Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Princeton Loves Penn, Princeton Loves Penn

TigerBlog is pretty sure that you're more in love with Penn now than you were Friday, when he first suggested you were.

TigerBlog certainly is.

Back when the weekend started, the Princeton football team couldn't win a piece of the Ivy League championship without a Harvard loss in one of its last two games. It was mathematically impossible.

Whatever else could happen, no Harvard loss, no championship.

Harvard had two games left, this past Friday at Penn and then this coming Saturday against Yale. Harvard will be a prohibitive favorite against Yale, so that really meant Princeton needed Penn to come through.

For about 54 minutes or so, it looked like it was no problem for the Quakers. The defense was in complete control. The offense was doing enough.

Penn led 14-6, but it felt like more. Except it wasn't.

Back came Harvard, first with a touchdown drive and then with a two-point conversion that featured a direct snap to a running back and a pass by a receiver to a quarterback, making it 14-14 with 3:23 to go.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that most Princeton fans had an "oh no" gasp and feeling that the Tigers' best chance had come and gone. Penn quarterback Alek Torgersen had other ideas.

All Torgersen did from there was go 8 for 10 for 80 yards, the last two of which came for a touchdown to Justin Watson with 15 seconds left. The touchdown, by the way, was Torgersen's 51st, a school record, so congratulations to him.

Penn would then tack on another TD on the final play on a fumble return. Final score? Penn 27, Harvard 14.

Say it with TigerBlog: Princeton loves Penn, Princeton loves Penn, Princeton loves Penn.

That was Friday night.

TigerBlog saw the end of the game on TV. He also saw on Twitter that Princeton's women's volleyball team had a great rally from 5-0 down in Game 5 against Cornell to pull out a 3-2 victory at Dillon Gym.

Had Princeton lost that one and Yale won its match at Harvard, the Tigers would have been tied with the Bulldogs heading into the final night of the regular season. Instead, Princeton got its win and then the help that made its life easier, as Harvard rallied as well to beat Yale.

That made Princeton the outright Ivy League champion. There was a great video on Twitter that showed the team's reaction to learning Harvard had won and that the Tigers were headed to the NCAA tournament:

That moment when live stats tells @PrincetonVolley that they are the OUTRIGHT @IvyLeague champion and NCAA-bound! pic.twitter.com/ntnXtMiLc2
— Princeton Tigers (@PUTIGERS) November 12, 2016

Meanwhile, back at football, Penn's win gave Princeton a clearer path to a share of the championship. No longer was Harvard unbeaten, as they and Penn were now 5-1.

Princeton had beaten Penn but lost to Harvard. Penn had lost to Princeton but beaten Harvard. Doing the rest of the math, Harvard had beaten Penn but lost to Princeton.

None of the three had lost a game to another team in the league. If that continued, there'd be a three-way tie for the league championship for the second straight year.

So now, all Princeton had to do was come back a few hours later in New Haven and take on Yale, in the 139th meeting against the Bulldogs, an opponent who came in 2-6 but would do anything to prevent one, or, even better, both of its most bitter rivals from winning a championship. The perfect end for the season for Yale would be an outright Penn title - because Yale beat Princeton and Harvard to end the year.

This wasn't going to be easy for Princeton. It's easy to say "hey, we got the help we needed" and lose focus on what's next. In this case, for the Tigers, there was Saturday's game at Yale and then the season finale at home against Dartmouth this Saturday.

Win both, and it's an Ivy championship.

Princeton checked off the first box, defeating Yale 31-3 Saturday. The Tigers did it by continuing to do what they've been doing of late - playing ridiculous defense. Make that "championship-level" defense.

In Princeton's last three games since the Harvard loss, the Tigers have allowed seven, zero and now three points. Princeton is now also 5-1 in the Ivy League, and four of the six Ivy opponents have scored seven points or fewer.

Yale's only points came on a field goal that capped a four-yard drive, after the Bulldogs took over on the Tiger 11 after an interception. No matter.

In fact, Princeton has allowed one touchdown and one field goal in its opponents last 44 drives. That's nuts. 

There was also some more John Lovett, who had three more rushing touchdowns, giving him 18 for the year. The school record for rushing touchdowns in a year is 19, set by Keith Elias.

With the Yale game done, all that's left is Week 10. It'll be Harvard to host Yale and Penn at Cornell.

And Princeton home against Dartmouth. Any of the three one-loss teams that gets a win will get at least a share of the title. And yes, if all three lose there will be a three-way tie, and if only one wins, there will be an outright title.

But in all probability, there will be two or three champions.

Princeton's task is Dartmouth, a team it hasn't beaten since 2009. Given that hurdle, and where Princeton was when the weekend started, a share of the championship would be very sweet.

Win, and it's a championship season.

In Week 10 in Ivy League football, that's all you can ask.

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