Coming off its most lopsided victory in more than six years, the Princeton football team (1-2) will look to keep moving forward Saturday when it heads to Easton, Pa., to take on the Lafayette Leopards (3-1).
This is the final non-league game of the season for Princeton, which has won five straight over Lafayette, including a dramatic 36-33 double-overtime victory in 2010. The Tigers are looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since the final two games of the 2009 season.
Lafayette averaged only three wins per season over the prior two years, but the 2012 Leopards have already matched that total. Lafayette won its first three games this season, including a 28-21 home win over Penn, but it lost a last-second 31-28 road game at Robert Morris last weekend.
WEEK 4 LINKS:
TV/Video: RCN-TV/Lafayette Sports Network
All-Time Series: Princeton 38-4-3
Last Year: no game
Last At Site: Princeton 20, LAFAYETTE 14 (2007)
Last Five Years: Princeton 2-0
Last Princeton Win: PRINCETON 33, Lafayette 30 (2010)
Current Streak: Princeton 5
Princeton goes into Saturday’s game coming off its first win of the season, a 33-6 road win at Columbia in the 2012 Ivy League opener. The victory ended a nine-game losing streak overall and an 11-game losing streak on the road.
Princeton has won five straight games in this series, including two at Fisher Stadium. Over that span of games, the Tigers have averaged 28 points per game. Princeton’s last win at Fisher Stadium was a 20-14 win in Week 2 of the 2007 season; that game was the last time Princeton defeated a nationally ranked program.
The last meeting between these two teams was a memorable 36-33 overtime win for the Tigers at Princeton Stadium during Week 2 of the 2010 season. The win, the first for current head coach Bob Surace, was clinched by an overtime touchdown run by Jordan Culbreath; the senior back, who rushed more than 1,200 yards as a junior (2008), had missed the 2009 season after being diagnosed with aplastic anemia.
Princeton has lost five straight games to Patriot League opponents, as well as seven of its last eight games. This season, Princeton has lost close games to both Lehigh (17-14) and Georgetown (21-20).
A pair of Princeton freshmen were honored at the league level this week, and one shared a national honor. Both Anthony Gaffney and Nolan Bieck earned individual Ivy League honors after Saturday’s 33-6 victory over Columbia; Gaffney also shared the National Co-Freshman of the Week award.
Gaffney was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after a dominant two-way effort on Kraft Field. He returned the opening kickoff for a 94-yard touchdown, and he followed up with the first two interceptions of his collegiate career.
Bieck was named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week after making four field goals and three extra points in the win over Columbia.
The last two Princeton recruiting classes have dominated the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award. Dating back to last season, Tiger players have won eight of the last 13 Rookie weekly honors. Six of those went to 2010 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Chuck Dibilio, who had to miss this season after suffering a stroke during January.
Twenty spots on the Princeton two-deep are held by underclassmen, including leading rusher Di Andre Atwater (freshman) and QBs Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly (sophomores).
The Princeton defense kept Columbia out of the end zone last weekend; that was the first time Princeton had achieved that feat in the span of 59 games, dating back to a 17-3 home win over Brown during the 2006 Ivy League championship season.
The combination of strong defensive play and scoring helped
Princeton to a 27-point win; that was the Tigers’ largest margin of victory since a 30-0 win at Dartmouth in the 2005 season finale.
Secondary To None
After allowing 2.4 touchdown passes per game last season, the Tigers have yet to allow a single touchdown completion this season. According to the NCAA, Princeton is the only Division I program (FBS or FCS) that has not allowed a touchdown pass this season.
Princeton has rotated three cornerbacks mostly, and each is an underclassman. Sophomore Khamal Brown has started 12 straight games at cornerback, while freshman Anthony Gaffney has started all three games this season and recorded two interceptions last weekend. Fellow freshman Matt Arends has rotated in at the cornerback position each game, while sophomore Mike Zeuli has seen significant time at the nickel back position.
Last season, Princeton was outscored 83-37 during the fourth quarter of its 10 games. This season, Princeton has outscored its opponents 33-3, including 13-0 last weekend.
In No Rush
Princeton held Columbia to -28 rushing yards in the second half last weekend.
Princeton limited Columbia to three conversions on 17 third-down attempts last weekend. For the season, Princeton opponents are converting third downs 33% of the time; last season, opponents converted on 41% of their opportunities.
Princeton is +23 in point differential over the first three weeks of the season. The last time Princeton has had a three-game stretch with a higher point differential was during Weeks 2-4 of the 2006 season, when Princeton was +26 against Lafayette, Columbia and Colgate.
Princeton has both the highest-ranked total defense and scoring defense in the Ivy League, and a key aspect of that has been the play up front. The Tigers are averaging three sacks per game, and have gotten two straight multiple-sack games from senior co-captain Mike Catapano. Both Catapano and fellow defensive lineman Caraun Reid, both of whom have received considerable interest from NFL scouts this season, were All-Ivy honorees last season; Reid led Princeton with eight sacks last season, while Catapano was second with five.
Tackling The Issue
Senior linebacker Andrew Starks led Princeton in tackles during both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and he is well on his way to a third straight year as the top Tiger tackler. He currently leads the team and ranks second in the Ivy League with 31 tackles; he had a career-best 16 two weeks ago against Georgetown.
When In Roman
Junior wideout Roman Wilson has spent the majority of his first two seasons dealing with injuries, but he is showing his abilities early this season. Wilson leads Princeton with nine catches for 175 yards, more than twice as many receiving yards as any of his teammates, and he caught his first career touchdown pass for 44 yards last weekend at Columbia.
A Perfect Ten
Princeton had 10 players catch passes against Columbia last weekend, and none caught more than three. Six were wide receivers, two were running backs and two were tight ends.
Di Andre The Giant
Freshman running back Di Andre Atwater leads Princeton in rushing yardage per carry (5.1) and per game (71.5). After not getting a carry in the season opener at Lehigh, he rushed for 92 yards in the home opener against Georgetown, including a 53-yard touchdown run.
Princeton threw for 224 passing yards last weekend, and it got more than 100 from each of its sophomore quarterbacks.
Connor Michelsen, who has started each game this season, completed 11 of 19 passes for 109 yards, while Quinn Epperly completed seven of 10 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Epperly is the only quarterback on the roster with a touchdown pass this season, though he only ranks second on the team in that category this season.
Up In SMoak
Princeton field goal holder Tom Moak was a two-year starting quarterback at The Westminster School in Atlanta, where he threw for more than 2500 yards and 29 touchdowns. Over the last two weeks, he has put that arm to good use.
Against both Georgetown and Columbia, Moak has turned wide field goal snaps into touchdown passes, including a 14-yard pass to Des Smith in the second quarter of the 33-6 victory over Columbia.
Moak, who has one touchdown catch in his career, currently has a quarterback efficiency rating of 530.80; for comparison’s sake, West Virginia’s Geno Smith (he of the eight touchdown passes last weekend) has a rating of 208.40.
Princeton has had a bevy of special teams highlights over the last two weeks. Included are:
• Nolan Bieck was successful on all seven kicks last weekend, including four field goals (34, 30, 29, 24). He is the first Princeton kicker to make that many field goals since the 2010 season opener.
• Senior Joe Cloud, a two-time All-Ivy League punter, ranks 12th nationally with a 43-yard punting average. He leads the Ivy League this season in 50+ punts (five) and punts inside the 20 (six), and he set a career long last weekend with a 68-yard punt.
• Anthony Gaffney leads the Ivy League in kickoff returns with a 29.4-yard average. He recorded a 94-yard kick return last weekend, Princeton’s first since the 2010 season opener and only its third over the last 20 years.
• Princeton has turned wide field goal snaps over the last two games into touchdown passes from Tom Moak to Mark Hayes (Georgetown) and Des Smith (Columbia).
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, endowed by HealthSouth, 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. He joins Ross Walthall of Brown and Patrick Lahey of Dartmouth.
The Crystal Ball
Princeton returns 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.
Lights, Camera, Action
Starting with the Brown game, Princeton will play four of five games that will be available to a national audience. After the Brown game on the NBC Sports Network, ESPN3 will carry both the Harvard and Penn games. The Yale game will be televised live on The YES Network.
The season finale against Dartmouth will be available to subscribers of GoPrincetonTigers.TV.