Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Get The Picture

The 2014 Ivy League football season was unique in one respect.

What was it? 

Well, the year 2014 was the only year since the inception of the Ivy League that there was no tie between any two teams in the standings. The league champion finished 7-0, second place was 6-1 and so on down to 0-7 in eighth place.

To make that happen, every team needs to beat the teams behind it and then lose to all the teams in front. Princeton went 4-3 in 2014, losing to Harvard, Dartmouth and Yale - the top three teams - while beating Brown, Penn, Cornell and Columbia.

If you go down the list in that order, you can tell the results of every game that season. In no other Ivy football season has that ever happened.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were five times when teams finished in a four-way tie for a spot in the standings, though it's never happened at the top. There have been two seasons where there was a three-way tie for first in Ivy League football, in 1966 and 1982.

In 1966 it was Princeton, Harvard and Dartmouth who all went 6-1 in the league. Princeton lost that year to Dartmouth but beat Harvard, who in turn beat Dartmouth. 

The other time was in 1982, when Penn, Harvard and Dartmouth all went 5-2. Penn had a miraculous win over Harvard in the second to last week of the season, and if TigerBlog was actually QuakerBlog, he would have written about that game about a thousand times by now.

In short, Penn, which was coming off a four-year stretch that saw the team go 4-33-1, put together a series of wins and then beat Harvard 23-21 on Franklin Field to get to 5-1. That game featured a 20-0 Penn lead in the fourth quarter, a 21-20 Harvard lead with two minutes to go, a game-winning drive that featured a fourth-down conversion on a deflected pass that landed right in the hands of a Penn receiver and then finally the game-winning field goal after a roughing-the-kicker penalty on the first game-winning attempt.

The next week, playing for an outright title, Penn was steamrolled at Cornell.

Those are your two three-way ties for the championship.

One of the four-way ties was in 1976, when Princeton, Cornell, Penn and Columbia all went 2-5 and tied for fifth. Who was Cornell's head coach that year - hint, he coached the Big Red for two years and went a combined 3-15?

Here's another hint - he has five Super Bowl rings, including two as a head coach. 

Give up?  

It was George Seifert, who would go on to coach the San Francisco 49ers to a pair of Super Bowl wins.

Why all this Ivy football history today?

Well, it started when TB received a picture yesterday from Stacie Traube from the football office. The picture was of 1980 captain Mark Bailey, who would be a first-team All-Ivy League offensive lineman that season. 

TB thought the picture was amazing. See for yourself:

If nothing else, you don't want to be No. 45 on Columbia in that picture. TB has seen a million football pictures, and this is one of the best he's ever come across, especially one that doesn't even have the ball in it.
And in the days before FieldTurf, this is what a lot of football games looked like, with dirty, grass-stained uniforms, and much bigger shoulder pads.

Anyway, the 1980 Tigers started out the year with three straight losses before putting together a five-game winning streak. This put Princeton into the game at Yale with at least a chance at an Ivy title, but the Bulldogs would win 25-13. 

The key stretch came when the game went from 10-7 Yale to 18-7 Yale in a few short minutes late in the second quarter. 

That win was, of course, Yale's 14th straight against the Tigers. TB went back and looked in the Daily Princetonian story from that game to see if there were any great quotes about hoping to beat Yale someday, but there weren't any.

There was a quote from Yale running back Rich Diana, who credited his success on the ground that day (165 yards for the future Miami Dolphin/orthopedic surgeon) with the fact that "our offensive line was really juiced." 

Presumably "juiced" in 1980 didn't have the same implications as it might today.

And as you know, Princeton ended that 14-year losing streak a year later at Palmer Stadium in quite dramatic fashion.

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