It is a common football belief that the biggest improvements are made between Week 1 and Week 2, and Princeton is hoping to show that progress when it heads to Multi-Sport Field in Washington, D.C., for its first road game at Georgetown.
The Tigers showed plenty of promise during last weekend's nationally televised 29-28 loss to the 22nd-ranked Lehigh Mountain Hawks. But they weren't able to finish the job, just as they gave up a late lead last season in a 20-19 home loss to Georgetown.
Of course, Princeton followed that Georgetown loss with a four-game win streak, and the Tigers would like nothing more than to start a new win streak Saturday afternoon.
|Princeton Tigers (0-1) at Georgetown (1-3)
On The Road Again
Princeton is making its first road trip of the season this Saturday, as it heads to Multi-Sport Field in Washington, D.C., to play its first ever game at Georgetown. This is the seventh game in the Princeton-Georgetown series, though the first road game for Princeton and only the second game overall since the 1923 season.
These two teams met last season, with Georgetown coming from behind with a late 33-yard field goal for a 20-19 victory.
Princeton is looking for a victory in its first road game of the season since 2009, when the Tigers defeated Lehigh 17-14. Over the last two seasons, Princeton has lost its road opener by an average of fewer than four points per game.
Since Bob Surace has taken over, Princeton is 2-6 against the Patriot League, with both victories coming against Lafayette. The last three losses, all coming since the 2012 season opener, have come by a grand total of five points.
Close losses have been an unfortunate trend for the Tigers over the last two seasons. Of their six losses during that stretch, four have come by three points or fewer.
Saturday’s game will feature two teams looking to surprise in their respective leagues. Both Princeton and Georgetown were picked to finish fifth in their respective preseason polls.
Senior wide receiver Roman Wilson currently ranks second nationally in the FCS with 168 receiving yards per game; he trails only Lehigh’s Lee Kurfis, who recorded 152 yards on the other side of the field last weekend.
Wilson, who caught a touchdown on a shovel pass last weekend, was an All-Ivy honoree last season and led the league with 17.5 yards per reception.
DiAndre The Giant
Sophomore DiAndre Atwater rushed for a career-best 111 yards and two touchdowns last weekend against Lehigh. He scored both Princeton’s first (17 yds) and final (18 yds) touchdowns of the game, and he averaged 8.5 yards per carry.
Atwater, who dealt with injuries through much of last season, had his breakout game of 2012 in the home opener against Georgetown; he rushed 15 times for 92 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
For the second straight season, DiAndre Atwater will go head-to-head against his older brother Stephen, a senior defensive back for Georgetown. Stephen Atwater had six tackles for the Hoyas last season. Both brothers are the son of eight-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion Steve Atwater, best known for his days as a Denver Bronco.
NFL Films will be doing a feature on the Atwaters, and will follow all three during Saturday’s game, as well as during the week leading up to the game.
Last Saturday marked the first time Princeton had somebody both rush for more than 100 yards (Atwater) and gain more than 100 receiving yards (Wilson) in 15 games, dating back to the 2011 Harvard game, when Chuck Dibilio (135 rushing) and Shane Wilkinson (108 receiving) did it.
Prior to the 2011 Harvard game, it hadn’t happened for the Tigers since Week 7 of the 2008 season.
Just Quinn, Baby
Over the last six games, dating back to last season, junior quarterback Quinn Epperly has accounted for 12 touchdowns (six rushing, six passing). Last weekend, Epperly rushed for a four-yard touchdown and connected with Roman Wilson on a five-yard touchdown.
Last season, Epperly completed at least one pass in nine of 10 games and rushed for positive yards in nine of 10. In both cases, the lone exception was the Georgetown game.
Junior quarterback Connor Michelsen started his second straight season opener last weekend and completed 19 of 32 passes for 210 yards. He topped that total only three times last season, and all three were during the second half of the year.
After averaging 3.3 yards per rush last season, Princeton averaged 5.5 yards per rush against Lehigh. Eight players rushed at least once, and
Atwater’s 111 yards ranks him 20th nationally in the FCS.
On The Mike
Junior Mike Zeuli made an impressive debut in his first start at strongside linebacker last weekend. He led all players with 18 tackles, including 11 solo stops. That topped his career high of 12 tackles, set in last season’s comeback victory over Harvard.
Senior co-captain Phillip Bhaya, making his 11th straight start at safety, recorded Princeton’s first turnover of the season when he intercepted Lehigh’s Brandon Bialkowski to end the Mountain Hawks’ first drive of the season.
Bhaya, who finished second on the team with 10 tackles last weekend, was an All-Ivy League safety last year after sharing the team lead with three interceptions.
Oh Captain, Our Captains
Phillip Bhaya will serve as co-captain this season with 2012 All-America and 2013 Preseason All-America Caraun Reid, who was noted on ESPN’s College Gameday last weekend as the top NFL prospect in the FCS by Todd McShay. Reid is a two-time All-Ivy League selection on the defensive line, and he had six tackles, a sack and a blocked kick against Georgetown last season.
Tackling The Issue
While Princeton returns plenty of experience in several areas, the Tigers did graduate their top two tacklers last season (Andrew Starks and Tim Kingsbury), both of whom earned All-Ivy honors. The top returning tackler from 2012 is senior Alex Polofsky, who made 67 stops last season.
Playing The Percentages
Both offenses had the edge on third downs last weekend. Princeton converted 8 of 14 third downs, including 5 of 9 in the second half.
The defense will be focusing this week on getting off the field on third downs. Lehigh converted on 9 of 17 overall, but they were 5 of 8 in the second half. Of the three third downs when Lehigh didn’t convert, the Mountain Hawks followed with two fourth-down conversions on two attempts.
What Time Is It?
Lehigh had more than 13 minutes in time of possession than Princeton last weekend. Last season, Princeton was 4-0 when it won the time of possession battle, and it is 5-2 during Surace’s tenure when it has the advantage,
Over And Over
Princeton was -1 in turnovers last weekend, and is 1-16 since the 2010 season when it is -1 or worse in turnover differential.
Just For Kicks
Special teams was an issue for Princeton both last week, and in the 20-19 loss to Georgetown last year. Sophomore Nolan Bieck had two field goals blocked by the Mountain Hawks, while the Tigers missed three field goals against the Hoyas. Georgetown also blocked a Princeton punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.
Bieck provided a reason for optimism last season, though. After his struggles against Georgetown, he bounced back the following week to make four field goals in four attempts and was named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.
The Crystal Ball
Princeton returns to Powers Field Oct. 5 (1 pm) for the Ivy League opener against Columbia. If you can’t make it, all three Ivy League home games will be shown live on ESPN3. Princeton plays four Ivy road games this season, and each will be streamed live on the Ivy League Digital Network.
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.