Friday, November 30, 2018

First, A Second

TigerBlog suggested yesterday that Princeton has a good chance to finish in the top 10 at the end of the fall for the NACDA Directors' Cup standings, which measure overall athletic success through a formula based on NCAA championship participation and success.

Then the first rankings came out, and Princeton was ranked No. 2. That's in all of Division I.

Those rankings included only three sports - men's cross country, women's cross county and field hockey - all of which Princeton advanced in, earning significant points. Princeton will still earn additional points for the fall from the men's soccer team, the women's soccer team and the men's water polo team, all of whom reached the first round of their NCAA tournaments.

When it's all added up, TigerBlog figures he'll be right about the top 10.

The Directors' Cup is always a good barometer of where programs stand, because you can't just be good at two or three sports and do well. You need to have success across the board, and that's what has defined Princeton Athletics for a long time.

Princeton has been the highest finishing Ivy League school 22 times in the 25 years the Cup has been awarded. While that is an important accomplishment, what's more impressive to TigerBlog is how consistently well Princeton has done nationally.

Here are Princeton's ranks for each of the last 25 years:

2018 - 40
2017 - 48
2016 - 33
2015 - 41
2014 - 44
2013 - 35
2012 - 39
2011 - 38
2010 - 32
2009 - 40
2008 - 60
2007 - 63
2006 - 47
2005 - 42
2004 - 33
2003 - 34
2002 - 21
2001 - 24
2000 - 57
1999 - 31
1998 – 25
1997 – 60
1996 – 23
1995 – 29
1994  - 34

A year ago, Princeton was the only non-Power Five conference school in the top 40 in Division I. If you don't want to look through all of those numbers, then Princeton has been out of the top 50 only four times and has been as high as 21st, back in 2001-02.

The average finish has been 38.9.

Anyway, remember when TigerBlog said yesterday that he was done talking about the fall? Well, he sort of meant it, until the Directors' Cup standings came out.

It's still technically the fall, at least for a few more weeks, even though today is the final day of November. The new month will begin with a weekend that has three home events, all of which are 1) intriguing and 2) not overlapping.

In fact, the two games tomorrow couldn't be scheduled any better for Princeton fans who want to see both.

The men's basketball team is home against George Washington at 4 tomorrow, followed at 7 by the men's hockey game against Quinnipiac at Hobey Baker Rink. As you remember from yesterday, the women play tonight at home against Quinnipiac while the men are up there, with the locations to switch tomorrow.

Then, Sunday, there's another basketball game on Carril Court, this time as the women take on Davidson.

The men's game gives you another chance to see the amazing Devin Cannady, who continued his unbelievable start to his senior year with 28 more in a win at Maine Wednesday night. Cannady is now averaging 23.3 points per game, with at least 21 in all three games he's played.

His shooting numbers are insane: 22 for 37 from the field overall (.595), 14 for 24  (.583) from three-point range and 12 for 12 (you can figure this one out yourself) from the foul line. Also, he hasn't exactly been shy about shooting from very, very long distances.

You can go watch this game at 4 and then head over to the rink, where the 19th-ranked Tigers take on the 10th-ranked Bobcats in what has been a very good series in recent years. Quinnipiac and Princeton are currently sitting 1-2 in the ECAC standings, though it is very early and there is a long, long way to go.

Ryan Kuffner hasn't been scoring at quite the rate that Cannady has. That might be asking a bit much, getting 23.3 per game from a hockey player.

On the other hand, Kuffner is No. 2 in Division I in both goals per game and points per game. And his teammate Max Veronneau is fourth in Division I in assists per game and 12th in points per game.

That's men's basketball at 4 and men's hockey at 7, with a chance to see some of the best players ever to play those two sports here.

As for Sunday's game, it's a chance to see the best 1-7 team that's ever taken a basketball court, the Princeton women. The Tigers have played a brutal schedule, and they've done so with a team that has been rocked by injuries. If Princeton had its three injured players (Bella Alarie, Taylor Baur, Qalea Ismail) all season there's no way that record would be 1-7.

It's actually been fun to watch the team forced to develop in the face of that schedule and without the injured three. Maybe not fun, but certainly interesting. And Courtney Banghart and her team know how much this is going to pay off when those players are back, everyone shifts back into the right position and role and the team has a chance to get settled before the Ivy season.

So that's the weekend here. Three games in two days. All of them worth checking out.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Icy Forecast

The fall season for Princeton Athletics officially ended over the weekend, when the men's water polo team lost in overtime in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to George Washington.

Even though TigerBlog has mentioned this before, he'd like to once again quickly remind you of Princeton's athletic success from the fall season.

Excluding golf and tennis, who compete in the fall but have their championship seasons in the spring, Princeton has eight teams who play in the fall. Of those eight, five won league championships, two were runners-up and one was third.

Of the seven teams that could go on to compete in the NCAA postseason events for their sports, six made it - men's and women's cross country (both advanced as teams out of the regionals to get to the national finals), men's and women's soccer, field hockey (Final Four) and men's water polo. The one who didn't, women's volleyball, won the previous three league championships and was named as one of the first four teams out of the field, which would have been an unprecedented at-large bid for an Ivy League team.

And of course, the football team went 10-0.

TigerBlog's sense is that when the first Directors' Cup standings are announced, Princeton will be in the Top 10 nationally.

The Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points standings after the fall can be totaled now that all league play for the season is over. As a reminder, teams get eight points for first, seven points for second, on the way down, and if there is a tie, the team's split the points. For instance, Princeton and Penn were women's soccer co-champs, so both would bet 7.5 points.

Anyway, Princeton finished with 51.5 points, out of a possible total of 56. That's amazing. It's also 12.5 points better than the next-best total, put up by Dartmouth.

So yeah, the fall of 2018 for Princeton Athletics turned out to be extraordinary. At some point, TigerBlog will look up the last time an Ivy school went an entire season without having any teams finish lower than third place; his sense is it hasn't happened a lot.

And that's the fall.

The winter teams have all been competing for awhile, though none are obviously anywhere near the conclusion of their league seasons. In fact, most haven't even started competing against other league opponents.

One team that has is the women's hockey team, which has played six of its 22 ECAC regular season games and 10 of its 29 regular season games. It's not a tiny sample size, and it's enough of one to begin to think that this season could end up being a fairly special one for the Tigers.

Princeton actually gave notice on its opening weekend that it was for real, with two games at No. 1 Wisconsin that the Tigers lost 4-3 and 3-0. Yes they were losses, but Wisconsin had already played for three weeks before that, and competing on that level right out of the gate and giving, as Pete Carril always said, a good account of yourself is not easy.

Nothing that the Tigers have done since has made that trip seem like a fluke. In fact, you know what the Tigers haven't done since then? Lose. Princeton is 5-0-3 in its eight games since that trip.

Princeton has its home-and-home weekend with its travel partner Quinnipiac this weekend. Actually, the men's and women's teams both do, with the women on the ice at Hobey Baker Rink tomorrow night while the men are in Hamden and then a switch of locations for Saturday night.

Princeton is currently unbeaten in the ECAC at 4-0-2, alone in first place as the weekend approaches. St. Lawrence, at 4-0-0, has played two fewer games.

The Tigers are also the No. 10 team in Division I this week in the, which is 1) great and 2) fourth among ECAC teams. Princeton trails No. 3 Clarkson, No. 7 Cornell (whom the Tigers tied 2-2 in their most recent game, back on Nov. 17) and No. 9 St. Lawrence.

There are still four games to be played against Clarkson and St. Lawrence, and none of those are until February, first with two at Baker Rink Feb. 1 and 2 and then a regular-season ending trip to upstate New York three weeks later.

Princeton has gone from the bottom half of Division I in scoring offense last year to the top 20 percent this year, increasing its output by a full goal per game despite playing such a tough schedule. Princeton has two of the top 25 goal scorers in the country - Carly Bullock is third and Karlie Lund is 24th - and two of the top 26 in the country in assists - Sharon Frankel is 19th and Bullock is 26th. Bullock is seventh in points per game in Division I.

For all of that, what's most impressive is that Princeton has played the entire season to date without injured Steph Neatby, who as the starting goalie her first two years played more than 2,700 minutes. Each of her two replacements - Rachel McQuigge, a sophomore who had played one game last year, and Cassie Reale, a freshman - have both earned ECAC Goalie of the Week honors this season.

Princeton plays a Quinnipiac team this weekend that is 3-2-1 in the ultra-competitive league and who is always a tough opponent. The Tigers play only four games in December, with a trip next weekend to RPI and Union and non-league games at home against Merrimack (currently receiving votes in the poll) on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31.

Somewhat amazingly, the game tomorrow against Quinnipiac is Princeton's last home ECAC game until that Feb. 1-2 weekend against St. Lawrence and Clarkson. There will also be a non-league home game Jan. 29 against Penn State.

In other words, you don't have many chances coming up to see the Tigers at home.

With the way the women's hockey team has been playing, it's worth taking advantage of the opportunity while it presents itself. And admission is free. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Narrator Is A Finalist

There's something of a feel of Election Day to TAGD.

There are early results and forecasts. There are projections. The polls, as it were, are open for a finite time.

TigerBlog wrote this a year ago on the day after TAGD, and he feels like it's good enough to say again:
It's a sign of faith in the direction of the current programs, a message of approval for the athletes - and a reaffirmation of what the Princeton experience meant to so many people who have competed here through the years. Princeton Athletics clearly appreciates it.

The fifth TAGD was another great success, and TigerBlog would like to offer his thank you to everyone who made a gift. The money raised goes directly to the programs and to the experience the athletes have here as undergrads, and they benefit immediately from the generosity. They, in turn, will give back when it is their turn.

The Twitter Live feeds turned out to be fun, and fairly competitive. Marty Crotty, the men's lightweight rowing coach, defeated three other head coaches in a series of contests to advance to take on Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan in more games in the final.

If you missed it, Mollie won and Marty ended up getting the ice bucket dousing, which looked really, really, really cold. 

TigerBlog received a lot of positive feedback from the video for TAGD that was narrated by Jesper Horsted of the football team. If you didn't see that, or even if you did, you can watch it in yesterday's entry HERE.

TigerBlog will give you one of the messages he got about the video, from an alum:
I think the video is Princeton at its best. Having Horsted recite the poem was genius. This is the kind of stuff alums want to see, in my opinion. I could probably only name like 3 athletes in the video but it still made me feel connected to each of them.

That really was the point. Share the values of Princeton Athletics as captured in the poem and let people feel the connection to the athletes.

As for Horsted, he had himself a pretty good day yesterday, as he was named one of two finalists for the Asa Bushnell Cup for the Ivy League's Offensive Player of the Year.

So obviously you're rooting for Horsted after his record-setting season as a wide receiver against the other finalist, right? And who is the other finalist?

Wait. It's John Lovett, the record setting quarterback of the Princeton football team.

The Ivy League used to have one Bushnell Cup winner as the league's top player, but in 2011 it started awarding one for offense and one for defense, while announcing two finalists. This would then be Year 8 of this format, so this would be the 15th and 16th time that the league has announced finalists. It's also the first time that both are from the same school.

That's what happens when you go 10-0 and have the highest scoring offense in league history, TigerBlog supposes. 

Because one of them has to win, Princeton is guaranteed to have the winner from the offense for the third straight year, after Lovett in 2016 and Chad Kanoff last year. Lovett could become the first two-time winner from Princeton and the fifth in league history.

You can read more about Lovett and Horsted HERE.

The ceremony to determine the winner will be this coming Monday, Dec. 3, in New York City.

Between now and then there are four basketball games, by the way, two by each team. Both are home once and away once.

The home games are this weekend, as the men host George Washington Saturday at 4 and the women host Davidson Sunday at 2.

They both are on the road tonight, both tipping at 7. In addition, both are driveable from Princeton, though if you haven't left yet for the men's game, you're going to be late.

The women are at Villanova in a matchup of teams who spent some time in the sun last weekend, with Princeton in Cancun and Villanova in Orlando. This has become a very good rivalry between two teams who are used to playing in the postseason.

On the men's side, they're at Maine tonight. Maine is coached by Richard Barron, who used to coach the Princeton women's team.

And that's your fun fact for today.

And once again, a thank you for all those who participated in TAGD. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

It's TAGD Time


Check out this video (you may have to double click on it if it doesn't fully fit in your browser):

That's pretty good, right?

Actually, TigerBlog thinks it's tremendous. The narrator, of course, is Jesper Horsted of the unbeaten football team, and he did a pretty much perfect job of reciting the poem.

Oh, and what is the poem? TigerBlog's sense is that you recognize the last line and that you didn't know any of the rest of it.

The author is Grantland Rice, the most famous sportswriter of the early 20th century (and a baseball and football player at Vanderbilt before graduating in 1901). The actual poem is called "Alumnus Football," and Rice wrote it for a Vanderbilt alumni event in 1908.

The video is part of Tiger Athletics Give Day, the 24-hour fundraising event now in Year 5. And by now, TigerBlog means right now, as in it started at midnight Eastern time and will run until 11:59 Eastern time tonight.

TAGD grew out of the 150th anniversary of the first athletic event in Princeton history, a baseball game against Williams College on Nov. 22, 1864. Since its beginning, TAGD has helped Princeton Athletics raise more than $7 million, with a record $2.4 million a year ago.

Princeton Athletics uses that money to invest in the education and experience of its 1,000 student athletes and 37 varsity teams. Those athletes then use what they learn here in their educational and athletic pursuits and go off in so many different areas to make such a positive impact in their communities and globally, all fueled by their time as Princeton Tigers.

The loyalty that the experience here breeds is like nothing else that TigerBlog has seen anywhere else. There is an unspoken, but obvious, responsibility on the part of those who have come through here to give back to the next generation so that those experiences can exceed theirs.

When it came time to make the video for TAGD, TigerBlog hit upon the idea of finding some sort of historic text that spoke to the essence of sports and especially the values of Princeton Athletics. He found it in "Alumnus Football."

It actually started when he saw the very, very famous Grantland Rice lines about the 1924 Notre Dame-Army game:
Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.

Now that's writing.

That took TigerBlog to the last line of "Alumnus Football," which he thought was just a quote of sorts, not a long poem. When he looked it up, he found out that it was in fact a much longer piece.

As he read it, he thought that it was perfect. Consider some of what is said (and consider that it was 1908):
*  "Oh Boy," he said, "the main point now before you win your bout ... is keep on bucking Failure till you've worn the piker out!"
* And more than all, when you are thrown or tumbled with a crack ... don't sit there whining-hustle up and keep on coming back
* Keep coming back with all you've got, without an alibi ... if Competition trips you up or lands upon your eye
* You'll find the road is long and rough, with soft spots far apart ... where only those can make the grade who have the Uphill Heart.
* Keep coming back, and though the world may romp across your spine ... let every game's end find you still upon the battling line

That speaks to so much of what Princeton Athletics is all about. Effort. Accountability. Learning from adversity. Working hard.

Once TB had the text chosen, he and his colleagues needed to find the right narrator. In the end, he did.

If you don't recognize him, that's record-setting wide receiver Jesper Horsted of the 10-0 football team in the video. He read it exactly as TB wanted him to, getting the message across and then wrapping it up dramatically with the famous ending. 

As Jesper narrates, the video - expertly shot by John Bullis - shows you representatives of all 37 teams and 17 Friends' groups. They are the direct beneficiaries of the support that has been shown on TAGD thus far, and anyone can see the pride that these athletes have with the opportunity to represent Princeton.

Today is TAGD. It's a fundraising day, one that is very competitive among the Friends groups and coaches as they compete to win the various brackets. It's also a lot of fun for everyone - fun and competitive puts it squarely in Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan's wheelhouse.

Speaking of Mollie, you'll be able to see her on the three Twitter Live productions for TAGD - at noon, 3 and 7. In addition to commenting on how the day is going, Mollie will also be part of a series of games and contests that will feature four Princeton coaches, with the winner to take on the AD. There's a possible ice bucket dousing in it for Mollie, depending on how it goes.

Princeton Athletics appreciates all of the support it gets from its alums and supporters all year, and on TAGD. There are so many positives that come out of that support, and they all directly impact some of the best young people you'll meet anywhere.

In the meantime, watch the video - and listen to the words. 

Even 110 years later, Grantland Rice had it correct.

Monday, November 26, 2018

TAGD Tomorrow


It dawns on TigerBlog that this is the longest he goes each year without writing.

He comes to you every day, except for Saturdays and Sundays. And Monday holidays. And Christmas and New Year's. Other than that, he's here every day, with only this four-day Thanksgiving break as the exception.

Did you miss him?

TigerBlog hopes everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend.

He hopes it was full of turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie, or whatever else might be your favorite. And leftovers. And, as he said last week, perhaps a little time to consider what it is you're thankful for this year.

TB's holiday started Wednesday night, when he was doing the radio with Patrick McCarthy for the men's basketball game against Fairleigh Dickinson. Late in the game, TB mentioned that in all the time he's been working with Princeton men's basketball - 30 years now - he couldn't think of a player who looked like he was having more fun playing the game than Devin Cannady does.

Maybe it's because over time you lose track of just how much some of the older players seemed to be enjoying themselves. Certainly Kit Mueller did, for instance.

The more he thinks about it, though, he's going with Cannady. He just exudes joy at all times on the court, mixing it with confidence and skill to form a dominant player who has had a great career.

Cannady missed Princeton's first two games this year due to injury, but he has come back in a big way. He had 21 against FDU in his first appearance, a loss at Jadwin before Thanksgiving.

Included in that performance was a three-point shot that saw his back heel just about touching the Tigers' whiskers on the logo at halfcourt. He took this shot in the flow of the offense, swishing it through like it was nothing.

He didn't quite beat his best in his second game, at least not just in terms of points scored. Cannady followed up his first game with 21 more in Saturday's 60-57 win over Monmouth, but that doesn't quite tell the story. Cannady had three at the half and then 18 more after the break, including the Tigers' final 11 of the game, all in the final 3:38, as he rallied his team from down 10 with nine minutes left.

He snapped a 55-55 tie with a three-pointer with 40 seconds left and then, after Monmouth got it back to 58-57, he made two clutch foul shots with 12 seconds left.

Cannady, for his two games, is obviously averaging 21.0 points. He's also shooting .600 from three-point range (9 for 15) and has made all three of his foul shots.

Cannady now has 1,266 career points, 12th best all-time at Princeton. He needs to average just short of 15 per game to move all the way up to second place (somewhat fascinatingly, he just moved past the halfway point of the 2,503 that Bill Bradley scored).

Oh, and why did TigerBlog use the phrase "beat his best" a few paragraphs ago? That's been one of the themes the last week on the social media lead-up to tomorrow, which is the annual Tiger Athletics Give Day, or TAGD.

Like this:
The other theme is that this is the fifth TAGD. Like this:
Five already?

The first TAGD grew out of the celebration of the first athletic event in school history, back on Nov. 22, 1864. That was a baseball game against Williams, which Princeton won 27-16. Yes. Baseball.

Since then, Princeton Athletics has raised more than $7 million dollars, which goes directly to benefit 37 varsity teams and especially the experience of the 1,000 student-athletes.

The competition on TAGD is fun, but serious. The teams and Friends' groups are competing against each other for total dollars raised and total donors, in four different brackets. There are also bonus funds for breaking existing records for each Friends' group in both categories.

You know. Beat your best.

TAGD is a 24-hour fundraising event. Only gifts made from midnight tonight Eastern time through 11:59 PM count towards the totals.

There's much more information available on the TAGD website, the link to which TB put at the very top. Included in there is the way to give, but don't do it until tomorrow.

Then you can help Princeton beat its best.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An Epic Fall

Before anything else today, TigerBlog would like to remind you that there is a home men's basketball game tonight, at 7, against Fairleigh Dickinson.

It's a great chance for some pre-Thanksgiving entertainment.

Now that he's reminded you of that, TigerBlog was on I-95 on his way to Princeton yesterday when he glanced at the car next to him and saw a man wearing a Todd Gurley Los Angeles Rams jersey.

He gave the guy a thumbs up.

If, like TigerBlog, you stayed up all the way to the end of the Monday Night Football game to see the end of the Rams' 54-51 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in a matchup of 9-1 teams, then you saw quite possibly the best regular-season NFL game of all time.

It was the first time in NFL history that a team scored 50 and lost. There were 1,001 yards of offense, of which 827 came through the air. There were 14 touchdowns, of which three were defensive TDs.

Mostly it was a showcase of two of the best young quarterbacks in the league - KC's Patrick Mahomes and LA's Jared Goff.

Will these teams play again in the Super Bowl? If so, could they come close to matching this one?

Of course Princeton football season has come and gone, and the Tigers were a perfect 10-0. The All-Ivy team was released yesterday, and Princeton had nine first-team selections and 18 overall.

TB was a bit stunned to see that Jesper Horsted somehow wasn't a unanimous first-team selection, but hey, if that's his biggest complaint for a football season, he can deal with it.

The football season was extraordinary, but it was hardly the only story in Princeton Athletics this fall. In fact, it's hard to imagine too many seasons have ever been better than the one that isn't quite compete just yet. 

Princeton has eight teams that compete for league championships, and here's the rundown:
* five championships
* two runners-up
* one third place

And the team that finished third, women's cross country, turned around from that and finished second in a loaded NCAA regional to reach the NCAA finals, where the Tigers finished 21st in the country. The men's cross country team, the Ivy champ, won its regional and finished 22nd nationally.

The two teams that finished second were the field hockey team, which got revenge on Ivy-champ Harvard with a 2-1 win to get to the NCAA Final Four, and the women's volleyball team, which fell one game short of Yale and which had won three straight championships prior to that.

Yes, it's been quite a fall.

TigerBlog still hasn't had a chance to mention the Princeton-Michigan men's soccer opening round NCAA tournament game, played this past Thursday on a snowy night in Ann Arbor (while it was also a snowy night in New Jersey). Ivy champ Princeton and Michigan were even at 1-1 after regulation and two overtimes, so the game officially is recorded as a tie.

Ah, but someone had to advance to the next round, and so what do they do in this situation? Penalty kicks.

This is a horrible way to decide a game, TB has always said. Keep playing until someone scores. If you know you can't advance without scoring, you're going to play to score. Do what field hockey does - take four players off the field, and someone will score quickly.

Instead, it was PKs. The team that is ahead after five wins, and then after that it becomes sudden death. Princeton and Michigan went through 14 grueling, excruciating rounds before the Wolverines won 11-10.

Did you see what happened to Michigan in the next game, at Notre Dame Sunday? The Wolverines played another tie, this one 0-0, and went back to penalty kicks again, only to lose this time. And how many rounds? How about 12, this time on the wrong side of an 11-10 score.

By the way, the NCAA doesn't keep records for most PKs in an NCAA game, so there's no way to know if the 14 rounds for Princeton-Michigan are the most ever. TB will go out on a limb and say that Michigan's 26 in two rounds definitely are.

The fall still isn't over, since the men's water polo team still has the NCAA tournament in which to compete. Princeton hosts George Washington Saturday at 1 in DeNunzio Pool, with the winner to fly to Stanford to play UCLA.

And then an epic fall season will be over. Usually when you say "an epic fall," it's a bad thing, right? Not at Princeton this fall.

Oh, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. If you've been reading TB since the beginning, you might remember that he says the same thing each Thanksgiving, so he'll again share that with you:

As holidays go, you can't do much better than Thanksgiving. It's got it all, really: a huge meal (with turkey, no less), football, family, history (dates back to 1621), start of a four-day weekend for most people, leftovers. It's even a secular holiday, so every American can dive right in, regardless of religion.

The Lions and the Cowboys, obviously, always play at home on Thanksgiving, and the NFL has now added a third game (maybe a little too much). Beyond watching football, how many out there have played their own Thanksgiving football games, all of which, by the way, are named "the Turkey Bowl?"

The holiday may lag behind Christmas in terms of great Hollywood movies, and "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is no match for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" or "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Still, there are some great moments in movies and TV shows around Thanksgiving.

Rocky and Adrian had their first date on Thanksgiving – "To you it's Thanksgiving; to me it's Thursday," Rocky said romantically – as did Meadow and Jackie Jr. on "The Sopranos" (it didn't quite work out as well as it did for Rocky and Adrian). "Everybody Loves Raymond" had two pretty good Thanksgiving episodes, the one where Marie makes a low-fat dinner and the one where Debra makes fish instead of turkey. As an aside, TigerBlog's Aunt Regina once made Cornish game hens instead of turkey, so he knows how they all felt. And of course, there was the Thanksgiving episode of "Cheers," which has the big food fight at the end.

The Woody Allen movie "Hannah and Her Sisters" starts and ends on two different Thanksgivings. "Miracle on 34th Street" is a Christmas movie, but it does start with the Thanksgiving parade in New York City.

And of course, there is the best of all Thanksgiving movies: "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." It'll make you laugh a lot and cry a little, and it ends on Thanksgiving.

TB wishes everyone a great holiday and hopes that maybe you take a few minutes to think about what you really are thankful for these days.

Happy Thanksgiving, Tigers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Little More 10-0

TigerBlog had lunch with Mike Cross in State College Sunday afternoon.

Mike, the former No. 2 man in the Princeton Department of Athletics, is now on the staff at Penn State, where TB headed to see the Princeton women's basketball game Sunday. It seemed like a natural to meet up with Mike, an all-time TigerBlog favorite.

Of course the first topic of the day was the football season, which ended the day before with a 42-14 win over Penn to complete the first perfect season for Princeton in 54 years.

The same was true shortly after, when TB saw former Princeton women's hockey coach Jeff Kampersal, currently the head coach at Penn State, when he walked into the Bryce Jordan Center. Like Cross, Kampersal also was quick to mention the football team.

Princeton football was on a lot of people's minds this weekend. Even Doug Gottlieb, one of TB's favorite basketball commentators, tweeted about it:

If you missed his reference, he was talking about the way the University of Central Florida claimed the national championship last year despite, well, despite not winning the national championship. There were some pretty good comments underneath Gottlieb's tweet as well.

Because of the women's basketball game Sunday at Penn State, TigerBlog was unable to make it back to Princeton in time for the bonfire, which started at 7:30. The bonfire was because of the wins over Harvard and Yale - the Big Three championship - as opposed to the Ivy League title or undefeated season.

It certainly looked like people enjoyed it:
TigerBlog mentioned yesterday that the 2018 Princeton football team is the best he's seen. He'd put the 1995 team up as the second best, with honorable mention for 1989, 1992, 1993, 2006 and 2013.

The 1964 team? He didn't see those guys play, and even if he did, how are you supposed to compare teams from era to another? The 1964 team didn't have linemen nearly as big as this team's, for instance.

It was suggested to TigerBlog that he ask Cosmo Iacavazzi what he thinks, and perhaps he'll ask him at some point. Or Stas Maliszewski.

The 1964 team played nine games, and no team scored more than 14 points against the Tigers that year. In fact, Princeton shut out four straight opponents in mid-season: Colgate, Brown, Penn and Harvard.

The closest Ivy game that year was the last one, a 17-12 win over a Cornell team that went 3-4 in the league and 3-5-1 overall. The second-place team that year was Harvard, whom Princeton beat 16-0.

The biggest blowout was 55-0 over Penn, who was winless in the league that year and 1-8 overall. That was the only time Princeton scored more than 37 points, and in only three games did Princeton surpass 23.

By contrast, the 2018 Tigers reached at least 50 points in five of ten games and at least 42 in three others and with 470 points became the highest-scoring team in Ivy League history. In addition, Princeton was in the top five in 15 separate team statistical categories in the FCS, including scoring offense and scoring defense.

The average score of a Princeton Ivy League game in 1964 was 28.1-6.6; this past season it was 43.3-15.3. By any measure, both teams were dominant.

You know who else was dominant? Jesper Horsted. Very dominant.

Horsted finishes his career as Princeton's all-time leader in receptions with 196, three better than the great Kevin Guthrie had from 1981-83.  Horsted caught eight passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns in the 42-14 win over Penn Saturday, leaving him with 28 receiving TDs for his career - no other Princeton player has ever reached 20.

Derek Graham is in second place at Princeton with 19. If you want a little perspective, that means that the percentage of the gap between Horsted and the next-best total in program history is only slightly less than the gap between Bill Bradley and the next-best point total in men's basketball program history.

Speaking of Graham, he is still the career leader in receiving yards at Princeton with 2,798, or 95 more than Horsted finished with. When TB saw that, he immediately thought of the 1983 game against Penn, when Graham had a 95-yard touchdown reception in an epic 28-27 Quaker win.

This year had no opponent wins of course. That takes a dominant team, one loaded with talent, but it also takes a few other things.

You need balance. You need depth. You need mental and physical consistency over the grind of 10 weeks. You need the right team culture.

You need a fortunate bounce or two. You need to be able to overcome injuries (consider that Kurt Holuba, who basically everyone thought would be Princeton's best defensive player, didn't play all year and John Lovett, the record-setting quarterback, played the final five games of the year with a cast on his non-throwing wrist).

You especially need to execute at those moments when the season hangs in the balance. Princeton especially did that.

In fact, Princeton checked off all those boxes. The result was perfection.

It had been 54 years since that happened, which means that Princeton fans can take a few days to celebrate it.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Just Perfect

Tom Johnson was down. Then he was up. Then he limped, skipped, hopped, jogged and eventually just seemed to glide to the sideline.

This was with a little more than a minute to go in Princeton's 42-14 win over Penn Saturday, and Johnson, a Princeton linebacker who was slow to get up after a tackle, was in no mood to be hurt. He, like his teammates, only wanted to celebrate.

And so instead of being helped off, he used the adrenaline of the moment to get to the sideline himself. And whatever may have happened to his knee or ankle, there was nothing wrong with his arms, which waved and exhorted the crowd to cheer even louder, to join along in the party.

By the time John Lovett had his final carry - well, sort of a carry, more of an exaggerated kneel-down - to run out the clock, that party spirit bounced all over Princeton Stadium. And well it should have.

The 2018 Princeton Tigers had just closed out a perfect season, 10 opponents, 10 victories. By doing so, they launched themselves into the conversation among the greatest teams the Ivy League has seen in the last what, 25 years? 50 years?

TigerBlog was born the last time Princeton went undefeated, back in 1964, but he certainly wasn't old enough to watch that team play. Maybe there's someone who did who can compare the two.

For TigerBlog, it's clear that this is the best Princeton football team he's ever seen. And, he'd add, it's up there with any Ivy League team he's ever seen.

This was a complete team, that's for sure. It was a team that had no weaknesses, and, no matter how good Lovett has been, it's a team that didn't rely on any one player.

This team played 10 games, and six of them were never competitive. Two of the others (Yale, Penn) may have been somewhat close at some point but never really gave the impression that the Tigers were in trouble at any point.

That left two others. First there was Harvard, a game the Tigers never trailed before winning 29-21. During that game, Princeton did put its defense on the field a bunch of times when it was a one-possession game, but the Crimson never came close to tying it or taking the lead.

And that left one other game, Dartmouth. TigerBlog will say this about the 2018 Big Green - that's one of the best Ivy League teams he's ever seen as well, and it certainly has to be the best 9-1 runner-up the league has known.

Dartmouth wasn't really challenged in too many of its wins either, maybe by Harvard a little. And that Princeton-Dartmouth game back on Nov. 3? That's the best Princeton football game TB has ever seen as well, one that saw the Big Green lead 9-7 for a long time before the Tigers rallied for a scintillating 14-9 win in a game that packed a season's worth of drama into those 60 minutes.

Princeton avoided a letdown last week with a 59-43 win over Yale, another one that was never all that close. That win clinched at least a share of the Ivy title and another kind of party, the Big Three bonfire that the entire Princeton community shared last night.

After the Yale win, that left only the game against the Quakers. No matter what, Princeton knew it had put together a special, championship season. Also no matter what, Princeton also knew that if it lost this game, it would be haunting, a chance at perfection so close and then gone forever, with no way to ever get it back.

TigerBlog had no doubt that Princeton wasn't letting this one get away. Not when it started. Not when Penn cut it to 21-7 just before the half or 21-14 on the first drive of the second half.

Never, not at any point.

And he was right. This team was just too good, too deep, too balanced, to let that happen. In the end, it was just a huge party, a well-earned one at that.

The offensive records that this team put up will probably be the first thing most people remember about them. Princeton averaged 47 points per game and became the highest scoring team in Ivy League history, all while having its starters barely playing too deep into the second half six times.

Jesper Horsted will graduate with the school records for career receptions and career touchdown receptions, and only two of those catches and none of those TD receptions were in his freshman season. Lovett finished his career with at least one rushing touchdown in 20 straight games, an Ivy League record, and he was just an unstoppable offensive force his entire career, one that ended with wins in the final 13 games in which he played.

This team was more than just those two, or any of the other big offensive names. It was everyone across the board, all sides of the ball, anyone who stepped on the field. Whenever someone got hurt, there was someone right him to make a difference - even when Lovett had to miss a game.

That's what really stands out to TigerBlog. It's a team with about 25 MVPs. Well, maybe two MVPs and 23 runners-up, but you get the point.

The game Saturday was long decided before Penn's final drive, the one on which Johnson - who owns this season as much as anyone - went down briefly. The final defensive play of the season was a fourth-down for the Quakers, who were still throwing and trying to get another score. This last play ended with a sack, by none other than Joe Percival.

It's likely that no Princeton player went through as much during his Princeton football career than Percival, who literally left school to care for his mother, who went from her deathbed to a miracle recovery and all the way back to Princeton Stadium to be there for her son, who had done so much for her. TigerBlog thought about that as Percival made the last tackle for this team.

It was a perfect ending, TB thought. Then he laughed to himself and thought, "literally."

So here's to the 2018 Princeton Tigers, the first perfect football team the program has had in 54 years.

Perfect from the start. Perfect at the end.

Just perfect.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Ice And Fire


TigerBlog had a pleasant surprise yesterday morning, when he learned that Derek Jones would be the ESPNU play-by-play voice of the St. Joe's-Wake Forest men's basketball game at the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Jones, the longtime voice of Princeton men's basketball, was making his ESPN debut, and TB was very happy for him. Jones' Princeton partner, Noah Savage, will also be doing some games this year on ESPN networks. In fact, Noah's debut is as a sideline reporter at a tournament in Charleston at which John Thompson III is the color commentator.

Derek and Noah have been a great broadcasting team for Princeton, so it's not that surprising to TB that they're getting this chance. Princeton has a long history of being the starting point for broadcasters who have made it very, very big, including Howard David, Mike Mayock, Tom McCarthy and John Sadak - it's great to see Derek and Noah as they get this chance.

The trickle down from the fact that they're both out of town is that tonight's men's basketball game at Lehigh on WPRB and the TuneIn app will feature Patrick McCarthy and, probably, TigerBlog. The "probably" part is that he may go instead to women's hockey at home against Colgate.

That game, with a puck drop at 6, is the "Black Out Baker" game, with free admission and the goal of having the biggest crowd ever for Princeton women's hockey. If you do go, you'll see a Princeton team off to a 3-0-1 start in the ECAC against a team that lost in NCAA championship in overtime last year and is 3-1-0 in the league to start this year.

TigerBlog's newest Princeton Athletics colleague Jess Deutsch suggested that a good slogan for the weekend here would be "Ice and Fire." It starts with the "Black Out Baker" game on the Hobey Baker Rink ice, and it concludes Sunday night at 7:30 in front of Nassau Hall with the Big Three football championship bonfire.

Princeton's epic football season comes to end tomorrow when the Tigers host Penn at 1 on Powers Field. The bonfire was secured last week when Princeton added a win over Yale to its earlier win over Harvard, and Princeton is already assured of at least a share of the Ivy League football championship no matter what happens tomorrow.

On the other hand, there's still a whole lot to play for against the Quakers. Obviously.

If you've been following Princeton football at all this year, you might be aware of the fact that this team is currently 9-0 and that no Princeton team has gone undefeated since 1964.

Also, Princeton is 6-0 in the league, while Dartmouth is 5-1 and hosting 0-6 Brown. Should the heavily favored Big Green win, then Princeton would need to beat Penn to finish as the league's outright champ for the first time since 1995.

Princeton will be chasing all sorts of records in this game, team and individual. Among them, the Tigers need 11 points to tie the program and league record for points in a season (437 by the 2013 team) and Jesper Horsted needs five receptions to tie the all-time program record of 193, set by Kevin Guthrie, who has held it since 1983.

There are also obscure records, like most first downs rushing in a season. The record is 145, set in 1968; Princeton has 134 so far this year. That's an average of just short of 15 per game, so an average day will give the Tigers that long-sought record.

As for the Quakers, if you think this game will be easy, you're fooling yourself. Penn is 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the league, tied with Harvard and Yale for third place.

Beyond that, Penn allows just 18.6 points per game and is, well, Penn, so beating this team is never going to be taken for granted.

Of course, this is the first time that Princeton has ended its season against Penn. For each of the last 28 seasons prior to this one, Princeton ended its season against Dartmouth. Not to assume anything, but it's fascinating that it could have been a 9-0 vs. 9-0 game, except the schedule just happened to change this year.

Hey, Penn doesn't care if its shot at unbeaten Princeton came in Week 8 (like it used to be) or Week 10 (like it is now). For the Quakers, it's probably more special to have this shot to spoil the Tigers' dreams of perfection.

There will definitely be ice tonight (and tomorrow, when Cornell is here at 3) and fire Sunday (bonfire at 7).

Will there also be perfect?

You can find that out in between. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The H.G. Levine Broadcast Center

TigerBlog starts today by wishing the men's soccer team good luck tonight at Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

He also wants to congratulate Kevin O'Toole on being named the Ivy League Player of the Year. O'Toole, a sophomore, came back from injury to either score or assist on more than half of Princeton's goals during its run to the league championship.

TB has always said he won't feel old until there is a Princeton athlete who has a parent whom TB covered here back when he or she was an athlete. It's coming true this year, as men's lacrosse freshman Jack Crockett is the son of former Princeton football player Todd Crockett, whom TB wrote about while he was still in the newspaper business.

At least that loophole can keep him younger for awhile, since there still hasn't been an athlete here whose parent was here after TB was first a Princeton employee.

Kevin O'Toole is in his own category. Kevin's mother Nancy went to high school with TigerBlog (well, she was a few years behind him, but they were there at the same time at one point). Nancy herself was a soccer star, first in high school and later at William & Mary.

This makes Kevin the only Princeton athlete ever who had a parent who went to high school with TigerBlog.

The field hockey team doesn't play in the NCAA semifinals until tomorrow. The cross country championships are Saturday.

What do all of these events have in common, beyond just high stakes? None of them are being televised, and all of them are able to be watched. The men's soccer game, for instance, starts at 7 and can be seen HERE.

The days have long since passed when a television network needed to come in and produce an event for it to be viewable. These days, there's just an assumption that if a game is being played, it can be seen online somewhere.

Princeton's ability to provide that service to its fans is about to skyrocket, and it's because of a gift from Steven Mayer of the Class of 1981. Because of Steve's generosity, Princeton will be building the H.G. Levine Broadcast Center, which will, among other things, have a spot for podcasting.

The Levine Broadcast Center will become the home of Princeton's production and multimedia efforts. It will be a dedicated spot in Jadwin Gym that will transform into a center with a studio, two broadcast centers and an editing area.

From the release:

The broadcast center will be located in Jadwin Gym and will feature a studio for live and on-demand content, two broadcast control rooms and an editing station. The center will be connected via fiber to Princeton Stadium and to most of Princeton’s other athletic venues through the existing IP network, greatly enhancing the live and in-venue production capabilities from multiple sites. In addition, these productions will be network quality, enabling them to be transmitted to and then aired on all ESPN platforms, including Princeton’s digital partner ESPN+ as well as ESPN linear networks, and on select regional sports networks. 

In addition to live game productions, Princeton will also be able to greatly expand the quality of its creative and on-demand content. The broadcast studio, the first in the Ivy League, will include two sets, a news desk and also a sit-down interview area, along with a green screen for video and still images. The news desk will be portable, which will allow for game-day programming directly from the venues themselves, such as courtside at basketball.

The Levine Broadcast Center will also be the control room for the brand-new videoboard that debuts during the 2018-19 basketball season in Jadwin Gym.

This will be a huge addition to Princeton Athletics.

TigerBlog loves to do the podcasts he does, but his current podcast studio is actually just his office down on E level of Jadwin. It's pretty low-frills, with two mics and his laptop, which he plugs into a mixer. To sound proof the room, TB puts his phone on mute, turns off the fan on his desk and takes his office phone off the hook.

TigerBlog and his colleague John Bullis were filming a video Tuesday in advance of the coming Tiger Athletics Give Day (that would be Tuesday, Nov. 27, with much more on that to come in the next two weeks). To do this, TB had to reserve the Zanfrini Room and then Bullis had to carry a bunch of equipment up to C level and set it all up. When they were done, he had to take it all down and bring it back downstairs. For sound proofing, he had to hope that the squash players and fencers didn't make too much noise.

Ah, but this should be changing soon,

And a lot more.

From an Athletic Communications standpoint, it's all about storytelling, and this will enable Princeton to do that in a much more efficient, much higher quality manner.

This, of course, translates directly to student-athlete experience, which is what this is all about. To that end, Steve Mayer deserves a very big thank you.

Construction will be beginning soon, and it should be completed in the late spring. It'll be up and running for the 2019-20 academic year.

TigerBlog can't wait to see it and to see the impact it has.

Princeton, as TB always says, breeds a strong level of loyalty, with alums like Steve Mayer who want to give back and ensure that the current and future generations who compete here have the best opportunities that they can. None of this stuff happens accidentally.

It's just another sign that Princeton is a very, very special place. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A 100 Percent Chance

Courtney Banghart met with TigerBlog yesterday for the weekly episode of "The Court Report."

In addition to talking about how the season has started out for the Tigers, Courtney also mentioned she was a four-time high school state tennis champion in New Hampshire. TB is pretty sure he had no idea about that.

She also talked about the video in which Bella Alarie dunked a volleyball with her left hand.
Well that's pretty impressive, no?

Alarie, as you probably know, will be missing the first few games of the season due to a preseason wrist injury. The video suggests that she is sort of ready to get back at it, something that Courtney talked about on the podcast.

You can hear the whole thing HERE. By the way, Courtney and her team are home tonight at 6 against Seton Hall in their first game on Carril Court this season. It'll also be the debut of the videoboard for the women.

Princeton defeated Rider in its opener and then lost Sunday to George Washington. After tonight's game, Princeton plays at Penn State Sunday - you can see that one on the Big Ten Network - and then flies off for some pretty strong competition in Cancun over Thanksgiving weekend, as in DePaul, Syracuse and Kansas State.

Also, you might as well get out to Jadwin tonight, since that is the only home appearance for the Tigers in November. The next home game is Dec. 2, when Davidson will be here.

There aren't a ton of home events this weekend. There are two women's hockey games, with home games Friday against Colgate (6) and Saturday against Cornell (3). The women's hockey team, like the men's team, is currently 3-0-1 in the ECAC.

And, of course, there is that giant one Saturday, when the football team hosts Penn at 1 with a chance for the first perfect season by a Princeton team since 1964. The weather for Saturday is looking good, with sunshine and a high in the upper 40s.

Between now and then, there is a 60 percent chance of some snow, the first of the season. And a 100 percent chance of NCAA competition.

There are four Princeton teams who are competing this week in NCAA events, not to mention a fifth (women's soccer) did so a week ago and a sixth (men's water polo) is playing this weekend for its own shot.

The first NCAA competitor this week is the men's soccer team, who will be at Michigan tomorrow at 7. There's an 80 percent chance of precipitation in Ann Arbor for tomorrow, but a 100 percent chance that the Tigers don't care. The chance to be in the NCAA tournament? Dress warm and go play.

The winner of that game will advance to Sunday's game at Notre Dame, the seventh seed.

A day after the Princeton-Michigan game, there figures to be good weather in Louisville partly cloudy), the site of the Division I field hockey Final Four. The forecast is for no chance of precipitation and temps near 50 and a 100 percent chance that Princeton is the only team in the field that has never been in the ACC.

Princeton earned its second Final Four trip in the three years that Carla Tagliente has been head coach with a 2-1 win over Harvard Sunday on Bedford Field, and in all, Princeton will be making its eighth trip to the Final Four. The Tigers are the only Ivy League team ever to win the NCAA title, something they did in 2012.

The semifinal matchups will have top-seeded North Carolina take on Wake Forest and third-seeded Princeton take on second-seeded Maryland. Princeton lost to Maryland 5-4 in overtime earlier this season after building a 4-1 lead.

The Princeton-Maryland game starts at 3:45 in Kentucky. The final is Sunday at 1.

Then there are the NCAA cross country championships Saturday in Madison, Wisc., where there is 40 percent chance of snow showers in the morning and a 100 percent chance that this would be the best weather Princeton has run in for awhile.

Both the men and the women have qualified as team for the finals after their performances at the NCAA regionals last week, where the Princeton men won and the Princeton women finished second. The top two in each regional advanced automatically.

The men also won the Ivy League Heptagonal championships, while the women finished second. Both the regionals and Heps were run on miserable days, with heavy rain (it was also in the 30s for the regional) that turned the courses to mud. Princeton has showed incredible resilience to get through those conditions and perform at the level that it has, and the result is a chance to run against the best.

This was the goal for each when the season began, to get to the places where they're playing this weekend. The key now is not to just be satisfied with getting there. 

TB is 100 percent sure that they're not thinking that way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Honoring Jim Barlow

From TigerBlog's seat about 25 or so feet away, it looked like Jim Barlow was blushing a bit.

The occasion was the 44th Trenton Select Committee awards dinner Sunday afternoon, and Barlow, the head coach of men's soccer at Princeton, was the main honoree. Speaker after speaker came up to talk about Barlow the coach and Barlow the person, including Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan, a classmate of Barlow's while Tiger undergrads.

In addition, former Seton Hall coach Manfred Schellscheidt, a member of the national soccer Hall of Fame, and current Rider head coach Charlie Inverso spoke about Barlow. Well, they were mostly Inverso's words, though they were read by local sportswriting legend Rich Fisher, since Charlie was on the bus back from Fairfield after his Broncs won the MAAC tournament title.

In fact, Fish did a great job of delivering Charlie's words, mixing in some of his own humor with Charlie's to make a great tribute for Barlow. Then it was up to Chris Barlow, Jim's brother, to introduce him. Again, the humor and the sentiment were combined to paint a picture of Barlow to the room.

And from where TB sat, as he said, he thinks Barlow was blushing. If nothing else, Barlow was clearly uncomfortable being the center of attention, which speaks as much about him as any of the words that were being said about him.

TigerBlog is sure of that. TB and Barlow have spent a lot of time together through the years, and TB thinks he knows him pretty well.

Of everyone who works in the Department of Athletics, TigerBlog has known Jim Barlow the longest. Back before they both were at Princeton. Back before TB was covering Princeton in the newspaper business. Back before he worked at a local paper where Barlow was a contributing writer.

Nope, TB and Barlow go all the way back to Hightstown High School, where TB first wrote about Barlow when he was a high school soccer player. Even all these years later, TigerBlog knows exactly what he thought about Barlow when he was younger - there's something obviously special about this guy.

Jim Barlow is as high a quality human being as anyone TigerBlog has ever met. As the speakers took to the podium, there was good-natured joking about his legendary rule following and how he's an authority on NCAA rules. There was one story after another about Barlow's integrity, his humility, his passion for soccer, his sense of responsibility to those who have played for him - and every word of it was true.

So how would TB sum up Barlow? Easy. He cares. In a world where not that many people really honestly care, Jim Barlow does.

There are a lot of other things TB could say about his longtime friend. He's smart. He's funny, in an understated way. He's thoughtful, both in the "generous" and "deep-thinking" senses of the word. He is extremely loyal.

What he's really great at is building relationships with people, all people, any people TB has ever seen him around.

That's because he cares. He doesn't ask how you're doing looking for a cursory "fine." He wants to know how you are, and if you're not okay, he wants to know how he can help.

He's as genuine as it gets.

And all of this is why he was so uncomfortable about the attention Sunday night.

The Trenton Select Committee dinner came one day after Barlow's team locked up the 2018 Ivy League championship and one day before the NCAA selection show, which was yesterday. Barlow's team has come such a long way since it opened its season getting swept in the Midwest by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Bradley, and the result was an outright championship and a return trip to the Midwest, to take on Michigan Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The winner will advance to take on seventh-seeded Notre Dame in the second round Sunday.

Princeton is an easy team for which to root, largely because of its coach. Don't think that his good nature makes him any less competitive. Not in the least.

Finally on Sunday evening, it was Barlow's turn to speak. He gave much of the credit for his success to those around him, especially his assistant coaches through the years, including current associate head coach Steve Totten.

Barlow, in typical fashion, also said that he wasn't sure he deserved all of the praise that had come his way. He also spoke about something that he was proud of, and it was very telling.

He mentioned the wide variety of guys who come to his program - from all over the country and the world, high school All-Americas and walk-ons, guys with racial differences, guys with political differences, guys with religious differences, guys of different sexual orientations, guys who play a lot for four years and guys who hardly get on the field. And he talked about how he usually has a roster of around 30.

And for all of that, he said, very few of his players have ever walked away.

That is something to be proud of, no doubt. It made TB wonder if Barlow ever considered how much of the credit for that situation he himself deserves, that he has created.

Barlow sat at the front table, with his brother and his wife PK, with whom he has formed a fairly perfect partnership. In the audience were people from Princeton, and from every other part of his soccer life in Mercer County.

They were there to honor a man who has touched everyone of them in the way that he does. Certainly TigerBlog wouldn't have missed it.

For one night, Jim Barlow would just have to deal with being uncomfortable. It was for a good cause, after all.

Monday, November 12, 2018

And That's 9-0

Before TigerBlog gets to the Princeton's 59-43 win over Yale in football Saturday afternoon that clinched at least a share of the Ivy League championship and a bonfire, he'd like to first recognize any and all veterans out there.

There is a long history at Princeton University and in its Department of Athletics of military service. There are many who have lost their lives in the service of their country, including the great Hobey Baker himself.

TigerBlog once wrote a story about a hockey/lacrosse/lightweight football player named Tyler Campbell, who died in Southern France in 1944. You can read it HERE.

Campbell Field, the practice field next to Princeton Stadium, is named for him.

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, a war that killed 10 million soldiers and eight million civilians. Nearly one-quarter of the male population of France was killed in those four years.

MotherBlog spent a lot of time working with veteran's organizations, and TigerBlog met a lot of people who were in wheelchairs after their service, especially from Vietnam. TB's level of respect for military members is extraordinarily high, and he knows how much is owed to them, historically and today.

As for the football game, well, it was certainly a wild one. TigerBlog wondered how much Princeton had left after its very physical and very emotional 14-9 win over Dartmouth a week earlier in a matchup of teams that came in unbeaten. The challenge was to come back on the road at a huge rival in the 141st meeting between the two.

Princeton came into the game allowing just nine points per game and was just one week removed from maybe the best defensive performance that the Tigers have had in decades. Yale scored 43 points, not to mention 595 total yards.

And yet for all of that offense, Princeton was in control the entire way. And why? There were two reasons.

First, there was the matter of the fact that it was 21-0 Tigers after a little more than four minutes had been played. Or 28-0 before Yale scored. Or 42-7 in the second quarter. Yale deserves credit for not quitting, but the Bulldogs never got closer than the final margin of 16 the rest of the way.

The defense gave up yards and points, but it also made every big play it needed to, whether it was to end drives while Princeton built the big lead or get a few stops it needed to keep Yale from getting too close. 

It was 7-0 Tigers after one play, which, if you read Friday's blog, was very reminiscent of the 1995 Princeton-Yale game, the last time Princeton had entered a game at 8-0.

If you didn't read it and don't want to click HERE, TigerBlog will give you the very brief recap: Princeton's Brock Harvey ran 92 yards for a touchdown on the first play, and Princeton lost 21-13.

As Collin Eaddy took the handoff from John Lovett and started his way down the field on Princeton's first play Saturday, TigerBlog thought "go" and "oh no, it's 1995 all over again" at the same time. That continued for 75 yards, the length of Eaddy's run for the first touchdown scored in the game.

Neither Princeton nor Eaddy were remotely close to being done.

In fact, there'd be 13 more touchdowns to follow for a total of eight by Princeton and six by Yale, and there'd also be another 191 yards and two more TDs on the ground from Eaddy alone.

Added together for Eaddy it came to 266 rushing yards, or the fifth-best single-game total in program history. And Eaddy wasn't the only one who had a big game on the ground.

In fact, Princeton had three backs go over 100 yards for the game - Eaddy, Ryan Quigley (113 and two touchdowns) and Lovett (110 yards and two touchdowns).

The teams combined for an extraordinary 1,229 yards of offense, and usually when that happens, both teams are getting big chunks through the air. Somewhat fascinatingly, Princeton came within two yards of the school record for rushing yards in game (as a team, Princeton ran for 489 yards; the record is 491, set in 1957 against Columbia) while Yale set the record for passing yards in a game against Princeton with 465.

Princeton was a rushing machine in the game as the offense simply imposed its will on the Bulldogs. It seemed like every running play was going to go the distance, or at least get another first down. In fact, the 489 yards came on 56 attempts (nowhere close to the record of 85, against Dartmouth in 1968), which means an average of 8.7 per carry. That's extraordinary.

Princeton was doing this with an offensive line that was consistently opening big holes and a trio of backs who knew how to take full advantage of them. It was actually somewhat beautiful to watch.

When it was over, Princeton was 9-0, with one more game, next Saturday at home against Penn. Should Princeton win that one, it would complete the first perfect season the program has had since 1964.

No matter what happens next week, Princeton has already clinched at least a share of the championship. There will also be a bonfire, courtesy of a Big Three sweep of Harvard and Yale.

This has been an amazing season for the Tigers, and one of the best parts is the way it is a complete team effort. It's not just one player or one unit that's been carrying the team.

It could be Jesper Horsted and Stephen Carlson. It could be the defense. It could be anyone at any time.

This past Saturday, it was an unstoppable rushing offense, one that started on the first play and didn't let up until the Tigers got to 9-0.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Lessons To Be Learned

It was Nov. 11, 1995, when a 2-6 Yale team came to play an 8-0 Princeton team in Palmer Stadium.

Yale kicked off, and Princeton took the ball on its eight-yard line.

Up in the old, open-air, wooden pressbox, Kurt Kehl, who had TigerBlog's job before TB did, had a prediction for the first play from scrimmage.

"Brock is going to run it all the way for a touchdown," Kehl said.

What happened next? There was Harvey, the Tiger quarterback, off on a 92-yard sprint. 7-0 Tigers in a flash - and a less-than-humble Kurt Kehl, basking in the knowledge that he had called it.

At that moment, sitting in that long-gone stadium, TB is pretty sure he thought the odds of a Princeton win were about 100 percent. Instead, Yale stayed close, took the lead late and then recovered a fumble in the end zone in the last minute to win 21-13.

TigerBlog read a story about that game online yesterday in the Hartford Courant archives. It actually made him wonder if, back in 1995, that Courant writer Dom Amore ever considered that someone would be reading it on a computer - and could just as easily on a phone - 23 years later as he chronicled the game.

The story had some facts in it that were lost to TB through the years. First, it mentions that it rained during the game, something TB has no memory of. Second, Yale punter John Lafferty pinned the Tigers inside the two three times in the game. When TB read that yesterday, he said, almost audibly, "oh yeah." Also, Yale quarterback Chris Hetherington, who would go onto a long NFL career as a fullback, had missed the previous three games; TB thought he'd been out all season before playing against Princeton.

One thing that made TB laugh was that Amore wrote that Princeton could still win the outright Ivy League title with a win the next week at Dartmouth. As you know, Princeton did win that outright championship - with a 10-10 tie against the Big Green in the last year ever before overtime.

The 2018 Princeton Tigers are 8-0 as they prepare to head to Yale for tomorrow's game, the 141st between the rivals. Only Lehigh and Lafayette have been playing each other in football longer.

Princeton has been 8-0 eight times in the last 100 years. The seventh was that 1995 season.

There are some lessons to be learned from that 1995 game that apply to tomorrow. What are they?

First, take absolutely nothing for granted. This Yale team is 3-2 in the Ivy League, which means that it is playing to stay alive in the league race, something that a Princeton win ends for the Bulldogs. So there's that.

Second, you don't think Yale is dying to end Princeton's perfect season? Consider this quote from the Courant story:
"We wanted to win this game so bad," said senior quarterback Chris Hetherington, who rushed and passed for 229 yards and 12 of Yale's 21 first downs. "We came in here excited. We were huge underdogs, but we had nothing to lose and we played with emotion all game. . . . This will go down in history."

So that's the first lesson. The second is that it's very, very, very hard to win the game after the "big game." Princeton was physically and emotionally pushed to the limit a week ago against undefeated Dartmouth before rallying for a 14-9 win.

Back in 1995, Princeton defeated Penn 22-9 to get to 8-0. Here's the first paragraph from the late, great William Wallace in the New York Times after that story:
Princeton deposed Pennsylvania today as the monarch of the Ivy League and took a giant stride toward the championship that the Tigers last won outright in 1964.

The win last weekend was tremendous, but it wasn't the actual championship game. It was necessary if Princeton is going to win the championship, since TB doesn't think Dartmouth will lose in its last two games (at Cornell, home against Brown), or at least Princeton has to approach it as if Dartmouth won't lose.

There's no time to have an emotional letdown heading into this weekend. 

In addition - or should that be "thirdly," - Princeton knows that there can still be a mathematical four-way tie with Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale and Penn, who is also 3-2 in the league. Princeton knows that it can get at least a share of the championship even with a loss, but the lure of the outright title is great.

Just as Princeton saw in 1995, closing that out is not going to be easy.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Changing Leaves

TigerBlog often rides his bike through Smoyer Park, a small park in Princeton that has soccer fields, baseball fields, a playground and a pavilion.

As you pedal through the park and then out the back, there's a small lake on your left, one that's framed with a bunch of trees. It's a very pretty spot.

When TB was there last week, literally 10 days ago, the trees had just started to change colors. When he was there this week, there was no green left, only a variety of autumnal colors that made it an ever prettier spot.

TigerBlog's thought? That was quick.

It's the same thought he has about crossover season. A few weeks ago, there was a hint that the leaves of the athletic schedule, as it were, had started to change.

At first it was just women's hockey. Now? It's everywhere, with pretty everyone, and it's making for an extraordinary few weeks around here.

If TB's math is good, then Princeton has 15 teams who will be competing this weekend. Or maybe 16. He's counted three times and keeps coming up with one or the other. The point is that it's very busy.

In truest crossover fashion, there are:
* four teams competing in NCAA events - field hockey at home, women's soccer at Texas Tech and both cross country teams at Penn State
* three teams playing for possible Ivy League championships as the regular season winds down - men's soccer and football at Yale, women's volleyball home against Harvard and Dartmouth
* two teams playing their season openers - men's basketball against DeSales tomorrow night on Carril Court, men's squash at Virginia Saturday
* three other teams who are competing at home for the first time this year - men's hockey against Union and RPI, men's and women's swimming hosting the Big Al Invitational

There are others who will play as well. The women's basketball team opened its season at Rider Tuesday night and now heads to George Washington Sunday afternoon. The men's and women's tennis teams are on the road. So too is the women's hockey team, with games at Syracuse Saturday and Sunday.

And, if TB is right this time, that adds up to 16 teams. And a few hundred athletes.

Princeton plays two home men's basketball games in November, the one tomorrow night and then the Wednesday before Thanksgiving against Fairleigh Dickinson. The Tigers are also at Lehigh a week from tomorrow and Monmouth the Saturday after Thanksgiving before ending the month at Maine.

There will be seven more games in December, including flights to Duke and Arizona State, St. John's in the Garden, George Washington and St. Joe's in Jadwin, Iona in Atlantic City and Lafayette on Lafayette's home court.

As for the women, it's an eight-game November, including two ranked opponents among the three opponents in Cancun during Thanksgiving weekend. The home opener against Seton Hall is this coming Wednesday, and that is the only November home date. December will bring Davidson, Quinnipiac and Marist to Jadwin.

In other words, basketball season will be very challenging very quickly for both teams.

Courtney Banghart talked about some of her team's early challenges, including playing without injured Ivy Player of the Year Bella Alarie for a time to start the year, and the opportunities that present themselves, in this week's episode of "The Court Report."

She also talked about the differences between being a first-year head coach 11 years ago and being a veteran coach now. You can hear it HERE.

Then there's the men's hockey team.

The Tigers are 1-1-1 on the young season, with an opening 4-2 loss at Penn State and then a road trip that resulted in a 7-1 win over Dartmouth and a 4-4 tie with Harvard. There are way worse starts a team could have.

Princeton is the defending ECAC champion (doesn't that sound good?) and the preseason pick for second in the league. The Tigers will sneak up on no one, which is fine, and there are already a lot of good signs for this team.

First, there's the 11-goal ECAC weekend, which, coupled with the two goals against Penn State, leaves Princeton second in Division I in scoring offense at 4.33 per game. Princeton, who also has the top power play in Division I to date, is known for its ability to score.

Second, there's the 1-2-3 punch of Ryan Kuffner (leading Division I in goals per game, as he did last year), Max Veronneau (second in Division I in assists per game) and Josh Teves (third in DI in assists per game).

The men's hockey team is a fun one to watch. The Tigers host Union tomorrow night, and if you recall, Princeton hadn't beaten Union since 2009 until the ECAC quarterfinal a year ago, when the Tigers swept the series in two straight.

The games this weekend are Princeton's only two at Baker Rink until December, as the Tigers play seven of their first nine away from home. After that, nine of the next 10 will be on home ice.

By then, all the leaves on the trees will have fallen. For this weekend, there's still some spectacular color to be seen, as well as a lot of Princeton Athletics.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

NCAA Tournament Time

TigerBlog was watching the Oklahoma-Texas Tech football game Saturday night, and he couldn't help but think that it looked like Lubbock was a fun place to watch a game.

As it turned out, it was a wild one, a game that ended up 51-46 Oklahoma. TigerBlog was rooting for the home team that night, the Red Raiders.

At the same time as he watched the football game on TV, he also had the Princeton-Penn women's soccer game on ESPN+ on his iPad. He never really considered at the time that these two locations would be colliding a few days later.

The Princeton women's soccer team needed to win that game against Penn to get a share of the Ivy League championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament. A tie wouldn't have been good enough, let alone a loss.

And win Princeton did, a 1-0 victory accomplished on the 43rd goal of Mimi Asom's amazing career. Asom is third all-time in goals at Princeton now, behind only Tyler Lussi and Esmeralda Negron.

She's had a bunch of big goals in her career, and the one against Penn was up there with any of them, especially when you factor in the stakes of the game and the fact that Penn had given up only four goals the entire year prior to that. That's extraordinary.

When that game was over, Princeton had its third Ivy title in the four years that Sean Driscoll has been head coach. And the Tigers had a return trip to the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA pairings for women's soccer were announced yesterday, and where would the Tigers be headed? TigerBlog expected Rutgers, or someplace else that required a bus.

And where did they end up? On the way to Lubbock, to take on Texas Tech (Friday, 7 Eastern). It appears that the soccer field is on the other side of the road that wound around above the football stadium, something TB saw on aerial shots during the football game.

If you remember a year ago, Princeton had a great run through the NCAA tournament, defeating, Monmouth, North Carolina State and then, most impressively, 21-time champion North Carolina to get to the quarterfinals. It was the second-best run in program history, after the 2004 team reached the Final Four, something no other Ivy school has ever done.

Texas Tech went 13-5-2 overall and 5-3-1 in the Big 12. The Red Raiders have never lost an NCAA game on their home field, the John Walker Complex, and in fact they have never even given up a goal in those four games.

On the other hand, the last home NCAA game for Texas Tech was in 2015. Princeton and Texas Tech have never met.

As TB said, Texas Tech looked like a fun place to see a game, and apparently a somewhat welcoming place. Consider what head coach Tom Stone had to say: "We are excited to welcome Princeton to Lubbock and the campus of Texas Tech. After their terrific NCAA run last year, we are well aware of their quality and recognize we have to be at our best for this opening round game to be able to move on."

While the women's soccer team travels 1,700 miles to Texas, the field hockey team will be traveling about 1,700 feet from its locker room in Caldwell Field House for its NCAA tournament. It's the third NCAA appearance in three years for head coach Carla Tagliente, who has taken the Tigers to one Final Four and one quarterfinal the first two years.

Princeton takes on Virginia Friday at noon in the first of two games on Bedford Field, followed by two teams who have already played the Tigers this year - Penn State (whom Princeton defeated) and Harvard (who beat Princeton). The winners play Sunday at 1 for a spot in the Final Four next weekend in Louisville.

That loss to Harvard kept Princeton from the Ivy title, but it hasn't changed what a remarkable year it's been for Princeton. In fact, the Tigers are the third seed in the tournament, which is an amazing accomplishment for a team that didn't have an automatic bid.

It's a testament to what kind of season it's been. Princeton has played 10 ranked teams and nine NCAA tournament teams, and included in that run are wins over Duke and UConn, in addition to Penn State.

Princeton field hockey has been a fixture in this tournament. This will be the 14th straight appearance for the Tigers, who won the 2012 NCAA title, again the only time an Ivy school has done so.

Virginia is 9-9 on the year, but hey, don't be fooled by that at all. UVa has also played a tough schedule, and there are no pushovers at this time of year.

When players come to compete in women's soccer and field hockey at Princeton, this is the time of year they have in mind. Both teams have exciting opportunities coming up at the end of the week - even though they have vastly different travel arrangements to make.

Again, it's Princeton at Texas Tech in women's soccer Friday at 7 Eastern. It's Princeton at home against Virginia Friday at 12 in field hockey.

It's NCAA tournament time for those two programs. Again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Colvin In The Clutch

TigerBlog was asked yesterday if the Princeton-Dartmouth football game was really as good as he was saying.

The answer is, of course, yes. He likened it to a baseball game where the visitors got three in the top of the first, the home team got those three back in the bottom of the first, the visitors got a run on an error in the top of the third and then it was all strikeouts from there until the bottom of the seventh, when the home team left the bases loaded, and then the bottom of the eighth, when the home team finally pushed across the runs it needed.

If you want one more look back at the Tigers 14-9 win, TB's colleague Craig Sachson put THIS together yesterday. It's his compilation of the 10 plays that helped decide the outcome, and it's definitely worth reading.

The football game was huge, no doubt. It was also not the only huge event from this past weekend .

In fact, seven Princeton teams played games over the weekend, and not one of them lost. The record was 10-0-2, broken down this way:
* football, men's soccer, women's soccer, field hockey: 1-0 each
* women's volleyball, men's water polo: 2-0 each
* men's and women's hockey: 1-0-1 each

That's an incredible weekend, especially given how big some of those games were.

TB will start with a men's soccer question: How good has Jeremy Colvin been in the clutch this year for the men's soccer team?

The other day against Penn, he scored not one but two overtime goals. And this was in a game that was sudden death.

Okay, the first goal was disallowed by an offsides call. That one came three minutes into the overtime.

So what did Colvin do? He scored one that wasn't waived off four minutes later. Princeton 2, Penn 1.

For Colvin, it his fifth game-winning goal of the year, of which three have now come in overtime. Or four in OT, if you count the one that the officials didn't.

TigerBlog was next to the official's evaluator, who had called it offsides well before Colvin scored - and then thoughtfully explained why as he praised the officials who made the call. When TB saw Princeton head coach Jim Barlow on the field after the game, he told him that his opinion of the call went way up after Colvin scored again.

TB knows he was joking a bit, but think about how clutch a player has to be to already have two OT goals, then score another one that's waived off and then four minutes later score again anyway. And this wasn't just another game.

Princeton is in first place in the Ivy League, and this was the second-to-last game of the season. The Tigers were one point ahead of Columbia, meaning that this was no time to give away two points after Penn had tied it with six minutes to go. For the Quakers, by the way, that was to be expected - Penn has played 15 games this season, and of those, there have been 11 that have gone to overtime.

Colvin's goal pushed Princeton to 5-0-1 in the league and mathematically eliminated everyone else except for Columbia. As for the Lions, their game against Harvard this past Saturday started at 7, after the Princeton win. Once the Tigers had defeated Penn, Columbia needed a win to prevent Princeton from clinching the Ivy's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The first score of that game TB saw when he checked it was 1-1, but Columbia got a second-half goal to win 2-1 and push the league race to the last weekend. The schedule has Princeton at Yale and Columbia home against Cornell.

This time, though, the times are reversed. Columbia plays at 1 and the Tigers at 4, so Princeton will know exactly what it needs to do. Here are the scenarios:

* if Columbia wins, then Princeton needs to win to win the championship and the league's automatic bid. A loss or tie would give both prizes to Columbia
* if Columbia ties, then Princeton would win the outright title with a tie or win. A loss by Princeton with a Columbia tie would still mean a co-championship - and the automatic bid for Princeton
* a Columbia loss gives the outright title and the automatic bid to Princeton before it ever plays a second against Yale

Anyway, that's where it stands with men's soccer. There's so much else going on, including the NCAA tournament for field hockey and women's soccer, and TB will get to that later this week.

Oh, and by the way.

Tonight? It's opening day of basketball season, as the women are at Rider at 7.