Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgivings, Home And Away

Lisa Sweeney is the Princeton softball coach. Brendan Van Ackeren is Princeton's assistant manager of business and ticket operations.

They're engaged, which TigerBlog presumes they're both okay with. They're both nice young people. TB wishes them the best.

Hey, if it can survive what happened last night during the Princeton-George Mason men's basketball game, then they should be good for decades.

Sweeney and Van Ackeren participated in one of the in-game contests, a free-throw shooting game. Thirty seconds. Whoever makes the most wins.

At one end was Brendan, struggling to find a rhythm. At the other end was Lisa, draining so many in a row that TB lost count. The final score was five or six to one.

Brendan took it well. He had no choice.

As an aside, foul shooting contests are becoming more than just in-game promotions, with the new rules in college basketball. During Princeton's 71-66 win over George Mason, the teams shot a combined 48 foul shots as the officials called 44 fouls in the game. Princeton's games last year averaged slightly below 35 free throws and 32 called fouls per game.

Anyway, the Sweeney/Van Ackeren foul shots were a nice part of the evening. It was a family moment, as a family time of year begins.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, as everyone knows. Hanukkah starts at sundown tonight.

Christmas is looming, beyond that the New Year. December is a time for holiday shopping, holiday parties, holiday cards, holiday fun. In other words, holidays.

For some, the Thanksgiving holiday will take them far away.

Both hockey teams are headed to the Midwest, for instance.

The women, off their 1-1 tie with No. 8 Quinnipiac Tuesday night, will play Saturday and Sunday at Minnesota, which just happens to be the No. 1 team in the country.

The men will be at Michigan State for two games, Friday night and Sunday afternoon. 

The women's basketball team leaves tomorrow for Oregon, where it will take on Portland State Saturday and Oregon Sunday.

TigerBlog learned something interesting yesterday from assistant women's basketball coach Milena Flores, who told him who Oregon's women's basketball coach is. And who would that be? None other than Paul Westhead.

Yes, that Paul Westhead. The one who coached, among others, the Lakers and Loyola Marymount during the Hank Gathers-Bo Kimble years.

The one who likes his teams to run. And shoot fast. And score a lot of points.

Oregon's women lead Division I in scoring offense at 99.5 points per game. That's a ton of points.

Princeton has never had a game in which its women's basketball team has reached 100. The Tigers have come close, hitting 99 last year at Yale and 98 last year at home against Columbia.

Westhead will have his team push the tempo. Princeton is a good offensive team that can also run. It should be a rather fascinating game.

When you're traveling on Thanksgiving and playing a bunch of games, you tailor the holiday to your schedule, which is what all three Princeton teams will be doing. There are trips to houses of players who live close to where the teams are playing, and big turkey dinners moved up or back or day or so.

For most of the people at Princeton - and everywhere else - Thanksgiving will be just fine on Thursday.

It'll be a time for eating and overeating and then eating again. There will be football to watch. Relatives to reconnect with.

Thanksgiving is TigerBlog's favorite holiday. It's fairly secular, so you can say "Happy Thanksgiving" without feeling like you're going to offend someone, like you would if you said, oh, "Merry Christmas."

It has great movies (Rocky and Adrian had their first date on Thanksgiving, as did John Candy and Steve Martin) and TV shows (every sitcom worth anything has had a Thanksgiving episode) associated with it. Most people love turkey. It's a day when people make time for their family, regardless of what else is going on in their world.

You don't have to go out and get presents for people, so there's none of the stress that precedes Christmas. It's very relaxing - except for whoever has to do all the cooking.

And yes, there is the hassle of traveling, especially when the Wednesday before it is going to be such a nightmarish weather day, with rain and high winds.

So safe travels everyone.

Whether you're going to be on the road to see family or to get where you need to be for your Thanksgiving weekend Princeton athletic events, be careful and make sure you get there in one piece.

A year had 365 (or 366) days in it. Some stand out more than the rest.

Thanksgiving is definitely one of them.

And while you're eating and watching the games, make sure you take step back and think about what you're truly thankful for in your life.

And then tell those people who are part of that.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thoughts On A Certain Word

TigerBlog respects Charles Barkley more than he respects most people who throw out outrageous opinions for a living, largely because TB is sure that Barkley actually means what he says and isn't in it just for the shock value.

The big controversy that Barkley threw himself into last week on TNT's great NBA studio show involved the use of a certain word and how he felt it was okay for him and his black friends to use it when they speak to each other. It's not up to white America, he said, to judge, or for that matter have an opinion.

Shaquille O'Neal, brought grudgingly into the conversation by Barkley, sort of half-heartedly agreed, saying that the word can be used among black men in a "positive" manner.

There's no word in the English language that can rival the word in question for its historical ugliness and destruction. It was used to demean an entire race of human beings, to dehumanize that race in a time of slavery - in a country whose founding document states that "all men are created equal."

Through the years, it has been used with great ugliness, by often-ugly people who fought to the death to attempt to deny that race basic equality and civil rights. It took courageous people, super courageous people, to stand up and say "uh, no, all men are created equal."

One of the most courageous of those people, by the way, was a former Princeton basketball player named John Doar.

TigerBlog is Jewish.

He recently attended a luncheon at the Center for Jewish Life, hosted by Rabbi Elie Bercuson, for some of Princeton's Jewish athletes.

The event was very nice, pretty low-key. At one point, TB asked the group if they'd experienced many instances of anti-Semitism in their lives, either here or elsewhere, and the answer was a fairly universal "not really." That's also been TB's experience as well.

It makes them fortunate. The world has been awful to Jews through the centuries, and there are still way more people on this planet who don't like Jews than who do.

TB can't imagine ever wanting to turn some of the most negative words ever used to describe his people and use them as a positive way of communicating with each other.

He's not sure when the word in question became the sort of mainstream word it's becoming. He understands it's everywhere in rap music. He laughed at it often in "Pulp Fiction." He gets its impact when used on Twitter.

He just doesn't understand why people who have been so negatively impacted by that word would choose to use it now. Is it empowering? Taking control of it? Saying "hey, you thought this word bothered me? Hah. You're wrong. You can't bother me. Get it?"

Perhaps that's a part of it.

On the other hand, TB's sense is that this didn't begin that way, that it began as a way of flaunting societal conventions and now has just become something to be said to show that it can be gotten away with saying.

As for white America? TB won't say the word here. For starters, it's not a word he would use anyway. For another, no white American can say that word without having it become destructive.

So why do blacks want to use it?

And why call it, as it's known now, as "the N-word?" If it's so fine to use, why didn't Charles Barkley say the actual word on TNT?

Maybe Barkley is right and white America isn't entitled to an opinion on it.

It's just that TB does have an opinion, and his opinion is that it should have been left to die out of the English language.

Another point that Barkley made was that what is said in a locker room is also none of anyone's business outside that locker room.

Taken on a wider scope than just a single word, there's the whole situation with the Miami Dolphins and the allegations of bullying in their locker room.

Forgetting for a second that it's hard to imagine a starting offensive lineman in the NFL as the victim of bullying, when does what happen inside a locker room cross a line into something that needs to be addressed by the prevailing authority?

TigerBlog has been in enough Princeton locker rooms and on enough Princeton buses to know that they are their own unique, distinct, team-building, team-bonding entities.

He's heard enough loud noise blasting from these rooms before practices and games to know that rap music is one of the preferred modes for mental preparation.

So what if that certain word is part of the lyrics? Is that okay?

And what about the back-and-forth each day between teammates? What if they like to use that word?

Princeton's responsibility is to provide a safe environment for its athletes. This doesn't mean that it has to be one where individual self-expression can't be tolerated.

A huge part of the growing process for athletes and teams occurs in the locker room or dorm room or on the bus. What's acceptable behavior there might not necessarily be deemed acceptable when it's recounted objectively later on to a different audience, such as the administration, and this is the problem.

What's okay? What's not okay? And who decides?

Is Barkley right? Is the locker room its own autonomous country with its own rules?

Is it okay if Princeton athletes - or any college athletes - hurl that word at each other in the confines of their own locker room, especially if they're all okay with it, if it's used as a positive?

What if it's just black athletes. Blacks and whites together in what is deemed as funny by all involved?

The problem is that the world doesn't work that way anymore.

Someone will say it at the wrong time to the wrong person in the wrong context. And today, someone will have video or audio of it.

And then the world will come crashing down around around the white person who said it, even if there wasn't one part of it that was meant to be insulting or negative.

Words, TB suspects, should be universal. Anyone should be able to use it at any time. If not, then it probably means it's not okay in the first place.

Sorry, Charles. There are so many other words out there to use.

Let that one die.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Who Could Ask For More?

TigerBlog is pretty sure that he heard the students chanting "Bon-Fire, Bon-Fire" after Princeton's 59-23 win over Yale in the home finale two Saturdays ago.

He's also pretty sure that he didn't hear anyone chanting "Ivy Champs, Ivy Champs."


Do the students really prefer a bonfire - the prize for beating Yale and Harvard in football in the same season - to an Ivy League championship?

As it turns out, everyone associated with Princeton football got both in the fall of 2013. 

TigerBlog doesn't want to hear one word of disappointment from anyone regarding Princeton's football season. He especially doesn't want to hear a sound about how the Tigers lost to Dartmouth Saturday and had to settle for a tie for the league championship, after Harvard dismantled Yale.

Why is that?

Because of where Princeton football was very recently. From where Princeton football was even in the preseason of this year, when not one person could have foreseen what the Tigers were about to do.

You're not always guaranteed the outcome you want, whether it's in sports or life.

Yes, it would have been great to beat Dartmouth and win the outright championship and have a perfect Ivy season. It just wasn't meant to be.

Maybe if the same exact scenario happens next year and Princeton loses at home to Dartmouth in the final game to share the championship, maybe then there can a little disappointment. Not this year.

Again, remember that Princeton was 1-9 three years ago. And two years ago. And 1-3 down the stretch to end last year at 5-5.

This Princeton team?

It was extraordinary. A one-point loss on opening day and a four-point loss on closing day were sandwiched around eight of the most exciting weeks Princeton football has ever had.

Princeton put up huge offensive numbers, setting Ivy League records for points scored in a season (45.9 per game) and total offense (523.0 yards per game).

And it's not just the numbers. It's how they got there.

Princeton often played two and three quarterbacks at a time. It ran plays from formations nobody ever saw before. It routinely went for two after early touchdowns. It ran trick plays from normal formations and normal plays from trick formations.

It was completely unpredictable.

It was led by Quinn Epperly's amazing season, one in which he led the team with 570 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. He averaged five yards per carry and finished one touchdown off the single-season school record. He had 115 carries for his 18 TDs; Keith Elias had 305 carries in 1993, the year he ran for 19 touchdowns. That's 180 more carries for one more touchdown, and Elias is the best running back Princeton has ever had statistically.

He also completed 208 of 306 passes for 2,137 yards. He threw for 25 touchdowns, tying Doug Butler's school record set in 1983, when Butler threw 398 passes, or 92 more than Epperly did this year. Epperly set NCAA records with 29 straight completions to start a game and 31 straight overall.

When the Ivy League announces the Bushnell Cup for offensive player of the year, Epperly will almost surely be the winner. He has to be, right?

Epperly was the leader of the show for Princeton in 2013. Ask yourself this: Who would be the next player on your list?

It could be almost anyone, which is another great piece to the Princeton football puzzle for 2013.

This was not a one-man show. This was a total team effort, offensively and defensively.

An army of running backs and receivers. Wave after wave of players on both sides of the ball.

Many of them return next year, by the way.

Princeton football took an incredible step forward in 2013.

No, it didn't end the way anyone would have wanted. It came pretty close though.

Princeton fought back from 17-0 down against Brown and 16-0 down against Penn to win on the road. It attempted to come back from 21-0 down at Dartmouth Saturday and almost did, tying it at 21-21 and coming really close to tying it again at 28-28.

In the end, Dartmouth had a little too much for Princeton and won 28-24, handing the Tigers their only Ivy loss of 2013.

Still, it was only a slight blemish on an otherwise incredible year.

TigerBlog wishes he could go back to early September and remember what he thought this team was going to be. All Princeton fans should.

He's pretty sure he would have jumped at 7-3, 5-2 in the league. As it turned out, it was a year that pretty much exceeded whatever TB's most optimistic expectations could have been.

Five games with at least 50 points. The most exciting Princeton football team he's ever seen.

An Ivy League championship. A bonfire.

What Princeton fan could be disappointed in any of that?

Because it didn't end with a win?

TB doesn't want to hear it.

Friday, November 22, 2013


TigerBlog was in Dallas just once, back in 2000, when Princeton played men's basketball at Texas Christian, which is in nearby Fort Worth.

With some down time, he took his rental car to Dallas, where the first stop, of course, was Dealey Plaza.

It was there - 50 years ago today - that the motorcade of President John F. Kennedy came rolling through as four shots rang out, leaving the young President mortally wounded and a country unsure of what to think.

To this day, there is no way of knowing exactly what happened, if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or if it was part of a larger conspiracy - or if there was another shooter or not. There certainly has been no shortage of books written suggesting one argument or the other.

Common sense, to TigerBlog at least, would suggest that this was not something thought up and executed by Oswald alone. The entire truth will never be known, TB suspects.

Driving through the area where the assassination happened is a bit surreal. In some ways, it's just another city intersection with some lights and a bunch of cars struggling to get where they need to be. Of course, at all times there is the knowledge that a United States President was murdered here.

The area seems very confined, especially the front of what was then the Texas Book Depository Building, from where Oswald fired his shots. It is an eerie place. That's the word for it. Eerie.

TigerBlog was alive the day Kennedy was shot, though he wasn't old enough yet to comprehend what was going on. Anyone who was, they say, will never forget where they were when they heard the news.

Since that day, there have been three assassination attempts on U.S. Presidents - two against Gerald Ford and one against Ronald Reagan, who was actually shot and nearly killed in 1981. TB has met two U.S. Presidents in his time at Princeton - Bill Clinton when he was at Princeton in 1996 and George W. Bush when the women's lacrosse team went to the White House in 2003 - and he marveled both times at the overwhelming security that is in place both on the road and at home.

Today the country reflects on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. There are many more people now for whom the event is history rather than something they first learned as it unfolded, but that doesn't diminish the significance of what happened - and that quite possibly others involved got away with it.

The NFL famously played its entire Sunday schedule that weekend, something that then-commissioner Pete Rozelle would later say was the biggest mistake he ever made.

TB is pretty sure that Princeton-Dartmouth football was put off for a week. He's positive that Dartmouth beat Princeton 22-21, forcing a tie for the league championship between the two.

A year later, in 1964, Princeton went 9-0 overall, 7-0 in the Ivy League. It remains the last perfect Ivy League record for the program.

The 2013 Tigers would match that achievement with a win over Dartmouth in Hanover. The Big Green are not alive for a share of the Ivy title as was the case in 1963, but that doesn't mean this game will be easy in any way.

Princeton lost its opener to Lehigh this year 29-28 after leading 22-3 at the half. Since then, the Tigers have ripped off eight straight wins, led by the best offense in Ivy League football history, at least statistically.

With one game to go, Princeton has already set the league record for points and yards (by more than 1,100 already) in a season. The offense is incredibly balanced, witness last week's 254 rushing yards and 253 passing yards.

Princeton has reached the 50-point mark five times in the last eight games. Prior to that, Princeton had reached 50 points five times in 469 games.

Dartmouth is 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the Ivy League. The Big Green ranks first in the Ivy League in defense and second in offense.

With one weekend to play, Princeton would win the outright championship with a win over Dartmouth or a Harvard loss to Yale. Only a Harvard win and Princeton loss would mean a co-championship between the Tigers and Crimson; everyone else has been eliminated.
Dartmouth clearly wants to ruin the moment for the Tigers.

The Tigers have already clinched at least a share of the Ivy League championship, which given where the program was recently (1-9 in 2010 and 2011) is a remarkable accomplishment.

Tomorrow Princeton will be playing to go from remarkable to history-making.

At the same time, it's not anything on the level of the history that the country remembers today. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Women Of Baker Rink

TigerBlog has no idea what the exact number of teams Division I schools field on average.

He did a few quick searches and didn't come up with a number, though he's pretty sure it's in the 17 or 18 range.

Princeton? There are 38 varsity teams here. That's a lot.

It's one of the best parts of working here, for TB at least. And he gets that not everyone would want to be a part of a department where the emphasis is on broad-based participation, as opposed to football and men's basketball at all costs.

Hey there's a lot to be said for that. As TB said Monday, college football can do something for a campus that nothing else can.

And to be honest, it was a lot of fun to take it all in Saturday afternoon, as Princeton put away Yale to clinch at least a share of the Ivy League championship in football.

Still, TB couldn't live with a steady diet of a department - or even a school - run by the football and/or men's basketball program.

He's seen more than one person come through Princeton or the Ivy League who didn't agree with him and left for jobs in that other world.

TB? He's still here.

The lure is the sense that all athletes are created equal, or as equal as they possibly can be. Their experiences all matter to the people who work here. The department does not revolve around revenue that can be squeezed out of the football team.

To achieve things like that, you need the football coach to get it. The one here clearly does.

TB couldn't imagine having to deal with a football coach who not only had the gigantic ego (again, Princeton's current coach nor either of his two predecessors that TB dealt with have ego problems) but also the ability to do whatever he wanted. And by whatever he wanted, TB is talking about the ability to get rid of, among other people, athletic communications people who don't fall into line.

There's nothing like that here.

TB loves to see the different athletes, with their different backgrounds and perspectives, all congregate under the heading "Princeton Athletics." His sense is that it's normal for some teams to look at others and say "they get everything," but for the most part, he also feels like they appreciate the commitment that the department and University have made to their program too.

It's fun to follow a team when it's on a big run. Maybe TB got that from Harvey Yavener, but he definitely appreciates the significance of events within the context of their sport, rather than some artificial tiering of sports.

Take the women's hockey team, for instance.

Princeton was picked to finish seventh in the ECAC. Through the not-exactly-early-anymore stage of the season, Princeton is actually in fourth.

Beyond that, Princeton is receiving votes in the national polls, which rank 10, not 20 teams. In fact, Princeton is 12th in one poll and 13th in the other by total votes.

Last weekend wasn't an ECAC weekend, but it was still big for the Tigers, who beat New Hampshire and tied seventh-ranked Boston College.

The tie with Boston College actually ended a four-game winning streak, though Princeton is still unbeaten in five. The Tigers are 5-2-1 overall and 4-2-0 in the ECAC.

The difference for Princeton has been the freshman class, which has given quality and depth to the team. Defensively, Princeton allows nearly one fewer goal per game this year than it did last year.

Of course, the fast start doesn't mean that the Tigers can relax.

The ECAC has four ranked teams, and Princeton plays two of them before Thanksgiving.

The first of those games is tomorrow afternoon at 3 (before the men play Quinnipiac at 7), when eighth-ranked Clarkson and its 10-3-2 record come to Baker Rink. After playing St. Lawrence (also 4-2-0 in the league) Saturday at 3, Princeton is home Tuesday against 10-1-3 Quinnipiac, ranked sixth.

The ECAC also has No. 3 Cornell and No. 5 Harvard, both of whom have defeated Princeton this year. The turning point for the Tigers, though, might have been that Cornell game back on Nov. 1.

Princeton lost to Harvard 4-0 in its second game of the year, after opening with a win over Dartmouth. The Tigers then fell behind 5-0 to Cornell after the first period but then scrambled back, eventually losing 5-4.

The team has not lost since.

TB has had many conversations through the years with those from the other side, the one where it's all football and basketball all the time. When he tries to tell them about all the other sports, all the great things that these teams do, he often gets mocked.

He's okay with it.

TB gets it.

That's what makes Princeton unique and special.

It's that a championship football team and an up-and-coming women's hockey team can both be a part of the culture.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

All These People Said I Can Have Their French Toast

The earliest TigerBlog has ever set his alarm clock was for 2:30 a.m., back on a cold morning almost 18 years ago.

Princeton played Lafayette in men's basketball at Jadwin Gym on Nov. 29, 1995. For the record it was a 62-47 Tigers win.

The schedule then took the team west, to the Coors Light Classic at Fresno State. The team flight left at 6 a.m. from Philadelphia the morning after the Lafayette game, and the bus rolled out of the Jadwin parking lot at 3:30 a.m., as TB recalls.

And so TB had to set his alarm for 2:30 to make sure he was there on time.

TB remembers a lot about that trip.

It started with the flight from Philadelphia to Dallas, before changing planes for Fresno. The first leg was a big American Airlines jumbo jet that had almost nobody on it other than the Tigers and some business travelers, and almost nobody on the plane was awake except for TB and then-radio play-by-play man Tom McCarthy.

When the flight attendant brought around breakfast, McCarthy told her "all these people said I could have their french toast."

TB also remembers that the Princeton coaches took full advantage of the sponsor's product in the hospitality room. He remembers five Brian Earl three-pointers in the semifinal win against Boise State, the last of which led to a timeout by Boise, whose bench TB was sitting next to.

TB can still hear Boise's coach during that timeout, especially when he said "they're going to build a statue of that kid on that spot."

Mostly he remembers flying home early the next day, missing the championship game win over Fresno State because his paternal grandmother had passed away and he had to get back for the funeral.

He didn't need to check the box score from the game to remember that current head coach Mitch Henderson was 6 for 15 from three-point range to lead Princeton to a 59-54 win over the home team for the tournament title.

The game against Fresno State was one of seven Princeton men's basketball games that TB missed between the start of the 1994-95 season and the end of the 2001-02 season. It was a great time to be part of the ride, that's for sure.

As TB has said many times before, he saw Princeton play regular-season games in six different time zones during those years. He saw some of the greatest moments in the program's history, got to know really two generations of players and had more fun along the way than the average athletic communications person could ever have a right to expect.

TB, as he thinks back, remembers so many details of all of those trips he went on - like the one to Fresno - and yet can't remember as vividly all of the nights at Jadwin Gym.

For instance, he has no memory of the Lafayette game from 1995, the one that preceded the long trip to California. He didn't even remember the score until he looked it up.

TB was no longer the men's basketball contact after the 2001-02 season. He did radio for a few more years after that, but his connection to the program isn't nearly what it once was.

TB spent five years covering the team for the newspaper and eight years as the sports information contact. That's a lot of years, a lot of miles, a lot of Princeton basketball.

When he first moved up the administrative food chain here, his thought was to continue to cover men's basketball, though it became obvious that that wouldn't be practical. Instead, he stuck with men's lacrosse, and continues to do so.

He misses being part of the day-in, day-out world of the men's basketball program, and it's obvious that he has nothing but fondness for his 13 years spent covering the team. He had a chance to work with head coaches Pete Carril, Bill Carmody and John Thompson in those 13 years, and the assistant coaches then included people like Joe Scott, Howard Levy, Armond Hill and Jan van Breda Kolff.

These days, most of his time spent with men's basketball is as a fan, watching from the Jadwin stands.

He figures to be there tonight, for instance, when Lafayette comes back to Jadwin Gym.

Princeton is 1-1 on the very young season, with a win Florida A&M and a close, tough loss at Butler last Saturday. After the game tonight, Princeton is at Rice Saturday and then home against George Mason Tuesday.

The Tigers have graduated the second (Ian Hummer) and third (Douglas Davis) top scorers in program history in the last two years, and as such there is going to be the adjustment this year offensively, especially without the do-everything Hummer.

Denton Koon has 18 and 20 points in the first two games, and Princeton is getting some strong contributions from all over, including sophomore Hans Brase, who has been in double figures in rebounding in both games, and freshman Spencer Weisz, who leads the team in assists.

Lafayette, one of the top contenders in the Patriot League, is 0-2, but it's losses are to Villanova and Robert Morris (the team that beat Kentucky in the NIT last year).

TigerBlog has marveled at how fast the fall seasons have come and basically gone, with only a handful of events (one football game, cross country championships, water polo playoffs) to go.

The opposite is true of the winter, where the first practice to the final game takes nearly six months.

As a result, it's not even remotely worth looking ahead to the Ivy League portion of the schedule, which is weeks and weeks away still.

For now, it's a part of the year that TB always thought was a lot of fun, the non-conference games. There's some travel. There's a chance to play old rivals and go to some places, like historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, that are new for everyone.

And to play some home games, like tonight's.

No offense to the home fans, but TB always preferred the adventure of being on the road. Then again, he wasn't the coach - just someone who was part of some pretty good times back then.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Banner Day

There were the five members of the Princeton women's basketball senior class, standing together on the middle of Carril Court.

It was Sunday afternoon, and Princeton was playing Marist in its home opener.

And now it was halftime, and the five members of the Class of 2013 were gathered again. The brief ceremony to honor them and their achievements included the presentation of their game jerseys - No. 43, No. 20, No. 3 and of course No 24.

Those four would be Kate Miller, Meg Bowen, Lauren Polansky and Niveen Rasheed.

The best player in program history and the two-time Ivy Player of the Year, Rasheed came all the way from Greece, where she is playing professionally, to be part of the ceremony and attend the game.

Think Princeton women's basketball isn't important to her still? She flew all the way from Greece to be part of a three-minute ceremony.

Oh, and there was also No. 5. She didn't have to nearly as far as Rasheed, just from New York City. Like the others, though, she would have come that far and further to be there.

Who was No. 5? Amanda Roman, the team manager the last four years.

What do you give the manager when everyone else gets their jersey? A jersey with what apparently was her high school number. Or possibly her height. TigerBlog isn't really sure.

What TigerBlog is sure of is that the Princeton Class of 2013 is the most successful class in Ivy League women's basketball history. He knew this before he ever set out to write up their accomplishments for the ceremony.

Actually, it started before the game with the unveiling of the banners celebrating the 2013 Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament appearance.

How impressive is the resume of the Class of 2013? It's familiar, but it doesn't mean it's not worth mentioning again - a 96-20 record (the 96 wins are the most ever by an Ivy women's basketball team in a four-year period), four Ivy titles, a 54-2 Ivy record, the four best seeds by an Ivy team in the NCAA tournament (11, 12, 9, 9), the first national ranking by an Ivy team.

If pregame and halftime belonged to the grads, then the game itself belonged to the current team.

Princeton trailed early and watched Marist hit 8 of its first 11 shots while scoring 22 points in eight minutes to start the game. Princeton then tightened it up and rolled, winning 81-58.

Princeton is now 1-1 on the young season, with an opening loss at Rutgers and the win over Marist. Up next is the short trip to Rider tonight and a slightly longer trip to Georgetown Saturday afternoon.

The 23-point win over Marist came after the Red Foxes lost to Kentucky by 14. Kentucky is currently ranked seventh nationally.

So how good can Princeton be in 2013-14?

It's way too early to tell, but the Tigers appear to be good at a lot of things, most notably offense and rebounding. Princeton averages 73 points for its first two games, and both of its opponents are traditional NCAA tournament teams, so they figure to know how to defend.

Princeton has also outrebounded its two opponents 45.5-28.

Princeton shot 4 for 20 from three-point range in the 79-65 loss to Rutgers and then turned that completely around, knocking down 12 of 25 against Marist. The optimist would suggest that Princeton shot 37% against Rutgers and still put up 65 points, so simply making a few more shots would have made all the difference.

The 2013-14 Tigers also seem to have a lot of options, as nine players went at least 12 minutes against the Red Foxes.

Of course, some of that is a function of trying to find the right combinations, something that was pretty obvious last year and the years before it.

As TB has said before, this is a fascinating season for the Tiger program. In addition to the graduates from last year, Princeton also lost 1,000-point scorers Lauren Edwards and Devonna Allgood (along with Laura Johnson; all three were there Saturday as well) the year before and another 1,000-point scorer (Addie Micir) the year before that.

No current Tiger has more career points than the 434 that Kristen Helmstetter currently does. There are some explosive options, but Princeton came at Marist in waves, rather than relying on just one player.

In the first half, that particularly meant freshman Vanessa Smith, who had 11 as the Tigers turned the early deficit into a nine-point edge at the break. In the second half, Helmstetter knocked down all three of her three-pointers and scored 13 of her 18.

Does the team need to establish a bona fide star, a go-to person? Or can it be someone different every night?

Princeton women's basketball games have become a well-attended event, which is what winning big and winning in exciting fashion will do.

The 2013-14 season won't be like the four before it. This isn't "roll out the balls and name the final score" anymore.

The early returns, though, are encouraging. Saturday was a celebration of Princeton's past success - and a sign that the good times might not be over.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ivy League Football Champion

TigerBlog will get right to the point to start your Monday: Princeton has already clinched at least a share of the Ivy League football championship.

Think about that.

Three years ago, Princeton was 1-9. Two years ago, Princeton was 1-9. Last year, Princeton was 5-5 after going 1-3 in its final four.

And now? Champion.

Princeton is 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Ivy League as it prepares to head to Dartmouth for the final game of the season Saturday. A win would mean an outright championship and the first perfect Ivy season for the program since 1964.

The only other team still alive in the race is Harvard, which is at Yale Saturday. Should the Crimson win and Tigers lose, there would be a co-championship.

Still, that's a championship. The 2013 Princeton Tigers. Football champions.

It's been a meteoric rise in so many ways that it's easy to forget where the program was two years ago. For instance, here's a comment that was posted to this blog anonymously at the end of the 2011 season:
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.

And this one:
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.

There were many more just like it. And, to be honest, there was some supportive of what Bob Surace and his staff were trying to do; they were just outweighed by the negative ones.

So what did Surace and his staff do?

Well, they recruited, recruited and recruited, until there was high quality depth everywhere.

And then they did the smartest thing they could have done - they got their best players on the field - even if that meant multiple quarterbacks - and built an imaginative offense that allowed it to happen. And so Kedric Bostic isn't just the third-string quarterback. Or, for that matter, Quinn Epperly wasn't just the backup quarterback.

And then they got buy-in from their guys, so that an army of running backs and wide receivers, for instance, didn't care that they weren't the one single main focus of the offense. It's a chicken and egg thing - do you get buy in because you're winning or are you winning because you got buy in?

Princeton is not only championship-good in 2013; it's also an incredibly fun team to watch.

With one game to play, Princeton has already set the record for the most points by an Ivy team in a season with 413, already 19 points past the record, with a full game to go.

Princeton played three home Ivy League games this year and scored 53, 53 and 59 points. Those numbers were 36, 29 and 31 at halftime and could have been way higher at the end had the games not been such blowouts.

Oh, TB almost forgot to mention something about Epperly's ridiculous season. How about this: With 23 passing touchdowns and 17 rushing touchdowns, he stands two away from the single-season record at Princeton for each.

Princeton's most recent game was a 59-23 win over Yale on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. It wasn't so much a game as it was a giant block party, and the festive atmosphere was everywhere.

Students. Alums. Fans. Perfect weather. Points. Points. More points. 

It was a celebration, a coronation of the championship that Princeton has now won.

It's the kind of school spirit that can only come with a winning football team, with apologies to every other sport, and it's why college football is such a big deal in this country.

At Princeton Saturday, it was easy to forget that it's been only two years from the second of those 1-9 seasons. Or, for that matter, that the team on the field was the one picked to finish fifth in the Ivy League this year.

Honestly, what Princeton wouldn't have settled for 7-3 or so, 5-2 in the league? What Princeton fan could have imagined this season would unfold the way it has?

As the final seconds ticked away, TB focused on Surace on the sideline. When it ended, the head coach pumped his fists, but that was about it.

He's a rock, Surace. When things were at their bottom, he didn't panic. He knew the turnaround was coming.

All season he has come into TB's office to hang out a few times a week, and there'd be no way to tell if he was winless or undefeated, if it was another 1-9 season or things were going well just by his demeanor.

He's never wavered from the task.

Fire the coach? No way.

Clearly he was the right guy the whole time.

And now he's shown what kind of coach his is.

A championship coach. Running a championship program.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On The Verge

TigerBlog had dinner with Harvey Yavener recently.

Ah, Yav. He hasn't changed at all.

TB is sad to say that he hasn't seen Yav, as big a legend in covering Princeton athletics for a newspaper as anyone ever has been, as much as he should in recent years. Yav, for his part, is 84 now, and he and his longtime (55 years and counting) sidekick Polly don't get out as much as they used to.

So it was great when the two of them met up with TB, TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog to celebrate Yav's most recent birthday.

There are three places Yav is most at home, or at least was for the first 25 years that TB knew him: a game, the newsroom and a restaurant.

For those who don't know, Harvey Yavener covered Princeton sports for decades, first at the Trentonian and then for the majority of the time at the Trenton Times.

He is short and could always be a tad combative and rough around the edges. His MO was to come with the story he wanted to write and fit the game or the person to what he thought was going to happen all along.

TB remembers a Rutgers football coach who got so exasperated with Yav on a media conference call that he finally said something along the lines of "just tell me what you want me to say and I'll say it."

What he also was was a pioneer in the advancement of women's athletics, which he covered regularly long before anyone else ever did. He also had a work ethic to rival anyone TB has ever met and a sense of pride in the final product, which always had to be done the right way.

He was fiercely loyal to "his" teams and especially coaches, though he would hold them accountable as well, often in harsh terms - tough love, as it were.

Mostly he was a character, the kind of local newspaperman whom everyone read every day, an old-time guy loaded with stories and experiences and personality, the kind who doesn't really exist much anymore.

Yav eventually retired. These days, he likes to watch his giant TV at home rather than venture to games, and it's been awhile since he's been on the Princeton campus.

One of the unique things about Yav was that he wouldn't differentiate the significance of events based on sport. To him, the biggest game in one sport was just as worthy as the biggest game in another sport, even if one of those sports was football or basketball and the other wasn't.

Each weekend, he'd rate the events by their value within their sport, not by the sport itself.

This weekend, though, even Yav would give the football game five stars.

Yes, the field hockey team is in the NCAA tournament. Yes, the men's basketball team is playing at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler. Yes, the women's basketball team has its home opener, with its banner-raising ceremony pregame Sunday.

Yes, there is home women's hockey against fifth-ranked Boston College. And two home men's games. And the men's soccer season-finale. And the NCAA cross country regionals. And on and on.

This weekend, though, the football game is the big one.

Princeton is 5-0 in the Ivy League, hosting 3-2 Yale at 1. A win would guarantee Princeton at least a share of the Ivy League championship.

Think about that. Princeton was 1-9 three years ago. And 1-9 two years ago. And 1-3 in its last four games last year.

And now the Tigers, with two weeks left in the season, are on the verge of a championship.

Ah, but they're not quite there yet. And there's a big gap between being on the verge and closing it out, especially when you've never been there before.

The Princeton story has been its offense, led by Quinn Epperly, of course, but the defense has come up huge this year as well. The Tigers average nearly 45 points per game and have scored at least 38 in every Ivy game.

They've won at Brown and Penn after trailing 17-0 and 16-0 and at Harvard after a 13-0 lead turned into a 51-48 triple-OT shootout.

Their two home Ivy games have been easy wins against Columbia and Cornell, both of whom are winless in the league prior to their own game against each other tomorrow.

The Tigers? They have Yale at home this weekend and Dartmouth in Hanover next Saturday and that's it.

Harvard, at 4-1 in the league, is home with Penn tomorrow and at Yale next weekend. One Harvard loss in either game would clinch at least a share of the championship for Princeton, regardless of how the Tigers do, but that's not something Princeton should be taking for granted.

And so that makes tomorrow's game huge.

Throw in mid-November temperatures that should be around 60 and the crowd should be great.

If you think it's in the bag, TB refers you back to the 1995 season, when Princeton was 5-0 in the league and Yale came to Palmer Stadium 2-6 overall.

TB remembers that day vividly.

It started when Princeton had the ball on the eight-yard line after the opening kickoff, and Kurt Kehl, who had TB's job back then (minus the blog part; if you said the word "blog" in 1995, nobody would have known what you were babbling about), said "Brock Harvey runs 92 yards on this play."

And he did. Harvey, Princeton's quarterback, put the Tigers up just like that. As TB remembers, it was 6-0 Princeton for the longest time and then maybe even 13-0 in the fourth quarter before Yale came back, taking a 14-13 lead and then recovering the kickoff, possibly for a touchdown.

If all that isn't true, it's close enough and TB can't find the 1996 media guide to look up the 1995 recap to confirm it all.

The Tigers did win the title the next week, tying Dartmouth 10-10 in another wild one.

The point is that there's a long way to go.

At least 60 minutes.

It should be a great day, one that could end up being a championship day.

But nothing, nothing, is set in stone.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Maybe it's because TigerBlog spent so much of his time in the newspaper business covering Princeton sports. Maybe it's just not his style.

Or maybe he had more of a "what's the point" attitude.

When he looks back at those days, though, he can't remember asking too many questions of his interview subjects that were designed to play "gotcha."

It's also possible that nobody ever gave him a "gotcha" answer without his asking. At least he can't remember any.

He's seen two examples of this in the last week.

First was a story in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the Penn student paper, last Friday, that looked at the current state of Penn athletics and included this:
Indeed, Princeton is the standard of athletic success in the Ivy League, the highest-ranking school among Ivies in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings 17 of the last 20 years. Princeton was also the only non-BCS school in the top 42 and the only FCS school in the top 56. The Tigers have never finished lower than 63rd, while the Quakers’ highest finish the past five seasons was 68th.
“Maybe Princeton has more wins than any of the other Ivies when you add them up, but maybe it’s not a coincidence that they also have more money per capita,” President Amy Gutmann said in August. “So we do have limited resources. But would you trade for Princeton’s football team? I don’t think so.”

Then there was the football media luncheon yesterday in the Caldwell Field House lounge.

TigerBlog will start with the DP story.

Amy Gutmann spent nearly 20 years here at Princeton, including four as Provost, before becoming Penn's president.

TB isn't sure why she would have said that about Princeton's football team, but in fairness to her, there are two huge words in there: "in August."

TB guesses her point is that, well, he's not really sure. It's not like it can be debated that Princeton football has been better than Penn football in the last three decades. It hasn't. But why insult the football program here? What's the point?

Also, it's a quote from August, when Penn was the preseason pick to win the league and Princeton was picked to finish fifth.

It's just that it ran the day before the teams played, when Princeton undefeated in the league and Penn was a game back and desperately in need of a win. And there was the DP story, circulating around Princeton's athletic department Friday, finding its way to head football coach Bob Surace's desk.

So what happened? Princeton won 38-26. And this is what Surace said in the postgame interview room:
“You guys at The Daily Pennsylvanian write great articles, just like our guys do, and when the president of a school says, ‘Would you trade our football program for Princeton’s? I don’t think so,' well, Mrs. ‘I don’t think so’ should understand the heart our guys have. Maybe she should see that this isn’t in the NFL. There aren’t trades, I told our guys that, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I love these guys.”

How much did this impact the outcome of the game? TB senses very little. Maybe it was something in the back of the Tigers' collective minds before the game, but how much could that really matter during the actual play itself?

Still, TigerBlog lives in fear of the Princeton coach or athlete or administrator who says the wrong thing before the wrong game.

And that brings us to the football luncheon.

Princeton used to host a weekly media luncheon, for decades. TB thinks it actually started at the Nassau Inn.

In TB's time those luncheons were held in the Zanfrini Room of Jadwin Gym, in the roof lounge of Fine Tower, in the Princeton Stadium press box and in the Caldwell Field House lounge. He can't remember any other places.

They were always the highlight each week of the fall. Free food? Good stuff, too.

When TB first started going when he was in the newspaper business, they were on Tuesdays. Eventually they made it to Wednesdays.

Getting there early to make sure you got tuna was a big thing back then.

Through the years, the weekly luncheon was scaled back to three times a year - before the Ivy opener against Columbia and before the Harvard and Yale games.

Yesterday was the Wednesday before the Yale game, and so the lounge was filled with sandwiches, pasta salad and the big cookies.

The local media was there, along with Surace, defensive lineman Caraun Reid and wide receiver Matt Costello.

Here are two absolute, no-win, gotcha questions they were asked:

1) when would the bonfire be?
2) would you like to be able to go to the FCS playoffs?

All TB could do was cringe at the thought of these questions.

To talk about details of a bonfire could be interpreted as assuming a win over Yale, something that Yale would surely note prior to Saturday's game.

To talk about going to the playoffs would be to suggest that the championship has already been won, which it hasn't.

Reid's answer to the second was great: "I like to compete."

Neither Surace nor his players said anything wrong, anything to be turned into additional motivation for opponents or anything that could be construed as messing with the karma.

TB, for his part, isn't quite sure what reporters think they're going to get back when they ask those questions anyway.

All of this brings him to the main point again.

Beyond just getting people all riled up before a game, how much can a disparaging quote actually affect a game, if it all?

TB has always assumed it's minimal, if anything. Maybe he's wrong, though.

Either way, it's better to avoid finding out.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coming Attractions

Nancy Donigan from the compliance office says she hates InDesign and that she feels, well, bad when she sits in front of computer trying to use it.

She didn't exactly say bad. She used other, more emphatically colorful, words.

TigerBlog gets it. Most of what Nancy is trying to do is set a bunch of tabs in a document, the student-athlete handbook, so she can finish the final edits.

So what is InDesign? It's a desktop publishing program. 

Setting tabs can be a pain. And you can throw indents in there too.

InDesign works in text blocks, so whatever text is selected will have the same tabs and indents once they're set. The problem is that if there are two paragraphs that need one set of tabs and indents and then two paragraphs after that need different ones, followed by two more that need the first one and on and on, then it becomes an endless series of dragging little arrows and triangles all over a little box.

Unless you used the "styles" function, something that TB has never had success with no matter how many times he has tried.

One of TB's real pet peeves used to be when someone would space over instead of setting a tab. Yes, it could accomplish the goal of having text line up. No, it wasn't the right way to do it.

Especially when new text is added, pushing the original text down one line and exposing all the spaces.

When TB first started in the OAC, InDesign didn't exist. Instead, it was a program called "PageMaker" that was used for desktop publishing.

It's earliest forms were bulky to say the least. TB thinks the first version he worked with was PageMaker 2.0 and the last one was PageMaker 6.0.

At first, it would take an eternity to print a page, and no two people in the office could print at the same time. By the end, it was a fairly efficient program - one that simply disappeared when InDesign was launched. Well, it didn't exactly disappear. It's just that it can't be run on anything approaching a modern Mac.

Still, TB figures Mr. PageMaker made a ton of money off the program.

So has Mr. InDesign.

TB used to spend hours each day on those programs. Now he hardly uses them.

For some reason, the handbook that Nancy has been working on is in InDesign instead of Microsoft Word. It would seem more of a natural for Word, because it has very little in the way of graphics and no pictures.

The handbook is on the OAC's backup computer, which is now called "the Big HD" but what was once called "John's Big HD," after John Cornell, the former publications person here.

Way back when, the OAC added a position of publications coordinator. Only two people ever held the title, Cornell and his predecessor, Mike Zulla.

The idea of having a publications coordinator now is laughable. TB actually eliminated the position when Cornell left, because it was more important to have people here who could cover sports and because everyone could do their own publications, which at the time primarily meant media guides.

TB can't imagine how many hours have been spent working on media guides in this office. Hours and hours and hours.

These days, the need to be a desktop publishing expert isn't nearly as pressing as it once was, at least in the field of athletic communications.

These days, it's all about video.

TigerBlog remembers the meeting a few years ago when he broke the news to Princeton's coaches that Princeton was getting out of the media guide business and transitioning to video. It was met mostly with some cautious optimism about the potential and with some real dissenters who thought giving up media guides would be a huge recruiting disadvantage.

As it turned out, a year later, media guides were eliminated across the board in the Ivy League anyway.

Now it's mostly video. The more video, the better.

And why not? It's an actual live-action view of what goes on here. It appeals to fans, alums, donors, parents - and especially recruits.

Ironically, most of the people who work here were hired because they knew how to produce publications, not video. They've all had to learn on the fly, and now they're all fluent in iMovie, in shooting basic video, in all of it.

The real pressing need, TB thought, was for someone who could take that to the next level, and so that's what Princeton has done.

Coming soon to and will be John Bullis, a former hockey player at Wisconsin River Falls. Among his work there was a documentary about his best friend, who was killed in Afghanistan.

Bullis will be the first person to work at Princeton whose job will be solely video related. Bullis will begin after Thanksgiving.

His job will be mostly to produce video content, the kind that the OAC staffers haven't had the time (because they're also covering multiple sports) or expertise (because they've all had to learn on the fly) to do.

Bullis is more of a cinematographer than he is a sports information type. The possibilities for the new position are endless and exciting.

Coaches' shows. Plays of the week. Mini-documentaries. Anything. All shot by someone whose background and training is in video production.

TigerBlog thought back to the days of desktop publishing often during the whole search process that resulted in Bullis' hiring. It seems like so long ago, like watching an old movie in black & white.

Video. It's what it's all about now. TigerBlog can't say enough good things about the job that the OAC people have done in recent years to embrace that, to shift from what their backgrounds had been in desktop publishing and to change that on a dime to do video.

Check out how much original video content is already being produced.

Bullis' arrival will take that to another level.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


TigerBlog Jr. had a lacrosse event Sunday at Lehigh.

As the wind ripped down the mountains and across the fields, TigerBlog added layer after layer, until he had on a longsleeve t shirt, a longsleeve dri-fit, two fleeces and two sweatshirts, as well as gloves and a hat.

At one point, TB asked the assembled parents - with whom he's watched lacrosse for a long, long time - what percentage of the thousands of hours they'd been together featured weather that could be described as "pleasant."

Since these tournaments occur in the summer and late fall, the answer is "almost none." It's either says like Sunday was, or sweltering summer weekends.

This in turn led to a discussion of which was preferable, the oppressively hot or the "lazy wind." You know, the wind that goes smashing through everyone because it's too lazy to go around you.

Almost universally, the answer was the heat.

TigerBlog was in full agreement. He's never been a cold weather person. He doesn't understand what the attraction is.

Even if you like to ski, how does the fact that it's freezing in January in Princeton help you do that? You still have to find someplace to go that has snow and a mountain.

TigerBlog walked outside this morning and found something that he never likes to see - snow. Okay, it was hardly a blizzard, just a few wet flakes.

But it's a nasty sign, one that says that winter is creeping up around here and the last of the days where it is sunny and in the 60s are probably gone until the spring.

Actually, this weekend looks like a pretty good one, with Saturday's high around here supposed to be 57.

The winter season, if not actual winter, arrived a few weeks ago with the start of hockey season, and both basketball teams opened their seasons Sunday.

Fall, though, is still around, at least for a little while longer.

Princeton has nine "fall" sports, not including tennis and golf, which also have fall events but whose championship season is the spring.

Of the nine fall sports, women's soccer and sprint football have completed their seasons. Men's soccer has one game left, this Saturday at home against Yale. Women's volleyball has two matches left, against Yale and Brown at home this weekend.

Both cross country teams will be at the NCAA regionals Friday at Lehigh. The NCAA championships will be Saturday the 23rd in Terre Haute, Ind.

The men's water polo team will compete at the Eastern championships at Brown Nov. 22-24, with a spot in the NCAA Final Four on the line.

The NCAA field hockey tournament begins this weekend, and Princeton, the Ivy League champion for the 19th time in 20 years, plays Penn State at Maryland Saturday in the opening round. Penn State defeated Princeton 4-3 earlier this year on Bedford Field.

For the winner of that game there is in all probability Maryland, who will play the winner of the play-in game between Quinnipiac and American.

Princeton and Maryland have combined to win the last three NCAA titles, including Princeton's win last year.

Lastly, there is the football team.

Princeton is 7-1 overall, 5-0 in the Ivy League, and hosting Yale Saturday in a fairly big game. At stake? A win would bring at least a share of the Ivy title and a bonfire. A loss would mean no bonfire and a tougher road to an Ivy title.

Princeton's final game is at Dartmouth, a team that is currently 3-2 in the league, the same as Yale and Penn. Harvard is 4-1.

Dartmouth and Yale currently rank 1-2 in the league in scoring defense. Princeton has been putting up big numbers all year in the league, and in fact the 38 the Tigers scored against Penn were the fewest they have scored in a league game this year.

Dartmouth has allowed 80 points in five league games. Yale has allowed 100.

And with that, the fall season will be over. It'll be all winter teams after that.

On the one hand, that means the coming of the cold, which TB can't stand.

On the other hand, it means the next outdoor event for Princeton will be three months away.

Feb. 22. Men's lacrosse against Hofstra. Women's lacrosse against Loyola.

That's looking on the bright side.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mondays With Quinn

TigerBlog will now run his streak of consecutive Monday's starting out with Quinn Epperly to four.

Actually, this time around, TB had a chance to see it a little more up close than he normally would, as he spent most of Princeton's 38-26 win over Penn Saturday on the sideline, rather than high up in the press box.

There's no better place to see a game than right on the field. The level of intensity that is visible from the stands is multiplied by a factor of 100 or so from the sideline.

It was the kind of November day that you get in these parts, warm when you're in the sun and freezing when you're in the shade. And then even more freezing when the sun finally sets, earlier and earlier now the clocks were turned back.

From his spot on the sideline, TB was perfectly comfortable. When he did go sit in the stands for a little while, he went to the upper deck, to make sure the sun was still shining on him.

He spent the first, third and fourth quarters in the sunshine of the Princeton sideline.

Princeton trailed 23-17 in the third quarter, first and goal at the seven. After an incomplete pass, Epperly ran left, directly at where TigerBlog was standing, and turned the corner, diving to the pylon. It appeared to be a touchdown, but the ref ruled that he had stepped out at the two.

Epperly said something like "no" when he got up and saw the ruling, which led to an older Penn fan, who was standing on the sideline as well, yelling "shut up." Epperly had to have heard him, but he never acknowledged if he did.

Instead, on the next play, he rammed his way over the goal line and well into the end zone. The extra point made it 24-23 Princeton; the Tigers never trailed again.

The turning point of the game actually was far, far less dramatic than that.

But TB will get to that shortly.

First, there's the matter of Epperly.

His first pass Saturday was incomplete, which meant that he wasn't going to match his 29-for-29 performance that started the Cornell game a week earlier. In fact, this wasn't going to be anything nearly as easy.

Princeton's first four drives started at the 1, 3, 4 and 5. Penn jumped out to a 16-0 lead, helped by an interception return for a touchdown off an Epperly throw.

In the end, though, the junior quarterback was too much for Penn to handle. On a day when it was a total team effort, it once again all starts with Epperly.

What did he do? He completed 32 of 45 for 268 yards and two more touchdowns, giving him 20 passing TDs for the year. He ran for 53 more yards and two more touchdowns, giving him 16 rushing TDs for the year.

Epperly is now second on Princeton's single-season passing touchdowns list, behind Doug Butler's 25 in 1983. And he's tied with Walt Snickenberger for third in rushing touchdowns in a season, behind Keith Elias with 19 and 18. With two games left, he could possibly get both records, which if he did would be among the most ridiculous things that TB can remember a Princeton athlete having accomplished.

Mostly what Epperly did against Penn was what he always does - imposed his will on the game. And so his team came all the way back and won going away.

The turning point, interestingly enough, had almost nothing to do with Epperly.

Princeton took a 17-16 lead with 1:24 left in the first half, but Penn came back and scored with 12 seconds left to make it 23-17 at the break. Worse for Princeton - the Quakers would get the ball to start the second half.

Had Penn gone down and gotten even a field goal, it would have been a two-possession lead again and the all of the momentum would be back with Penn. And the Quakers did get 15 yards on two rushes after the kickoff, making it another first down.

What happened? Billy Ragone went back to pass, was pressured and threw it away. Except he was still in the pocket. After a brief discussion, the refs ruled intentional grounding, 10 yards and loss of down. The next two plays gained one yard, and Penn would punt on the fourth down.

The Quakers would not run another play in the game with the lead.

Not that it was all Epperly. Far from it.

Princeton's defense wiped out Penn in the second half, holding the Quakers to just a field goal. And this was after Elijah Mitchell got the defensive touchdown back with an interception and return for TD of his own.

And the offense? By the end Penn was spent trying to keep up with the pace. The poor field position kept Princeton from using all of the creativity that is the hallmark of its offense, including having two and three quarterbacks on the field at the same time.

Princeton is now 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the Ivy League. The only loss was opening night to Lehigh, in a game Princeton led 22-3 before falling 29-28. TB can't help but think game fitness from playing its first game against at team playing its third might have made a big difference.

There are two weeks left, home against Yale and at Dartmouth. Neither game is a given. Far from it.

Harvard is 4-1, with Penn at home and a game at Yale. Neither of those is a given, but Harvard will be the favorite in both.

Princeton needs one win in two or one Harvard loss to clinch at least a share of the league title.

It's been an amazing fall for Princeton football.

Connor Kelley, who started at quarterback in the final game of Bob Surace's first season three years ago, sat in the postgame interview room at Penn Saturday and remembered back to those days, back when Princeton went 1-9 and 1-9.

How long ago it seems. Kelley, no long a quarterback, caught six passes for 75 yards and the final touchdown off the day, the one that came with 4:45 to go, built the lead to 12 and essentially ended it.

These days, Kelley is one of the weapons in the Princeton offensive arsenal. It's been a high-flying, exciting run so far for Princeton football in 2013.

Will it be a championship run?

The next two weeks will answer it all.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Here's A Toast

TigerBlog, as a Penn alum, is regularly asked about his rooting interest when the Quakers play Princeton. That's the first question.

The second question he's asked is what's up with the toast?

The answer to the first is "Princeton."

The answer to the second is that it comes from a song that is sung between the third and fourth quarters. It's called "Drink a Highball," and it starts out with "Drink a highball, at nightfall, dear fellows while we may."

The last line of the song is "here's a toast to dear old Penn."

When the line is sung, the tradition is for the fans to throw a piece of toast onto the field.

It started out as raising a glass in an actual toast, and the piece of bread became the substitute when alcohol was no longer allowed. As TB remembers it, that was in the 1960s or 1970s.

TB is always fascinated by the Princeton-Penn games that the bands are at, in that he knows all of the songs from both schools.

He'll hear them tomorrow when he's at Franklin Field for the Princeton-Penn football game.

To say it's a big one is too obvious.

Princeton is the lone undefeated team in the league at 4-0, followed by the only one-loss teams, Penn and Harvard. Penn follows its game with Princeton with a game next weekend at Harvard.

Should Princeton win, it would be two up on Penn with two to go (and probably one up on Harvard, who plays Columbia). Should Penn win, then there'd be a tie between the Tigers and Quakers. Harvard would join them with a win over Columbia.

Princeton's last win at Franklin Field came in 2005. It's last win over Penn came in 2006.

The scores of the last few Princeton-Penn games:
2012 - Penn 28, Princeton 21
2011 - Penn 37, Princeton 9
2010 - Penn 52, Princeton 10
2009 - Penn 42, Princeton 7

Last year's game was obviously close, and Princeton actually had some pretty good chances to win it. Penn rallied to win it, and then completed a perfect Ivy season.

Princeton-Penn football has never had the impact on either school's fan base that Princeton-Penn men's baskeball has. Nor has it been historically what Princeton-Harvard and Princeton-Yale football has been.

Princeton is trying its best to change that.

This is certainly the biggest game in the series since, well, last year, when a Princeton win would have changed the league race. Before that, it was the 2006 game.

Princeton's last win over Penn came in the same year as Princeton's last Ivy title. It was also an epic game, one of the best Princeton games ever.

If you recall, Princeton won 31-30 in two overtimes, the second of which included the famous 4th-and-goal play where Jeff Terrell took a lateral from Rob Toresco and scored and then the missed extra point by Penn that almost inadvertently turned into the winning two-point conversion.

This Princeton team is unlike any, well, ever. Right now at least, though seven games.

Princeton is completely obliterating the school's record book for points (45.1) and yards per game (544.3), and each week has been wild.

Down 17-0 to Brown? How about 39 straight points.

Showdown at Harvard? 51-48 in three OTs.

Letdown against Cornell? Quinn Epperly completes his first 29 passes.

Princeton is way more than Epperly, no matter how much attention nationally he's starting to get and no matter how great he has been.

Princeton's offense has seven players who average at least 5.5 yards per carry, including all five who have rushed at least 32 times. Amazingly, no player has carried the ball more than 81 times.

There are 16 players - three of whom are quarterbacks - who have caught a pass.

All the talk of the offense obscures the defense, which allows 24.1 points per game. Take out the Harvard game and that's 20.1 per game.

All of which brings us to tomorrow and Franklin Field.

Penn's football success has always been built around its defense. This year's team allows 23.6 points per game overall and 20.5 in Ivy League games.

On top of that, Penn comes into this one having lost 27-0 at Brown last week. The Quakers have no margin for error at all.

The whole goal of the Princeton football season is to get to the final three weeks of the season in position to play big games, championship-level games.

To that end, Princeton has clearly done that.

Now the goals get bigger for the final three weeks, none of which will be easy.

At Penn. Home with Yale. At Dartmouth.

With a lot to play for each time.

School songs? That's a draw.

The game won't be. Someone will win. And the league race will be greatly affected by which one it is.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tip Time

There are thousands of happy school kids in the state of New Jersey this week, and if like TigerBlog you grew up here, you know why.

This is The Week of the academic year for a New Jersey student.

Monday school. Tuesday off for Election Day. Wednesday school. Thursday and Friday off for the New Jersey state teachers' convention.

It was a week that TB always loved, and he assumes the average New Jersey kid feels the same way to this day.

And why not? Going back to the previous weekend, that'd be two school days in a nine-day span.

What kid doesn't love that?

Plus, when you only have two school days in more than a week, there's really not much that's going to go on then anyway, especially when the teachers are enjoying the moment nearly as much as the kids. TB heard two New Jersey teachers talking yesterday, and they were downright giddy.

TB also wonders what percentage of the teachers go to the convention and what percentage simply take a four-day weekend.

Not that he's anti-teacher in any way. It's an incredibly noble profession.

This week has taken on an entirely different meaning for TigerBlog, especially since his own kids attend school in Pennsylvania, where today and tomorrow are regular school days.

No, this is prime fall/winter overlap for Princeton Athletics, where normally busy weekends now take on a life of their own.

Princeton has 12 teams competing this weekend, of which seven are fall sports and five are winter sports.

Included in that list, amazingly, is basketball.

There was a time when the college basketball season couldn't start until Dec. 1. Not anymore.

Princeton opens the basketball season Sunday, when the men are home against Florida A&M at 1 and the women are at Rutgers at 2.

And guess what? By the time Princeton plays, four other Ivy men's teams and all seven other women's teams will have played. And the other three men's teams play within a few hours of when Princeton does.

It's not like Princeton is playing early or something in some special event.

Oh, there are those too. Take TB's favorite non-Princeton college basketball team, Georgetown. The Hoyas open their season tomorrow night against Oregon. Where, you ask? On a military base in South Korea.

It should be a fascinating year for both the Princeton men and women.

The men have to replace the Ivy League Player of the Year, Ian Hummer, who also happens to be the second-leading scorer in program history behind only Bill Bradley, as well as Mack Darrow and Brendan Connolly. Without them, Princeton has been picked fourth in the league's preseason poll, which gives the Tigers a chance to play without the pressure of being a favorite on their backs.

Princeton once again has a big team, with seven players at least 6-8 and all but one player on the roster at 6-2 or taller.

The preseason favorite in Ivy men's baskeball is Harvard, and much has been made about the Crimson's basketball success. There will come a time in the season when Harvard becomes the focus, but first there is a pretty good few months of a non-league games.

That is, after all, one of the by-products of starting so early. It seems like the Ivy League games are 100 years away.

Princeton's first Ivy game is actually two months and one day from the season opener. Between now and that game at Penn, Princeton will travel to Butler (for a game next Saturday) and then places like Houston (to play at Rice) and Las Vegas (to play Pacific and Portland). There are also shorter trips to Rutgers, Penn State, Bucknell and Liberty.

The home schedule has the opener against the Rattlers, as well as Lafayette, George Mason, Kent, FDU and the Division III opponent, Kean.

As for the women, they are again the preseason favorite, though they go forward without Niveen Rasheed and the three other graduates - Kate Miller, Meg Bowen and Lauren Polansky.

Princeton has won four straight Ivy League championships, but TB assumes most league coaches were circling this year as the year that Princeton comes back to Earth. Why wouldn't they, considering Rasheed is the best player Princeton has ever had (and one of the three best in Ivy women's basketball history), the other three were major contributors and the added fact that Princeton graduated three 1,000-point scorers (Addie Micir, Devona Allgood and Lauren Edwards) the two years prior.

But Princeton is hardly out of talent. And TB senses that there is the feeling of something to prove this year.

The home schedule includes games against 2013 NCAA teams Marist, Delaware and St. Joe's, as well as perennially strong Illinois State. There are trips to, among other places, Georgetown, Oregon (to take on Portland State and Oregon), Charlottesville (a tournament that opens with Alabama and includes Virginia and Coppin State), Navy and Drexel.

It seems insanely early to be thinking about regular season college basketball games, but that's what time of year it is now.

Personally, TB liked it better when the schedule started later, at least after Thanksgiving.

It's here now, though.

What kind of March will it be for the Princeton men and women?

Well, the long, grinding march to find out begins Sunday.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fedun Scores

TigerBlog is trying to remember how many NHL games he's been to in his life.

He remembers going to an Edmonton Oilers-Philadelphia Flyers game at the Spectrum in 1980 or so, back when Wayne Gretzky was just breaking into the league after having played in the World Hockey Association, which didn't quite make it.

TB was there with two of his friends, and they found their seats and watched the first period. Then the people whose seats they really were came, pushing TB and his friends up to the third level of the building, whcih TB didn't even realize existed at the time.

He went to a Red Wings-Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. He saw the Sabres and Capitals at the Capital Center, the arena in Landover, Md., where Washington played before the Verizon Center was built. He's also gone to two games at the Verizon Center, courtesy of Kurt Kehl, who used to work in the OAC and is now a big-shot in the Caps organization.

Oh, and there was a Sabres-Islanders game at the Nassau Coliseum. That was also a long time ago.

And that's it, TB believes.

TB doesn't go to too many professional sporting events these days. He has his hands full with the college variety.

In his lifetime he's gone to way more Major League Baseball games than anything else, in part because of his two summers as a vendor at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. He went to a lot of games in his life at Shea Stadium, and some at the old Yankee Stadium.

He's been to a few NFL games, either at Giants Stadium or the Vet, and a bunch of NBA basketball, also at the Spectrum, MSG or the Meadowlands.

In other words, most of his professional sports attendance experience is at stadiums and arenas that no longer exist.

That's sort of sad, no?

Actually, TB doesn't even really watch too much professional sports on TV. He hasn't even seen much of the NFL this fall.

He definitely wasn't watching the Florida Panthers host the Edmonton Oilers last night, not on TV or computer or anything. And so he missed the first NHL goal by Princeton alum Taylor Fedun, who scored in his first NHL game.

TB did seek out the highlight this morning, and he found it on

Fedun seems sort of happy after the goal, what with a wide ear-to-ear smile.

The Oilers won the game 4-3, on Marc Arcobello's overtime goal. It was Arcobello's second goal of the game - and of his career as well.

And where did he go to college? Yale.

In other words, Edmonton won a game last night in which three of its four goals were scored by two players who had never scored a goal in the NHL before. And they were both Ivy League grads.

Has to be something of a first, TB would guess.

As for the two schools, they play each other Friday night in Princeton's home opener. It'll actually be the second meeting of the year between Princeton and Yale, after the teams met in a non-conference game at the Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center - another arena TB has never been to - two weeks ago. Yale won that one 3-2.

Princeton has played four games and is 1-3, and all four games have been decided by either one or two goals. Princeton also hosts Brown Saturday night.

Yale, of course, won the NCAA championship in men's hockey last year. The Bulldogs and Tigers met three times, and though Yale won all three, there were two one-goal games and a two-goal game.

TigerBlog has said on many occasions that Baker Rink is a great place to see a game and could very well be the best gameday venue at Princeton.

It's even better when a rival like Yale is in town.

As for Fedun and Arcobello, TB can't imagine they won't have some sort of friendly wager on the game.

And they'll always have the bond from last night, when the two Ivy Leaguers got their first career goals in the same game.

Good for both of them.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Perfectly Done

Miss TigerBlog and TigerBlog Jr. have played on more than their share of sports teams in their young lives.

For TigerBlog's money - and in the current culture, there's been a lot of it - youth and high school sports are about the best avenue for co-curricular development that kids can have.

They teach all sorts of lessons that are unlearnable in other avenues. Teamwork. Self-discipline. Commitment. Physical and mental fitness.

They keep kids out of trouble. They build character and self-esteem. They bring joy. They create memories that last forever.

They get kids off couches, away from computers and video games and cell phones and texting and isolation. They force kids to form actual human relationships.

They push kids. They teach the kind of lessons about success and failure that are invaluable. They show that if kids want to achieve, they have to work at it, and then work harder at it.

MTB and TBJ have experienced all of these things for years, and the benefits they get from them are enormous.

They've also been fortunate to play on many more good teams than bad ones, though there have been some that have been awful.

Until last week, neither had been part of a team that had a perfect season. Then Miss TigerBlog's middle school field hockey team put the cap on its own perfect run, finishing up 11-0 with a 2-0 win over its big rival in the season finale.

TB lost track somewhere along the line, but he thinks that MTB's team outscored its opponents by a combined 35-1. He's positive the team allowed one goal for the year, and in 11 games, there were maybe six or seven shots total by the opponents.

They were definitely fun to watch. Successful teams usually are. TB was one of several loyal fans throughout the season, and among the others was the grandfather of one of the players who in the beginning of the season was a novice on the sport's more complex rules and by the end was explaining them to the others.

What made this team most special was that it was truly a team effort.

There wasn't one big goal scorer - in fact, maybe 15 or so girls had at least one goal on the year. They shared the ball remarkably well for a middle school team, using a series of passes to move the ball up the field when necessary, rather than having one kid whack it.

Middle school field hockey is played on natural grass fields, usually bumpy ones. It's a far cry from the pristine artificial turf of college field hockey, and it makes it harder for the ball to travel a long distance.

It also makes it riskier to play the ball backwards and reverse it to the other side to bring it forward, something that makes the college game so fast. The tendency in middle school is to have too many players close to the ball, because it's not going to travel that far, but MTB's team did an outstanding job of keeping the field spread and moving the ball, even on the grass.

One thing TB has loved about field hockey on that level is that it's impossible to have one player simply take the ball down the field and shoot it, like it is in basketball or lacrosse or, while not exactly the same thing, football.

In field hockey, one player can only advance it so far before it has to be shared. In other words, it forces kids to learn to play as a team. The way that MTB's middle school team did it, though, exceeded what could be expected from a group that age.

The college game is so lighting fast compared to what happens on grass fields. The game today is so much more athletic than when TB used to watch Princeton play on Gulick Field, the grass field that sat above Lourie-Love Field and was the old home for Princeton field hockey before Class of 1952 Stadium was built.

Princeton finished the home portion of its schedule this past weekend with wins over Cornell and Rider.

In fact, the only game remaining on the regular season schedule is the one Saturday at Penn, and it's sort of a big one.

Princeton is 6-0 in the Ivy League, while Penn - with a loss to Columbia - is 5-1. Princeton has clinched at least a share of the league title, which means 19 Ivy League field hockey championships in the last 20 years.

That won't be much of a consolation prize for the Tigers should they lose to Penn Saturday (the game starts at noon).

A Penn win would mean a co-championships. A Princeton win would mean an outright championship.

The automatic bid to the NCAA tournament is the prize that the winner of the game gets. Should Penn win, the Quakers would have won the head-to-head matchup even if they're co-champs. If Princeton wins, it's an outright title, a perfect one at that.

Princeton of course is the defending NCAA field hockey champion, a title won last year by defeating Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina in the final three rounds of the NCAA tournament. A repeat would be difficult, but the game Saturday itself is first and foremost right now.

Even a year ago, when Princeton won it all, the Tigers weren't perfect on the year. They were only 21-1.

Perfect seasons in general rarely happen. There can be no bad days, no slip ups.

MTB's team did it, going 11-0. Even for middle school field hockey, being perfect isn't easy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

29 For 29

The Cornell band started its halftime show a few seconds late and ran a little past when it was supposed to be finished.

Then the Princeton band did the same.

TigerBlog, in the PA booth, had an eye on the stadium clock, knowing that the Dick Kazmaier halftime ceremony had to be done with four minutes left before the start of the second half.

TB knew the Kazmaier video would be 54 seconds, accompanied by the Princeton's band's version of "The Orange and Black." Actually, it came out even better than TB could have envisioned during the planning stages.

As the band played, the members of Kazmaier's family and Kazmaier's teammates who had gathered for the ceremony were escorted onto the field.

And then it was TB's turn to read the script. Except he also knew it would be too long to read the whole thing.

So he improvised, cutting some stuff on the fly and ad-libbing the end, when he asked the crowd to give Kazmaier not a moment of silence but instead a standing ovation.

One of the parts he cut was the mention of how Kazmaier had gone 15 for 17 against Cornell in 1951, setting a school single-game completion record that stood until that day.

TB cut it from the script. Quinn Epperly cut it from the record book.

After 62 years as the school record, Kazmaier's 88.2% was finally topped by Epperly, who had a magical Saturday afternoon on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

Epperly completed 32 of 35 passes, a single-game percentage of 91.4, which is, well, really ridiculous. Epperly's passes accounted for 325 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and for good measure he added 11 carries for 69 yards and three more touchdowns.

In the process, he wowed all 12 NFL scouts who were at the game with his performance, which was incredible.

Oh yeah. TB forgot to mention that Epperly completed his first 29 passes - that's 29 for 29 to start the game - to set an NCAA record. Twenty-nine for twenty-nine.

Going back to the Harvard game the previous week, Epperly completed 31 straight passes.

TB would guess that completing 31 straight or 29 straight passes even without a defense on the field would be tough enough.

Kazmaier's performance in 1951 against Cornell - 15 for 17, for 236 yards and three touchdowns with 18 carries for 124 yards and two more touchdowns - came in a matchup of unbeatens, and Princeton won 53-15 that day. It also propelled Kazmaier to the Heisman Trophy.

Epperly won't be winning the Heisman Trophy this year, but TigerBlog can't imagine any college football player is playing any better.

How about his last two games?

Combining Harvard and Cornell, Epperly went 69 for 85 (81.2%) for 646 yards and nine touchdowns and no interceptions, with 30 carries for 156 yards and three touchdowns mixed in.

Consider his season to date:
passing - 125 for 167, 1,400 yards, 18 touchdowns, one interception
rushing - 72 carries, 422 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 14 touchdowns

In keeping with the Kazmaier theme, Epperly has thrown 42 incomplete passes all season. His completion percentage is 74.9; the school record is 68.2, by Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett in 1988. The school record for lowest interception percentage is held by Joel Foote, who threw one interception in 131 passes in 1992. Epperly has thrown one in 167 passes.

The FCS record for completion percentage in a season, by the way, is 75.2, set by Northern Iowa's Eric Sanders in 2007.

Epperly is leading an offense that put up 53 points and 605 yards against the Big Red. It marked the fourth time in seven games this year that Princeton has reached at least 50 points; the Tigers did so four times since the middle of the 1965 season.

Nineteen-sixty five, that is.

Princeton is averaging 45.1 points and 544.3 yards per game, both of which would obliterate the school single-season records.

And what does it all mean?

Well, it means that Princeton is the lone undefeated team in the Ivy League at 4-0, followed by 3-1 Penn and 3-1 Harvard. Penn had been unbeaten until losing to Brown 27-0 Saturday. Everyone else has at least two league losses.

Princeton's schedule is not easy the rest of the way, beginning Saturday at Penn and continuing home with Yale and then at Dartmouth. Those happen to be the top three defensive teams in the league in scoring defense.

This will hardly be a cruise to the Ivy League championship for the Tigers, who, let's remember, were 1-9 two years ago (and three years ago) and 5-5 a year ago.

Princeton has gone from a team that struggled to get wins to a team that couldn't be more fun to watch. The man leading the way on the field is Epperly, who has become a can't-take-your-eyes-off-him-at-any-time performer.

Princeton is now 6-1 overall, 4-0 in the Ivy League. There are three weeks to go.

Three huge weeks. Three exciting weeks.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Princeton vs. Cornell x 9

By far the most creative trick-or-treaters of the night were the last two.

At first, it appeared that there was only one, a teenage boy, dressed as a hunter. As TigerBlog answered the door, the kid said that there had been a report of zombies in the area.

Just as TB began to process that, the second kid jumped out from behind the bushes, dressed as a zombie. It was a tad startling, TB will admit.

The first kid then "attacked" the second kid, presumably saving TB's house from the zombie menace. TB was so impressed he had them take extra candy.

Performance trick or treating with a zombie theme. Good stuff.

Most of the trick-or-treaters were little kids, dressed in all kinds of wholesome costumes. Of course, maybe they just appeared wholesome; after all, when Miss TigerBlog was still Little Miss TigerBlog, the most popular costume was "Hannah Montana."

If you care, which you probably don't, TB didn't have a single piece of candy.

And that's that for Halloween 2013.

Now it's time to shift attention from orange and black to Orange and Black vs. Big Red.

The last time TigerBlog saw a Princeton-Cornell game, it was the semifinals of the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament, when Mike McDonald scored seven goals, Kip Orban ripped one of the most unstoppable shots ever and Princeton won 14-13 in overtime in one of the best games TB has ever seen.

He doubts the Princeton-Cornell rivalry will match that night back in May this weekend, but it certainly won't be lacking in opportunities.

You think Princeton played Harvard a lot last weekend, when they got together five times? Princeton and Cornell meet in nine sports in the next 35 or so hours.

Eight sports:

men's hockey (tonight in Ithaca)
women's hockey (tonight at 7 at Baker Rink)
men's and women's cross country (tomorrow at 11 and noon at West Windsor Fields as part of the Ivy League Heptagonal championships)
field hockey (tomorrow at noon on Bedford Field)
football (tomorrow at 1 on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium)
men's soccer (tomorrow at 4 on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium)
women's volleyball (tomorrow at 5 at Dillon Gym)
women's soccer (tomorrow at 7 on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium)

Yup. Nine sports competing against Cornell in two days.

TigerBlog would put Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse up there with any rivalry in any Ivy League sport right now, maybe even at the top. In general, though, Princeton-Cornell isn't quite what Princeton-Penn or Princeton-Harvard-Yale are to most Princeton fans.

Still, all league rivalries are big, and this weekend features some huge events between the Tigers and Big Red. And TB cannot imagine there are too many other instances of two colleges meeting in nine sports in two days.

The rain that soaked TigerBlog on the way from the parking lot to the building has stopped, and the sun is supposed to shine all weekend on the greater Princeton metropolitan area.

Of the nine events, five directly impact the Ivy League championship race - the two cross country races, men's soccer, field hockey and football.

Princeton is 3-0 in the league in football after last weekend's riveting 51-48 three OT win over Harvard. Princeton and Penn are the only unbeatens in the league right now.

A year ago, Princeton was also 3-0 after a win over Harvard and then lost three of the last four, starting in Ithaca.

So what is different this year? Cornell still has Jeff Mathews, who recently passed Tiger offensive coordinator James Perry as the league's all-time passing yardage leader. Mathews has had great games in his career against Princeton, throwing for 998 in three games, one of which was in a driving snowstorm, ironically enough, not in Ithaca but rather Princeton two years ago,

But this isn't the same Princeton team. A year ago, Princeton was coming off back to back 1-9s and just figuring out how to be competitive. This year, Princeton is better both physically and mentally and probably more able to handle the week after the huge win and before the big game at Penn next week.

Tomorrow will tell, of course.

Conventional wisdom is that it's going to be a high-scoring game, as Princeton's offense has been rolling and Mathews can usually be counted on to put up big numbers himself. Add in perfect weather conditions and that's certainly possible.

Either way, it's a huge moment for the Tigers. At the very least, a win would improve the Tigers to 6-1 overall and guarantee the first winning record for the program since its 2006 Ivy League championship. Hey, when you were 1-9 and 1-9 two and three years ago, that's not something to take for granted.

Of course, that's not what the Tigers are thinking. They're thinking big.

One Saturday at a time. The test this weekend is big. Big Red actually.

In football and eight other sports.