In this week's Football Friday video interview, head coach Bob Surace discusses last week's comeback win at Penn, the challenges presented by a tough Yale squad, and his senior class, which plays its final game on Powers Field this Saturday.
Please note that the video must be accessed through GoPrincetonTigers.com. If you receive this via email, the video will not play.
Game notes are below.
Week 8 Highlights l Quinn Epperly Placed On The Walter Payton Award Watch List
It’s Princeton and Yale, Chapter 136.
It’s Senior Day.
It’s Alumni Weekend.
And it’s for at least a share of the Ivy League championship.
Need we say more?
Well, we don't, but we will about the Class of 2014 (pictured, above). The group came to Princeton at the same time as Bob Surace took over as head coach. They took their lumps together early, going 2-20 in their first 22 games, including a pair of 1-9 seasons.
But something was building, even if it didn't reflect on the scoreboard as quickly as the team hoped. But then the scoreboard started to reflect it. And this year, it's been reflecting it over and over and over again. In fact, the scoreboard has been reflecting it in record fashion this season.
And while there is more to the success this season than the 20 members of the Class of 2014, which celebrates Senior Day Saturday against Yale (1 pm, ESPN3, WPRB 103.3 FM), the fact that this class can leave Powers Field the final time as Ivy League champion is the ultimate testament to the work it has put in over four years.
Of course, a talented Yale squad, one of five Ivy teams still in the race, will have something to say about it Saturday. Twice in the last 20 years, Princeton has entered this home game in first place in the league. Yale won both times.
But that is for Saturday. Regardless, the Class of 2014 deserves plenty of credit for where this program has come, and they will deserve the recognition they receive on Senior Day.
|Yale Bulldogs (5-3, 3-2 Ivy) at #25 Princeton Tigers (7-1, 5-0 Ivy)
A Princeton Win Would …
• clinch at least a share of the 2013 Ivy League championship, Princeton’s 10th in program
history and its first since 2006
• be its eighth straight win, the longest streak since 1995
• clinch a second-straight H-Y-P title, the first time Prin has won two straight since 93-94
• be Princeton’s 13th win in its last 17 games
WEEK 9 GAME NOTES
Lights, Camera, Action
Princeton will play its third game of the season on ESPN3 this weekend, as it hosts Yale at 1 pm Saturday on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. Dave Popkin and K.C. Keeler will call the action, while Dan Loney will broadcast the game on WPRB 103.3 FM (also available online).
The Amazing Race
Princeton is the lone undefeated team in the Ivy League, though five teams remain alive in the championship race with two weeks to go. This is the latest Princeton has had sole possession of first place in the Ivy standings since the 1995 season, which is also the last time Princeton won an outright Ivy League championship.
With a win Saturday, Princeton would clinch at least a share of the Ivy League title, and it would eliminate Yale, Dartmouth and Penn from title contention. Harvard only has one loss, and it hosts Penn at noon.
Beware The Bulldogs
During the last 20 years, Princeton has hosted its most historic rival twice while in first place in November. Both times (1995 and 2005), Yale left Princeton with a victory.
Princeton returned the favor in 2006, going to New Haven in Week 9 and rallying for a 34-31 win over the first-place Bulldogs to share first place. Both teams won the following week to earn a share of their most recent Ivy League titles.
This is the 136th meeting between Princeton and Yale, marking the second-longest active rivalry in college football (Lehigh and Lafayette will meet for the 149th time this season).
Yale leads the all-time series 74-51-10, and it is 5-1 all-time at Princeton Stadium. The Tigers did win the most recent meeting, though, as a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Trocon Davis helped the Tigers to a 29-7 victory in New Haven last season.
Princeton is looking for its eighth straight win Saturday, something it hasn’t done in a single season since the 1995 championship season. That streak ended in a home loss to Yale.
Princeton broke into The Sports Network Top 25 poll this week, moving to No. 24 in the FCS Coaches Poll and to No. 25 in the FCS Sports Network media poll after its 38-26 road win at Penn. This is Princeton’s first time in the Top 25 since the conclusion of the 2006 Ivy League championship season, when the Tigers were ranked 18th nationally.
Princeton was picked to finish fifth in the Ivy League preseason poll. It has road wins over the team picked to finish third (Brown), second (Harvard) and first (Penn). If Princeton earns a share of the Ivy League title this weekend, it would be the lowest team in the preseason poll to win the title since Princeton went from sixth in the poll to the 2006 Ivy League championship.
Princeton leads the Ivy League and ranks fourth nationally in scoring offense with 44.3 points per game. The Tigers have scored at least 50 points in four of their last seven games, including three times against Ivy League opponents. Prior to this season, Princeton had scored at least 50 points only four times since the 1965 season, a span of 47 seasons.
The program single-season scoring record was set in 1950, when Dick Kazmaier led the Tigers to a national championship and helped Princeton average 38.8 points per game. For the Tigers to break that record, they need to average 17.5 points per game during the next two weeks.
For the sake of context, Princeton is currently averaging 22.6 points in the first half of games this season.
With 4,200 yards of total offense through seven games, Princeton has already surpassed the previous Ivy League high-water mark of 3,566 yards by Harvard in 2000. The Tigers’ scoring clip of 44.3 points per game is on pace to reset the League’s all-time record for a second-straight season. Harvard currently holds the record at 39.4 points per game in 2012.
Two seasons ago, Princeton ranked last in the Ivy League in scoring offense, averaging 17.4 points per game. Since the 2009 season, Princeton’s scoring averages have improved each season: 12.9 (2009), 16.5 (2010), 17.4 (2011), 26.6 (2012), 44.3 (present).
Princeton leads the Ivy League in scoring offense (44.2), rushing offense (223.0) and total offense (525.0); the Tigers trail only Cornell in passing offense (302.0).
Princeton has not finished a season leading the Ivy League in both overall scoring and scoring in league games since 1965. The Tigers last led the Ivy League in overall scoring in 1988, and it last led in scoring in Ivy games in 1989.
Junior quarterback Quinn Epperly, who set an NCAA record with 29 straight completions in Princeton’s last home game, was named to The Walter Payton Award Watch List this past week; the Payton Award honors the outstanding player in the FCS.
Quinn Epperly also earned his fifth Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week Award this season, as well as his fourth in a row. He is the only player in Ivy League history to receive the Offensive Player of the Week honor four straight weeks. Epperly has 20 touchdown passes and 16 rushing touchdowns this season; no other player in the FCS has at least 12 of both.
Epperly has earned the Offensive Player of the Week honor after each of Princeton’s five Ivy League games this season.
The Century Club
Prior to last weekend, Princeton only had eight players with at least 100 career receptions. At Penn, both Matt Costello and Roman Wilson joined that list. Wilson, who ranks fourth in the nation in receptions per game, caught a career-high 12 passes and currently ranks seventh in program history with 110 receptions. Costello, only a junior, caught five passes at Penn and ranks ninth at Princeton with 104 career catches.
Wilson is currently ranked second in the Ivy League in both receptions per game (8.8) and receiving yards per game (97.2). In both cases, he trails only Cornell senior Grant Gellatly.
Wilson, who is averaging two touchdown catches in Princeton’s four home games this season, now stands third on Princeton’s career touchdown reception list with 14. He is two behind Kevin Guthrie for second place.
On The Mark
Princeton junior quarterback Quinn Epperly set an NCAA Division I record in his last home game when he completed 29 straight passes in the 53-20 victory over Cornell last weekend. Epperly completed his first 29 passes of the game, including two touchdown passes to Roman Wilson and one to Seth DeValve. His 29th completion, an eight-yard pass to DeValve, moved Epperly past Richie Williams of Appalachian State, who had 28 straight completions on Oct. 9, 2004.
Quinn Epperly has jumped into the Top 10 in several FCS statistical categories:
• Ranks first nationally in points responsible for per game (28.0)
• Ranks second nationally in completion percentage (74.1%)
• Ranks third nationally in scoring per game (12.0) -- that total is for his 16 rushing TDs only
• Ranks sixth nationally in passing efficiency (169.4)
• Is the only player in FCS with 12 or more rushing and 12 or more passing touchdowns this season; he has at least 16 in both categories
Line Them Up
Much of the success of the offense this season has come from the experienced group up front, which includes three upperclassmen who have started at least 20 games in their careers. Senior center Joe Goss will be making his 36th career start this weekend, while both left tackle Spenser Huston and right guard Max Coale will both be making their 22nd straight starts.
The offensive line has helped Princeton rank 10th nationally in sacks allowed per game (.75 per game), as well as Top 20 totals in the four major offensive team categories: scoring (4th), total (5th), passing (14th) and rushing (16th).
After recording 13 sacks in the first five games of the season, Princeton has recorded 16 in the last three wins. After recording seven sacks in the triple-overtime win at Harvard, the Tigers sacked all-time Ivy League passing leader Jeff Mathews seven times in Princeton’s last home game.
Seniors Caraun Reid and Jason Ray share the Princeton sack lead with 3.5 per game this season, but Princeton has eight players with at least two sacks this season.
Princeton leads the Ivy League with 29 sacks this season, and its 3.63 sacks per game ranks third nationally in the FCS.
Princeton has come back to win four of its last five games. Those deficits included a 17-0 score at Brown, a 16-0 score at Penn and a seven-point lead for Harvard in overtime. Those three teams, all of which hosted Princeton this season, were all ranked in the Top 3 in the Ivy League preseason poll.
Reid It And Weep
Senior Caraun Reid, a two-time first-team All-Ivy League selection and a 2012 All-America, is on the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List for FCS Defensive Player of the Year honors. This season, despite seeing multiple blockers on almost every play, Reid has seven tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries, 3.5 sacks, one interception and one blocked kick.
Return To Sender
Senior Elijah Mitchell had the biggest play of his career last weekend at a most opportune time. Trailing Penn 16-11 in the second quarter, Mitchell picked off Billy Ragone and returned the interception 59 yards for a touchdown that gave the Tigers their first lead of the game. Mitchell also had a sack against Ragone last week.
The 2012 Princeton-Yale game also turned on a defensive score, as Trocon Davis stepped in front of a potential touchdown pass and returned it 100 yards for the go-ahead score in a 29-7 Tiger win.
On The Mike
Junior linebacker Mike Zeuli, who moved from safety to linebacker during the offseason, leads Princeton and ranks fourth in the Ivy League with 8.1 tackles per game. He ended Penn’s final drive last weekend with his first interception of the season, and he also set up a scoring drive with a fumble recovery in Penn territory.
Princeton leads the Ivy League and ranks 15th nationally in third-down conversion defense (31.9 %). Last weekend, Princeton held Penn to a 1-for-7 success rate on third downs in the second half.
The Princeton defense forced a season-best six turnovers last weekend against Penn (three interceptions, three fumbles), and three of those turnovers resulted in 17 Princeton points, while the final interception ended Penn’s final drive.
Princeton ranks second in the Ivy League in turnover margin +8, and it is 8-1 over the last two seasons when it is at least a +1 in the turnover department.
Senior safety and co-captain Phillip Bhaya ranks second on the team and 13th in the Ivy League with 6.6 tackles per game. He also shares the team lead at Princeton with two interceptions this season, including one in the win at Harvard two weeks ago.
Bhaya was recently named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team to honor his success both on and off the field.
Corner The Market
Both of Princeton’s starting cornerbacks, Anthony Gaffney and John Hill, have two interceptions this season. Gaffney, a first-team All-Ivy League cornerback last year, recorded a pick against Penn last weekend, and he had two fumble recoveries in the win at Yale last season. Hill ranks third in the Ivy League with 1.0 passes defended this season.
Just For Kicks
Princeton placekicker Nolan Bieck has made six of his last seven field goals, including a
career-long 40-yarder in the win over Lafayette. Three weeks ago, he made a pair of pressure-packed kicks in overtime; following his extra point that forced a second session, he made a 31-yard field goal to open the second overtime.
Lift Them Up
The Princeton Chapter of Uplifting Athletes will be conducting a touchdown pledge drive in which fans can donate to the team’s cause, which is the battle against aplastic anemia. There will be tables set up at the north end of the stadium through halftime where you can learn more about the organization and support its mission.
The Crystal Ball
Princeton will conclude its season next Saturday at 1:30 when it travels to Hanover, N.H., to take on Dartmouth and 2013 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Dalyn Williams. The Big Green has won three straight over Princeton, including a 35-21 win on Powers Field last season.
Honoring Princeton’s Greatest
This season, Princeton players are wearing a sticker with the number 42 on their helmets, and the number has been painted on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. That number, the only one retired by the Princeton football team, belonged to 1951 Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier, who is recognized as the greatest player in program history.
Kazmaier, who led Princeton to the 1950 national championship and back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1950 and 1951, passed away on Aug. 1, 2013.
“My admiration for Dick Kazmaier goes well beyond the respect earned by his being the greatest football player in the unmatched history of our Princeton program,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said. “Whenever I talk to our team about Dick Kazmaier, it is not about the Heisman, the undefeated seasons, statues or awards. It is about the traits that Dick shared with me in every communication we had, the qualities that make up the ideal Princeton man — character, dignity, strength, intelligence, humility, unselfishness, commitment and passion to be exceptional in every area of life.
“I will cherish the friendship, support and mentorship that I am fortunate to have with Dick Kazmaier and will pass these values along to our future Tigers,” Surace added.
The Ivy League® Digital Network is the Ivy League’s first-ever digital sports network at IvyLeagueDigitalNetwork.com.
Featuring live and on-demand video and audio content from home and away contests across a variety of sports, the nine-channel network features a channel for each of the eight schools and a League-wide channel showcasing all available digital content across the conference.
Powered by NeuLion, The Ivy League® Digital Network includes an easy-to-navigate interface, a League-wide network schedule and new interactive features, such as simultaneous four-game viewing, full DVR controls and social media integration. These new features enhance the viewing experience for the expanded range of events and other content offerings, all of which are available on computer, mobile and tablet devices, all without the use of an app.
Packages for the League-wide channel are $119.95 for 12 months, $49.95 for four months and $15.95 for one month and include multi-camera HD coverage of all available home and select away games in football and men’s and women’s basketball and selected home and away games in men’s and women’s ice hockey. Every available Ivy League contest in those sports will be shown on the network. Packages for the school-specific channels, which feature live and on-demand video and audio content from available home and away contests across a variety of sports, are $89.95 for 12 months, $39.95 for four months, $10.95 for one month and $9.95 for a single day.
On The Inside
“Inside Ivy League Football,” a weekly online radio show dedicated to Ivy League football, returns for its third year for the 2013 season but now has a new home on The Ivy League® Digital Network.
Airing Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and hosted by Princeton radio commentator Dan Loney and Brian Seltzer, “Inside Ivy League Football” takes an in-depth look at all the on-field gridiron action and all the news and notes surrounding football in the Ancient Eight.