Friday, November 5, 2021

Another Friday In Front Of The TV

TigerBlog has no idea if Princeton football has ever played back-to-back games on Fridays before.

Princeton played last Friday night at Cornell, winning 34-16. The Tigers now play at Dartmouth tonight, again on ESPNU, though this time kickoff is at 6.

Is there an advantage to doing it a second time? 

On the plus side, this is the second week of having an altered practice schedule, so it should be familiar by now. On the down side, there's Dartmouth.

The Big Green are one of the best defensive teams in the FCS (then again, so are the Tigers and pretty much everybody else in the Ivy League, with six teams ranked in the top 25 in scoring defense). They also have, among other weapons, a quarterback, Derek Kyler, who leads the Ivy League by completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdown passes and only one interception.

You can also throw in the long trip to Hanover and a game-time temperature of 38. To that you can add that it seems like Dartmouth always saves its best for Princeton.

The two teams have played some memorable football games through the years, and the last two are up there with pretty much any of them (okay, maybe the game where an inebriated fan came out of the stands and joined the Dartmouth defensive line might be a bit more memorable).

Don't know that story? It was in 1935, when undefeated Princeton and undefeated Dartmouth met at Palmer Stadium in the second-to-last week of the season. Princeton won 26-6, but the game is best know for two things. 

First, it was played in a driving snowstorm. Second, as TB mentioned, a Dartmouth fan came out of the stands and for one play managed to be a member of the Big Green D-line. It's sometimes known as the 12th-man game.

Like 1935, the last two times Princeton and Dartmouth have met both have been unbeaten. This time around, Princeton is 7-0, 4-0 Ivy League, while Dartmouth is 6-1, 3-1 in the league, with a loss to Columbia.

If you add that all up, the last three Princeton-Dartmouth games have seen the teams come in with a combined record of 41-1. 

The 2018 game was as good an Ivy League football game as TigerBlog has ever seen. Princeton won that one 14-9 on a day when both defenses allowed long touchdown drives on the first possession for both offenses and then played extraordinarily the rest of the way. 

The 2019 game was played in Yankee Stadium as part of the 150th anniversary celebration. This time, it was Dartmouth who won, 27-10, in a game that was an incredible experience for everyone who was there.

This time around, Dartmouth is either going to be tied for the league lead or two games back after this game is over. Those are high stakes.

A look at the Ivy League stats shows some interesting stuff. Dartmouth (14.3) and Princeton (15.3) allow the fewest first downs of any teams in the league. At the same time, they rank second (Princeton) and third (Dartmouth) in third-down percentage conversion. 

Perhaps that's where the game gets decided, by which team can best turn third down into first down and therefore sustain drives in what doesn't figure to be the kind of game the teams last played in Hanover. That was a 55-45 Dartmouth win in 2017.

The teams are also ranked 1-2 in the league in passing efficiency. Princeton is second in the league in sacks with 25, more than twice as many as Dartmouth (12). Getting to the quarterback will be huge as well.

Who knows what the difference will end up being. That's the beauty of it all. And that's what the goal always is, to get to November and play games that decide championships.

Princeton is chasing a fourth title in eight years. Dartmouth is looking for a second straight. Certainly the coaches are no strangers to winning championships, as they (Princeton's Bob Surace and Dartmouth's Buddy Teevens) are the only ones to win Ivy League football titles as players and coaches. 

After this game, Princeton is home with Yale, who is also 3-1 in the league before finishing the season at Penn. For tonight, though, the only color that matters is Green.

It's another Friday night in front of the television. 

No comments: