Monday, September 30, 2019

Davidson To Griffin

Princeton had the ball, third-and-10, late first quarter at the Bucknell 44 Saturday afternoon.

The Bison, 0-3 on the year coming in, were ahead 7-0 and playing with confidence. Princeton quarterback Kevin Davidson took the snap, rolled right and looked like he had room to run. Instead, he threw for Jacob Birmelin in the end zone, incomplete.

Even had the pass been complete, it wouldn't have counted, because Davidson was clearly beyond the line of scrimmage when he let it go. Penalty. Loss of down.

From his spot in the radio booth, TigerBlog thought to himself - "This is good. It's a chance to see how Davidson will respond when things hadn't been going easily."

Want to know how he responded?

His next pass went to Andrei Iosivas for 29 yards and a touchdown after the defense got him the ball back. For the rest of the first half, he went 13 for 15 for 166 yards, with three more touchdowns mixed in.

He even had a 10-yard run on a third-and-seven to keep a touchdown drive alive in the second quarter.

By the time his day was over, Davidson had put away the pesky Bison with a 29 for 37, 381-yard performance. Oh, and he finished with seven passing touchdowns.

Those seven touchdowns weren't just a new Princeton record. They were an Ivy League record.

They also got Davidson a game ball on ESPN on its college football wrap up show.

So, yeah, he seemed to respond well. And in doing so, he showed you a lot about himself.

Davidson turned a close game on the road into a 56-23 Princeton win. Davidson didn't play in the final 11 minutes of the game, and all 62 Princeton players who traveled got in the game.

And, to all the people who reached out to TigerBlog yesterday to find out how participation works, the in-game stat program records starters and anyone who gets a statistic in the game. Any player who doesn't get a stat in the game needs to added to the participation list, but for an away game, where TB is on the radio and doing social media in-game, he waits until it's over to confirm with the coaches as to who played and who didn't. When he got the list from the coaches yesterday, he added those players to the stats for the game.

So just to repeat, the correct answer is that all 62 Princeton players in uniform got in the game. Who knew the subject of participation could be so interesting to so many people?

Meanwhile, Davidson wasn't the only Princeton player who had a record-setting day.

Senior wide receiver Andrew Griffin caught four of Davidson's touchdown passes, tying the Princeton and Ivy records for TD receptions in a game. If you go back as far as TB with Princeton football, you remember Michael Lerch's four TD game at Brown in 1991, a game in which he also had 370 receiving yards.

Griffin didn't quite get to 370, but he did catch nine passes for 200 yards to go with the four touchdowns. His TD receptions were from 57, 27, 59 and 14 yards, and he became the sixth player in program history to reach 200 receiving yards in a game.

In his three career starts, Davidson's numbers are otherworldly: 91 for 118 for 1,362 yards and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions.

Through two games, he leads the FCS in passing efficiency rating and completion percentage. Passing efficiency rating is a complex formula, but Davidson has a rating of 236.8. The next-best total is 194.9, of Trey Lance of North Dakota State. That's a 41.9 point lead over the second-place quarterback.

If you go 41.9 points down from 194.9, you have 153.0. That would put you in 21st place.

In other words, the distance from first to second is also the distance from second to 21st. That's a big gap.

It's even larger in completion percentage. Davidson has completed 81 percent of his throws; the distance from first to second is the same as the distance from second to 26th.

Does that make sense? You get the point.

As for Griffin, he's gone from three receptions for 31 yards and no touchdowns in his career (and playing on special teams), to 11 catches for 251 yards and five touchdowns in two games. He is averaging 22.8 yards per catch.

Against Bucknell, he was unstoppable. He'd get open, Davidson would find him and he wouldn't quit until he reached the end zone.

It's been a great two weeks for them. It's even greater when you consider that they walked into the two positions where Princeton had its greatest question marks after graduation last year.

Now it gets a bit more serious.

Princeton, winner of 12 straight, opens its Ivy League season Saturday at home at 1 against Columbia. The Lions are looking to be a major factor in the Ivy race this year, just like Princeton.

TigerBlog has a lot of respect for all different kinds of Princeton athletes, but among those who earn his biggest respect are seniors who have not had a great deal of playing time in their first three years but remain loyal parts of the program and end up making the most of their one year to be a starter.

Davidson (one career start prior to this year) and Griffin (no career starts before this year) personify that group.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Road Trip

Keith Elias carried the ball 736 times for the Princeton football team.

No Princeton player has ever run it more.

For every one of those that he saw - which is a lot of them - TigerBlog thought Elias was going to break it the distance. TB has never been a fan of the term "taking it to the house;" he wonders if anyone ever said it back in the early ’90s, when Elias was playing.

For that matter, what would have been the reaction had somebody randomly blurted that out as Elias was in fact running for one of his 49 career touchdowns? They would have gotten a weird look.

They also would have gotten a weird look had they said words like "blog," "smartphone" and "tweet" and if they used "text" as a verb. The world has changed quickly.

In the meantime, TB will get to the point. Of those 736 carries, he's wondering how many times Elias was tackled for a loss.

He's not 100 percent sure there's a way to check, but he'll try to look it up at some point.

He started wondering about that when he was looking up the last time current running back Collin Eaddy was tackled for a loss. In fact, Eaddy, a junior, has gone 107 straight carries without being stopped for negative yardage.

Is that a record? How does that compare?

No idea. It seems pretty impressive though, no?

Another impressive streak is the one by Tavish Rice, the senior placekicker. Rice started the 2019 season by having a touchback on all eight of his kickoff attempts against Butler. This came after he had touchbacks on his last two against Penn last year, in a game in which he went 6 for 7.

As an aside, every time TB types "touchback," it comes out "touchdown," because he's so used to typing that word instead, so he has to go back and change it.

For his junior year, Rice kicked off 76 times, with 50 touchbacks. TB watched him in practice last week, and the ball was just rocketing off his foot. 

Eaddy and Rice will put their streaks on the line tomorrow for the second game of the year and first road trip, as the Tigers head to Bucknell. The teams meet for the first time since 2011, which is the only meeting the teams have had between back-to-back games in 1995 and 1996 and the meeting tomorrow.

Kickoff in Lewisburg is 3:30.

You would think that two schools that are not that far apart and who have been playing football for a long time would have played more than 16 times, but 16 games are the extent of the history between Princeton and Bucknell. The teams first met in 1903, and seven of the 16 meetings were held by the United States got involved in World War I.

The Tigers are 1-0 on the year, having defeated Butler 49-7 in Week 1, last week on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. Bucknell is 0-3, but the Bison have had a very challenging schedule to date - the losses are to FBS member Temple, defending NEC co-champ Sacred Heart and No. 8 Villanova.

Eaddy and Rice aren't the only ones who have streaks going. In fact, Princeton itself has a good one.

The team as a whole has won 11 straight games, which is the longest the program has had since a 17-game run in 1964 and 1965. The school record, if you're wondering, is 24 straight, from 1949-52, encompassing back-to-back perfect seasons in Dick Kazmaier's junior and senior years.

Princeton looked really good against Butler, especially considering it was the first game of the year. The key is to continue to progress and work out any issues before Week 3, which would be Week 1 of the Ivy League season, as Columbia will be on Powers Field next Saturday at 1.

The Ivy League looks pretty good from the Week 1 results. Princeton is the defending champ. Yale is the preseason favorite. Dartmouth was second last year and in the preseason poll.

At this point, though, it wouldn't be shocking to see any team beat any other team. There are two Ivy League games this weekend: Brown at Harvard tonight and Cornell at Yale tomorrow.

As for Princeton, it's what Week 2 usually is: Work out the kinks with a second-straight non-league opponent before the league season begins.

This time, it's against someone the Tigers haven't seen in awhile.

It should be fun.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Ivy Openers

What is the record for most Ivy League championships won by one class?

The answer is 51, by the Princeton Classes of 2001 and 2002.

Does that make those two classes the best in Ivy League history? Presumably if you asked a member of those classes what they thought, they'd give you a quick "duh, obviously."

Is that the best metric? Well, the Classes of 2012 and 2013 won 49 each. They should at least be in the conversation.

Again, though, is total Ivy titles won the best definition? It might be, the more TigerBlog thinks about it. The downside is that you have to figure out an objective way to measure the contributions of the athletes only from those particular classes and see how directly they impacted those championships, something that might not be measurable.

TigerBlog has always said that the measure of an extraordinary year is one where you reach double figures in Ivy titles. Princeton has done that five years in a row.

If you go back before that, there was one year under 10 and then five more in a row in double figures, which means 10 of the last 11 academic years have seen Princeton win at least 10 Ivy titles.

That's fairly amazing when you consider that Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Penn and Yale have never done it and that Harvard has done it 10 times in its history. All told Princeton has done so 26 times.

If you've been a loyal reader, you know exactly what movie clip all of this conjures up for TigerBlog. It's THIS one.

In other words, none of this is Princeton's right, and none of this should ever be taken for granted. Princeton's coaches and athletes, backed by the "Team Around The Team," work really hard to make that success a reality.

So far this year, all eight Ivy League schools are exactly even in every Ivy League race. That changes really soon.

In fact, the first Ivy League events of the 2019-20 academic year come up this weekend.

There are three Princeton teams who will be playing their Ivy League openers. All three were voted as the preseason favorite in the Ivy League, so maybe they should just be awarded the championship and leave it at that?

Just kidding.

The first Ivy opener will see the women's volleyball team host Penn tomorrow night at 7 at Dillon Gym.

There are four Ivy women's volleyball teams who are either 7-2 or 8-2 and then four others who are below .500. Penn, at 7-2, is in the first group. Princeton, at 4-5, is in the second.

What does that mean? Nothing. It's about how the schedule prepares you for the league season, not about the wins and losses.

There are two other Ivy openers Saturday, one in field hockey at Dartmouth (at noon) and the other in women's soccer at Princeton.

The field hockey team has played just a brutal schedule, which is how the Tigers like it.

Princeton is 3-4 on the season, with all seven games against ranked teams, including three of the top five teams. Princeton has also played seven one-goal games.

This is a team that has been tested and is used to having to play at a level where it can compete with the best.

The women's soccer team is home against Yale Saturday at 4. Princeton is 3-3-2, with its most recent outing a 1-0 win over William & Mary. Yale is 6-2, and the teams have not played any common opponents.

There are other events this weekend as well. The whole schedule is HERE.

The current Princeton senior class, by the way, has won 34 Ivy titles in three years - 11 and 11 as freshmen and sophomores and then 12 last year. That leaves them 17 off tying the record, and the record for one year is 15, back in 2010-11.

That's always a good goal to shoot for - as long as you keep in mind what Patton was saying on his walk.

Right now, everyone in every Ivy sport is 0-0.

TigerBlog has a chart each year of Ivy titles and where every team has placed. He needs to reset it for 2019-20 before this weekend.

It's the start of the race for Ivy championships in 33 different sports. It's always a fascinating run. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Remembering The Rain

So Monday was Bruce Springsteen's 70th birthday.

Seventy? And still rocking like he does?

In honor of the occasion, the people at E Street Radio had a voting for the top 100 Springsteen songs. The only rule was that they had to be off of a studio album, as opposed to a live cover, which left off, among others, "Jersey Girl," "Pretty Flamingo" and "Jole Blon," all of which TB would have had in his top 20.

The countdown was played Monday, and TB caught much of it. He heard the last eight songs while he was out on his bike, and he thinks the voting was pretty accurate.

The top three were, in his own mind, not debatable, and that's how it would play out: No. 1 was "Thunder Road," No. 2 was "Born To Run" and No. 3 was "Jungleland." TB thought it might go "Born To Run" and then "Thunder Road," but those were the correct three.

If you want to see the complete list, you can click HERE.

He doesn't have too many complaints. He would have had "4th of July Asbury Park" higher than 31st and "Out In The Street" higher than 37th. He would have had "Mary's Place" way higher than 74th.

The whole thing got TB thinking about how someone like Springsteen can still have that level of energy at this stage of his life. The same applies to other musicians who have moved into their 60s and 70s.

Heck, Mick Jagger is 76 years old. Keith Richards? He's 75. And they're still touring, right?

Contrast that with athletes. The physical toll just takes too much out of them. That, and the fact that there's a finite number of spots available. You can't just keep adding players to rosters, the way you could with musical acts.

As you may be aware, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played a concert in Jadwin Gym once, back on Nov. 1, 1978. He would play seven of the top eight songs on the 70th birthday list in that concert, which was 41 years ago.

Presumably, there was no live tweeting of the concert.

A world without Twitter. Who even remembers such a thing?

As TB has said before, the best thing about Twitter is the way it can be used for in-game highlights of Princeton sporting events, of course.

And postgame celebrations too.

The short video that TB made of wide receiver Andrei Iosivas after the 49-7 win over Butler Saturday night had more than 3,000 views. The one of the team in the locker room celebrating had more than 8,000.

Those are pretty good numbers.

Up next for the Tigers is a trip Saturday to Bucknell, with a 3:30 kickoff. This will be TB's second football game ever at Bucknell, after a game in 1996 that is pretty hard to forget.

If, instead of the top Springsteen songs, you're making a list of the 100 Princeton football games played in the worst conditions, you might want to include that 1996 game. 

That game had to be the wettest football game TB has ever attended. It rained all afternoon and night on Friday and then never let up on Saturday.

TB brought his nice pants and shoes to wear to the game but instead went with jeans and sneakers. He's pretty sure he was never able to wear those sneakers again.

The field at Christy Mathewson Stadium was all mud, which made any attempt at offense difficult. In fact, the teams would combine for 205 yards of offense, or less than half of what Princeton put up against Butler in the first half alone Saturday night. There would be 14 fumbles, 19 punts and no touchdown drive longer than 15 yards.

The final score would be Bucknell 10, Princeton 6.

As TB remembers it, the winning points came after a great Princeton goal line stand and then subsequent fumble and touchdown for the Bison. He remembers mostly a defensive struggle, with a lot of mud-covered uniforms.

This year's game doesn't figure to be a repeat of that. For starters, Christy Mathewson Stadium is now FieldTurf. For another, the forcast for Lewisburg for Saturday is for sunny weather and a high in the 80s.

It's too bad that there was no in-game tweeting back in 1996. People love to see football highlights in terrible weather.

Anyway, Princeton will be playing its second game when it travels to Bucknell. After that comes the Ivy League opener against Columbia, on Powers Field on Oct. 5.

This team looks like it'll be a lot of fun to watch.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Two Homecomings

The first college football game ever played was between Princeton and Rutgers, in New Brunswick, on Nov. 6, 1869.

TigerBlog was talking to a few people at the Princeton-Butler game Saturday night about that game, how it was essentially 25 on 25 full contact soccer. When TB thinks about it, he wonders what in the world it must have looked like.

Imagine it. Two teams of 25 each going after each other. It had to be total chaos, no? 

The second football game was a week later at Princeton.

That game was Homecoming Day for Princeton that year. The alums came back in big numbers to see the new sensation. There was a parade before the game, and a Homecoming King and Queen were crowned to ride in the lead float with then-President James McCosh, who mentioned that one day there'd be  a health center and a classroom that pretty much every Princeton student would have at least one class in during their four years named for him along what then was the parade route. 

Actually, the last paragraph was a complete fabrication.

When was the first homecoming game? It depends whom you ask.

There is pretty much universal acknowledgement that Princeton-Rutgers was the first game, which makes this the 150th anniversary season for the sport. Everyone can agree on that.

As for the first Homecoming game? Here's a list of schools who claim to own it: Baylor, Illinois, Missouri, Southwestern University and Northern Illinois. All of these go back to the early 1900s.

This past weekend's two Princeton homecomings got TB thinking about the origins of what people consider when they think of Homecoming Games. Football. Alums. Tailgates. Parades. That sort of thing.

The two this weekend were of another variety, when old friends came back to visit.

The men's water polo team hosted Wagner and Navy this past weekend, winning both. The Tigers are ranked 14th nationally.

Navy, of course, is led by former longtime Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao. The team put together a pregame video recognizing the old coach.

Luis is one of the great characters who ever worked at Princeton. That's obvious from the video, which mentions 1) how he used to be Santa Claus every year at the holiday party and 2) how he once fell in the pool during a match.

The other homecoming was Sunday on Myslik Field, where Princeton defeated William & Mary in women's soccer 1-0. The W&M coach is now Julie Shackford, who, like Luis, was coached at Princeton for 20 years.

Shackford and Nicolao are by far the coaches with the most wins at Princeton in their sports. Between them, they had a Princeton combined record of 1,071-431-29. That's a lot of winning.

Both coaches took their Princeton teams regularly to the postseason, including to the NCAA Final Four. Both also coached Olympic medalists - Ashleigh Johnson won gold in water polo, and Diana Matheson won two bronzes in soccer.

And they were back this weekend.

TB never got a chance to see Luis. He did see Julie, whose daughter Kayleigh started for the Tribe in the game and whose son Keegan was in attendance.

So were a lot of her Princeton alums. When the game ended, it was non-stop hugs and photos, and TB presumes the same happened in DeNunzio Pool as well.

It can't be easy for a longtime coach to come back to Princeton and coach against the program that they helped build and had so much success with for so long. TB understands why certain coaches are so resistant to it.

On the other hand, it did make for a pretty special weekend for Princeton water polo and women's soccer.

And probably for a few additional pregame jitters for the returnees.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Shoe Filling

TigerBlog's thoughts as kickoff neared for the Princeton-Butler game Saturday were actually on someone who wasn't even in the stadium.

And that was news.

No, he's not talking about two-time Bushnell Cup-winning quarterback John Lovett, or graduated wide receivers Jesper Horsted and Stephen Carlson. They weren't in the stadium either, or if they were, TB didn't see them.

Those three are in the NFL now, and they left some gigantic shoes to fill. TigerBlog could relate to the players who had to fill them, since he was doing something similar.

For the first time in 17 years, Craig Sachson was not the Princeton communications football contact for a game. TB was, for Game 1 of his second go-round in the position.

Craig left the University in April, ending a long run in college athletics in which he did so much for so many teams and really thousands of athletes. He loved all of his teams and all of his coaches, and he did as much as he can to treat them equally.

Still, there was something a little more special for him about Princeton Football. Perhaps it's the quantity of work involved. Perhaps it's the number of players. Or, in his case, perhaps it was from not missing a single game for 17 seasons, a total of 170 straight Princeton football games that he worked.

For almost all of that time, TB was the Princeton Stadium PA announcer, a role he has relinquished to Spenser Smith, who did one women's lacrosse game last year and who works for the Trenton Thunder minor league baseball team. Spenser was tremendous behind the mic for the his first Princeton football game, leading TB to joke that everyone would like the new PA guy more than the old one and the old communications guy more than the new one.

As Saturday late afternoon rolled around, here it was, for the first time since the 2001 season, a Princeton football game without Craig Sachson - a season-opener that Princeton won 49-7 over Butler.

It was a bit different not to have him there.

And it's why TB could relate at least a little to the players who were stepping in for the NFL guys, at least on some level.

It's not easy when there have been such established presences in a role that is now your responsibility. Everyone is so used to the old guys, how they operated, what they did, what they meant to the program. And now they're just not there anymore, moved on to a different challenge - in the case of the players professional football, and in the case of Craig, biomedical informatics.

For Week 1, things seemed to go well for all the newbies.

TigerBlog thought he wrote a good story, which was aided by the fact that the real newbies had such a dynamic game.

It started with Kevin Davidson, the 6-4 225-pound quarterback who started one game a year ago, when Lovett was hurt against Brown. Davidson has spent three years learning from Lovett and Chad Kanoff, and he was clearly ready for the start of his senior year.

By halftime Davidson had thrown for 318 yards, completing 16 of 18, with a pair of touchdowns, and led the Tigers on six straight TD drives. He'd throw only three more passes in the second half, completing two, making the final line 18 for 21 for 341.

It's not just that he was completing passes. It's that he was throwing perfect passes. And it's not just that he was throwing perfect passes, he was throwing all kinds of perfect passes, to basically every area of the field.

And beyond all of that, he was doing so to a new generation of receivers, and they looked as good as he did.

As big a question mark as was left by Lovett's graduation, at least there was the knowledge that Davidson had throw for 300 yards in a start last year. It was the loss of Horsted and Carlson at wide receiver, at least to TigerBlog, that was a bigger unknown.

Horsted and Carlson rank 1-3 on Princeton's career touchdown receptions list, with 44 between them. a year ago they combined for 123 catches, 1,730 yards and 18 touchdowns.

In their place were four players - Andrew Griffin, Jacob Birmelin, Andrei Iosivas and Dylan Classi. That group last year combined for 17 catches, 185 yards and one touchdown.

And that didn't matter at all Saturday night.

All four of them made big plays. All four of them played with great confidence.

By halftime, they had zoomed past last year's combined receiving yardage total. For the night they caught nine passes for 257 yards, with three of them touchdowns - two from the 6-4 Iosivas, who was the Ivy League indoor heptathlon champ a year ago. That's pronounced "YO-see-vosh," by the way.

The contributions were well-spread between the four. One of the Iosivas TD receptions came on a pass from Classi, who also made a great catch on a 44-yard pass to set up another touchdown. Griffin had his first career TD reception, and Birmelin led the group with 87 yards.

Princeton was completely dominant in the first half, in all phases. Tavish Rice was 7 for 7 on extra points and had eight touchbacks in eight kickoff attempts.

With this one over, Princeton plays its first road game this coming Saturday, at Bucknell. Then it's the Ivy opener against Columbia at home. The league this year looks pretty strong, at least through one week's results.

TB has been trying to find the right balance of talking about last year's unbeaten season and the players who graduated with the idea that this is a new year and a new team with a new identity.

In Week 1, the ones who weren't here anymore were a big part of the story.

A bigger part was how impressive their replacements were.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Opening Kickoff

TigerBlog isn't usually a big celebrity gossip fan or anything like that.

He's never watched any of those "Real Housewives" shows or the Kardashians, and he never will.

He did notice a headline in the New York Post Wednesday, though, that caught his attention. It was about the new quarterback for the Giants, Daniel Jones, and his girlfriend. The headline was this: "Meet Ella Bonafede, girlfriend of Giants' starting quarterback Daniel Jones."

TB immediately put it all together. Bonafede. As in Sam Bonafede, former Princeton men's lacrosse face-off man. As in, Sam Bonafede, whose sister played lacrosse ... at Duke ... where Jones went to school.

Then he double-checked, and Bonafede's sister is in fact named Ella. He didn't really need to check, of course, since the picture of Ella Bonafede with Jones makes it fairly obvious that she's Sam's sister.

And there you have it.

Sam Bonafede, by the way, is a 2018 grad who is currently at the University of Chicago Law School. TB once wrote this about him:
 "Bono," as they call him, could be the perfect Princeton ambassador, always upbeat, always supportive. He's the kind of kid you look at and know that he's going to make a real difference in the decades to come.

And that was before his sister was apparently dating the new starting quarterback for the New York Giants.

There will be a new starting quarterback for the Princeton football team this year. And two new starting wide receivers. And two new starting inside linebackers. And some other new starters dotted throughout the lineup.

The kickoff for the 2019 Tigers comes up tomorrow, when Princeton hosts Butler on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. Kickoff is at 5, after the Community Day activities at 3:30, including the youth sports clinic on Weaver Track.

For Princeton, it's the season after the season. A year ago, the Tigers went 10-0, going unbeaten for the first time in 54 years.

As TB went through last year's stats, it came back to him just how dominant those Tigers were. The average score of a Princeton game last year was Tigers 47, Other Guys 13.

That's pretty dominant.

Princeton lost its last game of the 2017 season, which means that the current winning streak sits at 10 games. The last time Princeton won 10 straight was between 1994-95. Before that, you have to go back to 1964-65. Before that it's 1949-52. Before that it was 1934-35.

In other words, it's a pretty special accomplishment.

Princeton has won three of the last six Ivy League championships, and you don't do that by having one or two great classes that come through. No, what Princeton has done is build a winning culture, and that has led to sustained success.

If you want to read a pretty good story about the Tigers' success and the link between head coach Bob Surace and Dallas Cowboys' head coach Jason Garrett (if you're a Princeton fan, you probably already know a lot about this), click HERE.

As for the 2019 Tigers, they're picked to finish third in the league, behind Dartmouth and Yale, two teams that Princeton will play on consecutive November Saturdays. The first of those game is against the Big Green on Nov. 9 at Yankee Stadium as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of college football, followed by Yale at home Nov. 16.

The game tomorrow is the opener for Princeton and Game 4 for Butler, who is 1-2 on the season. Princeton and Butler have met once before, last year in Indianapolis, where Princeton won 50-7 after leading 44-7 at halftime.

The 2019 Tigers have more sophomores (19) listed on the two-deep than they do from any other class. There are 24 freshmen and sophomores and 29 juniors and seniors. It's a great mix of returning players who had huge roles in past years, returning players who will have bigger roles and new players who are getting their first real shot at meaningful playing time.

After the Butler game is a trip to Bucknell, followed at home by the Ivy League opener against Columbia. That's in two weeks, and it'll be here in no time.

In fact, the entire season, as always, will seem to fly by. It figures to be a fun one.

That's how Princeton football has been lately. Fun, and successful.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Divided Loyalties

As part of his remembrance of Reddy Finney yesterday, TigerBlog mentioned his grandfather John, a member of the Class of 1884.

One thing TB did not include in that was the fact that John, at least according to the "Princeton Companion," John Finney is the only person who ever played football for both Princeton and Harvard.

According to the Companion, John Finney played at Princeton and then, after graduating, played the next year for Harvard while attending medical school there. Back then, there were no rules about having grad students play. There were probably no compliance officers, and, since the NCAA was still 21 years away from being formed, presumably no rule book.

Apparently, though, John did not play for Harvard against Princeton that fall.

The entry also mentions that John scored Princeton's only touchdown against Harvard his senior year, which is a little confusing. Actually, it's a lot confusing.

If you assume John's senior football season was 1883, then Princeton defeated Harvard 26-7. If it was 1884, then it was Princeton 36, Harvard 6. If it was 1882, then it was still when they had scores like 1g-1g,1t, which is the score that both teams list in their archives.

So no matter how you look at it, there's no game in there where Princeton scored only one touchdown. That's okay though.

Here's another interesting bit of information from the Companion. TB will quote directly:
A scrappy player, Finney's hard tackle of a back in the Yale game his senior year led to an exchange of unpleasantries. The following week the Police Gazette asked Finney for his photograph to include with John L. Sullivan's in a gallery of ``the leading exponents of the manly art of self-defense,'' but Finney did not avail himself of this honor. ``I got credit,'' he later recalled, ``for a lot of slugging that was going on around me, in which I had no other part than that of peacemaker.'' 

That's just funny. This part gives you a better perspective on the man:
Finney gave up football after his first season with Harvard in order to do justice to his medical studies. On receiving his M.D. and completing his internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, he went to Baltimore, where as professor of surgery he was associated with men like William H. Welch, Sir William Osler, and William S. Halsted in developing the great medical school and hospital at Johns Hopkins. Finney specialized in surgery of the alimentary canal, for which he devised a number of important operative techniques.
As chief consultant in surgery for the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, Finney organized new methods for administering surgical aid to the wounded at the front, and was decorated by the United States, France, and Belgium. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of England, of Ireland, and of Edinburgh, and in 1932 was awarded the Bigelow gold medal, one of the highest honors in surgery in this country. He was a founder and first president of the American College of Surgeons. He was also president of the American Surgical Association and of the Society of Clinical Surgery. He pioneered in the recruitment and training of black surgeons. 

That's quite a family, the Finney family.

Anyway, back at the point, John Finney once could understand what Julie Shackford will be thinking this weekend.

Shackford spent 20 years as the head coach of women's soccer at Princeton. No soccer coach at Princeton, with the men's or women's team, has ever won more than the 203 games she did.

Beyond that, Shackford also took her team to six Ivy League championships and eight NCAA tournaments. The crowning achievement for her came in 2004, when she led the Tigers to the NCAA Final Four while earning national Division I Coach of the Year honors.

Shackford left Princeton after the 2014 season, and she is now in her second season as the head coach at her alma mater, William & Mary. This Sunday she brings her team back to Princeton, to Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium.

Shackford will be coaching against her successor, Sean Driscoll, who has won three Ivy titles and been to three NCAA tournaments - including one quarterfinal spot - in his first four seasons with the Tigers.

There are other Princeton-William & Mary connections in women's soccer than just the Tribe head coach. W&M freshman Jillian O'Toole, for instance, is the younger sister of Princeton's Kevin O'Toole, the reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.

And then there is Kayleigh Shackford, Julie's daughter. Kayleigh essentially grew up on Myslik Field, running around with that year's Princeton players and kicking a ball with her younger twin siblings Cameron and Keegan.

Kayleigh is now a William & Mary freshman. It'll be a homecoming for her too.

There have been other former Princeton coaches who have come back to play against the Tigers, most recently Jeff Kampersal with the Penn State women's hockey team and Bill Tierney with the Denver men's lacrosse team. It's always special.

Sunday's will be as well. For mother and daughter.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

In Memorium

In the world of music, there are those that TigerBlog has loved, which includes, well, you know who is on that list if you've been paying attention here for the last 11 years.

Then there are those whom TB simply cannot listen to even for a minute. That's the largest group by far.

Lastly, there are those whom TB has always liked, and even owned several albums of at one point, but wouldn't say he loved them. This is the group whose music usually gets him to stop and listen when it's on, even if he doesn't actually seek it out.

These are groups that have a few songs that he likes a lot, and that's where it ends. For most of this group, he's never seen them in concert, because he hasn't cared enough to do so, but yeah, he likes them. Maybe it's because they bring him back to his much younger days? Maybe it's the genre? Maybe it's a bunch of factors like that?

However you want to describe them, their ranks have diminished by two in the last week with the deaths of Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of the group The Cars.

TigerBlog liked both of them a lot. He didn't love either of them. They both sang songs that he's listened to a million times and really enjoys. He never saw either in concert.

He first came to like both in middle school or high school. Neither has come out with a song that he can think of in decades, but he still likes the old stuff.

Plus, both of them always seemed like pretty good guys. Ocasek, of course, was married to supermodel Paulina Porizkova, which proved conclusively that being a rock star meant you could overcome not exactly being the best looking guy around. Money was at one point on the road to being a New York City police officer, and he just seemed like he was having fun all the time.

Favorite songs of each? For Money, it was "I Wanna Go Back." For Ocasek, it was "Good Times Roll."

And now they're gone, both in their 70s.

TB found out about Money's death because his songs were dominating four different Sirius stations, and he assumed it was because it was his birthday. Instead, it was a memorial.

As was with the case of the two rockers, TigerBlog never met Redmond Finney. It doesn't mean that he doesn't know a lot about him.

Finney was a three-sport athlete at Princeton, in wrestling, lacrosse and football. How good was he at lacrosse and football? He became an All-America in both. How common is that? Only one other person has ever done so.

Care to guess who that was? It should be obvious. It was Jim Brown. When you're in that company, you've done something quite incredible.

Finney, a member of the Class of 1951, passed away earlier this summer. A Korean War veteran after graduation, he's known mostly for his long tenure as the headmaster at the Gilman School in Baltimore.

Finney was the 2012 Class of 1967 PVC Citizen Athlete Award winner. Here's what the story about his award said at the time:
Reddy Finney will receive the Class of 1967 PVC Citizen-Athlete Award, which is presented by the Princeton Varsity Club for selfless and noble contributions to society. Finney was a three-sport standout while at Princeton, earning All-America honors in both football and lacrosse, and being named captain of the wrestling team as a senior. He was the 1951 recipient of the prestigious William Winston Roper Trophy, which is awarded to a Princeton man of high scholastic rank, outstanding qualities of sportsmanship and general proficiency in athletics.
After graduation, Finney was a member of the U.S. Navy Amphibious Corps, spending two years in Korea. In 1954, he began a 38-year term of service at his secondary school alma mater, the Gilman School. Mr. Finney spent 14 years as a teacher and coach, followed by 24 years as Headmaster of the Baltimore preparatory school, whose athletic complex is named in his honor. He has given back to Princeton in many ways, including serving as an Alumni Trustee and Class President. 

If you want to read his full obituary, you can do so HERE.

Finney's full name was "Redmond," and he was only known as either "Redmond" or "Reddy," never as "Red." Also, Finney Field is not named for him but instead for his grandfather, John, a member of the Class of 1884.

TigerBlog, as he said, doesn't think he ever met Mr. Finney. He does know a lot of people from Gilman and Baltimore who have, as well as many people who knew him from Princeton, and they all spoke about him in the most glowing of terms.

One of TB's favorite things about Princeton is that it brings in people like Reddy Finney and then watches as they do great things for their lives after they graduate, all while staying close and loyal to the University for the rest of their lives.

By all accounts, Reddy Finney was that kind of a person, someone all Princetonians can be proud of, someone who lived his life with great honor and selflessness.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

September Hockey

TigerBlog is not a fan of open heights. Not in the least.

One of his proudest moments came on the men's lacrosse international trip in 2016, when he summoned all his courage to do the zipline from Spain into Portugal over the Rio Guadiana. Thinking back on it, he's not sure how he did it.

At least on the zipline he was tethered to something, so even if his sweaty palms slipped off the metal apparatus he was holding, he presumably wouldn't have fallen.

That was not the case when it came to the hot air balloon TB saw the other day as it drifted leisurely through the late summer afternoon. Fortunately for TB, he was on the ground looking up at it, rather than the other way around.

He's never been in a hot air balloon. It would take a lot to get him to ever do this.

His guess is that the basket that you are in goes up to the upper chest, which in his mind greatly increases the chances of, well, you know. Splat.

He's not sure how high up the balloon was, but it was definitely high enough that TB was imaging cowering on the floor of the basket or something like that while everyone else was saying "wow, the view is amazing, come look."

In fact, TB looked it up and learned that balloons typically cruise between 500 and 1,000 feet. Also, the balloons can't really control their direction as much as they might want because of the wind, but the altitude is easy to maintain.

So yeah. Don't look up and expect to see TB in a balloon any time soon - even if he knows that yes, it's probably very safe. Probably.

The people in the balloon chose that ride over watching NFL football, since this was Sunday afternoon. As for TB, he's watched more college field hockey than college or pro football to date.

He hasn't had to watch any games to get the sense that it's not looking like it'll be a Dolphins-Giants Super Bowl this year. 

The Princeton field hockey team is 3-1, and all four of its games have been 1) decided by one goal and 2) against nationally ranked teams. This is something that bodes well for the Tigers as they chase a third Final Four in the last five years.

The next three games, by the way, are also against nationally ranked teams, and that stretch sees those three games played in a span of just five days. It starts with Friday evening's game against No. 21 Rutgers (6 pm start) and then continues with a home game Sunday against No. 3 UConn at noon and then a trip to No. 4 Maryland Tuesday (that game starts at 6 in College Park).

That's a pretty ambitious bit of scheduling, but it's also typical for Princeton field hockey. The Tigers, whose only loss so far was in the opening at No. 1 North Carolina, duck nobody. 

Princeton's most recent game was a 2-1 win over No. 17 Penn State, behind a pair of second-half goals by Clara Roth, after Penn State had taken the lead in the second quarter - field hockey is playing four quarters now.

And who scored the Penn State goal? TB was struck by the name - Abby Myers.

It's not spelled the same as the "other" Abby Meyers, the one that Princeton fans are much more familiar with, the one who is returning to the women's basketball team this year after a year off last year. The Penn State field hockey Abby Myers is from Wisconsin, by the way.

The Penn State Abby Myers got TB to think if he can remember another team who came here with an athlete who had the same name as a Princeton athlete, even if they spelled them differently. He'll come up with someone he's pretty sure.

The Tigers weekend began with a 4-3 win Friday afternoon over Albany. Roth, who had the two goals against Penn State, assisted on three goals in that game.

So far through four games, Princeton has had eight players who have at least one goal or one assist, which is pretty good balance throughout the lineup.

The upcoming stretch for Princeton will be challenging, and they'll also be the final games before the Ivy League opener at Dartmouth a week from Saturday, the 28th. That'll be the last game of the month of September.

Princeton, of course, is thinking about what it always thinks about this time of year - the games the team wants to play come November.

Monday, September 16, 2019

It's Game Week

TigerBlog starts today with what is probably a silly question.

There's an app on his phone that tells him how far he's walked each day. The question: how does the phone know that you're walking, as opposed to riding a bike or driving a car? It has to have something to do with the motion that your body makes when it walks, rather than speed, TB would guess.

TB would expand on that thought, except he doesn't have time. Nope, it's Game Week for Princeton football, and TB is in his new role as the football contact, which makes him a bit busy right about now.

The 150th season of Princeton football kicks off Saturday evening at 5, after Community Day activities begin at 3:30. There will be the annual youth sports clinic at Weaver Track and Field Stadium, and there will also be a Family Fun Fest and community service project on the Princeton Stadium concourse.

As for the football game, Princeton will be taking on a Butler team that has already played three games. The Bulldogs bring a 1-2 record to New Jersey for the second meeting in the series, which began last year with a 50-7 Princeton win in Indiana.

The game against Butler begins a 10-week season that has a bunch of obvious storylines:

* it's the 150th anniversary season of college football, which began with a Princeton-Rutgers game on Nov. 6, 1869. Princeton will be celebrating all season.

* Princeton enters the year off a 10-0 season a year ago, the first perfect season in 54 years. Only once since 1900 has Princeton had back-to-back perfect seasons, and that was in 1950 and 1951.

* Who will be Princeton's quarterback to replace graduated John Lovett, and who will be the receivers who replace graduated Jesper Horsted and Stephen Carlson. All three of those players went from Princeton the NFL.

* Princeton has won three Ivy League titles in the last six years. Can the Tigers make it four in seven? The league's preseason poll says no, that it'll be Yale, followed by Dartmouth and then Princeton. How accurate will that prove to be?

* Princeton will play at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9 against Dartmouth. Princeton has never played in the new Yankee Stadium and last played at the old Stadium in 1942, when it played both Army and Navy.

* Bob Surace is in his 10th season as the Charles W. Caldwell Jr. Head Coach of Football at Princeton with a record of 48-42. If you remember that he was 2-20 to start his career, he has gone 46-22 since, which is really, really good.

* Princeton had the highest scoring offense in Ivy League history a year ago, averaging 47.0 points per game.

That's some of the background on the season that is about to get started. There will be no shortage of football content on as the year goes along, including the return of the Princeton football podcast (airing each Wednesday) and Princeton Football Friday (airing, well, you can figure that out).

This year will also see something new, a 10-week documentary series that traces the history of Princeton football. That will air each Tuesday, beginning with Episode 1 tomorrow. The documentary is a project of TB's colleague Cody Chrusciel, who will also be back as the play-by-play voice of the Tigers on the radio for away games and on ESPN+ for home games (except for the Lafayette game, which will be on ESPNU).

There was also be written content, of course, and that will be done by TigerBlog this year, after 17 years of having Craig Sachson as the football contact. TB is sort of like the Grover Cleveland of football contacts, since he was the contact before Craig, which means he's replacing the guy who replaced him.

There are also all kinds of other tasks besides writing about the team. There are credentials to hand out, flip charts to make, a press box to take care of, stats to be done and on and on.

It's a lot, but it's also fun.

And so, similar to his first go-round in 1994, TB is very much looking forward to the opening kickoff for the football season.

It's Princeton-Butler, Saturday at 5, Community and Staff Day before that. And nine more games after that.

It'll be a season that celebrates history, even as the current team tries to make some of its own.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Weekend Schedule

While it was great to hear Tone Loc (real name - Anthony Terrell Smith) sing "Wild Thing" on the 80s channel yesterday morning, the best part of Sirius for TigerBlog by far is E Street Radio.

Second place, by the way, goes to the Broadway channel.

The best part of E Street Radio is easily that twice a day, the station plays a full Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert. Springsteen's concerts far surpass any others that TB has ever seen, and the energy still pours through even in the recorded versions.

What's fascinating is how these concerts have changed through the years. The station will play concerts from any decade, and it seems like The Boss got stronger through the years, not weaker. TB has no idea how he still has a voice left after all of these shows.

Also, there are some songs that he's played live before they were released on albums. In fact, TB heard a concert earlier this week from 1978 during which Springsteen played "Independence Day," despite the fact that it wasn't on an album until two years later, when "The River" was released.

The concert from 1978 featured a story that Springsteen told that TB had never before heard. Springsteen, who is still an epic storyteller during his shows, was finishing up "Incident on 57th Street" when he started telling a story about how he traveled into the Arizona desert and came upon a house with a sign that said it was a place of "peace, love, justice and no mercy," and that the owner pointed him down a dirt road with a sign that said "Thunder Road."

Then he played what is without question one of TB's two favorite songs ever (the other is "Born To Run").

Before TB gets into the weekend in Princeton athletics, he also wants to say something about the Temple-Maine field hockey controversy. By now you've heard about this: the teams were playing on a neutral site at Kent State and were scoreless after one overtime when they were told the game had to be stopped because of fireworks for the football game on the next field.

This was at 10:30 or so in the morning, mind you.

The idea that a Division I field hockey game had to be stopped for this reason is appalling of course, and the optics for Kent State have been terrible. TigerBlog has one question though - who is actually to blame for the fiasco.

If Temple and Maine agreed to play a game at Kent State and nobody from Kent State told them they had to be off the field at a certain time, regardless of the game situation, then Kent State deserves more blame than it's received. That's a terrible way to treat two teams of college athletes who come to your school.

On the other hand, if Kent State did tell them in advance and the teams agreed to play the game at that time anyway, knowing full well that there was a time that the game had to end and therefore that it was possible for the exact situation that unfolded to happen, well, then it's not Kent State's fault.

Simple, right? TB would be curious as to which of those two things happened.

Okay, meanwhile back at Princeton, the weekend will include a pair of home matchups for the field hockey team against nationally ranked opponents, beginning today at 4 against No. 20 Albany. Then it'll be No. 17 Penn State here Sunday.

Princeton is ranked No. 5 in this week's poll, which is probably where you should be if you lose to No. 1 by a goal and beat No. 10 by a goal, right?

The other two Princeton teams home this weekend are the women's tennis team, which hosts an invitational all weekend, and the men's water polo team, which is doing the same.

The men's water polo team has four games this weekend, and three of those are against Top 15 teams, beginning tonight against No. 13 UC San Diego at 6:15. Up next would be unranked Johns Hopkins tomorrow (10:30), No. 14 Bucknell tomorrow (6) and then No. 15 George Washington Sunday (3:30).

Princeton, by the way, is ranked 12th. It figures to be a very competitive weekend at DeNunzio.

If you're interested in the entire schedule for the weekend, you can find it HERE.

And, of course, come tomorrow at 5, there will be exactly one week until the opening kickoff for the football team, who takes on Butler next Saturday on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Best Tiger Team Ever

The best college football team that TigerBlog ever saw was the 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

That team was dominant in every way, reaching 40 points nine times and, perhaps most extraordinarily, reaching 60 points in five separate games. Yup, those Cornhuskers were the best - right until Miami beat them in the Orange Bowl 31-30.

You might be familiar with that game. Nebraska got behind early and made a huge run late, scoring a touchdown with less than a minute to go to make it 31-30.

Back in those days, there was no playoff of any kind - and no overtime - and the national champion was determined by the polls. Had Nebraska kicked the extra point, it would have been a tie, and the Huskers almost surely would have been voted national champion.

Instead, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne went for perfection, and for the two-point conversion and the win. Unfortunately for the best team ever, the play didn't work, and Miami won the game.

What would you have done?

Anyway, Miami jumped from fifth to first in both major polls, and Nebraska had to settle for second. That Nebraska team is still the best TB has seen though.

In conjunction with the 150th anniversary of college football, ESPN put up a story the other day listing the 150 best teams in the history of the sport. TB noticed that five of the top 10 are from this century, including last year's Clemson team at No. 5.

The No. 1 team was the 1971 Nebraska team, one that defeated Oklahoma 35-31 in what was called by many the best game of the 20th century. TB watched it on TV.

As for the 1983 Huskers? Their one-point loss relegated them to 36th place.

Princeton of course played in the first college football game, against Rutgers on Nov. 6, 1869. There is one Princeton team on ESPN's list, and that team is a little surprising to TigerBlog.

It's not the 1950 or 1951 teams that went unbeaten and were led by 1951 Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier. TB assumed the 1951 team would be there.

Instead, it was the 1933 Tigers, who were ranked as the 140th best team in college football history, right behind the 1920 Cal Bears and right ahead of the 1941 Minnesota Golden Gophers. TB assumes massive arguments broke out when it came to separating those three.

Whether or not that actually happened, the ranking suggests that whoever was involved in this process thought the 1933 team was the greatest in Princeton history. Here's ESPN's writeup:

140. 1933 Princeton (9-0)
Titles: None (Michigan won CFRA, HAF, NCF)
Coach: Fritz Crisler
Led by: G Jac Weller, B Pepper Constable
What to know: In 1932, Crisler's first class of recruits at Princeton included 30 prep team captains. A year later, those sophomores anchored a team that gave up eight points all season and beat Columbia, the Rose Bowl winner, 20-0 (Princeton didn't go to bowls at that time). In three seasons through 1935, Crisler's first class went 25-1.

If you were going to choose one Princeton team to include in this, which would it be?

The best Princeton team TB has seen was last year's 10-0 team. The historian in him knows that the unbeaten 1964 team was also dominant, with four straight shutouts in midseason, and the 1922 "Team Of Destiny" was equally unbeaten (and national champion) and had a hugely dramatic 21-18 win at powerhouse Chicago to bolster its resume.

And of course, there are those 1950 and 1951 teams. Maybe having the Heisman winner pushes 1951 over the top?

The 1935 team won the national championship while going 9-0, and only two teams stayed within seven points of the Tigers that year. Which two? Penn, whom Princeton beat 7-6 in the opener, and, of all schools, Williams, whom Princeton beat 14-7 in Week 2.

So why 1933?

Well, those Tigers did give up only eight points all year, and none of those eight came in the first seven weeks of the season. Even when Princeton did give up points, they didn't really matter, as the Tigers beat Rutgers 26-6 in Week 8 and Yale 27-2 in Week 9.

There was also that 20-0 win over Rose Bowl-champ Columbia that ESPN referenced. And a 45-0 win over Williams.

Interestingly, Princeton also played seven of its nine games in Palmer Stadium that year, with the only road games at Brown and Yale.

Anyway, that's who ESPN picked as the best Princeton team ever.

TB might not have gone with that one, but as he went through the scores from that year, he was struck by one thought - how cool would it have been to see what a gameday in 1933 was like?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

18 Years Later

Today is Day 1 of classes for the fall semester at Princeton.

It's also the last first day of fall classes under the traditional academic calendar, the one with exams after Christmas. He's not sure if the new calendar will mean the fall semester will start earlier next year, but it still will be a radical change for the University, all of whose 90,000-plus alums took their exams after the holidays.

TigerBlog wishes every Princeton student good luck this semester and beyond. He also seconds the advice that women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer offered at freshman athlete orientation Monday morning, when she told the Class of 2023 to dive in academically and athletically and ease in socially. That's about the best advice they're going to get.

On almost any other day, TigerBlog would expand on the first day of classes and freshman athlete orientation. Today is not just any other day though, so "good luck" will have to do.

There are, in fact, two days during the year that are off-limits for the normal subjects. Those two days are the anniversary in February in which TB's colleague Lorin Maurer was killed in a plane crash and today, Sept. 11.

Those two days have much in common.

They were both surreal days, on which time seemed to freeze, so that the emotions of the moment could be properly absorbed for all time. They were both, more than anything else, days of extraordinary shock and sadness.

And they're both days that TB will continue to write about, largely out of respect for those who died on those two days and how he wants to, in his small way, make sure that they are remembered.

When TigerBlog was entering the bios for the freshmen football players, he noticed that there was one player who was born on Sept. 12, 2001, or one day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Within another year, pretty much the entire class will have been born after 9/11, and a few short years after that, no Princeton students will have been alive on the day of those attacks.

Even those who were alive were too young to remember what happened that day. They were infants, babies, toddlers, maybe in preschool, but that's about it.

Each year on this day, TigerBlog will replay the words he's written about 9/11 in the past, because they capture exactly what it is he wants to say:

TigerBlog can remember every detail of that awful day 18 years ago today.

He remembers most of the details of the day after, 18 years ago tomorrow.

He wishes that he could remember the day before, back to Sept. 10, 2001. He wishes he could remember what he was thinking on that day, what his world was like on that day, because that world changed forever on Sept. 11 and has never come back.

Each year since Sept. 11, 2001, TigerBlog has gotten an uneasy feeling in the hours before the next anniversary. This year is no different.

The date is enough to bring it all rushing back.

TigerBlog has gone through this pretty much each year he's been doing this. It's important though. It's important not to let what happened on that day ever fade in importance.

The only day in American history that can compare with Sept. 11, 2001, is Dec. 7, 1941. That's the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II.

Yes, there have been battles in wars that have featured unimaginable death totals. Nearly 10 times more American soldiers were killed in the Battle of Normandy (the entire battle, not just D-Day) in World War II than died on 9/11.

As for 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, though, those were direct attacks on America, not overseas (yes, Hawaii was not yet a state in 1941).

Now, nearly 78 years after the Pearl Harbor attack, the day Dec. 7 still lives, as FDR said it would, in infamy. It just doesn't haunt the national consciousness the way 9/11 does.

Part of that is because the vast majority of Americans who were alive 78 years ago no longer are. The other, though, is that it would take less than four years for the U.S. and its Allies to defeat the Axis powers.

The aftermath of 9/11 has not been anything quite so tidy. There are still military operations as a direct result of 9/11, and even though Al Qaeda never launched another massive attack in this country, the threat is still there.

Like TigerBlog said, the world of Sept. 10 vanished and has never come back. In so many ways.

TigerBlog knows people who saw 9/11 from so many different angles. Everyone has a story to tell from that day.

TB has friends who were on airplanes at the time of the attacks and landed nowhere near New York, as all flights were immediately grounded. They had to try to rent cars to drive home, including one who was on a flight to Newark that landed instead in Nashville, from where he drove home.

He knows another who landed at Newark around the time that the flight that would crash in Pennsylvania after the passengers fought back against the hijackers was leaving and saw the Towers burning as she drove down the New Jersey Turnpike.

He knows another who was unaware of the attacks until, after being told about them, looked out the window at home on Long Island and saw the smoke from the Twin Towers. FatherBlog was in his office in midtown, four or so miles from ground zero.

Princeton had more than its share of graduates, a lot of them athletes, who were in one of the towers at the time.

As for TigerBlog, he was dropping off TigerBlog Jr. at the University League Nursery School, on the far side of the parking lot outside Jadwin. It was the most perfect weather day, crystal clear, sunshine, no humidity, not a cloud to be found.

TB dropped TBJ off at the school, and the woman who was the office manager said that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

TigerBlog walked outside, looked up, and thought "how in the world did that happen?" By the time he got to Jadwin, he found out how.

Most of that day was spent huddled around the only television around, the one in the athletic training room in Caldwell Field House. It was a day where people spoke very little, where everyone had dazed looks on their faces.

By mid-afternoon, he went back to get TBJ at the nursery school. He can still see the children, swinging on the swings, playing in a sandbox, oblivious - happily oblivious - to what had happened to the innocence of the world outside that playground.

Later that night, after it was dark, TigerBlog walked outside to the end of his driveway and looked up. There were no planes in the sky. They'd all been grounded. TB remembers it vividly, the sight of the stars, without planes, above a world of confusion, angst, uncertainty, fear.

Those were TB's memories. They come rushing back each year on this day, and they bring with them all of those emotions all over again. It's important that it does. This isn't a day that should ever fade from anyone's memory.

Miss TigerBlog was 1 at the time. She's a Princeton sophomore now. All of those children from the playground have grown up. They need to understand what happened.

The next day, TigerBlog was able to track down former Princeton football captain Dan Swingos, who had been in the second tower but managed to get out. He told TigerBlog a wild story of survival, and luck, one shared by so many others who'd been there at the time.

TigerBlog tells this story each year. He'll continue to do so.

He'll also continue to remember all of the people who were lost that day, the ones who didn't get out, or the ones on the planes.

It's a group that includes John Schroeder, a member of the 1992 men's lacrosse team that won the first of the program's six NCAA championships. He'd been in the World Trade Center and did not get out.

Anytime that TigerBlog has been around the men's lacrosse Class of 1992, no matter what the occasion or celebration, they remember their teammate. They talk about him. They include him in whatever they're doing. They keep his memory alive.

It's been 18 years now.

It seems like yesterday. The memories are vivid, for TigerBlog and everyone else.

And those lost - like John Schroeder - are still missed.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

No. 1, Again

TigerBlog forgot to mention one really funny moment from the U.S. Open men's final that he watched Sunday.

Actually, it was during the post-match interviews. If you saw the match, you know that those interviews took place more than five hours after the start between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, a match won by Nadal in five amazing sets.

When it ended, there was a tribute on the stadium videoboard to Nadal and his now-19 Grand Slam wins. Then there were interviews with the players, and Medvedev, just 23 and playing in his first Grand Slam final, essentially said this: "I was watching the videoboard and thinking that if would have won, what would they have shown?"

Medvedev was really impressive during the match, never giving up at all, even down two sets and a break and appearing to be finished. He was even more impressive after, with his composure, humor and humility when he apologized for his unsportsmanlike behavior earlier in the tournament.

He can be TB's new favorite tennis player.

Medvedev is now the fourth-ranked tennis player in the world. Princeton? No. 1 again.

The annual U.S. News and World Report rankings of America's best colleges and universities was released yesterday, and once again Princeton is ranked No. 1. It's an annual thing around here - now nine straight years - but it's also one that should never be taken for granted.

Princeton was ranked No. 1 in best in the categories of National Universities, Best Value and Best Undergraduate Teaching. That's a really good trifecta.

Here's part of what the magazine has to say about Princeton:
Princeton students have the flexibility to shape dynamic academic programs and independent projects that prepare them for leadership and lifelong learning. Through its groundbreaking financial aid program, Princeton ensures that all qualified students who are accepted can afford to attend the University.

Those are good starting spots for a university.

TigerBlog was asked yesterday what he likes most about working here, and he said the same thing he always does. It's the people, especially the athletes.

While that's true, the University itself also plays into it. This has been a great place to come to work every day, knowing that it's a place of excellence, one with a reputation literally around the world for being an extraordinarily special institution.

TigerBlog's alma mater, Penn, is sixth. Or, as TB looks at it, six times lower than his long-time employer.

While not quite ranked No. 1, the fifth-ranked Princeton field hockey team had itself a pretty good weekend to kick off its season.

Princeton opened its season with a pair of games in Chapel Hill, first against No. 1 UNC and then against No. 10 Wake Forest. Princeton split, falling 4-3 to Carolina after building a 3-1 lead and then defeating Wake 2-1 in OT after trailing 1-0 early.

The game against Wake Forest featured a rarity in field hockey, and it came at a huge moment.

The Demon Deacons scored first, early in the second quarter. It took TB a little time to realize that field hockey was now playing four 15-minute quarters, as opposed to two halves.

It was 1-0 at the half before Hannah Davey tied it for the Tigers in the third. It stayed 1-1 into overtime - and fortunately for the Tigers, there was no football game on the adjacent field that required fireworks (see Temple-Maine at Kent State for more details).

Princeton would win on Ali McCarthy's goal six minutes into the second 7v7 OT period. The key moment came one overtime earlier, though, when Tiger goalie Grace Baylis made a sprawling save on something that is usually automatic to keep the game going.

As usual, Princeton is shying away from no one, with a schedule that includes seven of the other top 10 teams in the country. The next five games are all non-league games against Top 25 teams, beginning this weekend with visits from No. 22 Albany and No. 9 Penn State.

Princeton is in Year 4 under Carla Tagliente. In her first three years she has a pair of Final Four appearances. There was nothing from this past weekend to suggest that a third would be unrealistic.

That's for later in the year though. In the meantime, if you're looking for a game that moves at a lightning pace at a beautiful venue, come check out the Tigers on Bedford Field.

Monday, September 9, 2019


You didn't need a schedule to be able to tell that yesterday was opening day for the NFL season.

Everywhere you looked, people were wearing jerseys from NFL teams. TigerBlog saw all kinds of people wear all kinds of jerseys, from current players to, among others, Drew Bledsoe and Randall Cunningham.

In his entire life, TB has only owned one jersey, and that was as Giants' No. 56 back when he was in college. If you have to ask who No. 56 on the Giants was back then, well, then you need to do a search for "Greatest NFL Defensive Player Ever" and you'll figure it out. 

He didn't seen anyone in an Oakland Raiders Antonio Brown jersey. He did wonder how many such jerseys had been sold and what the people who bought them were thinking after Brown played exactly zero games in his Raiders' career.

It's also a shame that TB couldn't, um, monetize his first thought when he saw the news that Brown had been released by the Raiders. That thought? The only team that would take him would be the Patriots. Oh well.

And why is it always the wide receivers who are the prima donnas? Brown. Odell Beckham Jr. Terrell Owens. Randy Moss. The list goes on.

What is about being an NFL wide receiver?

TB's rooting interest for the year is mostly with the Princeton alums who are on NFL rosters, a group that swelled by one when Chad Kanoff was signed by the Lions over the weekend.

The Lions, of course, opened their season with the Cardinals, who just happened to the team that Kanoff had been with since the beginning of last season. Anything goes in the NFL, right?

Was Kanoff able to make a difference with his knowledge of the Cards' offense? Well, the game ended in a 27-27 tie, who who knows.

TigerBlog can root for Detroit, not only because of Kanoff but also because of former Roper Trophy winner John Mack, a lifelong - and long suffering - Lions fan. He deserves a Super Bowl.

TB's Super Bowl pick for this year would be the Chiefs and the Eagles. He would have said that even before both teams won their openers.

TB's favorite team for much of his life has been the Giants, but he's not as high on the team as he used to be. Plus they were terrible yesterday in a 35-17 loss to Princeton alum Jason Garrett's Dallas Cowboys. TB is interested to see how long it takes Giants' fans to clamor for Eli Manning to be benched in favor of rookie Daniel Jones, the first-round pick they all booed a few months ago.

His main hope for the NFL season is to see two former Princeton wide receivers (and non-prima donnas) Stephen Carlson and Jesper Horsted be activated from their respective practice squads (the Browns and Bears) and catch regular season passes as they play a new position, tight end.

By the way, the U.S. Open final between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, won by Nadal in five sets despite an amazing run from two sets down by Medvedev, was better than any NFL game.

The current Princeton football team is a little less than two weeks away from beginning its 150th season, something the Tigers will do on Sept. 21 at home against Butler (kickoff at 5).  The Bulldogs will be playing their fourth game when they come to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, after opening with a 57-10 loss to FCS No. 1 North Dakota State and then defeating Indiana Wesleyan in overtime this week before hosting Taylor this coming Saturday.

The 150th celebration of college football is already underway around the country. It's especially significant around here, as Princeton and Rutgers celebrate their roles as the two teams that played in the first game ever, back on Nov. 6, 1869.

About the midway point between the two schools would be South Brunswick, which means that Von Thun's Farm in South Brunswick would be a good place for both teams to be recognized. And that's exactly what is going on this fall.

If you're a fan of corn mazes, then Von Thun's would be a good stopping spot. The farm annually has a themed corn maze, and this year's is the 150th celebration.
 “Since our farm is less than 10 miles from both Rutgers and Princeton Universities, it seemed fitting for our 2019 corn maze – celebrating 150 years of college football – to honor the two institutions that
started this American tradition,” explained Timothy Von Thun, fifth generation farmer at Von Thun’s, in a release.

The corn maze opens Sept. 21, which means you can check it out before you come to Princeton-Butler. In the meantime, there's one open Saturday before the start of the 10-week Ivy football season.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The First Busy Weekend

It was staff photo day yesterday here at Princeton Athletics.

Each year, the Princeton Department of Athletics gets a big staff photo taken in the stands at Princeton Stadium, and yesterday was the 2019-20 edition of that event. The picture is down to a bit of science by now, with the same two women who run the show and know exactly how to set up such a photo.

TigerBlog actually recruited them a few years ago. One of them, Sue, is the mother of three children, including a son, Christian, who was friends with TigerBlog Jr. from kindergarten or so. He just graduated from Penn State and is in the process of becoming an athletic trainer.

Sue is the one who arranges everyone, making sure the picture is balanced with the correct number of people on each side. She's sort of the drill sergeant of the operation.

The photographer is named Dawn. She's the sister of a guy named Paul, who coached TBJ in lacrosse in fifth and sixth grade. Dawn was the one who always took the individual and team pictures of the kids in the lacrosse league back then - she probably still does it - and when TB needed someone to take a department staff photo, he reached up to her.

Unlike most years, the picture from yesterday was taken on a day when the sun wasn't directly overheard and beating down on everyone as the temperature soared near 100 and the humidity reached highly uncomfortable levels. It was actually pretty nice out.

From the time TB got to the stands until the picture was taken, about three minutes elapsed. That's efficiency from Sue and Dawn.

One thing TB marvels at with this picture each year is how much turnover there is from year to year. It might not seem like much, but when you go back to the picture from just a few years ago, you're struck by just how many new faces there are in the new one.

Anywhere, here's Dawn's picture from yesterday:
Instructions were to wear either orange or black. Seems like everyone got the message

The annual photo follows the annual welcome back staff meeting, which this year included a video that had some of the department members discuss what they did this summer. It appears that a few of TB's colleagues have become pretty good at kickball.

And with that, the new year can officially kick into high gear.

Princeton's women's soccer team played its third game of the year last night, and this one was a bit different than any other game every played in the history of Princeton Athletics, dating back to the first baseball game in 1864.

That sounds pretty overstated, no? How was it different?

Well, the game was aired live on NBC Sports Philadelphia + as part of Princeton's expanded partnership with the regional network. And, unlike any other game ever played before at Princeton, the broadcast originated out of the brand-new HG Levine Broadcast Center in Jadwin Gym and then was sent to a TV station to be shown. Cool, no?

It was the first of many games to follow the same production. You can read more about it HERE.

This weekend is the first one of the year with a substantial number of events, including two that are in North Carolina.

The field hockey team is in Chapel Hill to open its season against No. 1 North Carolina. It's another year where the Tigers duck no one, with a schedule that includes seven of the preseason top 10 teams (and Princeton's ranked fifth, so there were only nine available to play), with a stop at No. 10 Wake Forest Sunday.

The field hockey game at UNC starts at 5. One hour earlier, the defending Ivy champion men's soccer team kicks off its season at Duke.

By the time Sunday rolls around, the women's volleyball team, the men's water polo team and the men's and women's cross country teams will all have started their seasons as well. And the women's soccer team will have played again, Saturday night at 8, at home against No. 23 Rutgers.

The men's water polo team, by the way, takes on UCLA and Stanford this weekend at Navy. Those are both top three teams.

Anyway, it's the first busy weekend of the year for Princeton Athletics. And, like the game that was produced out of the broadcast center for TV, it'll hardly be the last.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Deadline To Meet

TigerBlog has no time to write today.

He has a big deadline coming up. It's the football yearbook, which will be given away (for free) at all five home football games.

It's a little different than it's been in years past. The football game program forever has been one program for one game, with a mix of change pages that were different each week and constant pages that were the same for the entire season.

Now it'll be one yearbook for all five home games, and then a roster card with lineups, rosters, schedules and stats for each individual game.

This means that once the initial 64-page (plus covers) yearbook is done, the game program will be finished for the entire season.

If you're a Princeton football fan, that doesn't really mean much. If you're someone who worked in the Office of Athletic Communications in the 1990s, that probably makes you laugh.

If you're Craig Sachson, that probably makes you laugh and makes you a little nutty.

Craig was the football contact here for the last 17 years before leaving the University in the spring. For all 17 of those years, Craig designed, wrote, laid out, produced and did pretty much everything else that goes into making a 64-page football game program five or six times a year.

It was a really, really involved process. And now, in the first year that he's gone, it's all been changed.

It's still a pretty time-consuming endeavor, but it's also going to be done for the year this week. It's not going to be nearly what it was for all of the years that Craig did it.

Of course, with something that will be constant for the course of the season, there is the fear that something will be wrong and unchangeable. For instance, every Princeton football player's head shot is in the publication. What if TB forgot one? What if one of the pictures isn't who it's supposed to be?

That's happened before, back in the days of media guides. TigerBlog, in his first go-round as football contact, accidentally swapped the head shots of the two newest, youngest coaches on the staff. It took awhile for them to grasp that they were stuck with it for the entire season.

TB is sorry about that still.

Here's another question - would you include program records in a book that doesn't change at all once the season starts?

Say those records are listed and then someone breaks a record in Week 1? For the next four games after that, the information will be incorrect. On the other hand, if you're at at the game and you see that someone is having a huge day, you might want to be able to check to see if he's getting close to a record.

Then again, if you're following the livestats while you're at the game, then you're probably tech-savvy enough to check out the records on the webpage too. But then maybe you don't want to keep opening a bunch of different windows?

TigerBlog is very deadline driven. He's always worked that way.

It goes back to his time in the newspaper business, he supposes. One of the best things about the newspaper business is that you could never really be more than one day behind, right?

On the other hand, every day was it's own new challenge, with one deadline and then another and then another.

It's sort of been the same way his entire time here. He knows when things are due, and he gets them done by then. He also doesn't really stress over deadlines, which is good, because who wants that?

The deadlines for the football game program were always Tuesday mornings. Back in the old days, that meant doing the football game program for hours and hours every Monday, often well into the night and then early morning, even until dawn every now and then.

Technology back then was not the same. Things that are incredibly easy to do now took a lot of time then, especially placing pictures into documents and packaging final products. Now that takes seconds.

TB still has a fondness for those days, though. There was a real sense of accomplishment from putting that kind of time into something and then being pleased with the final product.

The yearbook is the latest evolution of the game program. It's also one of the last things that still gets printed. It's taking awhile, but it's been something that's been fun to do. 

But you'll have to excuse TB now, though. He has to get back to it.

Unfortunately, he won't be able to write today.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

A Jadwin Flashback

So New Year's Day is January 1. Everyone knows that.

There aren't too many days on the calendar that feel like a new beginning, though, like the Tuesday after Labor Day, which of course was yesterday. The summer is essentially over, at least the summer vacation part, and a new school year is either starting or ramping up for pretty much every kid in the country, with corresponding effect on their parents.

TigerBlog always began school after Labor Day, as he recalls. His kids always started school the week before it.

As he rode his bike yesterday morning, he saw kids at bus stops, all in shorts, all with that "why does summer have to be over and school starting again" look on their faces.

They looked like they were middle school kids. 

TB received a text message the other day from his colleague Warren Croxton with a YouTube link to a Princeton men's basketball game from 1999. Or at least that's how it was labeled. He also mentioned that he was in sixth grade when that game was played.

TB replied that he'd been in sixth grade in the early 1970s. He has no memory of it.

Perhaps one day he was at the bus stop and he saw some guy ride his bike past as he thought "why does summer have to be over and school starting again?"

Meanwhile, back at the video, the game was labeled as 1999 but was actually played in 2000, between Princeton and Xavier at Jadwin Gym. It was part of John Thompson III's first season as Tiger head coach, a season that ended with an Ivy title and NCAA appearance.

Princeton and Xavier have played four times. The first one was in the 1989-90 season, a year in which Princeton played 27 games (going 20-7 and winning the second of what would be four-straight Ivy titles). TigerBlog was at, by his memory, 21 of those 27 games. The game against Xavier (part of a tournament in San Francisco) was one that he missed.

It was also the first game at Princeton for Sean Jackson, who would go on to become the 1992 Ivy League Player of the Year. Jackson missed the first six games of that season with what TB remembers was a broken finger (TB also thought it was more than six games, but hey, it was nearly 30 years ago).

TB was at the other three meetings, which were all played within a 37-game stretch that spanned the 1999 NIT quarterfinals, a regular-season meeting in the 1999-2000 season in Cincinnati and the game in 2000 at Jadwin.

Xavier had won the first two of those games, 65-58 in the NIT (after Princeton had a double-figure lead and TB thought they were headed to Madison Square Garden) and then 58-54 at the old, old, old Cincinnati Gardens.

The third game in the series saw Xavier come into Jadwin with a 5-1 record, not to mention three future NBA draft choices, including future two-time all-star and 15-year vet David West.

Princeton, still sorting out the pieces after massive turnover between players and coaches from the year before, was 2-3 heading into that game. Xavier was a huge favorite.

Instead, it turned into a 58-52 Princeton win, almost reversing the score of a year ago. West finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, by the way.

Princeton had three players in double figures, led by Mike Bechtold with 16. Nate Walton and Ahmed El-Nokali had 10 each.

TB would watch pretty much the entire game. It certainly brought back memories, with some nostalgia for a game from just about 20 years ago from a really magical season that was a lot of fun to be a part of, in his way at least.

Also, he was struck by some of the familiar faces who are still part of game nights at Jadwin, including PA announcer Bill Bromberg and photographer Beverly Schaefer, both of whom could be seen and/or heard during the telecast. At the same time, Jadwin looks like a completely different place these days, with so many changes that have made it a much better place to see a game.

The game was played on Dec. 9, or just about three weeks away from New Year's Day. What a silly time for the calendar to flip over, and, as you know it was done randomly then anyway.

No, the Tuesday after Labor Day is a way better day to have New Year's Day than January 1.

This could be TB's new cause - to get the New Year's holiday officially changed to the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Who's in charge of the calendar anyway? 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Pro Tigers

Among his new responsibilities as the football contact, TigerBlog also inherited his former colleague Craig Sachson's vote in the weekly STATS FCS Top 25 poll.

There was a preseason poll a few weeks ago, and then this past weekend was the first weekend with enough games to warrant a new poll. This was also the toughest week of voting, since a lot of FBS teams schedule FCS teams for the openers, so a lot of the better FCS teams opened with losses.

One thing TB has always hated about polls is when two ranked teams play each other, the team ranked a little lower loses in a close fashion and then that team plummets in the poll. This past weekend there was one FCS Top 25 matchup, between North Carolina A&T, No. 20 in the preseason, defeated Elon, No. 21 in the preseason, 24-21.

Seems like Elon should be ranked just behind NC A&T, right? TB left them separated by one spot.

Of course, if you're voting in the FCS poll, it's always a good idea to start with North Dakota State and go from there. The top five teams in the poll seem fairly clear, with North Dakota State followed by South Dakota State, James Madison, Eastern Washington and UC Davis is basically any order.

Princeton opens its season two weeks from Saturday, when it hosts Butler. The Bulldogs played their first game this past Saturday, when they lost to North Dakota State 57-10.

Princeton was ranked 24th in the preseason poll. Two other Ivy League schools, Dartmouth and Yale, were receiving votes.

Now that it's September, it's just a little more than two months until the Tigers face both of those teams, on back-to-back Saturdays. The first of them will be the Dartmouth game at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9, and then it's Yale at Princeton on Nov. 16. 

This weekend was the start of a new year of Princeton Athletics, as the women's soccer team defeated St. Joe's 1-0 and lost to Boston College 2-1. Princeton and BC are perennial NCAA tournament teams, and the Eagles are now 4-0 already.

TigerBlog was mostly focused this weekend on two Princeton Athletics stories.

The first was NFL cuts.

Princeton had six players in NFL camps heading into Saturday's 4 pm deadline for teams to get from 90 players to 53. That's a brutal situation all around, with minute differences separating the last few players yet with the difference between making it and not making it so drastic.

John Lovett, the two-time Bushnell Cup winner, was already on injured reserve with Kansas City, which gives him something of a redshirt year. The Chiefs were very high on Lovett and the versatility and intensity that he displayed at Princeton, and he was probably a lock to make the 53-man roster had he not hurt his shoulder.

As for the other five, they all got cut on Saturday, which probably was to be expected. The flip side of the NFL cut downs is that a lot changes after the deadline passes.

Seth DeValve, in his fourth NFL season, was cut by Cleveland, the only team he'd played for, and then picked up fairly quickly by Jacksonville. Record-setting Princeton wide receivers-turned-NFL tight ends Jesper Horsted (Chicago) and Stephen Carlson (Cleveland) were cut Saturday and then signed to the practice squads for their teams.

Horsted made a huge late run to almost get onto the 53-man roster. He made two great catches in the final preseason game and had eight catches in the last two games, not to mention a HEADLINE STORY on the Bears' website.

That's a pretty good picture no?

The two players who also got cut were quarterback Chad Kanoff and defensive lineman Caraun Reid, both of whom have excellent chances of finding a new team as the season starts to unfold.

The other big story from this weekend was the continuing evolution of Mike Ford into an important piece for the New York Yankees. The former Ivy League Pitcher and Player of the Year reached double figures in home runs in a very dramatic way Saturday, when he gave the team a 5-4 win over Oakland with a pinch hit home run in the bottom of the ninth:

Ford now has 10 home runs in 110 at-bats, which would be around 45 in 500 at-bats.

More importantly, a player who can come off the bench with lefthanded power is a huge asset in the postseason. Maybe he's played his way onto that roster.

That could possibly get TB to even root for the Yankees. He can add them to the list, with the Browns, Bears, Jags and Chiefs.