There is nothing like playing one of your most historic rivals to help get rid of the taste from a disappointing loss. Princeton is looking for its 25th sweep of the Big Three series and clinch at least a .500 record when it heads to New Haven to take on Yale for the 135th time. The game will be shown live on the YES Network, and can be heard on WPRB 103.3 FM and GoPrincetonTigers.com.
WEEK 8 LINKS:
TV/Video: YES Network
All-Time Series: Yale 74-50-10
Last Year: YALE 33, Penn 24
Last At Site: YALE 14, Princeton 13 (2010)
Last Five Years: Yale 4-1
Last Princeton Win: PRINCETON 24, Yale 17 (2009)
Current Streak: Yale 2
Lights, Camera, Action
Princeton returns to a national television audience Saturday when it takes on historic rival Yale Saturday at 12. After games on ESPNU, the NBC Sports Network and ESPN3, the Tigers will make their 2012 debut on the YES Network (Chris Shearn and Jack Ford). This will be the fourth Princeton-Yale game shown on the YES Network since 2007; the Bulldogs have won two of the previous three.
We Meet Again
This will be the 135th meeting between Princeton and Yale, the longest series between any two Ivy League opponents and the second-longest active collegiate series in the nation (Lehigh and Lafayette have met 147 times).
Yale holds a 74-50-10 advantage in the all-time series, which dates back to a 3-0-0 Princeton victory on Nov. 18, 1873 in New Haven, Conn.
Princeton has had little success in recent years at the Yale Bowl, though its one victory came at a most opportune time. Yale has won five of its last six home games against Princeton, including each of the last two, and holds a 27-20 all-time lead over the Tigers at the Yale Bowl.
Princeton’s only victory at the Yale Bowl since the turn of the century came in 2006, when the Tigers rallied from a trio of 14-point deficits to record a 34-31 victory. Quarterback Jeff Terrell threw for 445 yards to move Princeton into a first-place tie with the Bulldogs, and both teams went on to share the Ivy League title.
In the other four games played most recently at the Yale Bowl (2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010), Princeton has combined to score a total of one touchdown, and it has averaged only 6.5 points per game.
While Princeton’s losses over the last two weeks have left them in need of help to get back within the Ivy League race, the task is not impossible. If the Tigers win their remaining two games, they would finish with a 5-2 Ivy mark (after winning a total of four Ivy League games over the last three seasons).
The 5-2 record would clinch at least a share of second place with the loser of Saturday’s
Penn-Harvard game. From there, Princeton would need either Harvard (home vs. Yale) or Penn (at Cornell) to lose during the final week of the season to earn a share of the title.
Half And Half
Simply winning over Yale Saturday would end a five-year skid of losing seasons for Princeton. After the 2006 Ivy League championship season, the Tigers went 4-6 over three straight seasons; they followed with back-to-back 1-9 seasons in 2010 and 2011.
Princeton has only had one streak of losing seasons longer than its current one (1941-1946).
Princeton has traditionally held a bonfire on Cannon Green, behind Nassau Hall, for the football team on seasons when it sweeps both Harvard and Yale; the last Princeton bonfire came in 2006, when the Tigers defeated both teams by three points apiece.
Princeton has swept Harvard and Yale 24 times, dating back to 1878. However, the Tigers’ bonfire in 2006 was the only one held on Cannon Green in the last 18 years.
Junior wide receiver Roman Wilson has caught five touchdown passes this season, including four over the last three weeks. He has caught at least one touchdown pass in each of the last three games; the last Princeton player to record three straight games with at least one touchdown reception was Brendan Circle (2006).
Those are the only two Princeton receivers to record that feat in the last 17 seasons.
Roman Wilson, who caught the dramatic 36-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds to defeat Harvard three weeks ago, caught seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns at Cornell. He leads the Ivy League in yards per catch with a 19.0-yard average. The Princeton
single-season record for yards/catch is 20.2, set by Marc Ross in 1993.
In the last nine quarters (the fourth against Harvard and the Cornell game), sophomore quarterback Connor Michelsen has completed 68 of 98 passes (69.3%) for 815 yards and six touchdowns. In the first 19 quarters of the season, Michelsen had thrown for only 693 yards, had a 54.1% completion percentage, and had not thrown a touchdown pass.
Michelsen was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for three touchdowns in Princeton’s 29-point rally over Harvard in Week 6 for a 39-34 Tiger victory. Over the Crimson’s last 17 games, that is the only one it didn’t win by at least 10 points.
Princeton has used a two-quarterback system throughout the season, and it has gotten strong play from both lately. Over the last three weeks, both Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly have thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game.
Michelsen has thrown six in the last three weeks, while Epperly has thrown for three and run for three more.
Spread It Around
Last weekend against Penn, 11 different Princeton receivers caught at least one pass. One week earlier, eight different receivers caught at least one pass.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Michelsen was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week after leading Princeton to the comeback win over Harvard. Michelsen’s honor gave Princeton at least one individual award per week for a span of four weeks. Anthony Gaffney has won two Rookie honors, while both Mike Catapano and Caraun Reid have won Defensive Player honors. Nolan Bieck has a Special Teams honor.
Princeton is one of two Ivy League schools to have won each individual award at least once; the other is Dartmouth.
Good And Bad
In Princeton’s four wins this season, it is a +4 in turnover margin. In its four losses, the team is a -5.
Over the last two weeks, Princeton has struggled with turnovers in the fourth quarter. In both games, the Tigers turned the ball over on three of their final four possessions.
Over the last six games, Princeton has scored only two touchdowns in the first quarter. One came on a 93-yard kickoff return by Anthony Gaffney (Columbia), and the other came on a throwback run by left tackle Spencer Huston (Brown).
Tackling The Issue
Senior linebacker Andrew Starks ranks second in the Ivy League with 8.9 tackles per game, and he has ranked in the top five in tackles over each of his last two seasons. He made 15 tackles last weekend in the 28-21 loss to Penn.
The last Tiger player to lead the Ivy League in tackles was linebacker Steven Cody, who averaged 11.6 per game during the 2009 season.
Senior lineman Mike Catapano leads the Ivy League and ranks second in the FCS with 1.3 sacks per game. He trails only Brandon Thurmond of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who is averaging 1.5 sacks per game.
Catapano has 10 sacks on the season, which is the most at Princeton since David Ferrara recorded 12.5 sacks during the 1998 season.
Getting off the field has been a key part of Princeton’s success in its four victories this season. In Princeton wins, the defense has held its opponents to a 28.1 conversion percentage on third downs.
On the flip side, teams are converting at 47.1% on third downs in Princeton’s four losses.
King For A Day
Senior Tim Kingsbury, a three-year starter at linebacker, had one of his most productive days against Penn. He set a career high with 15 tackles, including one for a loss.
Return To Sender
Freshman Anthony Gaffney is not only third in the league in both interceptions and passes defensed, but he also leads the league in kickoff returns. Gaffney averages 26.5 yards per kick return, and his 59-yard return in the fourth quarter against Harvard set up the first points in Princeton’s 29-point 4th quarter.
Gaffney made quite the splash in his Ivy debut; he returned the opening kickoff at Columbia 94 yards for a touchdown. The Tigers were either tied or leading for the next 188:44 of game action.
Freshman Matt Arends has started four games opposite of Anthony Gaffney after Khamal Brown was lost for the season. In the last three, he has averaged seven tackles per game, and he has recorded at least one pass breakup over each of the four starts.
Junior Phillip Bhaya moved from cornerback to safety in the offseason, and the move has paid off for the Tigers. He is tied for the team lead with three interceptions, and he had one last weekend to set up Princeton’s first scoring drive.
Princeton is the least penalized team in the Ivy League, averaging only 37.1 penalty yards per game this season.
Head Of The Class
Senior Joe Cloud, a two-time All-Ivy League punter, has been named one of 147 national semifinalists for the 2012 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards. The 147 nominees also comprise the list of semifinalists for the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation.
Cloud is one of only three Ivy League players who were named among the semifinalists.
The Crystal Ball
Princeton will honor the Class of 2012 during its season finale Nov. 17, a 1 pm start against Dartmouth on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.
This senior class, which has dealt with both a coaching change and life-threatening illnesses to a pair of All-Ivy running backs, has led the football team to four wins already this season; as a team, the Tigers won two the last two seasons combined.