Football Friday: Bob Surace Talks Comebacks, Epperly & The No. 23 Crimson
After scoring the final 39 points of a thrilling comeback win over Brown last Saturday, the Princeton football team has earned the right to compete in a first-place showdown in Boston this weekend against the 22nd-ranked Harvard Crimson.
Princeton fans may remember the final 12 minutes of the last time these two teams met, when the Tigers rallied from a 34-10 deficit and scored with 13 seconds remaining to claim a stunning 39-34 victory. That was Princeton's first victory over Harvard since the 2006 season and moved the Tigers to first place in the league, though Penn was the team that moved past both and took the 2012 Ivy crown.
One year later, guess which three teams are back alone atop the Ivy standings? Yes, it's Harvard, Penn and Princeton.
While Penn hosts Yale Saturday at 1, Princeton and Harvard will meet at Harvard Stadium at 1 pm in front of a nationally televised audience on Fox College Sports Atlantic. The winner is assured to go into the final month of the season atop the league standings, while the loser will likely need to win out and get some help along the way.
But when it comes to this rivalry, positioning in the Ivy League race isn't necessary to make this a meaningful game. The league's top two offenses will meet in a stadium where Harvard has dominated league play for the greater part of a decade. The Crimson's 15-game home win streak is second best in the nation, though this Princeton team will enter Saturday having won five of six games on the road.
It's Princeton. It's Harvard. It's for first place in the Ivy League.
What more can you ask for?
|Princeton Tigers (4-1, 2-0 Ivy) at #23 Harvard Crimson (5-0, 2-0 Ivy)
|Game Time/Location||1 pm • Harvard Stadium • Tickets|
|Game Coverage||Fox College Sports Atlantic l Radio l Live Stats l @PUTigers|
|All-Time Series||Princeton leads 53-45-7|
|Last Year||PRINCETON 39, Harvard 34|
|Last At Site||
HARVARD 56, Princeton 39 (2011)
|Last Five Years||Harvard leads 4-1|
|Last Princeton Road Win||Princeton 27, HARVARD 24 (2005)|
|Current Streak||Princeton 1|
|Princeton||Game Notes l Roster l Schedule l Statistics|
|Harvard||Game Notes l Roster l Schedule l Statistics|
A Princeton Win Would …
• give Princeton its first-five game win streak since the 2006 Ivy championship season
• be Princeton’s first road victory at Harvard Stadium since 2005
• keep Princeton in at least a share of first place in the Ivy League
• be Princeton’s first win over a ranked team since Sept. 22, 2007 (over No. 22 Lafayette)
• give Princeton its third 3-0 Ivy start over the last 18 seasons
WEEK 6 GAME NOTES
Lights, Camera, Action
Princeton will play its second straight game on Fox College Sports this Saturday when it takes on Harvard at 1 pm. The game is being aired live on the Fox College Sports Atlantic channel. Check your local listings to see if this channel is available on your network package.
Princeton will also be on ESPN3 in its final two home games of the season (Nov. 2 vs. Cornell and No. 16 vs. Yale), and it will be on the Ivy League Digital Network in games at Penn and Dartmouth.
The top two scoring offenses in the Ivy League will meet Saturday at Harvard Stadium. Prince-ton leads the Ivy League and ranks third in the FCS with 42.4 points per game, while Harvard ranks second in the Ivy League and 13th nationally with 38.6 points per game. The two teams have two common opponents this season, Lafayette and Brown. Princeton combined to score 81 points against the two, while Harvard scored 76.
Princeton has scored 212 points through five games this season; that eclipses the total scoring output for Princeton in five of the last six seasons (2007 through 2011). In the modern era, the Princeton record for single-season points is 349, set during Princeton’s 28th national championship season of 1950.
First And Goal
The winner of Saturday’s showdown at Harvard Stadium will either share or stand alone in first place in the Ivy League. Both Princeton and Harvard currently share first place with reigning Ivy League champion Penn, which hosts Yale Saturday at 1 pm. Penn and Harvard were picked to finish 1-2 in the preseason poll and earned 16 of the possible 17 first-place votes. Princeton was picked to finish fifth and didn’t receive a first-place vote.
Princeton ended a five-game losing streak to Harvard in dramatic fashion last season, rallying from a 24-point deficit with 12 minutes remaining to stun the Crimson 39-34 on Powers Field. Princeton scored 29 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning 34-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.
Home Sweet Home
Princeton will try to do what very few teams have done over the last decade — win at Harvard Stadium. The Crimson have won 15 straight home games, and it hasn’t lost an Ivy League home game since a 17-7 loss to Penn in 2009.
The last team other than Penn to defeat Harvard in Cambridge was Yale, which earned a share of the 2006 Ivy League title with Princeton in a 34-13 win at Harvard in the season finale.
Princeton has lost three straight and seven of its last eight games at Harvard Stadium; the lone win came in 2005, when Jay McCareins returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 93 yards for the winning points in a 27-24 victory for the Tigers.
Princeton comes into Saturday’s game having won three straight and five out of its last six road games, dating back to last season. This year, Princeton has road wins over both Georgetown (50-22) and Brown (39-17).
On The Road Again
Princeton started to play Brown and Harvard in back-to-back weekends during the 2000 season, meaning they have made consecutive trips to New England in odd years dating back to 2001. The Tigers have never swept these games when both were on the road.
In each of the last two seasons, Princeton has scored exactly 39 points against Harvard, though they came in far different games. Two seasons ago, Princeton lost a 56-39 game in Boston; last season, Princeton rallied for its 39-34 win over the Crimson on Powers Field.
Last week, Princeton hit that number one more time in a 39-17 victory at Brown.
In its first three games of the season, Princeton led at the end of every quarter except for the end of the season opener, a 29-28 loss to nationally ranked Lehigh. Since then, the Tigers have been forced to play catch up, and they have done so in impressive fashion.
Two weeks ago, Lafayette scored three first-quarter touchdowns to lead 20-11, but Princeton shut out the Leopards in the second quarter and led 21-20 at the break. Last weekend, Brown scored the first 17 points and led 10-0 after one and 17-6 at the half. By the end of the third quarter, Princeton held a 25-17 lead.
Princeton leads the Ivy League and ranks third nationally in the FCS in total offense (537.0 yards/game). The Princeton record for yards gained in a season is 4,392, which occurred during the 1983 season. The Tigers need to average 341.4 yards per game the rest of the season to match that total.
During Bob Surace’s first three seasons as head coach, Princeton recorded more than 500 total yards in three games. This season alone, Princeton has done it in four of five games.
Princeton ranks first in the Ivy League with 247.8 rushing yards per game, but it doesn’t have a single player in the Ivy Top 5 in individual yards. Instead, Princeton has three players who rank sixth (DiAndre Atwater, 67.2), seventh (Quinn Epperly, 53.4) and eighth (Brian Mills, 49.4).
Princeton has spread its carries around this season; outside of DiAndre Atwater’s 15 carries last weekend, no player has rushed more than 13 times in any single game this season.
Just Quinn, Baby
Junior quarterback Quinn Epperly ranks second nationally in points responsible for per game (24.4). He has rushed for 11 touchdowns and thrown for nine more this season; no other player in the FCS national Top 30 has even eight touchdowns in both rushing and passing categories, and all other non-Ivy teams have played at least seven games this season.
Epperly has the chance to become the second Princeton player in program history to both rush and throw for 10 touchdowns in a single season. The only other player to do so was Ron Landeck, who rushed for 10 scores and threw for 13 during the 1965 season.
Epperly was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 95 yards and three touchdowns, and throwing for 272 yards, in the win at Brown. He has been named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week after both of Princeton’s Ivy League wins this season.
Quinn Epperly became the ninth Princeton football player since 1900 to rush for at least 11 touchdowns in a single season. With one more touchdown, he would share seventh place on the single-season mark with Ellis Moore (1969) and Keith Elias (1991).
The record is held by Keith Elias, who rushed for 19 touchdowns during the 1993 season.
Senior wideout Roman Wilson has scored at least one touchdown in eight of Princeton’s last 10 games, including the first four games this season. He has caught at least seven passes in each game this season, and he leads the Ivy League with 555 receiving yards.
Moving Up The Charts
Roman Wilson has 82 career receptions for 1,218 yards and 11 touchdowns. He needs 14 catches to move into the Top 10 all-time at Prince-ton, and he needs only two yards away to move into the Top 10 in career receiving yards. His 11 receiving touchdowns ranks fourth at Princeton; he is two behind Kevin Duffy ’97 for third and five behind Kevin Guthrie ’84 for second.
Junior Connor Kelley, who played quarterback as a freshman during Bob Surace’s first season and missed nearly the entire 2011 season due to a knee injury, had a career effort in the win over Lafayette two weeks ago. He caught eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, and his diving 29-yard catch on 4th-and-5 late in the third quarter set up a touchdown pass to Des Smith.
Last week, Kelley had one of the biggest catches of the season, a 24-yard grab on 3rd and 17 from the Princeton 4 to ignite the Tigers’ first scoring drive of the game.
Heading into the Lafayette game, senior tight end Des Smith had four receptions and one touchdown in his career. In the last two games, he caught four passes, including touchdowns in both games. Last weekend, he caught a career-long 28-yard pass for the go-ahead touchdown in the win over Brown.
Half And Half
Over the last three games, the Princeton defense has allowed only one touchdown in the second half, and it came off a flea flicker against Lafayette. The Tigers have not allowed a second-half point in either of their Ivy League games, and both first-half offensive touchdowns came off long plays (a 70-yard pass against Columbia and a 71-yard run against Brown).
Since the Lehigh game, Princeton has allowed only one touchdown pass on the season.
Princeton leads the Ivy League in both scoring defense (20.2 points/game) and total defense (342.4 yards/game); the Tiger scoring defense ranks 13th nationally in FCS. Princeton is the only team in the Ivy League allowing less than five yards per play, and it is the only team in the league to rank in the top three in both rushing defense and passing defense.
The Princeton defense also leads the Ivy League in third-down conversion defense, allowing only a 28.2 success rate. Against Brown, the Tigers allowed only two conversions on 12 attempts, including only one in the second half.
Since the season opener, Princeton has allowed only a 20% success rate on third downs.
While the Princeton defense has had significant success during the first half of the season, it hasn’t had much success against Harvard over the last decade. In its last 10 meetings, Harvard has averaged 36 points per game, including 56 points in the last meeting at Harvard Stadium. That was the most points the Crimson has scored against Princeton in a series that began in 1877.
On The Mike
Junior linebacker Mike Zeuli leads Princeton and ranks fifth in the Ivy League with 8.2 tackles per game. After playing safety his first two seasons, he moved to strongside linebacker this year to replace Andrew Starks.
Zeuli had one of his biggest games in the win over Harvard last season; he recorded 12 tackles, including one on third down just short of the marker that allowed Princeton its final drive of the game.
Corner The Market
Both of Princeton’s starting cornerbacks, Anthony Gaffney and John Hill, have recorded interceptions over the last two weeks. Hill ranks second in the Ivy League with 1.2 passes defensed per game, while Gaffney was a first-team All-Ivy League cornerback his freshman season. Both will be challenged this weekend by the Harvard pass offense, which ranks second in the Ivy League and has an Ivy-best 12 passing touchdowns.
Shut The Dor-ian
Freshman cornerback Dorian Williams was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after
recording a team-high eight tackles and forcing a fumble in Princeton’s 39-17 victory over Brown. Williams leads all Princeton freshmen and ranks sixth on the team with 20 tackles, but he is second on the team in both breakups (two) and tackles for loss (2.5).
Leicht It Up
Junior middle linebacker Garrit Leicht, who missed the first half of last season because of injury, has recorded seven tackles in back-to-back games. He is second on the team and 15th in the Ivy League with 6.8 tackles per game.
Senior safety and co-captain Phillip Bhaya has one of Princeton’s six interceptions this season, and he ranks third on the team with 31 tackles. Bhaya had a key play in the win over Harvard last season, both forcing and recovering a first-half fumble to help keep the game within reach.
Margin Of Victory
Harvard and Princeton rank 1-2 in the Ivy League in turnover margin. The Crimson lead the Ivy League and rank second in FCS with a turnover margin of 1.8 per game (+9 for the season), while Princeton ranks second in the Ivy League at +2.
Last weekend, Princeton defeated Brown 39-17 despite losing the turnover battle (2-1). During Bob Surace’s tenure at Princeton, the Tigers are 7-4 when they are at least a +1 in turnovers, and they are 2-16 when they are -1 or worse.
Just For Kicks
Princeton placekicker Nolan Bieck made two field goals, including a career-long 40-yarder, in the win over Lafayette two weeks ago. However, Princeton had a punt blocked for a touchdown and missed an extra point after a high snap last weekend.
Special teams has had a major impact in this series in Princeton’s last win both at home and on the road. Last season, the Tigers blocked a fourth-quarter field goal to stay within one possession of the Crimson. During Princeton’s last win at Harvard Stadium, eventual All-America honoree Jay McCareins returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 93 yards for the winning score in a 27-24 victory.
The Crystal Ball
Princeton will return to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium Nov. 2 at 1 pm in a showdown with Cornell. The Big Red is led by senior quarterback Jeff Mathews, who broke the Ivy League all-time passing record, formerly held by Princeton offensive coordinator James Perry.
Cornell has won three straight games over Princeton, including a 37-35 win in Ithaca last season. Mathews threw for 525 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.
Princeton will honor Dick Kazmaier during halftime of the Cornell game.
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.
Each episode is packed with highlights, statistics and expert analysis in its ‘Around the Ancient Eight’ segment. With its interview segments ‘Program Profile’ and ‘Alumni Spotlight,’ the show visits with players, coaches and administrators who impact Ivy League football, both past and present in exclusive one-on-one conversations.
Fans and alumni can engage with the show via Facebook (facebook.com/InsideIvyLeagueFootball) and Twitter (@insideivyfb, #IvyFootball) and contribute content for its ‘Social Media Mash’ segment with chances to win prize packs courtesy of The Ivy League.
Check IvyLeagueSports.com each week for this season’s episode schedule and guest lineups.