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.