Monday, September 21, 2020

Thinking Football

It was nearly 5 Saturday afternoon when TigerBlog texted his colleague Cody Chrusciel.

In addition to his work in multimedia, Cody, of course, is also the play-by-play man for Princeton football. TB texted him and asked him this:

"Would you rather be doing whatever it is you're doing now or be getting on the bus for the ride back from VMI?"

Cody texted him back in a few seconds and said he'd take the bus.

Now TB has no idea what Cody was doing at the time. Maybe he was doing something tedious.

Or maybe he's like everyone else at Princeton. There are no fall sports, just like the spring was cancelled in mid-March, which means that pretty much anything game-related has not had to be done.

And there's nobody who works at Princeton wants it this way.

And so TB and Cody were on the same page Saturday afternoon. They both would have liked to have been in Lexington, Va., for the Princeton football opener against VMI.

TigerBlog looked back through the Princeton football year-by-year results to see the last time the Tigers played in Virginia. Turns out it was in 2011, when the Tigers were at Hampton. He should have remembered that one.

He did remember that going back a little further, Princeton was in Virginia to play at William & Mary in 1986. Going back way further, Princeton played at the University of Virginia twice in the 1890s.  

That's been it for trips to Virginia.

As TB looked back at the all-time records, he noticed two things that he didn't know or never noticed or something like that.

First, every year from 1954 through 1979, Princeton played nine games - seven Ivy League games and non-league games against Colgate and Rutgers. Also, the overwhelming majority of those games were in Palmer Stadium. 

In fact, all of the Colgate games were at Princeton, and all but the 100th anniversary game in 1969 against Rutgers were at Princeton. Rutgers won that 1969 game, and the Daily Princetonian headline of the game said "Second Hundred Years Begins Worse Than The First."

A year later, Rutgers was back at Palmer Stadium in the final meeting the two original teams. That year, 1980, was also the year that Princeton's schedule expanded from nine games to 10, and the Tigers added Maine to the non-conference schedule along with Rutgers and Colgate.

The other thing that TB noticed from the old schedules was that the 1951 unbeaten Tigers also played a nine-game schedule. Does anyone know which current Ivy League team was not on the schedule and which three teams who would now be considered non-league were on the schedule? 

Keep in mind, the Ivy League didn't actually being officially until the 1956 season.

So who was on the 1951 schedule? It was every Ivy League team other than Columbia, of all teams. 

And the non-league teams? Lafayette, which is no shock. Navy, which is also no shock. The third? 

How about New York University? Who knew? 

Princeton played NYU in 1901, 1910 and 1912, winning all three and shutting out NYU all three times, and then not again until 1951, winning 54-20. 

Why did Princeton play NYU? Well, that story resonates a bit in 2020.

Columbia was originally on the schedule for the 1951 opener, but the game was cancelled a little more than a week before it was to be played. Why? Because two Columbia players were thought to have come down with polio.

Princeton was able to replace Columbia at the last minute with NYU, who had an open date that week. Dick Kazmaier scored three touchdowns in the game to start his run to the 1951 Heisman Trophy.

One year later, after the 1952 season, NYU would drop its football program. 

As for Columbia, it played eight games that season, beginning one week later against Harvard. The entire Lions team was tested for polio, obviously, and no other players tested positive.

It's not quite what 2020 has been, but it's similar.

And one more thing about that NYU game. Remember back in April when TigerBlog wrote about Joe Masi, a backup football player who wrote a poem about getting the game ball after scoring his only career touchdown as a Tiger? It was a very touching poem, and TB wrote about Masi shortly after his death.

You can read that one HERE.

His touchdown came in that game against NYU.

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