The Princeton football team knows just how close it has come from a pair of victories against Patriot League opponents. As tough as those losses were, they will pale in comparison to the excitement if the Tigers can break into the win column against an Ivy League foe.
WEEK 3 LINKS:
All-Time Series: Princeton 65-15-1
Last Year: PRINCETON 24, Columbia 21
Last At Site: COLUMBIA 42, Princeton 14 (2010)
Last Five Years: 3-2
Last Princeton Win: PRINCETON 24, Columbia 21 (2011)
Current Streak: Princeton 1
The Chase Is On
The 57th season of Ivy League football begins Saturday afternoon for both Princeton and Columbia, which will meet at 12:30 pm on Robert K. Kraft Field at Wien Stadium in New York City. Princeton is looking for its 10th Ivy League title and first since the 2006 season, while Columbia is going for its second Ivy League title, 51 years after its lone title in 1961.
Neither team has experienced much success in the league recently. Princeton’s last winning Ivy League season came in 2006, and the Tigers have lost 13 of their last 14 Ivy League games. Columbia has had 15 straight losing seasons in Ivy League play, and it has gone 3-11 in the last two years.
Lights, Camera, Action
Live video from Saturday’s game will be available on both GoColumbiaLions.com and GoPrincetonTigers.com (though both will be showing the video feed produced by Columbia). Fans with active subscriptions to GoPrincetonTigers.TV will be able to watch the game online, just as they do for normal home games; anybody interested in purchasing a subscription can do so at GoPrincetonTigers.com.
Live audio for the game will also be available on both 103.3 FM WPRB and on GoPrincetonTigers.com. Dan Loney (play-by-play) and Craig Sachson (analysis) will be live at Kraft Field, with the pregame show scheduled to begin at 12 pm.
The winner of Saturday’s game will take its first step towards disproving the low preseason expectations of the Ivy League media. Columbia was picked to finish seventh in Ivy League play this season, while Princeton was picked to finish eighth.
Over the last decade, Princeton and Columbia have been picked to finish in the bottom half of the league 19 of a possible 20 times. The lone exception was a fourth-place projection for Princeton in 2007, one year after its Ivy League title.
Princeton’s last win came against Columbia, a 24-21 home victory during Week 3 of the 2011 season. The Tigers rushed for 227 yards, an effort that included a 117-yard outburst by sophomore Brian Mills. Princeton got touchdown receptions by Tom Moak and Mark Hayes; that same duo hooked up for the first touchdown pass for Princeton of the 2012 season.
It was also one of the best games of the season for eventual first-team All-Ivy Leaguer Caraun Reid, who recorded six tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the victory. Andrew Starks had nine tackles for Princeton, while Khamal Brown had eight.
Princeton’s last visit to New York City turned into a 42-14 loss, the Tigers’ worst road loss in the history of the series and the second-worst loss overall.
Princeton scored first, but current Columbia senior Sean Brackett threw five touchdown passes in a 42-14 Lion victory.
Prior to the 2010 loss in Columbia, Princeton had won six straight road games at Columbia. Five of those six wins were decided by three points or fewer, with the lone exception being a 19-6 victory during the 2006 Ivy League championship season.
While Pete Mangurian may be the new head coach at Columbia, he has faced Princeton three times in the past. As the head coach at Cornell (1998-2000), he went 2-1 against Princeton. His lone loss was a 6-0 defeat in the first game ever played at Princeton Stadium.
Tackling The Issue
Senior co-captain Andrew Starks has led Princeton in tackles each of the last two seasons, and he has ranked fourth in the Ivy League in each of the two years. He is on pace to at least match both marks this season, especially off a career effort last weekend against Georgetown.
Starks recorded 16 tackles against the Hoyas, including his first sack of the season, and now leads the Ivy League with 13.5 tackles per game. He has been named to the Ivy League Honor Roll after each of
Princeton’s first two games this season.
At least five NFL scouts were credentialed for last Friday’s showdown with Georgetown on ESPNU. They have shown interest in the All-Ivy defensive line duo of Caraun Reid and Mike Catapano.
Reid, who led Princeton in tackles for loss (16), sacks (eight), pass breakups (three), quarterback hurries (three) and blocked kicks (three) last season, had six tackles and a sack against the Hoyas. Catapano, in his second year as a co-captain, had eight stops and was part of two sacks Friday night.
Last season, Princeton gave up 21 second-half touchdown drives, for an average of 2.1 per game. Through two games this season, Princeton has allowed only one second-half touchdown drive (0.5 per game).
The Princeton defense has kept the Tigers in the hunt in each of the first two games. Though both were losses, both games were decided by three points or fewer; in the prior two seasons, only two of 18 losses had been decided by three points or fewer.
Sophomore cornerback Khamal Brown, who has made 11 straight starts, recorded his first career interception last weekend. It was also Princeton’s first forced turnover on defense; all three fumble recoveries by the Tigers have come on muffed punts.
Brown is tied for second on Princeton with 14 tackles, including 11 solo stops. Last season, Brown led all Princeton underclassmen with 51 tackles.
The Middle Of It All
Junior Greg Sotereanos has twice matched his career-best with five tackles, and he has done so as the nose tackle between Caraun Reid and Mike Catapano. Sotereanos started all 10 games last season, but he had only five tackles in one game. He has had one tackle for loss in each of the first two games this season.
A Family Affair
Freshman Di Andre Atwater made his debut in the offensive backfield last weekend, and he quickly turned it into a memorable debut. Atwater rushed for 92 yards on 15 carries, and his first rush in the fourth quarter turned into a 53-yard touchdown.
Atwater had plenty of family there to watch his breakout game. He is the son of Letha and Steve Atwater; the latter is an eight-time Pro Bowler who is best remembered as the two-time Super Bowl champion safety of the Denver Broncos. Atwater’s older brother Steve is a junior defensive back on the Georgetown Hoyas.
The Longest Road
Di Andre Atwater’s 53-yard touchdown run last Friday was the longest Princeton rush in the span of 30 games. Prior to that rush, the longest carry for a Princeton player had been a 68-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Tommy Wornham in a road win at Lehigh.
Last season, Chuck Dibilio’s longest rush was 48 yards.
After two injury-plagued seasons, junior wideout Roman Wilson has already surpassed his career totals in his first two weeks of the 2012 season. He led the Tigers with four catches for 40 yards against Lehigh, and he added a two-point conversion catch to get Princeton within three points. Last Friday night, Wilson had two catches for 62 yards, including a 34-yard reception. His 102 yards receiving is more than twice as many as any other teammate.
In his first two years at Princeton, Wilson had recorded a total of three receptions for only 25 yards.
While Princeton has depth at the wide receiver position (six receivers have caught at least two passes), it has not gotten enough production on the scoreboard. Over the last 17 quarters, Princeton wide receivers have not caught a touchdown pass, and they have only caught a total of one (Shane Wilkinson at Harvard) touchdown pass in the last nine games.
Armed And Ready
Sophomore Connor Michelsen will make his Ivy League debut as a starter Saturday; he has completed 48.1% of his passes this season for 246 total yards, and he has yet to throw either a touchdown or an interception.
Michelsen became the third Tiger sophomore over the last 15 years to open a season as the starting quarterback; the previous two were David Splithoff (2001) and Tommy Wornham (2009).
While several freshmen made their collegiate debuts at Lehigh, none turned as many heads as Anthony Gaffney, who played in all three areas.
Gaffney, who has started at cornerback both games this season, opposite of Khamal Brown, recorded two tackles and one pass breakup at Lehigh. He was used on a handful of offensive plays and, if that wasn’t enough, he also returned one kickoff for 27 yards.
He made an even greater impact defensively last weekend, recording seven tackles, including two solo stops.
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 25 career punts that have pinned opponents inside the 20, and he has 20 punts of greater than 50 yards.
Cloud currently ranks second in the Ivy League with a punting average of 41.4 yards. He leads the league in pinning the opposition inside the 20 (six) and punts over 50 yards (four).
Since Princeton has won twice in overtime at Wien Stadium, it’s worth noting: Princeton has played 15 overtime games in program history and has gone 8-7.
The Crystal Ball
Princeton will play its final non-league game of the season Saturday at 6 pm when it heads to Fisher Stadium in Easton, Pa., to take on the Lafayette Leopards. Princeton leads the all-time series 38-4-3, and it has won five straight games over Lafayette. The first win for Bob Surace as head coach at Princeton came in a 36-33 overtime thriller over the Leopards during Week 2 of the 2010 season. The Tigers have also won their last two games at Fisher Stadium (2005, 2007).
Lafayette is off to its first 3-0 start since 2008, and it already has victories over both Penn and William & Mary. If Lafayette defeats Robert Morris Saturday (6 pm), it will have its first 4-0 start since its Colonial League championship season of 1988.
Princeton is on the road the next two weeks, but will return to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium Sat., Oct. 13, for a noon showdown with Brown. That game will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network.
The Bears have won five straight in the series, including a 34-0 victory in Providence last year.