted will make a real run at Kevin Guthrie's record of the 88 receptions. Through four games, Horsted has 35 catches - a pace that would give him 87.5 in 10 games.

Horsted and Stephen Carlson both have five TD receptions in four games, which is a pace for 12. The school record is 11, set by Derek Graham in 1983.

The Ivy League football season is 40 percent of the way over, and this is shaping up to be about the wildest one TigerBlog can remember. As he stood on the field Saturday, he checked the app on his phone to see that Cornell was holding off Harvard, and would eventually do so by a 17-14 count. Yale was up 27-14 on Dartmouth at the time, but the Big Green came back to win that one. In fact, TB didn't find that out until hours later, because he'd never checked the final.

Who is the Ivy favorite now? There are two teams unbeaten in the league - Columbia and Dartmouth. Columbia takes on Penn this weekend. Dartmouth, 2-0 in the league, is at The U this weekend - and by "The U," TigerBlog means Sacred Heart.

Princeton is at Brown Saturday.

As for the rest of the season? That's to get sorted out over the next six weeks.

This past weekend? It was just a nice day to be watching a game, and watching it from the field.

As the Fifth Quarter started, TigerBlog was standing next to his colleague Kellie Staples, the Senior Associate AD for External Affairs. Her younger son Cole was standing next to her as the final seconds ticked off, and he was ready to go.

Kellie tried to explain that she didn't have a football for him to play with. Cole, who is in the five or six range, spoke for every kid ever when he said: "that's okay. Let's just run around."

And that's what the Fifth Quarter is all about.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Another Busy Weekend

The monthly Princeton Department of Athletics staff meeting was held yesterday.

When it ended, TigerBlog found himself standing between two coworkers. To his left was an assistant men's swimming coach. To his right was a Friends' group coordinator.

The cool part is that they're both former Olympians. The swimming coach is Doug Lennox. The Friends' group coordinator is Caroline Lind. For good measure, Lind is a two-time gold medalist in rowing.

As TB said, there's something cool about that. And that's a good starting spot for today.

Up next is the first collegiate goal for men's soccer player Kevin O'Toole, a pretty impressive individual effort. You can see that goal, and the relatively fluky play that resulted in the other Princeton goal as the Tigers defeated Villanova 2-0 Wednesday night, here:



O'Toole is a freshman from Montclair, in North Jersey. His mother Nancy was Nancy Reinisch back when she played soccer at William & Mary, where she became great friends with another Tribe player, former Princeton women's coach Julie Shackford.

Nancy also grew up in the same town as TigerBlog, around the corner from his friend Corey.

The win over Villanova came after the Tigers dropped their Ivy opener to Dartmouth 2-1. This weekend Princeton is at Brown, and with six league games remaining, there's still time to turn the season around.

Another team hoping not to turn its season around is the women's soccer team.

Princeton is putting together an amazing season, what with a record of 10-1, a national ranking climbing towards the Top 10 and an RPI that was sixth this week. That's sixth in all of Division I.

Princeton is 2-0 in the Ivy League, with wins over Yale and Dartmouth. Up next is Brown, who is 8-3 overall and 1-1 in the league.

If you recall one year ago, Princeton was 8-1-1 and similarly rolling, though not as highly ranked, entering the Brown game. Then the Tigers lost three straight Ivy games to essentially fall out of postseason contention.

Princeton has and will have spent a lot of time on the bus this week, after a trip to Dartmouth, followed by a midweek trip to Bucknell (4-0 Tigers, with four different goal scorers) and now the trip to Brown.

TigerBlog mentioned that the women's volleyball team is home this weekend, with a potential matchup between Ivy unbeatens tomorrow if Princeton (against Dartmouth) and Harvard (against Penn) can get through tonight.

The field hockey team is home this weekend, and it knows it will have a matchup between league unbeatens tonight when it takes on Columbia at 6. After that, it'll be another game Sunday at noon against No. 1-ranked UConn.

Again, it might seem like July with the temperatures in the 80s, but it's getting to be mid-October and the heart of Ivy League races.

The football team is home as well this week, with a game tomorrow at 1 against Georgetown. It's the final non-league game of the year for Princeton, and it will be followed by six straight Ivy games.

Princeton has played three games, and Jesper Horsted has caught 26 passes. At this pace, he'd finish the season with 87 (actually 86.7), and the school single-season record is ...?

That would be 88, set in 1983 by the great Kevin Guthrie. In other words that's a record that has stood for 34 seasons now.

Chad Kanoff has thrown for 920 yards so far this season. He needs six yards - just 18 feet - to become the third Princeton quarterback to throw for at least 5,000 in a career, along with Doug Butler (7,291) and Matt Verbit (5,202).

Kanoff also, then, needs 208 yards to tie Verbit for second place all time at Princeton. Can he make a run at Butler? He'd need to average 328 yards per game for the next seven to get there.

Kanoff has thrown nine touchdown passes this season. Horsted and Stephen Carlson have four of those apiece.

The record for touchdown receptions in a season at Princeton is 11, by Derek Graham in 1983 and matched by Roman Wilson in 2013. Until Wilson caught 86 in 2013, by the way, Guthrie (88) and Graham (84) ranked 1-2 on the season list, and both in the same season. That's impressive.

Anyway, those are a few individual numbers to keep an eye on. With the loss last week to Columbia, Princeton will be ready to get back at it tomorrow and then dive into the rest of the league race.

The next two weekends will be on the road, at Brown and at Harvard. Shockingly, Princeton has only two more home games after this weekend.

It's another busy one for Princeton. That's how weekends are around here, especially ones with:
* the No. 1 team in the country on campus
* at least one and possibly two games matching Ivy unbeatens
* a top 10 RPI team trying to keep it going
* one team trying to build on a midweek win
* another team wanting to get the bad taste of last weekend out of its mouth

Yeah. Busy.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What Do You Mean By "We?"

TigerBlog clicked "shuffle" on the music on his phone yesterday, and up popped the first song of the day.

"People Will Say We're In Love," from the classic musical "Oklahoma." The second song was "On Top Of the World," by Imagine Dragons. TigerBlog's musical tastes are quite varied.

Up next was "The Circle Game," by Judy Collins. TigerBlog wrote about that song more than six years ago, when TigerBlog Jr. was finishing middle school and getting ready to start high school.

It remains one of TB's favorite entries, including the picture. You can read it HERE.

TigerBlog wrote it reflecting back to his son's childhood, with a premise that childhood pretty much ends when you get to high school. The point was that for TBJ, like his sister and so many of the other children of athletic department staff members, time spent on the Princeton campus through the years as he grew up will be among his favorite memories.

For TigerBlog, that's a pretty nice benefit of having worked here for so long.

Somewhere, TigerBlog has a picture of TBJ in Baker Rink from a time that TBJ thought he was broadcasting a Princeton men's hockey game. He was about seven or eight at the time. In reality, he had a headset, and the headset was plugged into radio equipment, which in turn was plugged into nothing. But hey - TBJ loved it.

For as much as lacrosse has been the defining part of TBJ's life, a very, very close second has been public speaking. He's been a ham from Day 1, and he loved having a headset on from the time he was three and started coming to Princeton games.

Like this:

And this:

In the years after TigerBlog wrote "The Circle Game" entry, TBJ would have a great high school experience, and not just with lacrosse. In addition, he was a three-time national speech and debate qualifier, and in fact his best friends from high school were the guys he did forensics with, not the guys he played lacrosse with, interestingly enough.

Had he not played lacrosse in college, he almost surely would have gone to a school that has a big collegiate forensics program.

TBJ attends Sacred Heart, as TB has mentioned before. Sacred Heart is in Fairfield, which means it's reasonably close to Yale.

It was back in late August that TigerBlog got an email from a Yale colleague, asking if he thought TBJ would be any good at public address. Yale was desperate for a PA announcer for women's volleyball, with a tournament coming up in a few days.

With his background, TBJ would be a natural, TigerBlog assumed. After all, TigerBlog has been a PA announcer for more than 30 years, and TBJ has that pedigree, along with his speech and debate experience.

As it turned out, TigerBlog was right. TBJ did the Yale women's volleyball tournament, and the feedback TB got was that he did a great job. In fact, they signed him up for the rest of the year.

And that brings this story to last Saturday in New Haven, when Princeton played at Yale in women's volleyball. Shortly before the match started, TigerBlog got this picture texted to him from his son:

That's TigerBlog Jr. with Princeton head coach Sabrina King, before the start of Princeton-Yale.

TigerBlog had emailed Sabrina and told her that his son was going to be the PA announcer. He also told her to feel free to give him a hard time if she wanted.

As for the match itself, Princeton defeated Yale 3-1. Given that Princeton is the two-time defending Ivy champ and an NCAA tournament participant a year ago, that might not seem outrageous. Consider, though, that Princeton hadn't beaten Yale in New Haven since 2007, and it becomes a bigger deal.

The win was the back end of a sweep that included a win over Brown Friday night. The result is that Princeton is one of two Ivy unbeatens, along with Harvard, who just happens to be heading to Dillon Gym for a match Saturday at 5, after the Tigers play Dartmouth tomorrow at 7.

After the match Saturday between Princeton and Yale, TigerBlog got a phone call from his son. An actual phone call. He never calls. It's definitely the first time he called this school year.

And what did he want to say?

"Your team is really good," he said. "And your outside hitter, Maggie O'Connell, is unbelievable. When she'd spike it, the sound would echo all over the gym."

By the way, TBJ had no idea about anything to do with volleyball before he started doing the PA. 
Still, TigerBlog knew that his son would quickly get into Yale women's volleyball. It's something that happens in athletic communications. You watch a team a few times, and you start to get invested in it.

Then TBJ added this:

"We couldn't stop her."

We. That's great. A kid raised at Princeton who attends Sacred Heart calling Yale "we."

Classic.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Winter Wondering

Want to hear something nuts?

The University of Wisconsin women's hockey team is ranked No. 1 in the country, and the Badgers have a 4-0 record. That's right. They've already played four games.

Hmm. That means that Wisconsin's women's hockey team has played more games already than Princeton's football team.

Princeton, by the way, is receiving votes in that poll.

Princeton's men's and women's hockey teams have already started practicing. So has the women's basketball team. It won't be long until the winter seasons begin.

It seems so fast, doesn't it? Wasn't it just summer? It was in the 80s last week here.

Today is a sure sign that winter is on the way. It's the first day for flu shots here at Princeton.

TigerBlog gets one every year. He knows people who never get them, but he'd like to think that there's value in doing everything possible to prevent getting that sick.

Of course, the germophobic TigerBlog isn't the right one to ask about things like this, as he is never without his hand sanitizer. BrotherBlog, on the other hand, essentially mocks germs - or is it his brother - by doing things like, egads, touching the handrails in public places. The last time BB did that when his brother was with him, he then turned and laughed as he could see TigerBlog cringe.

For all of that, TB isn't sure if BrotherBlog gets a flu shot every year. TB will be there today to get one though.

TigerBlog's contention is that time never seems to move faster than it does from Halloween through Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Amazingly, Halloween is only a few weeks away.

The talk of winter was brought on by the combination of the Wisconsin women's hockey team and the flu shot. TigerBlog doesn't want to get too ahead of himself, since it's the beginning of October, which means that the Jadwin Gym lobby project is starting to really take shape.

The lobby renovation started in August. It's supposed to end in early November, and it looks like it's on track. And it's going to look incredible when it's done. For now, TigerBlog and his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues, from their solitude on E level, are immune from the hammering and drilling and everything else that's been going on up there. 

Early October also means that it's time for what is basically the best weather of the year around here. In fact, it's shorts and light sweatshirt weather, and it doesn't get better than that.

You can wear that combination tonight at Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, as Princeton hosts Villanova in men's soccer. The game begins at 7 and is free.

Princeton has already packed a few years worth of heartache into one half of one season. It happened again in the Ivy opener Saturday, when Princeton fell in overtime at Dartmouth 2-1.

There's too much of the season left for the Tigers to pack it in though. There are still six Ivy League games to be played, and anything can happen the rest of the way.

Villanova comes in with a record of 5-5-0. The Tigers lead the all-time series 4-3, something that TB finds shocking, since he'd just assumed that the teams had played way more than seven times previously.

The men's soccer game is the only event for Princeton today. There is also one event tomorrow, and that's the men's water polo match against Wagner, which starts at 7 and is also free.

Princeton is ranked 11th nationally. The Tigers had a good weekend last weekend, with home wins against Harvard, Brown and MIT.

Luis Nicolao, the men's and women's water polo coach, came into the OAC yesterday holding a very old book. He said that the grandfather of an official from the games last weekend had given it to him.

It was something like a very old, very dusty yearbook, one from ’07. That would be 1907.

It said "Princeton 1907" on the cover, along with the name "J.E. Freeman," who presumably was the printer. It's a book with a lot of pictures of a lot of Princeton men, and no Princeton women, as it would be another 63 years before the school would embrace coeducation.

TigerBlog is a big fan of old books like that one. Maybe it's the American History major in him.

He also loves the contrast between that Princeton and this one, more than 100 years later, one that has seen such incredible strides in its openness to people from all backgrounds.

It's like night and day. Or summer and winter. Figuratively, at least. In a literal sense, they're going to blend together really soon.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Picture Perfect

TigerBlog would like to start out today with a long overdue thank you to Robert Goldstein.

If you are a Princeton men's lacrosse fan, then you've seen Robert's work, even if you don't know that you have. Robert has taken pictures at every Princeton men's lacrosse game for the last four years, home and away, and given them to TB to let him use on the webpage and social media.

He's a really good, creative photographer. In fact, TigerBlog has often advised him to quit his day job. Anyone can be a transplant surgeon, TB would tell him. Not just anyone can take great lacrosse pictures.

Anyway, TigerBlog will miss Robert, who will not be back for every game this coming season. TigerBlog wants to thank him for everything he did the last four years, how easy he was to work with, how supportive he's been of the program and his friendship during his time here.

While TigerBlog is on the subject of photographers, did you see the picture that Princeton's regular photographer, Beverly Schaefer, took after Princeton's win over Yale in field hockey the other night?

If you didn't, here it is:
There's a lot going on in that picture, and yet it is also very simple. You look at that picture, and you immediately know two things: 1) Princeton won and 2) it wasn't an easy win.

That's what the very, very best sports pictures do. They show you a lot while telling a simple story. Sometimes things are complex. Sometimes they're simple. Sometimes they're both at once.

In the picture, you can see the three leaping Princeton players. You can see the ball behind the Yale goalie. You can see the frustration on the part of the Bulldog players who desperately were trying to keep the ball out of the goal a split second earlier.

As for the Princeton players, you can tell that this isn't an ordinary goal. You can tell that this was the game-winner, which it was, and the level of their joy says that maybe this was one that they thought had gotten away, only to reel it back in at the end.

And that's exactly what happened.

Before TB gets into the particulars of the game, the picture itself is one of Beverly's best. In fact, it definitely opens up the competition for the best picture of the year, which TB thought Bev had salted away with this one after the women's lacrosse team took the lead in the NCAA tournament win over Cornell on Sherrerd Field:

That one tells you a lot also.

Anyway, back at the field hockey game against Yale Friday, TigerBlog wasn't at it. Instead, he was following the game on Twitter, and Princeton seemed to be down 2-1 the entire time. TB checked back one last time, and, just like that, it was 3-2 Princeton, final.

The Tigers won as Ryan McCarthy scored two goals in the final three minutes, including the game-winner after time had expired, on a penalty corner. In field hockey, corners that are called before time expires are played out until there is a goal or a violation on the offense or the defense clears the ball out of the circle.

This is in contrast to college soccer, where a team awarded a corner kick as the clock winds down has to play it out before it reaches all zeroes, which is why you'll see soccer players who sprint to get a corner kick off in the final seconds of a half. In professional and international soccer, of course, the ref is the only one who actually knows how much time is left.

If you want to see McCarthy's goals, by the way, you can click HERE to the recap on goprincetontigers.com

It was a huge win for Princeton, who has played through a brutal non-league schedule and now is heading into the thick of the Ivy League race. If you remember last season, you're more likely to remember that the Tigers reached the NCAA Final Four than you are to remember that the team actually didn't win the Ivy League championship.

Right now, Princeton, Columbia and Harvard are the three unbeaten teams in Ivy field hockey. They won't all be unbeaten in another week, as Princeton hosts Columbia Friday at 6:30. It'll be another Friday-Ivy/Sunday-Top 10 team weekend for Princeton, who then will be home Sunday at 1 against UConn, who is ranked, what is it, oh yeah. No. 1.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Fast Ball

Once again, TigerBlog, Yom Kippur and Princeton football all came together.

If you don't know, Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish year, a 24-hour fast to atone for ones sins for the previous year.

When TigerBlog was a kid, his mother would never have let him do anything so seemingly contrary to the holiday like attending a football game. As TB has gotten older, he's found himself in situations like this past Saturday, when Princeton had a home football game during Yom Kippur.

This has happened before, including the time at Brown when he 1) saw a Brown player in uniform at services before the game and 2) broke the fast at a Wendy's off I-95 on the way back. There have been other times, including once at Lehigh. TB was doing radio that day, and the radio booth was right next to the food.

As far as TB can remember, the game this past Saturday was his first as the PA announcer for a home game on Yom Kippur. He figured it would be a lot to be doing the PA while not having eaten for nearly a day by then, so he decided to alter his fast, going from noon Friday to noon Saturday.

Maybe this isn't exactly how it's supposed to be done. On the other hand, it did roughly correspond to sundown in Israel. And hey, 24 hours of fasting is still 24 hours.

If you've never tried to fast for 24 hours, it seems more daunting than it really is. Yes, you get hungry. No, it's not overwhelming. The worst part is looking at the time and thinking about how much longer you have to go.

If you really wanted to make it tough to atone for sins, then instead of going 24 hours without eating, it should be having to go 24 hours without using a smartphone or computer or checking email or getting texts or using social media. But hey, it's a 5779 year old religion.

There was a reception in the Class of 1956 Lounge in Princeton Stadium for the game, which meant there'd be a lot of food set out. TigerBlog waited until he'd reached 24 hours and then ate one of those big pretzels.

As for the game itself, Princeton dropped its Ivy League opener to Columbia 28-24 on a 63-yard touchdown pass with 1:12 remaining, after Princeton had rallied to take the lead on a 27-yard TD pass from Chad Kanoff to Stephen Carlson 86 seconds earlier.

The game featured a combined 712 passing yards, but it was hardly a shootout, or at least what you think of as a shootout. 

In fact, the key number for the game wasn't the 712 passing yards - 400 for Columbia quarterback Anders Hill and 312 for Kanoff. It was Columbia's 11 for 21 third-down conversion number.

Often times, third-down conversion numbers tell very little about a game. In this one, they were huge.

It wasn't just the 11 conversions. It was the 21 third downs themselves. Those two numbers combined led to a 13-minute edge in possession time for the Lions. Again, that's another number that's often misleading, but in this game, it mattered.

Princeton continues to get great production from its wide receivers, especially Carlson (eight catches, 146 yards and his TD) and Jesper Horsted (eight catches, 96 yards).

Princeton had some chances that slipped away. Columbia did too but in the end made the big plays it needed to get the win.

So what does it all mean?

The two road teams both won this week's league games over last year's co-champions, as Princeton fell to Columbia and Dartmouth won at Penn Friday night. Harvard has looked good the last two weeks after an opening loss to Rhode Island. Yale is unbeaten. Columbia is too, for that matter.

Still, there's an eternity to go in the league race.

Princeton is out of the league for the last time this coming Saturday, when Georgetown will be on Powers Field for a 1:00 start. After that it's six league games in six weeks, not an easy road at all. Speaking of the road, it starts on the road, with trips to Brown and Harvard.

Losing the league opener is not a great road to the championship, but there are too many games left to worry about that.

Princeton has won 11 Ivy titles, but the Tigers haven't won two in a row since 1963 and 1964. Also, Princeton has never won a league title in a year in which it lost its first league game.

Then again, just because something hasn't happened, or hasn't happened in more than 50 years, doesn't mean it can't happen.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Ivy Kickoff

TigerBlog's favorite professional sports team for basically his entire life has been the Giants.

The ones who play football, that is.

Last weekend, TB watched as Odell Beckham Jr., the team's best player, caught a touchdown pass and then got down on all fours, pretending to be a dog. Then he lifted his leg, pantomiming a dog as it urinated on the grass of Lincoln Financial Field.

What in the world is TB to make of this?

It obviously cost the Giants 15 yards on the kickoff. In a game that ultimately was decided on a 61-yard field goal on the final play, every yard in the game figured to be important.

To make it worse, TigerBlog couldn't figure out what was the most appalling part - that Beckham seemed oblivious to the fact that he had hurt his team, that he wouldn't promise not to do it again or that he decided to fake urinate on an NFL field in the first place.

It reminded TB of what the late, great Marvin Bressler used to say about rooting for professional teams. Marvin was a sociologist, not to mention the inspiration for the very successful Princeton Academic Athletic Fellows program.

Marvin was talking about how fascinating the connection is between fans and their teams, even though the members of those teams usually have no connection to the area. Put on your team's uniform, and all of the sudden you love them.

Marvin was talking specifically about how Philadelphia fell in love with the Flyers when they won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 1970s. Marv's words: "Why should I care that our Canadians are better than their Canadians."

So that's something of an oversimplification. Still, rooting for the Giants is really hard these days. Beckham is the best player, and if the Giants are going to be good, then he will have to be the main reason why. At the same time, the better he does, the more insufferable he'll be.

Oh well. TB can still root for Marc Ross, the Giants Vice President of Player Evaluation. He's the same Marc Ross who is one of TigerBlog's all-time favorite Princeton football players, a record-setting receiver and kick returner who graduated in 1995.

He's also a former student worker. Much like the great Maggie Langlas, Ross would answer the phones in Jadwin Gym during basketball games after football season. That was back when the media section was on the bench side of Jadwin, in a separate section at midcourt, rather than in tables at courtside.

The current Princeton football team will be on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium tomorrow at 12:30 against Columbia.

Right now, there are five teams in the Ivy League who are 2-0, including Princeton and Columbia. Come tomorrow night, one of them will be 3-0, 1-0 in the league, heading into the final non-league game of the season. For Columbia, that would be Marist next weekend. For Princeton, that would be Georgetown back on Powers Field.

Yale is the only one of the 2-0 teams who has played a league game. The other two 2-0 teams are Penn and Dartmouth, who also play, tonight, in their league openers.

Harvard is 1-1, but the Crimson are also 1-0 in the league after beating Brown a week ago. Harvard and Yale, as well as Brown and Cornell, play non-league games this week.

What all this means is that there will be four 1-0 teams in the league after this weekend. There's no guarantee that the eventual champ or champs will be in that group of 1-0 teams, it's a huge advantage to win the first league game.

Trust TigerBlog on this one. He looked it up once, and it's true.

He looked this up yesterday, and it's also true: Princeton has won 11 Ivy League football championships, and it won its Ivy opener in every one of those 11 seasons.

As for this opener, it'll be the 18th straight year that Princeton opens its Ivy season with Columbia, and it'll be only the third time that both are 2-0 heading in.

The weather will be perfect. Princeton-Columbia will even be the perfect place to atone for your sins, if you're one of TigerBlog's people.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Making History?

It's possible that TigerBlog is making history this weekend, and he'll get to that shortly.

First, TigerBlog has put a lot of miles on his car this week.

Actually, he put 34 more miles on it than he should have.

TigerBlog was driving up to Boston Monday night. When he got to where I-84 ends and the Mass Pike begins, he did something ridiculously dumb.

There is construction going on there now, and the way TB remembers going isn't exactly how it used to be. Instead of getting on going east, he instead started going west.

He realized it in an instant, but it was too late to get over to the eastbound side. And how far is the next exit?

Yup, 17 miles. Seventeen freaking miles.

So that was 17 miles there, get off the highway, make a u-turn in a gas station and then 17 miles back. The entire time, all he wanted to do was scream.

Ah, but Miss TigerBlog was with him, and she was asleep. It reminded TigerBlog of a story that former women's tennis coach Louise Gengler told more than once.

Back before the tennis team traveled by bus, Louise had to drive the team in a van. This was a long time ago, and it's unthinkable today.

Anyway, one time Princeton was at Dartmouth. Louis had driven an hour south on I-91and then stopped to get gas. When she got back on 91, she was going north, instead of south, something she didn't realize until she'd gotten all the way back to Dartmouth, where she made a u-turn. She said nobody noticed, because all of the women on the team were asleep.

If you know Louise, that makes perfect sense. TigerBlog's favorite Louise Gengler story is the one where she came into his office for this actual exchange:
LG: Is it 2 or 3?
TB: It's 2 o'clock.
LG: Good. I have a meeting at 3 and I wasn't sure if I turned my clock back or not.

Anyway, MTB didn't wake up until they were close to the city, and she had no idea about the inadvertent detour. And it still took less time to get there than it did to get back, what with the rush hour traffic and all Tuesday.

This will be a weekend of travel for a few Princeton teams, though not all. The field hockey team, back at .500 with its brutal schedule, plays at home tomorrow night at 6 against Yale. The men's water polo team is home Saturday morning against Harvard, and there are invitationals here for women's golf and women's tennis.

And of course there is a home football game, the Ivy opener against Columbia. Kick-off is at 12:30 Saturday.

As for the travelers, the soccer teams will be playing a doubleheader at Dartmouth Saturday, with the women at 1 and the men at 4.

It's very, very early in the women's soccer race, as each team has played one league game. Princeton, Columbia, Brown and Penn are all 1-0-0.

Princeton is 8-1-0 overall after a big 2-0 win over RPI top 100 Yale in the league opener last week. Princeton is ranked 14th nationally, but more importantly is an incredible seven in the RPI rankings.

The men's race is even earlier than the women's, as this is Week 1 for league games. There is no team happier about that than Princeton, who has had a series of tough losses outside the league so far and a win over nationally ranked FDU.

Whatever it took to get to this point, Princeton and the rest of the league are all 0-0-0. Should the Tigers get to 1-0-0, the early season struggles will have paid off.

And all of that brings TB to his brush with history.

The women's volleyball team, who has won two straight Ivy titles, is at Brown tomorrow and Yale Saturday.

TigerBlog, by the way, was going to stop in at Sacred Heart and say hi to TigerBlog Jr. on the way to Boston and the way back, but the timing never worked out. Sacred Heart is about the halfway point on the ride, minus the extra 34 miles.

If you've never been to Sacred Heart, it's not far from Yale. Princeton's good friends recruited TBJ to be the public address announcer for women's volleyball, and apparently he's pretty good at it.

Princeton will be at Brown tomorrow night and Yale Saturday. TBJ will be there as the PA announcer tomorrow night against Penn and Saturday against the Tigers.

While he's doing that, TigerBlog will be doing the PA for Princeton football Saturday. TB's question - has any father/son combination ever done the PA at two Ivy events in the same day?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

We're No. 4, Or Maybe No. 5?

Here's the least surprising thing TigerBlog will write in a long time: He thinks Bill Tierney is the best coach he's ever seen.

Stunning, right?

Tierney, in the last 26 years, has made 15 trips to the NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four, winning seven times. The scorecard reads six championships, eight finals and 10 Final Fours with Princeton, and one more championship and five Final Fours with his current team, Denver.

That's a lot of winning.

Want to know what's most impressive about all that? This: zero Final Fours, zero championships, zero NCAA tournament appearances at Princeton before he arrived, and zero Final Fours, zero championships and one NCAA appearance, a lose in the first round, for Denver before he arrived.

Not once, but twice, has Tierney arrived at a place that had no reasonable expectation of what was to follow and then built both into the premiere program in the country. His work with these two teams also was the primary factor for the explosion of the sport in those two areas, and really, with Denver, into the entire Western United States. TigerBlog has seen first hand what an event any home lacrosse game has become at Denver's Peter Barton Stadium.

As you may know, TigerBlog and Bill Tierney go way back. TigerBlog, as you may also know, is somewhat of a fan of lacrosse, and his two children are serious players. This all started with Bill Tierney.

It's not easy to do what Tierney did at Princeton, if for no other reason than most of the program's here have decades of sustained excellence and haven't really needed rebuilding.

Courtney Banghart, for instance, took over a Princeton women's basketball program that was two years removed from a 21-7 record and a share of the Ivy League championship. What she and top assistant Milena Flores have done is take that team so far beyond any reasonable expectation from when they started here, but they didn't have to build the program from the bottom up.

Bob Surace also had a rebuilding job to do when he took over in 2010, but he wasn't starting a program that had never experienced success. In fact, Princeton won the 2006 Ivy title.

What Surace has done is win two titles in the last four years while putting some of the most exciting offensive teams in league history on the field, as well as teams with great balance and lock-down defense.

Chris Ayres has had it much tougher.

The Princeton wrestling coach took over a team that had eight winless Ivy seasons in the 10 years before he arrived and has turned it into the second best team in the league, one that is constantly closing the gap on the Goliath of Ivy wrestling, Cornell.

You can tell a lot about these coaches by the records their first year, compared with the success they've had since.

Banghart - 7-23 (she's now a ridiculous 208-87).
Surace - 1-9.
Ayres - 0-17.

Tierney, by the way, was 2-13 in his first year at Princeton. 

Banghart, also by the way, has taken Princeton to eight straight postseasons and six NCAAs, even winning a tournament game. Surace is almost all the way back to .500 after being 2-20 to start. Ayres has had back-to-back 4-1 Ivy seasons and has had 11 NCAA qualifiers in two years.

All of this brings TB to Ron Fogarty.

The men's hockey coach walked into a situation as tough as anyone when he came to Princeton. The Tigers were 4-23-3 in his first season, in 2014-15.

The ECAC released its preseason coaches' and media polls for 2017-18 earlier this week. Princeton was ranked fifth by the coaches and fourth by the media. TB is pretty sure Princeton has been picked 11th or 12th for the last however many years.

Before one puck drops on this season, think about that.

Princeton was the last team in Division I to win a game last year. The Tigers then went on to host an ECAC first round playoff series, knocking of Colgate for good measure.

Princeton did it last year with a young team, one that seemed to come at its opponents with wave after wave of freshmen and sophomores. At one point, winning a game was a big deal. By the end of the year, winning became expected.

Rebuilding is a process, one that includes recruiting and then culture change within the program. Teams begin to look different long before the games start. There is a different kind of confidence, a different level of respect. Opponents who used to circle that day as a sure win now dread coming to your place.

That's the goal.

Fogarty certainly has his team on track for that, maybe even quicker than he thought he would. Either way, it figures to be a fairly exciting winter at Hobey Baker Rink.

One thing TigerBlog has learned from coaches who rebuild programs is that they think going from 12th to fifth is nice, but going from fifth to first is actually the point.