Friday, November 12, 2021

Kicking It Off With Yale

TigerBlog had breakfast with Bob Holly yesterday.

Can there be a better way to look ahead to a football game against Yale for a Princeton fan? If you've been following Princeton football for awhile, then you immediately know who Bob Holly is and what his connection to Yale is.

Holly was the quarterback of the Princeton team that defeated Yale 35-31 in 1981, ending a 14-year losing streak to the Bulldogs in the process. Holly threw for 501 yards (still the Princeton record) and four touchdowns before scoring the winning TD with four seconds to play. Derek Graham caught 15 of those passes for 278 of those yards.

Yale came into the game undefeated, with a win over Navy on top of everything else. It was quickly 21-0 Bulldogs before Holly began to engineer the comeback. 

The Tigers would lead 22-21 and then trail 31-22. They trailed 31-29 when they took possession on their own 24 with 1:43 to go. Three plays later, it was fourth and 10 at the same spot. Holly threw to Scott Oostdyk, his high school teammate at Clifton High in North Jersey, and depending on whether you're a Princeton fan or a Yale fan, Oostdyk either got the first down by inches or got a lucky spot from the refs.

Either way, the drive stayed alive. So did Princeton. The rest, literally, is Princeton history. The game was named the best Princeton football game of the 20th Century (okay, TB is the one who did the naming, but still). 

As TB was driving to meet up with Holly yesterday, he realized that it was the 40th anniversary of that game. When he looked it up, he was able to figure out that the exact 40th anniversary will be Sunday. 

Back in 1999, TB wrote a story about that game for the "Game of the Century" edition of Princeton Athletic News. He'll be reposting the story Sunday for the anniversary.

In the meantime, there's the matter of tomorrow's game. If you're a Princeton fan, you'd rather see 1981 history repeat itself, rather than 2019.

It was in 2019 when Princeton started off 7-0 and then lost to Dartmouth. That was followed by a second-straight loss, to Yale, on Powers Field.

This time around things are a bit different. For one thing, the biggest thing actually, there is no Ivy unbeaten with two weeks to go in the season.

The standings now look like this: Princeton, Yale and Dartmouth are all 4-1. Harvard is 3-2.

TigerBlog spent some time going through the Ivy League stats to see how Princeton and Yale might match up. He's concluded that none of it matters.

Basically what you have in the Ivy League this year is unpredictability. Who knows what's going to happen from one week to the next? A team can look awesome one week and then struggle the next. It's why the league race is so wide open with no unbeaten team.

Yale has come the closest to being perfect, as the Bulldogs' lone Ivy loss was a 24-17 score against Dartmouth in an overtime game on Oct. 9. Yale's first two Ivy games were in fact a 23-17 win over Cornell and the 24-17 loss to Dartmouth. The week after the Dartmouth game, Yale a 21-15 game to UConn. There was also an opening week 20-17 loss to Holy Cross. That's a lot of tight games to start the year (not including the 34-0 win over Lehigh).

So what has Yale done since UConn? Score a lot of points, that's what. 

First it was a 42-28 win over Penn. Then it was a 37-30 shootout win over Columbia. Last week it was a 63-38 win over Brown. 

That means that in the last three games, Yale has allowed 32 points per game but has averaged 47.3. Those three games correspond to the increased playing time for sophomore left-handed quarterback Nolan Grooms, who was 20 for 45 for 313 yards with four touchdowns in the first five weeks and is now 56 for 82 for 872 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three weeks.

The challenge for Princeton this week is clear. Grooms has the Bulldogs purring (can canines purr?) offensively. Maybe this game gets to be a shootout. Who can tell this year? 

One thing Princeton definitely must do is turn the page from last weeks' game. Just as the challenge is clear, so are the stakes.

The winner is in first place with one week to play. These are the kinds of games you want to see.

Oh, and TigerBlog picked up the check for breakfast. Why? Because it's the 40th anniversary of your role in one of the greatest moments in Princeton's athletic history, you deserve it.

1 comment:

D '82 said...

Princeton: 40, not 4.

It's not just a four-year experience. In forty years, you get a free breakfast.