If you were at Powers Field for the final whistle of the last Princeton home game, you probably remember the shocked faces on the Tiger sidelines and the silent walk back to the home locker room.
Plenty has changed since then.
The Tigers are now on a two-game win streak, thanks to consecutive dominant road performances at Columbia (33-6) and Lafayette (35-14). There is a new energy around the team, and the Tigers couldn’t be happier to return home and open that final six-game stretch of Ivy League play.
Today’s opponent is Brown, a team that knows it has no margin for error in the league race. The Bears opened with Harvard, which enters today as the lone 2-0 team in Ivy play. While Brown dropped that high-scoring affair, it owns three impressive non-league wins and remains one of the toughest teams to defeat in the Ivy League.
A national audience on the NBC Sports Network will see a statement game for both teams. Princeton has been waiting for an opportunity for this kind of game on its home turf, and it earned it over the last two weeks.
Will there be a different walk back to the locker room this time?
WEEK 5 LINKS:
LIVE AUDIO l LIVE STATS l PRINCETON GAME NOTES l WEATHER
PRINCETON ATHLETICS l PRINCETON FOOTBALL l BROWN ATHLETICS
TV/Video: NBC Sports Network
All-Time Series: Princeton 51-27
Last Year: BROWN 34, Princeton 0
Last At Site: Brown 17, PRINCETON 13 (2010)
Last Five Years: Brown 5-0
Last Princeton Win: PRINCETON 17, Brown 3 (2006)
Current Streak: Brown 5
That Winning Feeling
Both teams come into the weekend off impressive nonleague victories. Princeton traveled to Lafayette, which came into the weekend with a 3-1 record, and scored the first 29 points in a 35-14 victory. Senior Akil Sharp rushed for two touchdowns, while the Princeton offense gained 262 rushing yards overall. Senior co-captains Andrew Starks and Mike Catapano combined for 19 tackles, and the defense held Lafayette to three third-down conversions in 11 attempts.
Brown (3-1) defeated Rhode Island 17-7 in the annual Governor’s Cup game. The Bears held their in-state rival to only 91 yards rushing, while Cody Taulbee had 44 rushing yards and two touchdowns for Brown. Anthony Franciosi led the defense with 12 tackles, including 11 solo ones.
Lights, Camera, Action
Princeton will be playing its first of four games on the next five weeks that will be available to a national audience. Saturday's game will be at noon on the NBC Sports Network, with Randy Moss and Ross Tucker '01 calling the action. Tucker was a four-year letterwinner for Princeton (1997-2000) on the offensive line, and he went on to play seven years in the NFL for Washington, Dallas, Buffalo, New England and Cleveland.
Both the home games against Harvard (Oct. 20) and Penn (Nov. 3) will be available on ESPN3 (the online platform for ESPN), while the Nov. 10 road game at Yale will be shown on The YES Network.
Brown is enjoying its best run in this series, which dates back to Oct. 29, 1898; the Bears have won the last five meetings, including a 34-0 shutout at Brown Stadium last season.
The last meeting at Princeton Stadium was a far closer one, as Brown scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to complete a 17-13 comeback win. Princeton scored the first 13 points of the game, but an injury to starting quarterback Tommy Wornham derailed the offense.
This will be the first time that Princeton has gone into the Brown game off a victory since 2006, when the Tigers defeated Colgate 27-26 in overtime. That year also marked Princeton’s last win in this series, a 17-3 home victory over Brown.
Princeton has won back-to-back games for the first time since the final two games of the 2009 season (vs. Yale, at Dartmouth). The last time Princeton won three consecutive games was the final three games of the 2006 season, when Princeton won the Ivy League title.
The Big 3-0
Princeton is coming off back-to-back 30-point games for the first time since Weeks 8 (Princeton 31, Penn 30, 2OT) and 9 (Princeton 34, Yale 31) of the 2006 Ivy League Championship season. Between 2007-2011, Princeton only reached 30 points five times, and prior to the Columbia game, it reached 30 points only twice in the span of 35 games
A League Of Our Own
Princeton will play its final six games in the Ivy League, including four at home. After hosting Brown today, Princeton will host Harvard next weekend (Alumni Weekend), Penn Nov. 3 and then Dartmouth in the Nov. 17 season finale.
Princeton is currently 1-0 in the league after a 33-6 win over Columbia two weeks ago. A win Saturday would assure a first-place showdown with Harvard Oct. 20.
Princeton is a +48 in point differential over the last two weeks. The last time Princeton had that high a differential over two games was Weeks 5 and 6 of the 1995 Ivy League championship season, when the Tigers were +52 against Lafayette (41-0) and Harvard (14-3).
For the season, Princeton is a +44. The last time Princeton had a better point differential over the first four games of its season was during Keith Elias’ senior season of 1993, when the Tigers were a +76.
Princeton has made a major rise in several of the Ivy League defensive statistical categories:
|Pass Eff. Defense
Princeton entered last week as the lone Division I program (FBS or FCS) to have not allowed a touchdown pass on the season. Though Lafayette did connect on one in the fourth quarter, the Tiger defense is still even on touchdown passes; prior to Lafayette’s touchdown, safety Phillip Bhaya picked off a pass and returned it for a 32-yard touchdown.
Bhaya’s interception return was Princeton’s first defensive touchdown since Steven Cody returned an interception 77 yards for a score at Lehigh during Week 2 of the 2009 season.
Princeton has also made several jumps in other statistical categories. In 2011, the Tigers ranked eighth in turnover margin (-15), seventh in penalties (64.9 yards per game) and sixth in opponent’s third-down percentage (41.4%). This season, Princeton ranks first in turnover margin (+4), first in penalties (28.5 yards per game) and second in opponent’s third-down percentage (31.7%).
In the last two weeks, Princeton has allowed only six first-down conversions on 28 third downs.
Senior co-captain Mike Catapano was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles and 2.5 sacks in the
35-14 victory over Lafayette this weekend. Catapano leads the Ivy League in both sacks (5) and tackles for loss (6.5), and he ranks second among all Ivy League defensive linemen in total tackles (21). His sack total ranks second nationally, while he ranks seventh in tackles for loss.
Quick As A Cat
Mike Catapano has already topped his career high in sacks (five) through the first four games of the 2012 season (5.5). He has recorded eight tackles in each of the last two games, both Tiger victories.
Tackling The Issue
Senior Andrew Starks has led Princeton in tackles over the last two seasons, and he finished fourth in the Ivy League both years. The two-time All-Ivy selection is looking to top that mark in 2012; he currently leads the Ivy League with 10.5 tackles per game.
In Starks’ first home game this season, he recorded a career-best 16 tackles. He added his first interception of the season last weekend.
In 2009, Princeton scored a total of 27 fourth-quarter points in 10 games. The next season, Princeton scored 41 in the fourth quarter; last season, that number dropped to 37 points.
Through four games this season, the Tigers have already scored 39 points, and they have allowed only 17. Of those 17 points allowed, 14 were scored by Lafayette last weekend after Princeton had established at least a 28-point lead.
Ground Them Up
Princeton rushed for 262 yards against Lafayette last weekend, with five different players rushing for at least 30 yards. The Tigers currently have the third-ranked rushing offense in the Ivy League (150.8 y/gm).
When In Roman
Junior wideout Roman Wilson missed most of his first two seasons with a variety of injuries, and he is showing this season what he can do when healthy. He leads Princeton in receptions (14), receiving yards (244) and yards per catch (17.4), and he has Princeton’s only touchdown reception among the wide receiving corps.
He also made a major impact in the ground game last weekend. He ran the ball five times for 69 yards, and his 34-yard touchdown at the end of the third quarter opened a 29-0 lead for Princeton.
The Numbers Game
In Princeton’s 33-6 victory over Columbia, Princeton had 10 people catch at least one pass. In the 35-14 win over Lafayette last weekend, Princeton had 10 players attempt at least one rush.
Senior Akil Sharp, who missed part of the Georgetown game and all of the Columbia game with an injury, returned in style last weekend with 60 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He has four touchdowns this season and ranks second in the Ivy League in scoring (8.0 pts per game).
Princeton has used two quarterbacks in a rotation this season, and both led Princeton to at least one scoring drive on their own last weekend. In the final two touchdown drives, both quarterbacks were used on at least one play.
For the season, Connor Michelsen leads the team in completions (44) and yards (113.2 per game), while Quinn Epperly has the better completion percentage (57.1) and more touchdown passes (one).
Of course, the team leader in touchdown passes is senior holder Tom Moak, who threw one apiece against both Georgetown and Columbia on wide field goal snaps. Moak is also tied for third on the team with seven receptions.
Return To Sender
Princeton freshman Anthony Gaffney leads the Ivy League and ranks 11th nationally in kick returns with a 29.1-yard average. He has the league’s only kick return for a touchdown, which came on the first play of his first Ivy League game (94 yards). He was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week after the Columbia game, in which he followed his kick return with the first two interceptions of his career.
Just For Kicks
Freshman Nolan Bieck was named Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week after making four field goals in a win over Columbia. Senior punter Joe Cloud leads the Ivy League in 50+ punts (five) and punts inside the 20 (nine).
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 hosts Ivy League frontrunner Harvard at 1 pm next weekend on Powers Field. The game will be shown live on ESPN3 (the online platform for ESPN), and can be heard live on WPRB 103.3 FM and on GoPrincetonTigers.com.
Harvard has won five straight over Princeton games over Princeton, and its average margin of victory has been 17 points. The Crimson, which takes on Bucknell this Saturday, has won its last 12 games by an average margin of 26.8 points.
Gameday Giveaways & Promotions
Growl Towels will be handed out to the first 1,000 fans in attendance, courtesy of Coca-Cola and Princeton University Dining Services.
Pregame: Come meet, get an autograph and have your photo taken with former New York Giants center Bart Oates. He will appear courtesy of Robert Wood Johnson Health System. In addition to meeting Oates, fans can stop by the RWJ tent located in the Northwest corner of the stadium where a representative from RWJ Hamilton's Community Health Education Dept. will provide free blood pressure screenings. RWJ will be giving out orange sashays with a band aid holder and hand sanitizer pen in them while supplies last.