Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween.

TigerBlog used to love Halloween. His job was always to answer the door and give out the candy. It would be one for each kid who came by and two for him.

Now? His kids are grown, he's given up sugar and carbs and he's more excited about his honey crisp apples than he is about mini-Kit Kats.

Well, at least he's trying to convince himself of that.

TB did the first of his weekly podcasts with Princeton women's basketball coach Carla Berube, who has three children six and younger. Today is a big day for them.

Of course, the first question was about costumes. You'll have to listen to hear what they're going as.

Berube's first game as Princeton head coach is Tuesday night, when Princeton hosts Rider at Jadwin. Tip off is at 7.

This is the senior year for Bella Alarie, which all by itself means that any chance to see the Tigers is one not to let get away.

Next up after Rider will be a road trip to Geroge Washington, whose head coach, Jen Rizzotti, was a college teammate of Berube's at UConn.

Princeton is the preseason co-No. 1 choice in the Ivy League, tied with Penn in the preseason poll. The Tigers and Quakers open their conference schedules against each other, though that game - on Jan. 11 at the Palestra - is more than two months away.

You have to go through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's before you get to that game.

In the meantime, much more immediately, the first Ivy League championships of the 2019-20 academic year will definitely be crowned tomorrow. By the end of the weekend, there could be Ivy champs in three sports.

The Ivy League Heptagonal men's and women's cross country championships will be held at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City tomorrow. The women's race is at 11, followed by the men at noon.

TigerBlog almost never misses Heps, but he's going to have to to this time. Princeton football is at Cornell tomorrow night (6, ESPNU), and he's not confident that he could go from Heps to Ithaca in enough time.

The Princeton men have won two straight Heps titles and nine of the last 13. The Tigers have built on that cross country win the last two years to win back-to-back Heps "Triple Crowns" after taking the indoor and outdoor track and field titles as well, and the current streak of overall Heps events Princeton has won is at eight, including indoor and outdoor track and field two years ago.

The current Tiger are ranked 25th nationally (Northern Arizona is a unanimous No. 1 in the poll). No other Ivy team is ranked, though Harvard is receiving votes.

As for the women, Princeton is receiving votes, while Columbia and Penn are both ranked. In both cases, rankings won't matter much once the racing starts tomorrow.

The other potential Ivy League championship that can be won this weekend is in field hockey.

Princeton won its big showdown with Harvard last weekend 3-2, rallying for two second-half goals to pull it out. The win improved Princeton to 5-0 in the league while Harvard is now 4-1.

Behind Harvard are the two teams Princeton still has to play, Cornell and Penn, both at 3-2, as is Columbia, whom Harvard still has to play.

Should the Tigers win one of their last two, then they'll clinch at least a share of the league championship and would also clinch the league's automatic NCAA tournament bid. The first chance is this Sunday, at home against Cornell, at noon.

This weekend is also a nice "crossover season" weekend. There's a soccer doubleheader against Cornell (women at 1, men at 4) Saturday at home, and it's also opening weekend for women's swimming, wrestling and men's hockey.

The men's hockey team opens its season at St. Cloud with two games against the No. 16 team in the country. The women, who opened their ECAC season by defeating Quinnipiac Tuesday night and are already 3-0, are at Colgate and Cornell.

And, of course, there's the football game at Cornell and the women's volleyball match at Cornell, also tomorrow. Princeton and Cornell are in a three-way tie with Yale for first with three weekends left.

So yes, this is a pretty busy weekend coming up.

But first, it's Halloween.

You can have TigerBlog's candy. Much as it pains him to say that. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

And With That Touchdown, The Score Is Now 1-0

Back when Live Stats first came into being, TigerBlog was definitely in the anti camp.

Why? Because there weren't smartphones yet, and so really the only way to utilize them was to sit around the desktop computer constantly refreshing your dial-up internet service. TB felt almost guilty for his role in it.

He could just picture someone inside on a nice day, waiting for the next stat to be entered, hoping the internet connection wouldn't fail. How could he be responsible for that?

These days, Live Stats are great on so many levels - mostly because you can be anywhere and follow them. No longer are TigerBlog and the others in his profession responsible when people refuse to leave their homes for fear of missing out on how the game ended.

In case you never used them before, Live Stats are the running statistical totals for a game that are being produced by the official stats people and entered onto the official stats computer. They add flavor if you're a fan watching the game in the venue or on TV or your computer, and they're perfect if you're broadcasting a game.

Of course, all of this requires remembering to bring the official stats computer to the game, something TB realized he didn't have with him as he walked into the Princeton Stadium press box Saturday morning before the Harvard football ame.

Once he had that problem solved, there was another little problem that came up. Perhaps, if you were following along, you noticed it.

Princeton scored the first touchdown of the game, on a pass from Kevin Davidson to Dylan Classi. Then Tavish Rice kicked the extra point.

At that point, the Live Stats proudly proclaimed the score for anyone who was following along:
Princeton 1, Harvard 0.

That, clearly, was not right.

At this point, there had been 13 entries into the stat program. All of them were 100 percent correct.

So why did it say 1-0? TB looked at the scoreboard in the stadium to make sure the scoring rules hadn't changed from the previous week, and they clearly hadn't.

Then his phone rang. It was the person at ESPN whose job it is to keep track of all the scores of games, something that used to be done with student workers (mostly women's basketball players) who would call in after each score and the end of each quarter.

TigerBlog can't write that and not follow with this, from a blog of two years ago:
In addition to being great basketball players, Maggie Langlas and Kate Thirolf were both student workers in the Office of Athletic Communications. Back then, at football games, someone needed to be assigned to sit by the phone and answer it when wire services called looking for the score of the game, as well as call several outlets at the end of each quarter or after a score. Maggie, then a freshman, jumped right in, during the last season at Palmer Stadium. TigerBlog can still hear her as she said:
"It's 7-0 Princeton."
"What kind of touchdown?"
"It was a very nice touchdown."
That's Maggie in a nutshell. It's likely that you have never met anyone nicer than Maggie Langlas.

Anyway, this time around, it was ESPN on the phone, and a kid on the other end who said "hey, did you know your Live Stats are saying it's 1-0?"

It didn't make any sense at all. The players were entered correctly. The touchdown. The extra point. It should have said 7-0.

Since there were only 13 plays entered by that point, the smartest thing to do was to simply write them down by hand, delete that file and start a new game.

The person doing the stat crew entry was a sophomore named Sophia Goldberg, who along with Richard Qiu and Andrew Kim have been amazing additions to the Office of Athletic Communications family. They are stat crew entry naturals, and finding students who can do that 1) is not easy and 2) is incredibly valuable.

Sophia didn't panic at all. She just deleted and started reentering the plays while the two spotters - Doug Gildenburg and Norm Yacko - wrote down the ongoing plays on a separate piece of paper. It didn't take long to catch all the way up.

TB still isn't sure why the Live Stats ever said 1-0.

Maybe it's a 150th anniversary thing? Maybe the computer was set for 1869 rules, where a goal was one point?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Defensive Players Of The Week

Matthew Winston intercepted a pass with a little less than five minutes to go and his team ahead of Harvard by two points Saturday afternoon.

A touchdown there would probably have sealed a 16th straight win for Princeton. Winston at first looked like he might be able to go the distance, only to have Harvard close him off.

So what did he do? Something very, very smart.

He cradled the ball with two hands as he went down, so he couldn't give it back to Harvard. After the 28 yard return, Princeton had the ball at the Harvard 18. Three plays later, Kevin Davidson found Dylan Classi for the touchdown that did in fact seal it.

Final - Princeton 30, Harvard 24.

That was the 16th straight win for Princeton. It was also the third straight over Harvard. Since the formation of the Ivy League, Princeton has had three winning streaks against Harvard of at least three games, and none more than four.

The Tigers could equal that four straight next year in Cambridge. That, of course, is the last thing on anyone's mind right now.

The last thing about the Harvard game is that Jeremiah Tyler was named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week. TigerBlog was so certain that Tyler would win that he wrote the story before he ever got the email from the Ivy League office announcing this week's selections.

Tyler had 13 tackles in the game, six unassisted and two for loss. He also had an interception.

Tyler plays with an obvious joy that is impossible to miss when you see him play each week. It's part of what makes him stand out.

The other part is that he's a dominant player. His numbers against Harvard might have been better than his average, but he makes that kind of impact on every game.

And with that, the page is completely turned, ahead to the next challenge, which comes up Friday night in Ithaca, when Princeton takes on Cornell. The Big Red are coming off a 37-35 win over Brown, a game won on a last minute field goal from Nickolas Null, the same Cornell player whose last minute field goal beat Princeton two years ago.

The football win wasn't the only big win by a Princeton team over Harvard Saturday.

The field hockey team had possibly a bigger one, since the winner of the game was going to have the inside track to a lot of big prizes. Also, Princeton and Harvard have some pretty good recent history.

Harvard has won the Ivy League title in two of the last three years - only to have Princeton, and not Harvard, reach the NCAA Final Four in those years, including last year.

In fact, Princeton lost its Ivy League game to Harvard last year and saw the Crimson go 7-0 in the league, only to have Princeton take down Harvard in the NCAA quarterfinals.

This year, both teams were unbeaten in the Ivy League, nationally ranked and looking to get the inside track on the NCAA tournament bid. They met Saturday at Harvard, and Princeton rallied with two goals a little more than six minutes apart, one in the third quarter and then the winner in the fourth, to take a dramatic 3-2 win.

Princeton is now 5-0 in the league, with games against Cornell and Penn, both of whom are 3-2 in the league. One win in those two games gives Princeton at least a share of the Ivy League championship, and with that would come the league's automatic NCAA tournament bid.

As was the case in football, the field hockey team also had the winner of the league's Defensive Player of the Week award. In this case, it went to MaryKate Neff, who was part of a defensive effort that held Harvard to just three shots on goal in the game.

Also, like Tyler with his interception that led to a field goal, Neff turned defense into offense. In fact, she scored the game-winner, tipping in a drive from Sammy Popper off a very well-designed penalty corner.

It was the second goal of the year for Neff, a junior from Villanova.

The first chance to clinch the Ivy title share and win the automatic bid is the game this Sunday against Cornell on Bedford Field, at noon.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Picking Off A Big Win

Do you want to see a picture that tells a lot of the story of Princeton's 30-24 win over Harvard Saturday afternoon?

Of course you do. Here it is:
It's a picture of Matthew Winston, the junior defensive back, after his fourth-quarter interception. How does this tell the story of the game?

If you look close, you'll see the Harvard logo on the football. The big story of the game Saturday was the fact that Princeton turned three interceptions into 17 points, and that was a huge part of why the Tigers won the game.

Winston's interception was the third and final one, and it came at a big moment in the game. Princeton was up 23-21 with five minutes to go, and the door was clearly open to a Harvard drive for the go-ahead points.

Instead, Winston picked off a pass and returned it 28 yards to the Harvard 18. Kevin Davidson then found Dylan Classi in the end zone, and the lead was 30-21. Harvard kicked a field goal on a third down with 30 seconds left, but Andrei Iosivas ended things when he recovered the onsides kick.

The biggest of the interceptions was the one turned in by Daniel Beard, a sophomore linebacker, in the third quarter. This was the game-changing one, the play that turned things from "uh oh" to "that's more like it" on a dime.

Princeton led 10-0 early after a perfect opening drive (Davidson to Classi for that touchdown too) and then a field goal after a Jeremiah Tyler interception and return.

Harvard, though, is very good and very tough, and the Crimson threw a blanket over the Tigers for more than 30 minutes after that - it would be 32:22 to be precise between Tiger scores.

In the meantime, Harvard came back to make it 10-7 and then take the lead 14-10 on a last minute, 73-yard touchdown pass that seemed to completely change the momentum. If that didn't do it, then the fact that Harvard got not one but two fourth-down stops in its own territory on Princeton's first two second half drives.

The second of those stops came with 7:21 left in the third quarter, after a 12-play, 60-yard drive that ended at the Crimson 24. It looked all the world like Princeton was going to finish that drive with points, and then it looked all the world like Harvard was about to go the other way and maybe open up some distance between itself and the Tigers.

So what happened next? The entire game changed in two plays.

The first was Beard's interception, where he tipped the ball to himself and corralled it before it had a chance to touch the field. That was the first play after Harvard's stop.

Suddenly, Princeton had the ball right back, on the Harvard 31. And what did the Tigers do with it?

Teams are never more vulnerable than the play right after a turnover, and Princeton needed only that one play to get to the end zone, as Davidson found running back Collin Eaddy down the middle for a TD. Just like that, Princeton was on top, this time for good.

Recappng, it was a three-play stretch that went like this:
* Harvard gets a fourth-down stop and is now brimming with momentum
* Beard makes an outstanding play to intercept the ball, stemming that momentum but bring back out a defense that had shut Princeton out for more than 32 minutes at that point
* Davidson and Eaddy made it hurt

For a team that was shut out for that 32-plus minute stretch, by the way, Princeton had some tremendous offensive numbers. Eaddy ran for 110 yards and another touchdown, and Davidson was 20 for 35 for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Also importantly, he had no interceptions.

In fact, Princeton had no turnovers and only 23 yards in penalties. The Tigers might not have been scoring in the middle of the game, but they weren't hurting themselves either.

It was Princeton's third straight win over Harvard, and the winning streak is now at 16. Of those 16 games, this was the second-closest, one point behind Princeton's 14-9 win over Dartmouth last year.

While many of those 16 games have been easy wins, this one was more decidedly not. Harvard forced Princeton to play with a lot of what Tiger head coach Bob Surace would call "grit," and that grittiness is why Princeton won.

Princeton and Dartmouth are both unbeaten, and they play the following week at Yankee Stadium as part of the 150th celebration of college football. That game, though, might as well be another 150 years away for as much as any coach or player on either team is focused on that right now.

First up are two important tests this coming weekend. The Tigers will now be rooting hard for Harvard when the Crimson host Dartmouth Saturday. Princeton, meanwhile, is at Cornell Friday night on ESPNU.

It's hard to believe that the football season is 60 percent over already. That's six games, all wins, for the Tigers, including the most recent one, a hard-fought installment against a huge rival, a game that Princeton was ultimately able to pick off. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Passing Efficiently

TigerBlog spoke to Dave Chandler, Class of 1980, earlier this week.

Dave is a former Princeton football player. His father, George, was a legendary Princeton football player in the Class of 1951.

In fact, George was the captain of the 1950 Tigers, a team that went 9-0 a year before the 1951 team also went 9-0 and had Dick Kazmaier win the Heisman Trophy.

The Chandler Lounge in Jadwin Gym is named for George Chandler.

Dave was calling to talk about a teammate of his, Russ Moyer, who sadly has passed away. Russ is being inducted into his high school Hall of Fame, and Dave was looking for some information.

As it turns out, Russ was the leading tackler on the 1979 Tigers, with 80. Dave Chandler was second, with 79 - though Dave did lead the team in solo tackles with 40.

TigerBlog goes back with Princeton football to the late 1980s. He knows a lot of the names from the 1970s, but he hasn't met too many of them through the years. It was good to talk to someone who is a big part of Princeton football history like that.

Speaking of Princeton football history, the school record for touchdown passes in a season is 29, set all the way back in 2017, by Chad Kanoff.

Through five games this season, Tiger quarterback Kevin Davidson has thrown 15. Should he match that through the final five games, he'd obviously have one more than Kanoff.

Davidson is halfway through what could be a record-setting season. Actually it already has been for the senior from California, who made one career start prior to this year and who has been extraordinary from the first snap this season.

Davidson has already set the Ivy League - not just Princeton - record for touchdown passes in a game with seven, which he did against Bucknell. When he threw five more against Brown last week, he became the first Princeton player ever to have two different games with at least five TD passes.

Even if he doesn't throw another TD pass this year, his 15 have him tied fore the eighth best single season total - with Kazmaier of all people. Only three times has a Princeton quarterback thrown for at least 20 in a season - Kanoff again has the record at 29, followed by Doug Butler and Quinn Epperly with 25 each.

He is currently leading the FCS in three major statistical categories: completion percentage, passing efficiency rating and average yards per attempt. His completion percent right now is 73.7; Kanoff also has that single-season record, from two years ago, at 73.2.

Anyway, that's the kind of year that Davidson is having. He's 6-5, 225 pounds, and he has as good an arm as any Princeton quarterback that TB has ever seen, with the possible exception of Jason Garrett, who played for more than a decade in the NFL and is now the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Next up for Davidson is his team's biggest test so far this year, as 4-1 Harvard comes to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium to take on the 5-0 Tigers. Kickoff is at 1.

There are currently three 2-0 teams in the Ivy League, the two who play tomorrow at Princeton and Dartmouth, who plays Columbia tonight. Harvard hosts Dartmouth next week, and then it's Princeton and Dartmouth at Yankee Stadium the following week, after a trip to Cornell for the Tigers a week from tonight.

One other note from the football game - Harvard has blocked five punts this season; Princeton has gone 154 straight punts without one blocked. 

Shifting to another Princeton-Harvard game tomorrow, there are two unbeaten teams in the Ivy League in field hockey, 4-0 Princeton and 4-0 Harvard. They meet tomorrow at Harvard, with a noon start time. That's the same time the men's soccer team plays at Harvard tomorrow as well, followed by the women's soccer game at 3.

Back at field hockey, Harvard has defeated Princeton twice in the last three years to win the Ivy League, but both times Princeton rebounded to reach the NCAA Final Four.

No other Ivy team has better than a 2-2 record, so the team that gets to 5-0 certainly will have a huge leg up on a league title and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton, with its very challenging non-league schedule and two wins over RPI top 10 teams, figures to be right there for an at-large bid, but then again, Princeton and Harvard are both just outside the top 10 in this weeks' RPI.

And there you have it, a weekend with big Princeton-Harvard games, here and there.

Those games are always fun. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Guest TigerBlog - Goodbye Kristy

The opening face-off of the women's hockey season is tomorrow night at Hobey Baker Rink.

The Tigers play two games this weekend against Syracuse, with face-off tomorrow at 6 and Saturday at noon, followed by another home game Tuesday against Quinnipiac in the ECAC opener. Princeton, who reached the NCAA tournament a year ago, begins the season as the sixth-ranked team in the country.

The men's hockey season begins in another week, with two games at St. Cloud State. The home opener for the men's team is Nov. 15/16 against RPI and Union, after the ECAC-opening road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth.

One staple of Princeton hockey will be missing as the 2019-20 season begins, though. Kristy McNeil, who has been the Office of Athletic Communications contact for both teams for the last nine years, not to mention all of the other teams she's worked with in her 11 years here, has left to take a job at the University of Michigan.

Actually, let's mention them: men's soccer, men's and women's track and field and cross country and women's lacrosse. When you add all that together, she worked with thousands of Princeton student athletes. 

And now she's off to the Big Ten, where she will begin her new role as the men's hockey and men's tennis contact for the Wolverines. 

As she leaves, TigerBlog turned to another former colleague, Craig Sachson, to write a few words about the woman who has been so much a part of the fabric of the Office of Athletic Communications and the Department of Athletics for so long and who has done so much to keep the OAC current and vibrant, not to mention fun. 

When my daughter was born in the summer of 2008, Princeton hired a woman from Colgate to fill an opening in the Office of Athletic Communications. She was experienced and smart, but her ability to produce high-quality media guides set her ahead of the field.

When my daughter turned two, media guides were a thing of the past at Princeton.

And Kristy McNeil was about to lead us into the future.

Kristy ended an 11-year run at Princeton recently to accept a new challenge at the University of Michigan, but her impact on this athletic department will be felt for many years to come. She led us to a stronger presence in social media, graphics, and just about anything else that matters in this new era of digital communications.

She was a passionate advocate for the teams she worked with, often going far beyond what was expected from a standard sport contact. Most women’s lacrosse SIDs have a basic understanding of the statistical rulebook; Kristy helped write it (that’s not hyperbole — I listened to enough rulebook conference calls to know she ACTUALLY helped write it). She live-tweeted championship track meets the way others would the Super Bowl. She traveled internationally with the men’s soccer team, and she helped create a fresh new look inside her beloved Baker Rink, home of the Princeton ice hockey teams.

That all matters. 

If you care about Princeton — and if you’re reading this, I’ll assume you do — then you’ve undoubtedly seen something that Kristy either created or collaborated on. She understood the big picture, which isn’t always easy when you manage as many as 7-8 sports at a time (and double-digits over the span of a year).

But for everybody who interacted with her — staff, coaches or players — those tangibles are secondary to what was truly special about Kristy, and what Princeton will miss most. She has a spirit that energizes any room, a fierce loyalty that engenders absolute trust, and a sense of humor that could lighten the toughest of days.

I spent at least seven or eight years working within 20 feet of Kristy, either sharing an office or working in an adjacent one. I saw how hard she worked for her teams, how much energy and passion she put into telling the story of a track athlete one day, a hockey player the next. I admired that, but I enjoyed the fun moments in between even more. 

We played puzzle games online, analyzed episodes of Survivor, laughed together on the good days and vented to each other on the tough ones.

The Princeton athletic department has been the best in the Ivy League for decades (assuming you use metrics like wins or titles), and championship coaches always talk about staff and culture. Our office may not have had competitions on a schedule, but we were a team, and we were competitive. Being the best department in the league mattered to us.

Having a teammate like Kristy made it possible — made it likely — to be successful. 

Like the winged helmet, she’ll have a great second run at Michigan. She’ll do innovative things with their hockey team, which hopefully helps her reach her dream of a career in the NHL, and she’ll bring both progressive thought and a positive energy to their department.

But it will be hard to match these last 11 years, when she positively impacted the collegiate experience of thousands of Princetonians, and she made lasting relationships with coaches and staff that we all know will last far beyond her days on E Level of Jadwin.

Thanks for everything Kristy. Go kill it at Michigan.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Women's Volleyball Race

TigerBlog was 6.2 miles into his bike ride early yesterday morning when he had the kind of thought that only someone who works in athletic communications would have.

How long had he been riding? And, since 6.2 miles would be 10,000 meters, how would that time have done at the Ivy League Heptagonal championships?

He checked his odometer, which shows elapsed time, distance, total distance traveled since he put the odometer on (he's at 1,100 miles since July 1) and time of day. He saw that he'd gone 10,000 meters in 27 minutes.

When he got off his bike, he looked it up. The Ivy League men's 10,000 meter champion finished the race in 32:06.67. That was Brian Zabilski of Columbia.

Princeton's Conor Lundy was second, in 32:06.93, which was .26 behind Zabilski. The time difference between first and second in the 100 meter dash was .13, or half of that.

In the 400, it was more than a full second (1.08 to be exact).

That was one close 10,000 meter run - and TB beat them both by five full minutes. Forget the fact that he was on a bike.

There are times when TB has to stop and remember that as fast as he thinks he's going when he rides, there are people who can run equally as fast, or faster. He has averaged under a four-minute mile for a ride of 11.5 miles. One of these days he'll see how long it takes him to do 26.2 miles. 

Speaking of distance running, the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships are a week from Friday, at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City. It is one of TB's favorite annual events on the Ivy League calendar.

His question this year is if he can get from that event, in the late morning/early afternoon, to Ithaca, in time for kickoff for Princeton-Cornell football that night (kickoff at 6).

That game was originally a 7 pm kickoff, but it was moved up an hour for TV (it's on ESPNU). That's good, considering the ride home postgame.

In terms of getting to Heps and then to Ithaca? TB isn't sure on that one.

The Heps cross country event usually crowns the first Ivy League champions of the year, and this year will be no different.

The events of the coming weekend will have a huge impact on the direction of some of the other Ivy races, the ones that go on all fall, not the ones at Van Cortlandt.

For today, TB will focus on one of those races, the one in women's volleyball. This one certainly looks like a three-team race at the midway point of the season.

Princeton, Yale and Cornell are all 6-1, unbeaten against the rest of the league and 1-1 against each other. The fourth place team is Columbia, at 3-4.

Each team has one match this weekend, against its travel partner (Princeton is at Penn Friday at 7), and then three straight weekends of Friday/Saturday before the regular season ends. The head-to-head matchups are:

Princeton at Cornell - Nov. 1 (7, one hour after the football game starts about 100 yards away)
Yale at Cornell - Nov. 8
Princeton at Yale, - Nov. 16 (last day of the regular season)

Those matches will obviously be huge. So will every other one, because any losses along the way will be crucial.

The Ivy League went to a double round-robin format in the 2001 season. Before then, in the single round-robin days, there were two three-way ties, but at 5-2, not at 6-1.

Since 2001, there have been no three-way ties, though in 2004 there was a four-way tie.

What all that means is that in the history of Ivy League women's volleyball, there's never been a year where three teams split with each other and were perfect against everyone else.

At the halfway point this year, that's the case. 

What will the second half bring?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Hall Pass

Remember Friday when TigerBlog told you that his counterpart at Brown, Chris Humm, was a really good guy?

Well, yesterday TB received an email from the Hummer with a picture of Princeton wide receiver Zach Kelly's first career touchdown reception. That was really nice of him to send it along, especially since it's a great picture, as you can see (photo by Louis Walker):
Also Friday, TB mentioned how high up it is to get to the press box at Brown Stadium. It's 114 steps, as the Hummer said.

TB went up and down three times. That's not a bad workout actually. He has no idea how many times the Hummer did it, but every time TB looked up, it seemed like he was either walking up the stairs or down the stairs.

For TigerBlog, it was a weekend spent in the car. He drove up Saturday morning to Providence, leaving at 6:30 for the 12:30 kickoff and getting back around 9:30. Then it was out again early Sunday, to head to Baltimore for the women's lacrosse scrimmages at Loyola - in the pouring rain.

It made for a busy weekend, but it was also a lot of fun.

One of the first people TigerBlog saw in the rain at Loyola was Patty Kennedy, a one-time assistant coach with the women's lacrosse team and the wife of Princeton men's soccer coach Jim Barlow. PK, as she is known to everyone, is one of the absolute nicest people TB knows, and he can't think of anyone who knows her who disagrees. In fact, she and her husband have to be the most universally liked couples you'll ever meet.

Behind PK, TB saw Theresa Sherry, the former women's soccer and women's lacrosse player and another one on the list of nicest people TB knows. Sherry also is on the list of Princeton lacrosse players who have won NCAA championship games with overtime goals, along with men's players Andy Moe, Kevin Lowe, Jesse Hubbard and B.J. Prager.

PK and Theresa were in town for the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame induction ceremony the night before, there to support Rachael Becker DeCecco, who was joined by Princeton alums Matt Striebel and Ryan Boyle in being enshrined among the greatest in the sport's history.

Rachael, who does color commentary for Princeton women's lacrosse games, was also at the scrimmages.

Here's another picture that was sent to TB yesterday:

Those are Princeton's three newest Hall of Famers.

Here's a picture of the entire group that was inducted:
It is not shocking that in this picture, Striebel has the biggest smile and Boyle has the wryest smile.

Again, congratulations to the three new Hall of Famers. Also, he'd think Theresa Sherry has a chance to get there too; she's already in the the Northern California chapter of the Hall of Fame, which is the first step.

There was something completely fitting about having Boyle and Striebel go into the Hall of Fame together. Their lacrosse trajectories have been linked since 2001, the first year they were teammates, on Princeton's sixth NCAA championship team.

By now, the story is familiar. Striebel played attack for his first three years at Princeton, but Boyle took his spot when he arrived for Striebel's senior year. This moved Striebel to midfield, and it got Princeton an NCAA title - and Striebel called the best midfielder in the world by Inside Lacrosse several years later.

They went on to win three Major League Lacrosse championships and two World Championships, giving them six major championships together. TB hasn't looked up how many other combinations in lacrosse history have won six championships together, with at least one NCAA title, one professional title and one world title, but that list can't be long.

In TB's experience with Princeton men's lacrosse, which is considerable, there are two combinations that stand out above all others. One was the attack unit of Jon Hess, Jesse Hubbard and Chris Massey. The other is Striebel and Boyle.

As for Rachael Becker DeCecco, she is cut from the same personality mold as PK and Sherry. She also was, obviously, a force when she played.

In fact, her claim to lacrosse history didn't start with the Hall of Fame. It went back to 2003, when she won the Tewaaraton Award as the top player in women's college lacrosse that year.

To this day, she is the only player, male or female, to win the sport's highest collegiate award while playing on defense. That's an incredible accomplishment.

She is also the first Princeton women's player to reach the Hall of Fame, joining her coach, and the current coach of the Tigers, Chris Sailer, in the Hall. Together they won 35 of 39 games in 2002 and 2003, winning the NCAA title both times.

And now she's a Hall of Famer. So are Striebel and Boyle.

It was a great night for Princeton lacrosse.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Nearly Perfect First Half

The visiting team locker room at Brown Stadium sits under the main grandstand, and it has a grassy area in front of it that serves as a rallying point for team members, coaches and support staff.

TigerBlog was standing in that area shortly after Princeton's 65-22 win over Brown Saturday afternoon, on an absolutely perfect day for football in Providence. He was talking to Christian Brown, a defensive back who had four tackles and an interception, and Jacob Birmelin, a wide receiver who had a lot of catches and a lot of yards, before they were interviewed by Jay Greenberg for the Princeton football blog.

TB had one question for Birmelin. Did he know how many receptions he had in the first half?

The junior from Royal Palm Beach, Fla., said he didn't. Then he thought about it and said "seven?"

Nope. Not even close.

Birmelin had 11 catches in the first half. Eleven - by halftime. For 179 yards and two touchdowns. He'd catch one more on the first play of the second half, for another 10 yards, and that was pretty much the end of his day.

He came into the game as Princeton's leading receiver with 19 receptions. He left it as the Ivy League's leader with 31, which is eight more than any other player in the league.

Birmelin had seven career receptions for 44 yards for his career prior to this season. He has been great all year, part of a rebuilt receiver corps that began the year as a major question mark and now has become a major strength.

As for the game itself, TB stood on that same grassy area just before the kickoff as well, and it was quite telling. 

First he was talking with offensive coordinator Andrew Aurich, who seemed very calm, like it was a Tuesday or something, not a few minutes before an Ivy League.
From inside the locker room TB could hear Bob Surace, the head coach. He couldn't hear what Surace was saying, just the tone with which he was saying. Surace wasn't yelling or anything like that. He was just talking.

Then, after the national anthem, the team began to file out. There was no screaming, no jumping on each other.

What was there? Focus.

There was lots of that. TB could see it and sense it.

Then the game started, and it proved TB was right.

Princeton would win the game 65-22 after a first half that featured a season's worth of highlights. It was an extraordinary first 30 minutes, which ended with the Tigers ahead 51-19. That's 51 points in the first half.

Was that a record? TB has no way to look it up. He can say it's the most a Surace-coached Princeton team has ever scored in the first half.

Princeton's first half drive chart was this:

Field goal

The person who had the most wild first half was Jacob Birmelin, who would finish the game with 12 receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns. His first half alone? He had 11 catches for 176 yards and both touchdowns, and 61 yards on three punt returns.

Kevin Davidson threw for 271 first half yards and finished the day 27 for 35 for 379 yards and five touchdowns.

If you recall a year ago, Davidson made his first career start in the game against Brown when John Lovett was injured and threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns. In his two starts against Brown in his career, Davidson went 53 for 75 for 678 yards and nine touchdowns.

How good was Davidson? He even dropped a pooch punt inside the 5.

Princeton finished the first half with 21 first downs and 429 yards of offense.

The second half was played at a much slower tempo, and every player who traveled got into the game.

In addition to the dominant performances that Princeton got from Davidson and Birmelin, it was also a great afternoon for three Tiger seniors.

Tyler Campbell came into the game with 86 career rushing yards. Against Brown he carried 12 times for 91 yards, including an awesome 37-yard run that came on a fourth-and-one in the first half, when Princeton went for it on its own 35. That was 1) a gutsy call and 2) a lot of faith in Campbell.

The other two seniors were Sam Johnson and Zach Kelly, who each had his first career touchdown reception.

The win improved Princeton to 5-0, with 15 straight victories. Up next is Homecoming, Saturday at 1, as Harvard comes to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard are all 2-0 in the Ivy League.

That's really all you need to know to figure out that Saturday's game is big.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Two Places At Once

TigerBlog is still holding out hope that sometime in the next 24 hours, human cloning becomes very mainstream.

That way, he can be in Providence and Baltimore tomorrow.

Why those two places?

The Princeton football team plays at Brown tomorrow, with kickoff at 12:30. The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame induction ceremony begins in Baltimore at 6, and three of TigerBlog's all-time favorite lacrosse players - Princeton alums Rachael Becker DeCecco, Ryan Boyle and Matt Striebel - are being inducted.

He looked at flights from Providence to Baltimore. There's one at 4, but he'd never make that with a 12:30 kickoff. Then there's another at 5:50, but that gets into Baltimore at 7:20. And that's at the airport.

Plus, if he drove to Providence, what would he do with his car? He'd have to fly back and get it.

He will be at Brown Stadium for the football game tomorrow, and his best wishes and congratulations to Rachael, Ryan and Matt will have to do.

TigerBlog's counterpart at Brown is Chris Humm, who has been there even longer than TB has been here, which goes back a ways. How far back does he go? TigerBlog met Bernie Buonanno, the father of freshman women's lacrosse player Kari Buonanno, and Bernie said that he was a lacrosse player at Brown who graduated in 1986 - and Chris Humm was  already there.

Anyway, ou can ask anyone who has ever covered a football game at Brown what stands out the most, and they'll mention either the 114 steps up from the field to the press box or, more likely, the thing that the facility has always featured:

The best chocolate chip cookies you'll ever eat.

Humm - the Hummer to everyone who knows him - emailed TigerBlog during the week to remind him about the 114 steps and the cookies.

TB and the Hummer go way, way back, all the way to TB's days in the newspaper business. There are few people TB has met in this business that he likes more than the Hummer, who is the only grandfather that TB knows who works in athletic communications.

He and the Hummer go further back than Princeton head football coach Bob Surace and Brown head football coach James Perry do. TB isn't sure where Surace and Perry first crossed paths, but he knows that Perry was one of the first people Surace brought with him to Princeton when he became head coach in 2010.

Perry, in fact, was the offensive coordinator at Princeton for seven seasons, including the Ivy League championship seasons of 2013 and 2016. Then he left for Bryant to become head coach, where he was 12-10 in two years, before taking over Brown this year.

If you listened to the "First in Football" podcast, you heard Surace talk about how close he and Perry are, how close their families have been and how he likes "to look at the scores and see that his friends have won," except of course when he plays against them. That was the case last week, when Surace and Princeton defeated his former teammate and very close friend John Garrett, the head coach of Lafayette, 28-3.

That win was the 14th straight for the Tigers. It also was the final non-league game of the year. All that's left are six straight Ivy games, as Surace chases a fourth Ivy title in seven years.

The first of those six tests is the one at Brown.

The Perry who poses the most immediate issue is E.J. Perry, the nephew of the head coach. He is the Ivy League leader in total offense, by a wide margin (56 yards per game) over Princeton's Kevin Davidson second-best Ivy League total, and Perry ranks fifth in the FCS as well. In addition to being a threat throwing the ball, Perry also is the Bears' leading rusher.

Perry, by the way, is a junior transfer from Boston College. Davidson started against the Bears last year in the only start of his career prior to this year. Perry started against the Tigers last year too - the Clemson Tigers, the ones who won the national championship.

Perry will be the biggest test for the Princeton defense to date. The Tigers so far have been incredible on defense, with balance, depth, play-makers, aggression, focus and pretty much everything else that goes into making a cohesive unit.

Plus they look like they're having fun while they're doing it.

So it'll be Princeton at Brown. TB is looking forward to it.

And again, congratulations to the three Hall of Famers. TB won't be able to be at their induction, but he did get to see them play a lot while they were here.

They've deserved every honor they've gotten.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Venue Shopping

If you want to see something that will make you smile, then check out what Princeton head women's basketball coach Carla Berube tweeted:

It's almost like it's staged. And with all the chaos around her, the girl is locked in on the camera and smiling. Can't ask for more than that.

How could that not make you go "awwww?"

In other recent Twitter finds, there was this, from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy:

There are 146 centers? And only 19 gymnasiums? TigerBlog would not have guessed that.

In the Ivy League, you have this:

Brown - Center
Columbia - Gymnasium
Cornell - Arena
Dartmouth - Arena
Harvard - Pavillion
Penn - other
Princeton - Gymnasium
Yale - Gymnasium

Maybe that's why TB thought there would be more Gyms than there are. There are three among eight Ivy League teams.

If you add up the numbers, then it comes to 349 venues. If TigerBlog is correct, there are 351 Division I college basketball teams. Penn has the Palestra obviously. What's the other one that doesn't end in any of the ones above?

Want a hint? Neither the Princeton men's nor women's team has ever played there. In fact, neither team has ever played this school, home, away or neutral.

If you do the math, then 41.8 percent of the Division I facilities are "centers," while in the Ivy League it's 12.5 percent. On the other hand, only 12 percent of Division I facilities are "gymnasiums," while in the Ivy League, that number is 37.5 percent.

TigerBlog's favorite non-Ivy League college venue is an Arena - Mackey Arena, at Purdue. TB, who has been to about 25 Power Five Conference basketball venues, went to a game at Mackey once and was just mesmerized by the atmosphere there.

It you're not paying attention to the calendar, it's almost basketball season. In fact, Berube's Princeton debut is fewer than three weeks away, as the Tigers head to Rider on Nov. 5. The men open that same night, at Duquesne.

By then the women's and men's hockey teams will have already played regular season games.

That's also a busy week, what with the 150th anniversary of the first college football game (it was Princeton-Rutgers) on Nov. 6 and then Princeton-Dartmouth at Yankee Stadium that Saturday, Nov. 9.

Busy, indeed. It's called crossover season, and it can get really, really busy.

Oh, and the answer to the trivia question? Have you heard of the Walter Pyramid? It's on the campus of Long Beach State University and the home of the 49ers men's and women's basketball teams. 

This weekend is still reserved only for fall events, and it's busy enough as is.

The football team reaches the midway point of its season when it travels to Brown for a game Saturday that kicks off at 12:30 and can be seen on ESPN+. Forecast for the game? Sunny and 61, or, in a word, perfect.

The field hockey team will also be in Providence Saturday to also take on Brown. That game starts at noon.

Princeton, ranked eighth this week, has a two-game weekend, with a game Sunday at 1 at Boston University. The Tigers enter the weekend as one of Ivy unbeatens, along with No. 14 Harvard, whom Princeton plays in Cambridge next Saturday.

The women's volleyball team is on its Dartmouth/Harvard trip this weekend. The current Ivy standings have Cornell at 5-0, followed by Princeton and Yale at 4-1. There's a long way to go there.

Closer to home, there's a soccer doubleheader against Columbia, with the men at 4 and the women at 7. Both teams, the defending league champs, are looking to get back into the Ivy race for this year.

There's also cross country, with the Princeton Invitational for both teams here in advance of the Ivy League Heptagonal championships at Van Cortlandt Park in New York on Nov. 1.

The men's and women's tennis teams compete in Philadelphia. The full schedule is HERE.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Story Of The Unit Coin

It was back in 2010 that TigerBlog set out to figure out who the "Campbell" was in "Campbell Field."

If you've ever been to the Princeton Stadium/Jadwin Gym/DeNunzio Pool area, you may have noticed the practice fields that are adjacent to those facilities and Lot 21. Their names are Finney Field, the one closest to the stadium, and Campbell Field, the one next to that.

Finney Field is named after John Finney, Class of 1884.

As TB wrote few weeks ago, John apparently is the only person ever to play football for both Princeton and Harvard, where he attended medical school. Finney went on to build the medical school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore into a leader in the field, and he was part of the first modern surgical treatment of soldiers in battle during World War I.

It also appears that he came very close to being the president of the University after Woodrow Wilson left in 1910.

Two of his sons would go on to become surgeons, and one of his sons and a grandson would become Princeton trustees, as he had been. The grandson, Redmond Finney, was a football/lacrosse star at Princeton before graduating in 1951. That Finney was the headmaster at the Gilman School in Baltimore from 1968-92, the longest tenure ever by a Gilman headmaster.

Finney Field has been called that since 1957, when the family donated the field in John M.T.'s memory, 15 years after he passed away at the age of 79.

As for Campbell Field, it turned out was named for Tyler Campbell, Class of 1943, and a member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

From the Princeton Companion:
"Tyler Campbell graduated from Officers' Candidate School as a 2nd lieutenant, he led his men on the invasion beachheads of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and southern France, was wounded twice and twice promoted in the field, reaching the grade of captain. He was killed in action in France while commanding an infantry company of the 7th Army, two years after leaving college."

His family created Campbell Field in 1962 in his memory.

TigerBlog, after first learning that, set out to find out more about Tyler Campbell. What he'd end up finding out was extraordinary.

TB set out to find any relatives of Campbell's that he could, and he ended up connecting with a niece who, as luck had it, held on to all kinds of letters that Campbell had written and that had been sent to the family after his death. It's some of the most moving stuff TB has ever read.

Eventually, he took everything he found and turned it into THIS feature story. It's one of his better efforts, largely because of how the letters put him right into the moments before and after Campbell's death. The title - "So Long, Ty" - refers to the way he signed his last letter to his brother before his death a few days later.

More than nine years passed, and then TigerBlog received an email recently from a man named James Osborne, a retired Lt. Colonel in the Air Force. Lt. Colonel Osborne's father Paul had served in the same unit in France - Company A - as Tyler Campbell, and James had become something of a unit historian. That's how he found the feature story.

TB still had all of the materials he received from Campbell's niece, and he was able to forward them to Lt. Colonel Osborne, who then responded. 

This is from Lt. Colonel Osborne's email:

There are so many details in these letters which really hit home for me. For example, Cpl Roberts said there were five men who cried over Capt Campbell's death, Pasquale, Page, Nadler, McComel and himself. Sgt Urbano Di Pasquale was KIA 18 Mar 45 on the Siegfried Line and is buried in Laureldale, PA. SSgt Frank Page survived the war, but was seriously wounded in action 27 Apr 45 and never fully recovered. He was the best friend of one of the Company A veterans I was fortunate enough to meet, Andy Macke. Andy named his first son after Frank. I visited Frank's grave in Uhrichsville, OH last year.  His grave is in the powerpoint presentation I'm attaching. Nadler could be either Abraham or Bernard.  The two brothers were both in Company A.  Once again I could go on and on, but I'm trying to say that every bit of information you provided is important to me.  I am very grateful.

The email included a Power Point presentation that told more of the unit's story, with a lot of information about Tyler Campbell.

As a history major, all of this was fascinating for TigerBlog. It became even more fascinating after his trip to Normandy this past summer.

Finally, after emailing back and forth, Lt. Colonel Osborne sent TB this:

In the military it is a tradition to create unit coins and pass them along to friends and comrades as mementos.  I created a coin for Company A which I would like to send to you in appreciation of the invaluable help you have given to me as well as the wonderful memorial tribute you gave to Capt Campbell.  I have given away about 150 of these coins to people in France who have helped me find very obscure sites, Company A veterans and relatives of Company A veterans, as well as people around the US who have helped me in many ways to research the men of Company A. 

And so it was that TigerBlog received a unit coin of Company A in the mail last week. It was a wonderful gesture, and it's something really special for TB to have it.

For that he is very thankful to James Osborne.

And for today, he'll end the same way he ended the feature story nine years ago:

Stand outside the gate and ask those who park their cars next to it or the athletes who practice on it what the name of the field is, and how many would know? And of those who do know it is Campbell Field, how many know who Campbell was?
How many would know that he was a young man, 20 years old, who made the decision to walk away from studying chemical engineering and playing three sports at Princeton, who made the decision to walk away from an Army desk job, who made the decision to put himself in danger during a war, who twice was wounded and who came back both times because he felt that it was the right thing for him to do at time?
Who would know that Campbell Field is named for Tyler Campbell, who died on Sept. 21, 1944 at the young age of 22 years old, a lifetime of unimaginable greatness denied him in sacrifice to his country's freedom?
Who would know that this field is named for a genuinely heroic figure, a person well worth learning about? Talk to the people who knew him, read what they wrote about him. And emulate him.
Would they know that any field named for Tyler Campbell, Princeton Class of 1943, is to be considered sacred, hallowed ground?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

90 Yards Of Championships

The women's lacrosse team announced its 2020 schedule yesterday.

As always, the team is going down a challenging path, with 15 games that include seven against NCAA tournament teams from a year ago and an eighth game against a team, Penn State, that had been in seven straight before last year.

Among the non-league highlights are home games against defending NCAA champion Maryland and 2019 quarterfinalist Virginia, as well as hosting Florida for the first time and making the trip to Stony Brook. There's also a spring break game at Jacksonville, another NCAA team last year.

One interesting note about the schedule - the team opens the season with six away games in the first seven and then ends it with five home games in the final six. If you're a fan who wants to come to the games, that's good news, since the weather will be better for the later home games.

Opening day is still four months away. Actually, it's exactly four months away, as the Tigers begin the season at Temple on February 15. Today's the 15th, right?

Princeton will be chasing a seventh straight Ivy League championship in 2020. Last year's season saw the team go 16-4, win the league regular-season and tournament titles and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals. 

The story about the schedule release (you can read it HERE) includes a picture of members of the women's lacrosse team at the football game Friday night against Lafayette. The annual "Parade of Champions" was held at halftime, and it made for a very good celebratory picture of the women's lacrosse players.

Princeton won 12 Ivy League championships and three others in sports that compete in leagues other than the Ivy League. TB has said this many times before, but it's worth repeating: Princeton has now been in double figures in Ivy League titles in 26 different academic years. Harvard has done so 10 times. No other Ivy school has ever done it.

As for the parade itself, it was extraordinary on two levels.

First, with all of the championships that Princeton won a year ago, the line of athletes on the field stretched from inside one five yard line to inside the other. That's at least 90 yards of championship winning athletes.

Second, that long line didn't even include three teams that won Ivy titles a year ago - the men's and women's soccer teams and, of course, the football team.

It was really an extraordinary sight.

The whole thing got TigerBlog wondering how many athletes were part of championship teams last year. He did a little research, and he came up with 452.

Princeton has just about 1,000 varsity athletes, so nearly half of them won a league championship last year. In the Department of Athletics, the conversation often is about providing the best possible experience for the athletes, and part of that has always been defined as a championship experience, the opportunity to win at least one championship in their four years.

And a year ago, nearly half of them had that. 

How's that? Amazing, right?

It certainly looked it from the football press box.

As TB said, there were the three teams who couldn't be part of it Friday night. The football team, obviously, was playing.

The men's and women's soccer teams were on the road, at Brown the next day, and they had already left on the trip.

Those two will be part of a different doubleheader today on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, as both teams host Lehigh. The women's game is first, at 5, followed by the men at 7:30.

There's another soccer doubleheader this weekend at Princeton, as the Tigers welcome Columbia. This time, the men's game will be first, at 4, followed by the women at 7.

Admission is free for both doubleheaders.

Monday, October 14, 2019

D Plus

From his perch in the Princeton Stadium press box, TigerBlog could see Jeremiah Tyler in warmups before the game, before he even put on his uniform, and he could tell that Tyler was about to play really well.

And that's exactly what happened.

There was something about the way Tyler was getting ready that really stood out, for some reason. By halftime, the junior linebacker from Detroit would have six tackles, three for loss, as the Princeton defense already showed what kind of night it was going to be.

The final score was Princeton 28, Lafayette 3, as the Tigers improved to 4-0 on the year, heading into a sprint of six Ivy League games in six weeks.

Princeton threw a complete blanket over a good Lafayette offense, one that came into the game with an average of 383 yards per game. How dominant was Princeton's defense? Consider all of the following:

* Lafayette had 162 yards of total offense

* Princeton held Lafayette to 1.5 yards per rush and seven first downs

* Lafayette had the ball 12 times. Only once did the Leopards cross midfield

* Of those 12 drives, they ended with eight punts, two interceptions, once on downs and the one field goal

That's a pretty good night for the Princeton D.

Even better is that Tyler was hardly a one-man wrecking crew. It was more like an 11-man wrecking crew on essentially every play.

No player had more than six tackles, and 13 players had at least two. There were two other players with six tackles, including Joey DeMarco, who had two sacks to go along with the tackles. Delan Stallworth was the other player with six.

There were five players who had at least half a sack - DeMarco, Tyler, James Johnson, Matthew Jester and Daniel Beard. Two other players - Sultaan Shabazz and Jayden Wickware - had interceptions.

Princeton's defense has allowed an average of 260 yards per game, a number that ranks second in the FCS, trailing only Kennesaw State. Princeton is also second in the FCS in scoring defense, allowed 10.8 points per game. TB will get back to the team that is first in a minute.

Keep in mind, this is a defense that lost, among other players, two first-team All-Ivy League linebackers from a year ago. And yet the Tigers have been on wipe out mode all season.

Princeton also comes at you in waves on the defensive side of the ball. It's a unit with a lot of depth, a lot of it young depth.

Up next for this team is a trip to Brown, where the Bears average 414 yards of total offense per game. That game will be the halfway point of the season.

And where do things stand as the halfway point approaches?

Princeton is 4-0, winner of 14 straight. The Tigers are one of three teams in the FCS who are unbeaten, along with top-ranked North Dakota State and Ivy rival Dartmouth.

The Big Green have been very impressive so far this season, especially this past Saturday's 42-10 win over Yale. Princeton and Dartmouth meet in Week 8, Nov. 9, at Yankee Stadium, as part of the 150th anniversary of college football celebration.

Princeton has three games between now and then - the trip to Brown, a home game against Harvard and a trip to Cornell. In other words, there's just way too much to do between now and the game at Yankee Stadium for anyone to even think about a second-straight 7-0 vs. 7-0 matchup featuring Princeton and Dartmouth, who played an epic game last year that Princeton won 14-9.

Harvard, along with Princeton and Dartmouth, is unbeaten in the Ivy League. No league game is going to be easy.

Still, Princeton has looked very sharp so far this year. Maybe the best part is the fact that it's been a total team effort, and each week it's hard to figure out which players to nominate for Ivy Player of the Week because there are endless options each time.

A week ago, the team's official Offensive Player of the Week was offensive tackle Henry Byrd. After the Tigers rushed for 203 yards and had an 11-minute edge in possession time against Lafayette, TigerBlog nominated center Alex Deters.

Princeton has gotten to this point of the season exactly where it wanted to be - unbeaten, with room for improvement and laser focused on the coming challenges.

It's a good place to be 40 percent of the way through your season. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Football Nostalgia

TigerBlog was talking with Stacie Traube, the longtime assistant in the football office, about something the other day when she brought up the first Princeton freshman to score a touchdown in a varsity game.

The first year of freshman eligibility for football in the Ivy League was 1993, and Princeton had three freshmen who won varsity letters that year: Nick Avallone, Ben Gill and Marc Washington. None scored a touchdown that year.

In fact, it wouldn't be until the 1994 season when a freshman would score a touchdown, and it wouldn't be an offensive player who did so. It was actually linebacker Tim Greene, who blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown in Week 3 against Bucknell.

It was actually a huge play, as it came with 2:09 to go in the game and the Tigers behind 7-6 and gave Princeton a 12-7 win in Palmer Stadium. TigerBlog, then in his first go-round as the football contact, remembers calling Greene's hometown newspaper to get them to include the news.

Perhaps that's why he remembered Greene's hometown when Stacie brought him up. It was Cartersville, Ga.

He's less certain how he remembered Greene's actual first name, when Stacie tested him. It's Ronald.

How TB knew that he has no idea, but he answered it immediately.

Greene, by the way, would end his career as a 1996 and 1997 first-team All-Ivy League selection. He was also a captain of the 1997 "Road Warrior" team, the one that played away all season (well, one home game at The College of New Jersey and a neutral site game at Giants Stadium) as Palmer was demolished and Princeton Stadium built.

It's always good to stroll back to the old days. The old days? Does that make TigerBlog old?

He looked at the 1995 media guide yesterday (those are books that used to get printed before the season and couldn't be altered at all; Bruce Wood, longtime Dartmouth chronicler, is the only person TB knows who misses them) and, among other things, saw the page that had pictures of the administration and support staff. Athletic communications was not included on that page.

There were 28 people pictured on the page, of whom three currently still work here: Stacie in the football office, Elysee Nicolas of the grounds crew and ticket manager Stephanie Sutton.

While TB is being nostalgic, he goes back to the 1989 Princeton football season, one in which the Tigers ended a 20-year drought by winning the Ivy League championship. The team's first-team All-Ivy center that year was Bob Surace, who is now its head coach.

TB doesn't quite make it back to 1987, when Surace was a sophomore and John Garrett was a senior wide receiver. John is the older brother of Bushnell Cup winners Jason (1988) and Judd (1989), also teammates of Surace's. Jason, of course, is now the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Those two will set aside their long friendship tonight when Princeton hosts Garrett, who is the head coach of the Lafayette Leopards. Kickoff on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium is at 7; you can see the game on ESPNU if you're not in the Princeton area.

Surace and Garrett have more in common than one varsity season together at Princeton.

Surace was the head coach at Western Connecticut in 2000 and 2001, putting together a fairly impressive 18-3 record in those two seasons. Then one day his phone rang, and it was an invitation to join the Cincinnati Bengals' coaching staff.

The caller? John Garrett.

During their time in Cincinnati, the two were neighbors who commuted to work together. They were close friends with families who were close to each other as well.

And tonight, they're on opposite sidelines. That was also the case two years ago, when Princeton and Lafayette last played (a 38-17 Princeton win in Easton in Garrett's first season with the Leopards).

The game is the final non-league one for both, who finish their season with six straight league games. Lafayette is 0-5, but the Patriot League figures to be a wide-open dogfight.

The Ivy League does as well. There are currently five unbeaten FCS teams, and three are in the Ivy League - Princeton, Dartmouth and Yale. The latter two play tomorrow in Hanover.

Princeton is coming in off a tough 21-10 win over Columbia in the Ivy opener. The first of the remaining league games is next weekend at Brown, which is coached by former Surace offensive coordinator James Perry.

That'll be a different kind of nostalgia.

And that'll also be the halfway point of the season, shockingly enough.

The rest will be here fast - six league games, including one at Yankee Stadium against Dartmouth.

First, though, it's Lafayette tonight at home.

Old friends. It's always good to see them - even if you're coaching against them.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Iron Men

The men's soccer game against Delaware Tuesday night had just started when TigerBlog noticed something fascinating on the Blue Hens' bench.

There was one player on it. Just one - and he was the backup goalkeeper.

In other words, Delaware had only 10 healthy field players for this one, and so they'd all have to go all 90 minutes. And that's what happened.

Of course, even playing against a team with no subs, the Tigers had to go out and win the game, which the Tigers did 3-0. Daniel Diaz Bonilla scored his first career goal to start the evening, and Spencer Fleurant finished it with his first two-goal game.

Yes, Princeton was able to use eight players off the bench and, not surprisingly, outshot Delaware 11-2 in the second half. Does not going to the bench automatically mean a loss though?

Any Princeton men's basketball fan can tell you the answer to that is a resounding "no."

Back in the first round of the 1999 NIT, Princeton found itself playing at home against Georgetown. In that game, Princeton head coach Bill Carmody played the same five players for all 40 minutes each, while Georgetown substituted frequently.

The result?

Princeton 54, Georgetown 47.

TigerBlog sat in the first seat on press row next to the Princeton bench. At one point, it began to dawn on him that the Tigers had not subbed at all in the game, and he was trying to figure out if Carmody and his staff realized it - and if so, was this the plan.

In the end, two of Princeton's five players had four fouls, but there was no sense of subbing for them. Instead, the same five went start to finish.

Today's trivia question - can you name the five players? TigerBlog will list them at the end (hint - one of them had six points and 18 rebounds, and only one Princeton men's basketball player that TB has ever seen could have put up that stat line).

It's the only game TigerBlog can think of where a team, in any sport, never subbed. Maybe he's overlooking something obvious? And he's not counting squash or golf or tennis or a sport where your lineup is simply your lineup.

Anyway, that's what TB thought of when he saw Delaware go with 11 players Tuesday night.

Next up for the men's soccer team is a second-straight road Ivy road trip, this time to Brown. It's a doubleheader with the women, with the women's game at 3:00. 

The women defeated Dartmouth 1-0 last Saturday, evening their Ivy record at 1-1. In that game, Natalie Grossi recorded her 30th career shutout, making her the first Ivy goalkeeper male or female to reach 30 career shutouts.

Whenever you're the only person in Ivy League history to do something, that's a pretty amazing thing to have on your resume.

As for the women's soccer team, there are two currently unbeaten teams in the Ivy League - Brown and Harvard. That obviously makes the game Saturday a big one. Princeton heads to Providence knowing that if it wins out, it wins at least a share of the league championship.

Princeton will be home this weekend in two Ivy League sports.

The field hockey team is home at 1 Saturday against Columbia. The Tigers, who are ranked seventh this week, are 2-0 in the Ivy League, set to take on the 1-1 Lions.

Princeton should be extremely well-rested, at least by its standards, since it hasn't played since Sunday. That's six whole days. The six days prior that? It featured three games, all of which were decided by one goal, including a 5-4 OT win over then-No. 2 Duke.

The women's volleyball team hosts Brown Saturday and then Yale Sunday at 1 on ESPNU. Princeton is currently 2-1 in the league, behind 3-0 unbeatens Cornell and Yale - with a very long way to go in the race.

There are other events this weekend too, on the road though. The men's water polo team plays Iona and St. Francis in Brooklyn Saturday and then at Fordham Sunday. There's a big men's and women's tennis event in Oklahoma.

And of course the football team hosts Lafayette tomorrow at 7 on Powers Field.

By the way, the answer to the trivia question: Brian Earl, Ahmed El-Nokali, Gabe Lewullis, Mason Rocca (he had the 6/18), Chris Young.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Fast Fast

Every now and then, TigerBlog goes back in the archives to see what he's written about certain holidays or events and such and then quotes it back in the current year.

Usually he does this because he remembers what he wrote and figures he's already said exactly what he wants to say in the way he wants to say it. That's because he can almost always remember what he's written through the years.

Yesterday, he read something from two years ago that he didn't remember at all and that made him laugh out loud.

He did a search for "Yom Kippur" to see what he's said about the Jewish Day of Atonement, which is what today is, and he found this from just two years ago:

If you've never tried to fast for 24 hours, it seems more daunting than it really is. Yes, you get hungry. No, it's not overwhelming. The worst part is looking at the time and thinking about how much longer you have to go.
If you really wanted to make it tough to atone for sins, then instead of going 24 hours without eating, it should be having to go 24 hours without using a smartphone or computer or checking email or getting texts or using social media. 

That's actually even more true now than it was then.

TigerBlog and his people will be fasting for 24 hours as part of the High Holy Days, a time of reflection and self-awareness that begins with the Jewish New Year and culminates in the holiest day of the year, a day of repentance.

As he said it seems overwhleming. No food and nothing to drink for 24 hours? Yikes. Who could do that?

In reality, it's not that difficult. The mistake is stuffing yourself before you start, because that won't help in the long run. For the first few hours, you have to fight off the instinct to have something to drink or a snack or something. In the last few hours, you have to not stare at the clock.

Other than that, it's not a big deal.

Of course, there's always that day during the year when circumstance prevents you from eating for awhile and you look up and realize you've gone always an entire day without food and think "why couldn't this have been Yom Kippur?"

So sure, you get a little hungry. And maybe you get a headache. But that's part of the deal.

Hey, it's the single most important ritual in the Jewish religion.

But no electronics for 24 hours? TB hasn't come close to being able to do that for the last, oh, 10 years or so. In fact, he may have to try that one of these days. He won't last until 7 am, he thinks.

His experiences with Princeton Athletics at the holiest day of his people have varied. On a normal year, he will take the day off and often go to services.

In other years, the holiday has corresponded with a game.

He remembers vividly the time he went to services at Brown, in a temple across the street from the football stadium. While there, he saw a Brown player in his football uniform.

There have been other times as well, including once at Lehigh when he was on the radio, fasting, about five feet from a giant tray of chocolate chip cookies. That was a real test of repentance.

For this Yom Kippur, he worked at the men's soccer game against Delaware last night.

He did so with no food and no drink, and it wasn't that difficult.

He did have two laptops and his cell phone.

Good thing they didn't have those 5800 years ago.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Fun Few Days Of Field Hockey

TigerBlog starts out today with a question.

When you order take out, they give you the same credit card receipt as if you sat in the restaurant and ate there. Knowing that, when you get take out, do you leave a tip? If you do, how much?

TB isn't sure about this one. He's never been sure.

Apparently, neither is anyone else. He did a search for "do you leave a tip with takeout" and got a lot of different answers.

He did find one survey that suggested that only 13 percent of people leave a tip when they buy takeout.

His sense is that if you pay cash for something and there's a tip jar near the register, then you're likely to throw a dollar or two into it. This, of course, requires that the people behind the counter see you do it, since you need to feel like they understand that you tipped them or else what was the point? A credit card though? Yeah, he's not sure.

Of course, when it comes to tipping etiquette, nothing really sums the entire situation up quite like THIS.

For the record, in his entire professional career, TigerBlog has never once received a tip for anything he's done.

Well, when he first wrote about Princeton rowing for the newspaper, then-head coach Dan Roock gave him a Princeton rowing hat, which was his first-ever piece of Tiger gear. Does that count as a tip?

If anyone deserves a tip this week, it's the Princeton field hockey team. DISCLAIMER - That's speaking rhetorically (or is it metaphorically?), understanding full well that NCAA rules prevent actual tips from being awarded.

The Tigers had themselves quite a week.

It began with a 1-0 win over No. 11 Delaware Tuesday night. Hannah Davey scored the only goal in that one with 2:09 to go - and that would be the least dramatic of the Tigers' three games.

Next up was an Ivy League game against Yale Friday afternoon. This time, instead of having the first goal with 2:09 left, the first goal came 2:16 in, and it came from the Bulldogs.

So did the second one, which came less than three minutes later. Stunningly, it was 2-0 Yale early in the first quarter.

Princeton came back though, scoring the next three, including the first two of the career of sophomore Claire Donovan, but Yale wouldn't go away, tying it at 3-3 with a little more than six minutes left to force overtime.

If you remember the Princeton-Yale game of two years ago, it was also a game where Yale led only to have Princeton come back and win it late. That time, it was Ryan McCarthy, who scored on a penalty corner with 0:00 on the clock.

This time it was another McCarthy, Ryan's sister Ali, who scored the game-winner, this time in overtime.

Is that enough drama for the week? Nope. It was just betting started for the Tigers.

After the Yale game, Princeton hopped on a bus and drove to North Carolina to take on No. 2 Duke Sunday afternoon. How'd that one go?

Well, Ali McCarthy scored the first goal. Then Duke scored the next four, making it a 4-1 game late in the second quarter.

Did Princeton say "hey, they're ranked second, we got two good wins this week, we're done?"


First McCarthy scored again, making it 4-2 at halftime, and then Marykate Neff made it 4-3 in the third.

It stayed that way until, of course, the final minute, because what would a Princeton game be without very late game drama. In fact, there were just 43 seconds left when Clara Roth tied it, forcing the overtime again.

And, again, the Tigers would score the winner, this time from Davey, the hero from Delaware. Princeton 5, Duke 4.

Of Princeton's last 15 games, there have been 14 decided by one goal. That's extraordinary.

Princeton has now played 11 games this year (10 against ranked teams) and had five go to overtime.

The rest of the regular season now features five Ivy games and Boston University. Princeton and Harvard are the two ranked Ivy teams, and they met last year in the regular season (Harvard won) and NCAA quarterfinals (Princeton won). That game is Oct. 26 in Cambridge, which means that both teams have two other Ivy opponents to worry about first.

In Princeton's case, that means Columbia home Saturday and then a trip to Brown and BU the following weekend.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Good To Have A Tough One

Kevin Davidson started to walk away after finishing his postgame interviews Saturday and summed up the entire afternoon perfectly in a few short words.

"It was good to have a tough one," the Princeton senior quarterback said.

He was definitely right about that one. After two weeks of putting up video game numbers and having the starters out in the fourth quarter, Princeton found itself pushed for 60 minutes by a tough Columbia team. The Tiger would win 21-10, stretching their winning streak to 13 straight while taking the Ivy opener on a day that was anything but easy.

And that was the best sign.

How would Princeton respond to its first serious test? The answer turned out to be "very well."

Columbia brought to Princeton Stadium 1) a defense that was top five in the FCS in a bunch of categories, 2) Ronald Smith, who broke the Tigers hearts on the same field two years earlier with a 63-yard TD reception with 1:12 left for a 28-24 win and 3) an attitude that the Lions deserved a shot at the Ivy title as much as anyone.

Add to that the fact that the Tigers, whose previous two first halves ended by a combined 70-21, found themselves behind at the break 10-7 and you can see that a win was hardly preordained.

One issue that Princeton had in the first half was that time of possession was completely lopsided, as Columbia had the ball 20 minutes to Princeton's 10. Sometimes that's not that big a deal, when, say, one team scores really quickly.

Sometimes it is a big deal. Princeton's offense never really got into great rhythm in the first half, largely because it hardly ever had the ball.

It all changed in the second half. Possession time was even. Princeton put together three long drives - two that ended in touchdowns and a third which essentially killed the second half of the fourth quarter to salt the game away.

The defense in those final 30 minutes allowed no points. The closest Columbia got to scoring was on a field goal attempt that would have made it a 14-13 game early in the fourth, but Joey DeMarco got a hand on the kick, and that was that.

Princeton's defense held Columbia to 206 total yards and 1.1 yards per rush. There were four sacks. Columbia's two quarterbacks combined for a great completion percentage by hitting on 24 of 30 passes (80 percent), but the fact that it added up to just 166 yards indicates that the Tigers tackled well.

There were several players who seemed to be everywhere, including linebackers James Johnson (11 tackles) and Jeremiah Tyler (10 tackles, 3.5 for loss, one sack) and defensive lineman Samuel Wright (2.5 sacks, seven tackles).

As for the offense, Davidson came into the game having completed 81 percent of his passes. Against Columbia, he "only" completed 63 percent.

He looked so good in the first two games that his numbers against Columbia seemed a bit tame: 22 for 35 for 271 yards and a TD, with his first interception of the season.

You want a little context on those 271 passing yards? You know who never threw for at least 271 yards against an Ivy League opponent? John Lovett.

Yes. That's not exactly apples to apples, since Lovett did so many other things to perfection and brought with him more intangibles than any Princeton football player TigerBlog has seen.

But still. It does tell you a bit about how high Davidson has set the standard for himself and that his performance was still first-rate. He is poised, moves well outside the pocket and has an incredible arm - all qualities he displayed in the second half yesterday.

He calmly led his team on those long drives in the second half, and he made the biggest play of the day when he dropped a perfect pass in to Dylan Classi on a 3rd and 10 from the Princeton 31 on the drive after the blocked field goal.

Had he and Classi not made that play,  Columbia would have the ball and a chance to drive the other way for the lead. Instead, it took just four more plays to get in the end zone for the score that pretty much put the game away.

That touchdown, by the way, came on a 31-yard run from Ryan Quigley. He and Collin Eaddy continue to be a great complement to each other, and the two running backs accounted for all three Tiger scores against Columbia.

Next up is Lafayette, Friday night at 7 at home and on ESPNU, in the final non-league game of the year. Then it's six Ivy games in a six weeks.

Princeton, as TB pointed out last week, has won 12 Ivy titles and has won the league opener in all 12 of them. That was what was on the line Saturday afternoon.

Get a win and take that first step.

And that's exactly what Princeton did.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Michael Sowers, And An Ivy Opener In Football

If you were on yesterday, perhaps you noticed TigerBlog's nearly 4,000 word feature on Sowers. If you didn't, you can read it HERE.

Of everything that TB has done here at Princeton and even with the changing world of how people consume information now (often in 280 characters or less), his favorite is still writing feature stories.

HERE'S another one, on football offensive linemen Brent Holder and Alex Deters. 

He was planning on writing one on Sowers in the spring before Inside Lacrosse approached him about the idea of doing one as fall ball is beginning. TB jumped at the chance.

The result is a story that he thinks pretty much tells you who Sowers is. As TB says in the story, he's the single most polite Princeton athlete he's ever met and he's the best lacrosse player he's ever seen.

That second statement is pretty bold, considering, he's seen, among others, Tom Schreiber, Jesse Hubbard, Kevin Lowe, Ryan Boyle, Scott Bacigalupo, David Morrow and Zack Currier. That group is either already in the Hall of Fame, about to be inducted or pretty much a lock to get there one day.

One thing TB didn't include in the story was that Sowers enters his senior year fifth in Division I history in points per game (6.07), which is the best total in 38 years, and that he already ranks 20th in Division I history in career assists. That's with a full season to go.

Should he match his point total of last year, he'd move up to seventh all-time.

Here's something else TB had to cut from the story: A few years ago, TigerBlog Jr. decided he wanted to put together a team to play in the Philadelphia summer box lacrosse league, and so he did. 

Then, the next year, he decided he wanted to win the league, so he went out and recruited Michael Sowers to be on his team. Box lacrosse is a very, very physical version of the sport.

This is what TigerBlog had to say to his son when he told him the news that Sowers was going to play with him, knowing that his son had already had four shoulder dislocations in his lacrosse career: "If you get hurt, I'm going to be mad. If Sowers gets hurt, I'm going to be really, really mad."

Fortunately, neither would end up getting hurt. And, along with Princeton's George Baughan, they would in fact win the championship that summer.

Hey, like he said, it was getting up around 4,000 words.

Speaking of TBJ, he used to play Pop Warner football before middle school, and he played on a team in fifth and sixth grade that include a kid named Dylan De Iuliis. That "kid" went on to become a linebacker on Colgate's NCAA quarterfinal team last year.

When TBJ's Pop Warner team would practice, TB clearly remembers Dylan's younger brother, who would have been in second or third grade at the time. He'd stand on the fringes of practices, hoping the ball would roll to him or something.

You could tell he wanted to be a football player.

These days, Dawson De Iuliis is a Princeton sophomore. He's also a defensive back and key member of the Tiger special teams.

Dawson's father, Dino, was one of the Pop Warner coaches back then. He also played football at Middle Tennessee State.

TB hadn't seen him in years before he saw him before the Bucknell game last week, along with his wife Kathy and Dylan. It was great to see them and catch up.

Next up for Dawson and his teammates is tomorrow's home game against Columbia, which kicks off tomorrow at 1 on Powers Field. It's the Ivy League opener for both.

Princeton has won 12 Ivy League titles. It has won its Ivy opener in all 12 of those seasons - and only three times this century has a team lost its Ivy opener and won at least a share of the title, with two of those a co-championship with the team it lost to in that first game.

Princeton is 2-0, averaging an FCS-best 52.5 points per game, with a quarterback (Kevin Davidson) who is completing 81 percent of his passes and four receivers who have combined for 10 TD receptions.

Columbia on the other hand has one of the best defenses in the FCS, a top five statistical defense. Columbia also has a great set of wide receivers with Ronald Smith and Josh Wainwright.

On top of that, Columbia is in the year after the year with all of the injuries. The Lions had a ton of injuries in 2018 and still went 6-4.

Like Princeton, Columbia is thinking about playing for an Ivy League championship next month.

There's no chance that you were at the first Princeton-Columbia game, since it was back in 1874. You might have been at the last Princeton-Columbia game in Princeton, two years ago, when the Lions stunned the Tigers on a 63-yard touchdown catch by Smith with 1:12 to play.

As TB said, kickoff is at 1. It should be a pretty good matchup.