Friday, September 19, 2014

Opening Out West

TigerBlog starts his Friday with a good trivia question: Name the only six teams Princeton has opened its football season with in the last 60 years?

This doesn't count San Diego, whom Princeton opens with tomorrow at 4 pm Eastern time.

So go back 60 years and come up with the six teams. TigerBlog will give you a few paragraphs to come up with it, as always.

In the meantime, here's something TigerBlog has been meaning to share since he first read it a week or two ago. It's a link to John McPhee's story in "The New Yorker" about his experiences growing up around Princeton football, and, like everything by John McPhee, it's well worth your time to read it.

So click HERE to read it.

The 2014 season will be Princeton's 17th in Princeton Stadium. It spent 83 in Palmer Stadium. That means that it's been 100 years since Palmer Stadium opened.

In fact, Game 1 in Palmer Stadium was played on Oct. 24, 1914, which means that this year's Harvard game will be one day after the 100th anniversary of the day the old stadium opened.

TigerBlog spent a lot of Saturdays in Palmer Stadium, all at the end of its long life as the home of Princeton football. He has nice memories of the place, even if it was a zero frills building by the end. Or, for that matter, in the begining, TB assumes.

Mr. McPhee has a much stronger connection to Palmer Stadium than TigerBlog does. Much, more stronger.

His father was the team physician for Princeton football (and the U.S. Olympic team at one point). John McPhee grew up around Princeton football, with access to the players, coaches and program that any little kid at the time would have loved. It comes out in his recent magazine piece, and it makes TigerBlog think about what Palmer Stadium must have been all about way back when.

Any picture that TigerBlog has seen of Palmer Stadium from those times was in black and white, obviously, yet it was a world of color back then as well. What did it look like on game day?

And how did Princeton distribute tickets back then? Were there event meetings like the ones that TB goes to every Tuesday?

Anyway, the answer to the trivia question is this: Lehigh, Lafayette, Rutgers, Dartmouth, Cornell and the Citadel.

TigerBlog only got five of them right when he was asked. He completely forgot the games against the Citadel.

The 2014 opener is in California, against a San Diego team that is 1-1, with a win over Western New Mexico and a loss to Jacksonville.

Princeton left yesterday afternoon on a charter flight from Philadelphia to San Diego. It's an exciting trip for the players, and it's a logistical challenge for those who had to put it together.

Still, it's a great experience all around.

Princeton comes home for its first game on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium next Saturday, when it hosts Davidson at 6. There are fireworks after the game.

This is expected to be a season of fireworks, both the literal kind after the first home game and the figurative kind on the field during games. Princeton has the bulk of its offense back after last year's explosion of points and yards, both of which set Ivy League records.

The leader of the show is Quinn Epperly, the reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year who is back for his senior year as Princeton's quarterback. Or, more precisely, one of Princeton's quarterbacks.

Princeton's scheme is built around using multiple quarterbacks at the same time. And multiple running backs. And multiple receivers.

Princeton went 8-2 a year ago, losing its opener (to Lehigh) and its finale (in the snow at Dartmouth) and winning eight straight in between. Princeton reached at least 50 points five times in those eight games; Princeton didn't reach 50 points five times going back, oh, pretty much to the time that John McPhee was a kid.

The big win last year was a 51-48 win over Harvard, the team that Princeton would tie for the league championship. This year, those two are picked to finish 1-2 in the league, and they got every first- and second-place vote in the preseason poll.

It's been awhile since Princeton has gone into a football season with so much, well, let's call it cautious optimism. It has depth. It has speed. It has size. It has experience. It has newcomers pushing to get on the field. It has an established coaching staff and system. It's bigger than any single one of its players, including Epperly.

It has its question marks. Princeton sent two defensive linemen to the NFL in two years and has some rebuilding to do on that side of the ball. The rest of the league has had a year to figure out the multi-quarterback sets; will that make a difference?

Still, there is a lot to be excited about as 2014 kicks off, even if it is 3,000 miles away.

It's the start of 10 games in 10 weeks. It's been a long wait. Now the sprint begins.

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