Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fiedler, Elias - And Dibilio

TigerBlog was at Memorial Field in 1993, on the day that Dartmouth defeated Princeton 28-22 in what could have been the wildest Ivy League game TB has ever seen.

That game, which can basically be called the Jay Fiedler/Keith Elias game, was played on the last weekend of the season, as the Princeton-Dartmouth game always is now.

As an aside, Princeton and Penn used to travel to Cornell and Dartmouth to open the season every year and then would host those two to end the season and then flip-flop the next year, opening at Dartmouth and hosting Cornell, say, if it had been the other way around the year before. This was done because of the threat of bad weather in November in Hanover and Ithaca, and it wasn't until 1991 that those two hosted the season finale every other year; the first November Princeton at Dartmouth game was played for the Ivy title in near-60 degree weather.

Anyway, the 1993 game was the final one in the careers of Fiedler, the Dartmouth quarterback, and Elias, the Princeton running back. And it remains a classic.

Elias ran for 188 yards, while Fiedler shook off a 3-for-15 first half to go 13 for 20 for 225 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, including the game-winner in the final two minutes.

Princeton and Dartmouth entered that game having both lost to Penn, who was undefeated and playing Cornell in its finale. A Penn loss would have given a share of the championship to the winner of the Princeton-Dartmouth game, and the scores coming in from Penn-Cornell had the Big Red up well into the second half.

By then, Princeton and Dartmouth had played through sunshine, a blizzard and then back to sunshine, reaching the late fourth quarter even at 22-22.

Also, as TB recalls, Dartmouth had no kicker on the team, which meant that it couldn't attempt field goals and had to go for two after each touchdown.

This was still in the pre-overtime days, so the game would have ended in a tie had it been even at the end of regulation. And a tie would have eliminated both teams and given Penn the championship, even if the Quakers lost.

The result was that both teams had to play the final five minutes or so as if they were losing, no tied, meaning they had to go for it on fourth down and long, even in their own territory. For Princeton, the fact that Dartmouth had no kicker made it less risky - though Fiedler came through anyway.

Penn would come back and beat Cornell 17-14, so the game became irrelevant to the final standings. The combination of the wild weather, the wild game and the end of the careers of two of the greatest Ivy football players of all time - really both could be considered among the top 15-25 players in league history - made the game that day at Dartmouth an all-time Ivy classic.

Ask anyone who was there.

Ask TigerBlog, who was there. In fact, it was the only football game he's ever seen at Dartmouth.

For all the years he covered Princeton football at the newspaper and then for all the years he was the football contact here, that's the only time he ever went to Dartmouth for football. He's been to the Upper Valley a bunch of times in men's basketball and men's lacrosse, but something would always come up to prevent him from going to that football game (usually early-season basketball, though once it was a cruise to the Caribbean; as an aside, TB hates cruises and will never go on another one, because to do all the stuff on the ship you have to stay up really, really late and then to go to the islands, you have to get up really, really early, so what's the point, just pick an island and go and relax).

Princeton is at Dartmouth in football Saturday to wrap up the 2011 season, one that will see the Tigers go either 1-9 or 2-8.

Still, when TB thinks back to the 2011 season, he won't think about the record. Nope, he'll think about the astonishing season of Chuck Dibilio.

Going back to the beginning of the season, Dibilio's name was one thrown around as "may play a bit." The words "can't miss" were never uttered, at least not by anyone that TB heard.

Now, as Dibilio heads to Dartmouth, he has 1,002 rushing yards, accomplished in nine games, one of which was a seven-carry, 20-yard night against Bucknell. In fact, Dibilio had 176 yards in three games (58.7 per game) and has 826 in the last six (137.7 per game).

The record for rushing yards by a Princeton freshman prior to Dibilio was 346 yards, set by Cameron Atkinson. Dibilio needs 36 yards against Dartmouth to triple that number.

Dibilio has routinely put up numbers that would be career-highs for others. TB is still astonished that he went into Franklin Field and went for 130 against Penn.

TB's biggest fear for this weekend, by the way, would be one carry for minus-3 yards, which would put him back to 999, followed by an injury that knocks him out of the game. That's the absolute worst-case scenario.

No other player in Ivy League football history has ever gone from high school one year to 1,000 yards rushing in the league the next. Clifton Dawson, who transferred from Northwestern to Harvard, had 1,187 yards as a freshman, but that was after his year in Evansville.

All of this begs one question of Princeton football fans.

What would you rather be on Sunday, 5-5 for the 2011 season with no Dibilio or 1-9 with three more years to build a team around a total horse of a running back?


Anonymous said...

I was there with the Band in '93 as a freshman, and it was an awesome game. What a moment.

Today, however, both teams are pushovers. Columbia has already fired their coach, Yale might soon. Dartmouth and Princeton really should, if they want any hope of returning to the top of the table. (How is 2-18 over two seasons NOT grounds for firing a Princeton football coach?)

New coach, please.

Anonymous said...

I think the whole coaching staff at Princeton should be dismissed, they would be at virtually any other school. It was extremely difficult watching this team over the last two years. The morale of the team must be at an all time low. I understand several players quit during the two year period and it must be most difficult to recruit any top players to such a dismal program. Let's make a change asap and get moving in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Columbia fires football coach Norries Wilson one day after Lions beat Brown for first win of season. Will Surace and his staff be next?

Anonymous said...

How can Princeton attract top rated recruits with a record of 2-18 over the last two seasons? Moreover, the same coaching staff is still in place that led them to such a disappointing record. Several players have quit over the last two years and I would suspect a few others will not return next year as long as the current coaching remains. The sooner a coaching change is made the better for the team, the school and it will help bring back stability to one of the most historic programs in the country. We need to regain respect to a program that has been taken to the bottom of the league by the Surace coaching staff.

Anonymous said...

I attended almost every game of my son's Princeton Football career, and while I agree with the anonymous posters sentiment regarding the Tigers record over the past two seasons, I do not agree with firing the coaches. The problem at Princeton has been a lack of depth at key positions. This problem can only be rectified by showing potential recruits stability in the coaching staff. I think coach Surace did a great job with his first recruitng class, and will work to bring in the talent needed to continue rebuilding the Tiger football program.

Although the record did not refelct it, the Tigers competed very hard against some very good teams this season, and could possibly have finished with 3-4 wins. Give coach Surace the full 4 year cycle of bringing in players and I am quite certain that he will have a winning program in place by then.

Columbia will suffer for the next few years as a result of firing their coach at the end of the season. They have now fallen way behind in the crucial recruiting that is currently underway, and the instability in the program will lead some of their top recruits away from Columbia and to other Ivy/Patriot League schools. With such a limited talent pool available to the Ivy League schools each year, Columbia will be at the back of the line in attracting talent. This is definitely not the position that Princeton needs to be in right now.

Good Luck to the Tiger Football family! Go Tigers!


Anonymous said...

Princeton is at the "back of the line". 2-18 over the last two seasons is a direct reflection on the coaching staff. There was no improvement in our record year over year. We can make all the excuses in the world but our program has gone backward not forward with the current coaching staff and the future looks bleak if they remain in place. Columbia is taking the appropriate step in changing the coaching staff that has failed. They now have a chance to recruit to a new coach and a brighter future for the program. How many football programs maintain a coaching staff that established the longest losing streak (10 games) in the school's history and probably established the worst record over a two-year period in school history all within the first two years of being here? Changes need to be made or our coaching staff now or we will continue to be at the bottom of the league and recruiting will undoubtedly suffer. I am also concerned for those players that may very well not return next season due to the back to back seasons we have had if no changes are made to our staff.

Anonymous said...

Let Surace "rebuild the program"? I believe the season record for Princeton the year before Surace arrived was 4-6, I would love to see a 4-6 season next year but under this staff it seems very doubtful. This coaching staff does not appear to be rebuilding anything but have broken our program and have driven it to the bottom of the Ivy League.

Anonymous said...

It is very obvious you are the same "anonymous" person in these posts. The team was decimated by injuries in Surace's first year, and regardless of what you think of the teams record in the second season under Surace, they showed obvious signs of improvment over the first year. He has the Ivy rookie of the year, as well as several other freshman who made great contributons to the team this year. The reason why we went 1-9 over the last two seasons is the direct responsibility of Hughes regime not recruiting the talent necessary to be competetive. Time is required to rebuild teams and changing coaches again so soon would be a terrible mistake in my very humble opinion. Coach Wilson had six years to rebuild a terrible Columbia program and had it going in the right direction prior to this year's collapse. And, they will suffer further next year due to the poor timing of their firing, regardless of who they find to replace him.

I lived through the past five seasons of Princeton Football and the 4-6 seasons were no picnic either, but the harsh reality is that we are not anywhere near the talent level and depth of the likes of Harvard & Penn, which is what Princeton should be striving for, not 4-6.

To answer your question about how a team can attract top recruits with a 2-18 record, we recruited probably the most exciting player to hit the Ivies in a very long time after going 1-9. There are several others in that class that will be the building blocks of what can become a contender in the league. Changing the coaching staff now will definitely be a negative to other prospective recruits like Chuck.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I believe this team is on the upswing and coach Surace is entitled to at least four years to show what he can accomplish.


Anonymous said...

Not sure how Columbia was "making strides" until this year? Last check they never had a winning season under Wilson. My math might be wrong but the last 5 years their record was 12-38, including a 1-9 season this year. I'm not sure that Columbia glad they decided to keep Wilson as long as they did. Hopefully Princeton is in an "upswing" and that Coach Surace and his staff can have many winning seasons to come.

Anonymous said...

Any team can go 4-6 or 5-5 with a little luck. This team over the last two years has lacked any leadership from the coaching staff and the 2-18 record reflects the obvious. Players are extremely discouraged and several have quit with more to follow. It is a shame to see what has occurred to such a distinguished and historic football program. We will be lucky to have more than 5-6000 fans show up for any home games in a stadium that holds 22,000 going forward until a coaching change is made or the current staff shows a new found respect for the players and the game itself.

Anonymous said...

Other than the last two seasons, when is the last time a Princeton football team only won one game or went winless in a season? We have now done it two years in a row.

Anonymous said...

The previous coaching staff went 4-6 their last three seasons and were let go and we hired the Surace staff who has gone 2-18 over their first two years? Not sure when Princeton went winless during a season or only won one game. I just hope we can field a team next year who might be able to win 3 or 4 games.

Anonymous said...

A record of 2-18 over the last two years would suggest that most if not all of the current coaching staff are looking at other opportunities. It is a difficult situation for the football program as a whole but specifically trying to maintain the players we have, recruiting to a 2-18 record, etc. I don't think recruits will be impressed whatsoever to hear that they will get to play early in their career, they expect that wherever they go.

Anonymous said...

Article from the Daily Prince:

"Doubts regarding Surace’s resume: Coach claimed he had seen football"

This article would be funny if it wasn't so true.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

yea, i wish we do things like columbia too.(sarcasm).you guys know nothing about football or talent or coaching.princeton 33 columbia 6.keep sitting in the stands bad mouthing your coaches and players because i hear you and know who you are.