Football Friday: Bob Surace Talks Efficiency, Developing Youth, Lafayette
WATCH WEEK 3 HIGHLIGHTS
In the weekly Football Friday interview series, head coach Bob Surace looks back at Princeton's 53-7 win over Columbia, the impressive play of both Roman Wilson and several underclassmen, and the balanced attack he expects from Lafayette this Saturday.
Two teams that posted ideal starts to their league seasons last weekend will meet Saturday afternoon (1 pm, ESPN3) with plenty on the line.
Sure, neither the Ivy League nor Patriot League standings will be affected by Saturday’s result, but both Princeton and Lafayette know how precious momentum can be, and both know that the heart of their seasons are on the horizon.
The home team is on an offensive run that hasn’t been seen around these parts in quite some time (more on that in the notes). But with seven games remaining in the season, there is still plenty of time to improve. And with road games remaining against the top four teams in the Ivy League preseason media poll, improvement will be needed.
After the Lafayette game, Princeton plays three road games in the next four weeks against teams that have combined to win every Ivy League championship over the last six years. The home game comes against a quarterback in Jeff Matthews who is 3-0 in his career and just broke Tiger offensive coordinator James Perry’s Ivy League career passing record.
But that remains in the future. For now, all eyes are on the Lafayette Leopards and the hopes of building on one of the program's most impressive offensive stretches in generations.
|Lafayette Leopards (1-3) at Princeton Tigers (2-1)
|Game Time/Location||1 pm • Powers Field at Princeton Stadium • Tickets|
|Game Coverage||ESPN3 Video Stream l LSN TV l Radio l Live Stats l @PUTigers|
|All-Time Series||Princeton leads 39-4-3|
|Last Year||Princeton 35, LAFAYETTE 14|
|Last At Site||
PRINCETON 36, Lafayette 33 (2OT • 2010)
|Last Five Years||Princeton leads 2-0|
|Last Lafayette Win||LAFAYETTE 28, Princeton 13 (2003)|
|Current Streak||Princeton 6|
|Princeton||Game Notes l Roster l Schedule l Statistics|
|Lafayette||Game Notes l Roster l Schedule l Statistics|
A Princeton Win Would …
• give Princeton a three-game win streak, its second-longest since 2009
• give Princeton a seven-game win streak over Lafayette
• keep Princeton undefeated at Princeton Stadium over Lafayette
• be its 40th victory over Lafayette in a series that dates back to 1883
• give Princeton its first winning non-league record since 2006
WEEK 4 GAME NOTES
Princeton has won six straight games over Lafayette, its longest active win streak against any team on the 2013 schedule. Three of the last five have been decided by six points or fewer, though last season’s 35-14 Princeton win was the biggest margin of victory in the series since 1995.
Home Sweet Home
Princeton has won all five matchups against Lafayette at Princeton Stadium, which opened in 1998. The Tigers have had a major advantage at home in this series, going 32-2-2 since the first meeting in 1883 (a 54-7 Princeton win).
First And Goal
Head coach Bob Surace’s first victory at Princeton came in a 36-33 double-overtime victory over Lafayette during Week 2 of the 2010 season. The winning touchdown was scored by Jordan Culbreath, who returned after missing the previous season following his diagnosis of aplastic anemia.
A win on Saturday would give Princeton its first winning record in a season against Patriot League opponents since 2006, when the Tigers swept Lehigh, Lafayette and Colgate en route to a 9-1 season and an Ivy League championship.
Princeton ranks first in the Ivy League and fourth nationally in the FCS in total offense with an average of 557.3 yards per game. After gaining more than 500 yards in both of their first two games, Princeton gained 629 yards last weekend in a 53-7 victory over Columbia.
Making Their Point
Princeton scored 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 2 and 3 of the 1907 season (Bucknell and Wesleyan). The Tigers have scored 131 points in their first three games; that is their highest point total through three weeks since the Tigers scored 142 points in the first three games of the 1912 season.
During the 2010 season, the first for head coach Bob Surace, Princeton scored a total of 165 points. Through only three games this season, the Tigers trail that mark by only 34 points.
Grounded, Part I
Princeton leads the Ivy League and ranks fifth nationally with 277.3 rushing yards per game. Despite the high average, Princeton doesn’t have a single individual rusher in the Top 6 of the Ivy rankings.
Instead, Princeton has the seventh (DiAndre Atwater), eighth (Brian Mills), ninth (Quinn Epperly) and 10th (Dré Nelson) rushers in the league. Each player is averaging more than six yards per carry, and none has rushed more than 13 times in a single game.
Grounded, Part II
Princeton also leads the Ivy League and ranks fourth nationally in rush defense. The Tigers are allowing only 84.3 yards per game, a total that dropped dramatically last week when it held Columbia to -6 yards rushing.
Just Quinn, Baby
Junior Quinn Epperly has accounted for 10 touchdowns in the last two games. Last week, he rushed for two scores and threw for four more. He became the first Princeton quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Chad Roghair threw for five against Brown in 1991.
Epperly ranks third nationally in points responsible for per game (24.0); he has rushed for seven scores and thrown for five more in the first three games. Over his last eight games, dating back to last season, Epperly has been responsible for 18 touchdowns, including at least one in each game.
Last weekend, senior Roman Wilson became the first Princeton wideout to catch three touchdowns in a single game since Michael Lerch caught four of Roghair’s touchdowns in the previously mentioned 1991 win over Brown. Wilson ranks third nationally with 124.3 receiving yards per game, and he has scored five touchdowns on the season (four receiving, one rushing).
Dating back to last season, Wilson has scored at least one touchdown in nine of Princeton’s last 11 games, including a career-long 34-yard run in the win over Lafayette last season.
Including the final two games of last season, five different players have led Princeton in rushing in each of the last five games. Quinn Epperly (Yale) and Will Powers (Dartmouth) had game highs last season, while DiAndre Atwater (Lehigh), Brian Mills (Georgetown) and Dré Nelson (Columbia) were single-game leaders this season.
Eight Is Enough
Princeton punted on its first drive last weekend and had a touchdown negated twice because of penalties on its second, which ended on a missed field goal. Its next 10 possessions ended with seven touchdowns (including the first five), one field goal, one punt and halftime. Between the second and third quarters, Princeton had the ball for more than 22 of the 30 minutes.
Through three weeks this season, the offense has posted scoring drives of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13 and 15 plays. Only one of those drives started on the opponent’s side of the field.
Princeton struggled with third down defense in the second half of its season opener, but it has excelled in that area over the last two weeks. Against both Georgetown and Columbia, Princeton allowed only five conversions on 30 third downs (16.7%).
The Princeton defense leads the Ivy League in both third down conversion percentage (29.8%) and opponent’s first downs (17.7 per game).
Senior co-captain Phillip Bhaya ranks second on the team with 21 tackles on the season, and he has one of Princeton’s three interceptions this year. His first career interception came one year ago; he returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown in Princeton’s 35-14 victory at Lafayette during the 2012 season.
On The Mike
Junior linebacker Mike Zeuli, who leads the team with 28 tackles this season, had a blocked field goal, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry last weekend.
Princeton has a pair of freshmen who are ranked among the Top 5 in the Ivy League in defensive statistical categories. Rohan Hylton, a member of the linebacker rotation, leads Princeton and ranks fifth in the league with 1.17 tackles for loss per game, while defensive back Dorian Williams shares fifth in the league with three passes defensed.
The Princeton defense has held its opponent scoreless on 22 of its last 24 drives. Last week against Columbia, the Tigers forced eight 3-and-outs on 14 drives.
Cornering The Market
While Anthony Gaffney is set as one of Tiger cornerbacks, the competition for the other spot was one of the focal points of the preseason. Both sophomore John Hill and junior Jakobi Johnson had impressive showings over the last two weeks; Hill recorded a career-high seven tackles and added two pass break-ups on potential long plays against Georgetown, while Johnson recorded a fourth-quarter interception at Georgetown and added three solo tackles last weekend. One other player in the rotation is Trocon Davis; he set a Princeton record with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown last year at Yale.
Lights, Camera, Action
Saturday’s game, as well as each of Princeton’s other two remaining home games, will be shown live on ESPN3. Both the Brown and Harvard road games will be televised nationally on Fox College Sports, while the Penn and Dartmouth road games will be on the Ivy League Digital Network.
The Crystal Ball
Princeton will begin a two-week road trip next weekend when it travels to Brown Stadium for its first ever road night game in Ivy League play. Brown has won four straight home games over Princeton, including a 34-0 win two seasons ago. Princeton ended a five-game losing streak to Brown last weekend with a 19-0 home victory; that ended a 162-game scoring streak for Brown.
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.
Every episode from the first two seasons are also available on The Ivy League® Digital Network at IvyLeagueDigitalNetwork.com.