Monday, October 28, 2013

Back Here, One Year Later

TigerBlog still hasn't seen Quinn Epperly's game-winning touchdown pass to Roman Wilson from Saturday's 51-48 three-overtime win over Harvard.

He started out watching the game on Fox College Sports, and when he had to leave shortly before halftime, he set his DVR to record the rest. Plus an extra 30 minutes.

That took the window to four full hours, which ended up taking him to second overtime, or, as it turned out, about 10 minutes too few to see the end.

He listened to the rest of the game on the radio, hearing Dan Loney on WRPB. Until TB went out of range of the signal (which is pretty far, by the way), which just happened to be around the same time that the TV recording time expired.

In other words, it wasn't a very good time to be losing it.

So there was TB, on the highway, panicked that he wasn't going to hear the end of the game. So what did he do? He got it in his phone.

How wild is that?

Well, compared to where society was when TB was a kid? Forget a kid. When he first started working here? Unimaginably wild.

Compared what happened in the game itself? Not very wild at all.

Princeton gave up 48 points against Harvard, or more points in a game it won than it ever has in the history of the program.

Even if you factor out the overtimes, the game was 35-35 at the end of regulation. Only twice has Princeton allowed more than 35 points in a game it won or tied - a 59-37 win over Brown in 1991 and a 41-36 win over Cornell in 1982.

And then there's Quinn Epperly.

TigerBlog used to watch Keith Elias play for Princeton in the early 1990s. The expectations for Elias were extraordinary, since he put up numbers each week that other players would love to have done once.

If Elias put up 150 yards and two touchdowns, it was just normal for him, even though the vast majority of college running backs never approach a day like that.

As for Epperly, well, he's taking what Elias did to another level.

No other Princeton football player has ever put up numbers like through six games, an his number become even more ridiculous when you consider that he shared the position through most of those six games.

Against Harvard, Epperly went 37 for 50 for 321 yards and six TDs, without a pick. He was also Princeton's leading rusher with 86 yards, giving him 407 yards of total offense.

The 37 completions set a school single-game record. The touchdown passes broke the school record and tied the Ivy League single-season game, held by James Perry, Princeton's offensive coordinator, who also threw six against Columbia in 1997.

For the year, how about these numbers for Epperly:

passing - 93 for 132, 70.5% completions, 1,075 yards, 15 touchdowns, one interception.
rushing - 61 carries, 353 yards, 5.8 yards per game, 11 touchdowns

Epperly is now the only Princeton player ever with more than 10 passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns in the same season (Ron Landeck had 13 passing and 10 rushing in 1965 as the only other player in double figures in both).

It's more than just Epperly, of course. Princeton's offense is incredibly balanced.

The Tigers average 534.2 yards per game and 43.8 points per game. The school single-season records are 439.2 yards per game (in 1983) and 38.8 points per game (in 1950, unless you consider the 70.8 in 1885, which TB doesn't, and if anyone from that team has a problem with it, email TB).

Princeton's leading rusher is DiAndre Atwater, who has 74 carries in six games, or 12.3 per game. There are seven players who average at least five yards per carry. There are 14 players who have caught at least one pass.

And where does all this leave the Tigers?

On the one hand, exactly where they were 52 weeks ago, when Princeton defeated Harvard to go to 3-0 in the league, tied with Penn as the only unbeatens. The Tigers then lost three of their last four.

The schedule isn't easy, starting with Cornell Saturday at home and then with games at Penn, home with Yale and at surging Dartmouth.

The league has a long way to go.

On the other hand, the win over Harvard last year was a bit of a fluke. An incredibly exciting amazing one, but still, coming from down 34-10 with 12 minutes to go to win 39-34 isn't exactly a successful formula.

This year? TB thinks Princeton outplayed Harvard Saturday and deserved to win that one. At the very least, those were two very even teams, and if they played 10 times, each would win five.

In other words, it was no fluke.

Princeton has come a very long way in a short time under Bob Surace and his staff, who are now 10-4 in their last 14 games after going 2-20 in their first 22.

The first six weeks of the 2013 season have been extraordinary. The last four? TB can't help but think - or at least hopes - that very recent history won't be repeating itself.

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