For the last 42 weeks, members of the Princeton football team have worked tirelessly for the opportunity to get its 144th season off on the right foot. The Tigers will get that opportunity Saturday at 12:30 pm at the home of the nationally ranked and Patriot League champion Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
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TV/Video: Service Electric Channel 2/LehighSports.com
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All-Time Series: Princeton 39-14-2
Last Year: Lehigh 34, PRINCETON 22
Last At Site: LEHIGH 35, Princeton 22 (2010)
Last Five Years: Princeton 3-2
Last Princeton Win: Princeton 17, LEHIGH 14 (2009)
Current Streak: Lehigh 1
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The oldest college football program in the nation will embark on its 144th season of college football when it heads to Goodman Stadium in Easton, Pa., to take on reigning Patriot League champion Lehigh Sept. 15 at 12:30 pm.
Princeton is coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, though the 2011 campaign featured several strong individual performances from players who will return this season.
See It Live
If you can’t make it to Goodman Stadium Saturday, when the temperature is expected to be in the low 80s, you can watch the game live on LehighSports.com. There is a $7.95 single-event subscription required, which you can sign up for on the Lehigh web site. If you live in the Lehigh/Philadelphia area, you can check your local listings for Service Electric Channel 2.
Princeton is looking to end the longest stretch of opening-game losses in program history. The Tigers have lost their last five season openers, including three times to Lehigh (the other two were against The Citadel). Princeton lost both the 2010 and 2011 openers to Lehigh by nearly
matching scores (35-22 in 2010, 34-22 in 2011).
In Princeton’s last two trips to Goodman Stadium, it has gotten unexpected results based on offensive totals. Three years ago, Princeton gained only 163 offensive yards, but it made two big plays and earned a 14-10 victory. One year later, in the debut for head coach Bob Surace, Princeton gained 528 offensive yards, but it lost 35-22.
Off On The Right Foot
The last time Princeton defeated Lehigh in a season opener was 2006, when the Tigers rallied for a 14-10 victory at Goodman Stadium. Princeton would go on to win the Ivy League title that season.
Oh Captain, Our Captains
Seniors Mike Catapano and Andrew Starks were named co-captains for the 2012
Princeton football season. Catapano is in his second year as a captain; he has 108 tackles and seven sacks during his career, and he earned second-team All-Ivy League honors last season. Starks is in his first season as captain; he led Princeton and ranked fourth in the Ivy League in tackles over the last two seasons. Like Catapano, Starks was an All-Ivy League performer and is in his third year as a starter.
Reid It And Weep
Princeton has one returning first-team All-Ivy League honoree in senior defensive lineman Caraun Reid, who led all Ivy linemen with 68 tackles, including 29 solo stops. He led Princeton in tackles for loss (16), sacks (eight), pass breakups (three), quarterback hurries (three) and blocked kicks (three) last season and has recorded more than 20 sacks in his two seasons as a starter.
Princeton returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including five members of the front seven. The defensive line of Catapano, Reid, nose tackle Greg Sotereanos all return, as do outside linebackers Starks and Tim Kingsbury. Combined, those five players made 49 of a possible 50 starts last season (Starks missed the Brown game). In the defensive backfield, cornerback Khamal Brown and strong safety Mandela Sheaffer both return after making a possible 19 of 20 starts last season (Brown, then a freshman, won the starting job in Week 2).
Counting the return of Matt Landry, who will likely start at defensive end/rush linebacker, Princeton returns 16 of its 18 sacks last season (Reid 8, Catapano 5, Landry 3). On the flip side, the team made only three interceptions last year, and the only returner with at least one career pick is Starks, who made two during the 2010 season.
Get Well, Chuck
Chuck Dibilio, the 2011 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, will not play this season after suffering a stroke this past January. During his breakout rookie season, Dibilio rushed for 1,068 yards, the most by any true freshman in Ivy history and the sixth-most by any Princeton running back in a single season. He tied an Ivy League record by being named Rookie of the Week six times, and he set a record by earning the same award during four consecutive weeks. He became Princeton’s second Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and he joined Reid on the All-Ivy League First Team.
Coach ’Em Up
Chuck Dibilio has found a way to stay close to the sport while he is away from campus this fall. He is serving as a volunteer assistant coach for his alma mater, Nazareth High. Dibilio earned both the Nazareth Outstanding Senior Football Player and Outstanding Senior Athlete honoree as an all-state running back at Nazareth, which is located near Lehigh.
Three underclassmen have been leading the quarterback competition this fall.
Sophomores Quinn Epperly and Connor Michelsen are the early favorites to either win or share the top spot on the depth chart. Epperly started the 2011 season finale, rushed for two touchdowns and earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors. He rushed for 215 yards and threw for 259 while appearing in six games last season. Michelsen appeared against both Brown and Dartmouth, and he completed three passes in five attempts.
One person vying for the opportunity is Kedric Bostic, a freshman all-state quarterback from Jupiter, Fla. While Bostic lacks the experience of either Epperly or Michelsen, he has made a huge progression in the fall and shouldn’t be overlooked, even if he doesn’t see the field during the first month of the season.
The last two sophomores to start at quarterback during a Princeton season opener were Tommy Wornham (2009) and David Splithoff (2001). Neither won that opening game.
With Chuck Dibilio being unable to play this season and junior Brian Mills being moved to defensive back during the spring, the most experienced tailback for the 2012 season is senior Akil Sharp. Head coach Bob Surace has raved about his work in the preseason; Sharp rushed 47 times for 244 yards (5.2 yards per carry) last season.
There are several names to remember at this position, especially a quartet of underclassmen. Both sophomores Will Powers (8 rushes for 46 yards) and Jonathan Esposito (3 for 19) gained experience last season, while freshmen DiAndre Atwater and Dré Nelson are expected to get on the field early this season.
Rush To Judgment
No current running back on the roster has scored a touchdown for Princeton. The career leader in rushing touchdowns on the 2012 roster is Quinn Epperly, who rushed for two touchdowns in his only career start last season.
One area where Princeton has ample experience is at the wideout position, where the Tigers return their top two receivers from last season. Senior Shane Wilkinson led the team in both catches (38) and receiving yards (384) last season, while Matt Costello (29 for 341) earned a starting job during his freshman season. Wilkinson had at least one catch in every Ivy League game last season, and he went over 100 yards at Harvard, a game that included his first career touchdown.
Two more sophomores that could be early factors at the position are Seth DeValve and Connor Kelley. DeValve had a breakout performance during the Spring Game, while Kelley was projected as a starter prior to injuring his knee last season. Senior Tom Moak, who caught a touchdown pass against Columbia, and freshman Anthony Gaffney could also see time in passing packages.
Princeton has three offensive linemen with starting experience from the last two seasons. Junior Joe Goss enters the season as the starting center after starting the last 19 Princeton game. Senior Kevin Mill started six games at left tackle last season, and is projected to start at right tackle this season. Sophomore Spenser Huston started four games at left tackle during his freshman season, and he is the likely starter at that position this season.
A pair of juniors, both of whom earned significant experience last season, will likely start at the guard positions. Max Coale is projected to start at right guard, while Taylor Pearson is listed atop the depth chart at left guard.
The Tiger offensive line will be looking to end the longest All-Ivy drought for any position on the Princeton football team. The Tigers have not had a first-team All-Ivy offensive lineman since former NFL starter Dennis Norman (2000).
Senior punter Joe Cloud is a two-time All-Ivy League selection, and he is averaging more than 40 yards per punt in his career. He has 19 career punts that have pinned opponents inside the 20, and he has 16 punts of greater than 50 yards.
While there is experience in punting, placekicking is a different story. All-Ivy kicker Patrick Jacob graduated last year, and sophomore Brendan Sofen did not attempt a field goal or extra point last season. Sofen is competing with freshman Nolan Bieck for the placekicking job.
Lights, Camera, Action
Princeton will play several games on either national television or ESPN3 (the ESPN online streaming service).
The Sept. 21 home game with Georgetown will be on ESPNU/ESPN3.
The Oct. 13 home game with Brown will be on the NBC Sports Network.
The Oct. 20 and Nov. 3 home games with both Harvard and Penn will be on ESPN3.
The Nov. 10 road game at Yale will be on the YES Network.
Also, the home broadcasts for both Lehigh and Lafayette are often picked up by DirecTV or the DISH Network. More information will be available the week of the game.
Princeton was picked to finish eighth in the 2012 Ivy League media preseason poll. Reigning champion Harvard was picked first, followed by 2009 and 2010 champion Penn.
Dan Loney will be the radio voice for the Princeton football team this season; all 10 games can be heard live on WPRB 103.3 FM and on GoPrincetonTigers.com.
GoPrincetonTigers.TV will have video coverage and highlights of the team throughout the season. Due to contractual issues with ESPN/NBC Sports Network, the only live streamed game on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium with be the Nov. 17 game against Dartmouth.
GoPrincetonTigers.com will provide weekly coverage of the team, including previews, postgame recaps, video interviews, highlights, stats, bios, podcasts, blogs and more.
For those on Twitter, you can get coverage at @PUTIGERS (the official Twitter handle for the athletic department) and at @PUTigerFootball.
The football team has its own site, PrincetonTigersFootball.com, and Jay Greenberg will be writing three blogs each week during the season.
Princeton will open its season Sept. 15 against Lehigh, the two-time Patriot League champion. The Mountain Hawks have won two straight over Princeton by nearly matching scores (35-22 in 2010; 34-22 in 2011). The second-place team in the Patriot League last year was Georgetown, and the Hoyas will take on Princeton Friday night, Sept. 21, in the Tigers’ home opener. Princeton is 5-0 all-time against Georgetown, though the two teams haven’t met since 1923.
The Tigers will play four of their Ivy League games at home, including three against teams picked to finish in the top half of the league. Preseason favorite Harvard will take on Princeton during Alumni Weekend in a 1 pm start on Oct. 20.
The Crystal Ball
Princeton will make its 2012 home debut Friday, Sept. 21, in a 7 pm game against Georgetown. The game will be televised live on ESPNU and streamed live on ESPN3/WatchESPN.
Princeton is 5-0 all-time against the Hoyas, though the two teams haven’t played since the 1923 season. Georgetown is currently 2-0 this season and hosts Yale Saturday at 1 p.m.