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.

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