Monday, October 12, 2015

Spreading The Wealth

From his view in the PA booth, TigerBlog could see the receiver get free and make the catch in the end zone.

Then she went into a little dance. Yeah. She.

This was during the Fifth Quarter, which followed the first four on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium Saturday. This was shortly after Princeton's 44-20 win over Colgate, one that improved the Tigers to 4-0 on the year.

It's the first time Princeton is perfect through four weeks since the 2006 season, which ended in a co-championship. Before that, it was 1995, the previous 4-0 start.

There was the 1995 team on Powers Field Saturday, out there with their children, stretching from 15-yard line to 15-yard line. That's a lot of people.

That was at halftime, though, when the 1995 team was honored on the 20th anniversary of their outright Ivy League championship.

TigerBlog wants to start with the Fifth Quarter. He's not sure who the girl was, but from far away she looked to be about 7 or 8. She was running a pass route against what looked like her brother, and she lost him just long enough to have her dad get her the ball.

It was a beautiful All-American scene, the kind that the Fifth Quarter is supposed to produce. And it came on a picture perfect, couldn't-beat-it early fall day for football.

The part that made TigerBlog chuckle was when he thought he should look on the roster to see if she was on it. Certainly enough other players whose names he hadn't called before had gotten on Powers Field. Why not her?

Princeton was without several of its top players due to injuries. And the best way to overcome injuries is the way that Princeton football does it. Play a lot of people all the time. Then you have players ready to step up when the need arises.

TigerBlog has no idea how many players Princeton used in the win over Colgate. And he's not talking about players who went into the game in the last few minutes.

He's talking about the first quarter. The first half. How many rotated through all over the field?

Princeton had three players throw a pass, five players carry from scrimmage and 10 players catch a pass.

If TigerBlog counted correctly, then 24 players made at least one tackle. Twenty-four? That's a ton.

Play after play, there were new numbers on the field. TigerBlog isn't sure how many times he had to go check to see who someone was.

It's not always an easy way to play. For starters, people have to buy into it.

Roles are important in sports. If you have a team where everyone thinks they should be playing more, that's a problem.

More than any other team TigerBlog has seen, Princeton football under Bob Surace has done a great job of getting buy-in into the share-the-wealth philosophy. It helped Princeton roll up the Ivy League's top offense of all time in 2013, when the Tigers won their most recent league championship.

Now, through four games, Princeton is averaging 36.5 points per game and 447.8 yards per game, numbers that are skewed down by last week's 10-5 win over Columbia in the driving rainstorm.

Minus that game, and Princeton is averaging 516 yards per game. And 45.3 points. Both of those numbers exceed the 2013 record totals.

Those numbers have come on a team where nobody has more than 55 carries or caught more than 11 passes. Yet seven players have at least 10 carries, and 16 players have caught a pass.

Princeton's offense is fun to watch.

TigerBlog's favorite play is the one where one quarterback hands it to another, who then throws to a third. In general, there's the idea of having two or three quarterbacks on the field together.

It's remarkably simple, yet nobody in football really does it. The premise is that there are multiple players who are able to run and throw and catch, and it makes it harder to defend.

Of course, you need players who can do all three. And yes, you're opening up your quarterbacks to more hits than most teams like.

But how did it work against Colgate? Princeton had nearly 600 yards of offense, and John Lovett scored four touchdowns. On most teams, he'd be the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback and as such maybe never get on the field.

Up next for Princeton is a game at Brown, the start of six Ivy games in six weeks.

Princeton, Harvard and Dartmouth are all unbeaten, and all three have looked like the best team in the league at various times. Princeton plays at Harvard in two weeks and at Dartmouth on the final Saturday of the season.

The 2015 season won't end like the 1995 season did, with a tie in the last game.

Princeton is hoping that the other part - the championship part - repeats itself. There's still a long way to go.

Through four weeks, though, Princeton is unbeaten - and a lot of fun to watch. 

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