Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Princeton Must Do to Defeat San Diego

What Princeton Must Do to Defeat San Diego

1)  Keep Keith Williams in the pocket.  The Toreros’ quarterback shares not only a last name with Tiger nemesis Dalyn Williams of Dartmouth, but also the ability to hurt Princeton with both his arm and his legs.

Dre Nelson '16
2) Stop Jonah Hodges. This shifty running back is an FBS-caliber recruit who recently transferred from the University of California.  San Diego has no film of the Tigers’ mystery defensive line, but one would assume the Toreros plan is to try to test and pound an inexperienced unit.  They have plenty of video on Tigers’ excellent secondary that not likely revealed any weaknesses.

3) Score fast. That’s every week of course, but there is not a lot of speed in the San Diego front seven, so the Tigers will need to win the game by being quicker. Dre Nelson could be a particular mismatch. Rust figures to be Princeton’s greatest impediment to scoring enough.

4) Play the entire planeload.  Last Saturday, San Diego wore down in the heat at Jacksonville. The Tigers, in their annual challenge of opening against a team that already has played twice, got worn down in the second half last year by Lehigh before withering practically everybody else the rest of the way. This time the plan is to substitute freely.

5)  Treat it like you are going to Ithaca.  This is a rare and exotic trip for the Tigers, who have to understand they are not on vacation. “I think our guys get that,” said Bob Surace.  “We have talked about it, but I haven't had to say it much.

“We put so much into how we practice and how we train that, if we lose, that’s not going to be the reason why.  We have worked too hard to give away one of our ten opportunities.”

-- Jay Greenberg


Tigers Primed to Close Their Opening Game Troubles

BY JAY GREENBERG

SAN DIEGO – In its opener two years ago, Princeton was outscored 17-0 in the first half by an undefeated Lehigh team (2-0) that was ranked #16 in the nation at the time, then scored only 14 points of the second half, falling short by a narrow margin 17-14.   

In 2013, the Tigers jumped out to a 22-3 lead against a stout Lehigh team that was already 2-0 and ranked #23 in the nation, then surrendered four long touchdown drives in the second half, resulting in a 29-28 defeat.

Two years ago, the Tigers knocked off the rust in the second half. Last season, they wore out.

“Both years we got beat because we didn’t play a full game,” said the quarterback and let it go at that, which seems like a smarter plan than taking it by the half with any half-baked theories on a past that really is irrelevant.  

Bob Surace
In the string of seven consecutive Tigers opening game defeats that started the year after 2006 championship, probably only in 2013 did the Tigers prove better over the course of the season than the team that beat them in Game One. In the total scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter when you play ‘em as much as how you play ‘em. 

So the plan simply is to play 1-1 San Diego on Saturday faster than the Tigers played Lehigh a year ago and put up that '1' in the win column one week earlier.

“When you have played games, you have had a chance to correct errors and get up to game speed,” allows Bob Surace.  “It’s hard to correct at halftime; usually it’s the video that does that.

“The last couple years we started to peak after that first game. So this year we’ve worked hard during camp running consecutive plays more often, like up to ten straight, and I think that will help us on both sides of the ball. The more plays we have run, the more film we have to make corrections from.

“I also think last year our defense wore down from being on the field too much.  I should have utilized more bodies and we will this year.”  

Go figure. After being worn down by a Lehigh team that subsequently got worn down by a Lafayette team that Princeton crunched in Week 4, the Tigers withered everybody but Dartmouth the rest of the way. And, after that terrific first half against Lehigh, Princeton’s biggest -- actually only -- problem became slow starts. The Tigers rallied from three-score deficits to beat Brown and Penn before a 17-0 hole doomed them at Dartmouth.

“I talked to the captains about this and Mike Zeuli, in his infinite wisdom, said ‘it might have just been [bad] luck’,” said Surace.  “Each game had its separate set of issues.

“Brown blocked a punt, and one of its punts hit [Jakobi Johnson] that Brown recovered, something you really can’t control.

“But for the most part I would have liked to have seen us start a little better so we don’t want to keep digging holes. So we will change the routine slightly in our pregame, [beginning with] not being in the locker room so long.

“We have started our warmup early and ended it early, so maybe coming out a little later will be better.”

Worth a shot.  But only coming out better will make it appear the difference is coming out later.
Mike Zeuli '15

“If you create your own luck, if you play like you are supposed to play, bad stuff won’t happen,” said Zeuli.  “Later in the game, when we were playing the right way, bounces went in our favor.”

Ultimately the Tigers went 8-2  by having fresh second stringers better than their opponents’ tired first stringers, why Surace seems copacetic about a defensive line that graduated its five most-used players and doesn’t have an incumbent who ever has started a game.

“I think we’re deeper there,” said Surace. “We will travel eight and typically we have been a six-man group, so that’s a positive.

“When you see them practice every day against a good offensive line like ours, you would think you would see gaping hole, in the four-minute or short yardage drills we don’t.  In our one-on-ones [the d-line] has been winning at about the same rate as it always has, so hopefully that’s a good sign.”

So is the health of the team  – on the two-deep only receiver Robby Templeton (lower body) is doubtful – and the high energy at practice.

“[The next-to-last week before the opener} always is tough because everybody but the Ivies has played and we’re still grinding through those practices,” said Surace. “And I thought we handled that really well. 

“We started to mix in San Diego (preparation) in the middle of the week and you could see the guys perk up.
Tyler Roth '17

“You gotta play the game. But these guys have been really good from the get-go of winter workouts.  Hopefully that leads to us playing well on Saturday. I think our guys are ready.”

TIGER TAILS

Incumbent Tyler Roth has won the punting job. “He made a good jump in the last week and has separated himself (from senior Brendan Sofen),” said Surace. . . . This is only the Tigers’ second game ever in California. They beat San Diego here in 2004, then followed up with another win over the Toreros the next season on Powers Filed at Princeton Stadium. 

The Toreros (who are bullfighters by the way) won the Pioneer League a year ago. After opening with a 23-17 victory over Western New Mexico, they dropped their league opener at Jacksonville last week, 35-18  . . . “It’s a little scary because we haven’t played anyone from their league since I have been here,” said Surace.  “We don’t get (much) film either, because most of the teams in our league don’t play them.”

The coverage of princetontigersfootball.com goes to three times weekly beginning with Saturday’s game story. We will post a follow-up story on Monday mornings and a look-ahead on Thursday morning that includes keys to the upcoming game.

Because of time/travel constraints, we will have to be brief this week with an initial game story. A more complete one will appear Sunday.

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com




Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Total of the Tiger Quarterbacks May Be Even Better Than the Sum of Their Parts

BY JAY GREENBERG

Fate having unfairly stolen the starting Princeton quarterback job from Connor Michelsen, he has made a conscious decision not to rob himself.

“I love how he has approached things,” said Bob Surace.  “Every snap has an urgency.

Connor Michelsen '15
“The whole quarterback group functions the right way.”

The Tigers are deep, not just in talent, but camaraderie.  They have three quarterbacks pushing Quinn Epperly, the returning league offensive player of the year, and yet they seem to all have his back. 

Princeton was 4-1 last season before Michelsen, who had thrown for 1634 yards in nine games in 2012 as the 1A sophomore starter ahead of Epperly, missed the Harvard contest because of a health issue.  That day, Epperly put up 408 yards in an overtime win, then completed 29 consecutive passes the next week against Cornell and became the quarterback for all 100 yards, not just the last ten. 

Having done nothing to deserve losing the job, Michelsen nevertheless demonstrated no sense of entitlement to it, sending a message from football’s most essential position of leadership that radiates throughout the squad.

“At the beginning of our sophomore years, Quinn and I were at each other’s throats,” confessed Michelsen.  “We’re very competitive and we did not like each other one bit.

“It was before the Lafayette game our sophomore year that we talked about it and finally realized that we can do this thing together. We can’t be irritated when the other guy is in the game and rooting for him to fail. You can see me on the video of that game running down the sideline, cheering Quinn as he was about to score a touchdown.  

"That was the kind of attitude I think spreads to the whole team. If these [quarterbacks] can compete and still root each other on, that’s the attitude everybody has to take.”
Kedric Bostic is an Improved Passer

Advice to any high school player who wants to play at Princeton:  Do not ask the coach recruiting you who is the Tigers’ current starter, how soon he is graduating, or how many other players at your position will be in this freshman class. If you don’t enroll expecting to compete for playing time, Princeton does not want you.

Junior Kedric Bostic has had the ball in his hands for two series -- when both Epperly and Michelsen were injured against Dartmouth the final game of 2012 – and on one of them took the Tigers 73 yards for a touchdown. Yet two seasons later, Bostic still is third string.  Next season, after Epperly and Michelsen graduate, Bostic will have to compete for snaps against Chad Kanoff, who is one of Princeton’s highest profile offensive recruits in the last two decades. 

You only get four years to play. In any program, if a guy who believes he is good enough to be starting somewhere insists he is happy backing up, then generally he is only saying what he knows he should say for the purposes of team morale.  But whatever a Tiger might be thinking – and Bostic confesses to the odd daydream about what might have been for him someplace else – transfers out of Princeton always have been rare. Few ever have wanted to give up the opportunity to earn the world’s greatest undergraduate degree and now all want to remain part of a selfless, winning, program.
Quinn Epperly '15


“You have your ups and downs here,” said Bostic. “Just seeing how Connor handled this was a good example for me.

“I have no regrets about coming to Princeton, academically or athletically. I consider myself not just a passer, but a runner, so I’m happy here.”

He might not be if Offensive Coordinator James Perry wasn’t so good at finding dynamic ways to get his best athletes on the field.  In the course of the competition -- and 13 Princeton wins in its last 18 games --  Epperly, once the running quarterback in a platoon system, has dramatically improved  as a passer while Michelsen, the throwing quarterback, runs for first downs off throwbacks. He also has sprung a number of big gains with blocks.

 “Quarterbacks have the stereotype of being soft guy so I take pride in my blocking,” Michelsen said. “You have to do what the coaches ask and you had better be doing it 100 per cent. Everybody out here knows that if you aren’t, you are not going to find the field.”

Epperly used to find the field only during the second quarter and in the red zone. In part because the only advantage the Tigers will have at San Diego against a team that already has played two games will be the element of surprise, Surace isn’t tipping whether there will be a plan this season for Michelsen to have preordained series, but of course he will get his plays.

“We have done things for different reasons at different times but depth-wise, we are at a point where we want the right guy for the right play,” said Surace. “It will be more play-specific, whether on that play we use one quarterback, two, three or none.”

Or, four.  Perry says Kanoff is ready to play.  His problem is that, as far as one would expect a gifted talent with a Princeton-level brain to have advanced from his freshman year, Epperly, Michelsen and Bostic have improved perhaps as much.

Epperly, who began camp slightly and understandably rusty after missing spring practice, has looked extremely sharp over the last week.  “I feel great, perfect,” he said. “I can be a better pocket passer than I have been.”

The biggest jump in a quarterback, according to Perry, is from the sophomore to junior year and Bostic has made a big one.  But he won’t play ahead of Michelsen because the senior will contribute a lot more than just attitude.     

Chad Kanoff '17
“Connor always has been able to throw the football but now he has a complete knowledge of the offense,” said Perry.  "He also is in his best shape of his life coming into this season.”

Therefore, so is Princeton at the most important position on the field, whether Epperly betters his league record-breaking numbers of a year ago or, heaven forbid, becomes lost for the season at San Diego.  

Two more talented freshmen, John Lovett and Jacob Lewis, are on the depth chart behind Kanoff in a program that, under Surace, never will be caught thin.  That said, with an incumbent Bushnell Cup winner backed up by someone who has been the starter for nine wins, the Tigers may never again be as loaded in proven quarterback commodities as they are this season.

Half the fun of being a football fan might be critiquing the quarterback, but don’t stress over how -- and how much -- Perry and Surace should use any of these guys. Follow Michelsen’s lead and just enjoy the ride.

“Your ultimate goal is to be starting quarterback,” he said. “And I was that so ultimately it’s frustrating, but I have the mentality that you don’t give up. 

“I lost my starring job in my junior year of (Plano, Texas) high school. Our team wasn’t playing well so we went to sort of a Wildcat but then we weren’t doing well with that either, so they gave me another shot and we won the rest of our games and went to the playoffs. That was a long time ago, but I have dealt with this before.

James Perry
“Both Quinn and I want to be in the game as much as we can. The coaches know that and also that we are willing to do anything it takes to help our team win. That’s why the two quarterback system works so well; because we both bring good things to the program.

“We trust our coaches. At the end of the day, it’s all about the Ws.”

TIGER TAILS

With the opener fast coming, here are some of the comers:

“It seems like every practice, (WR) Trevor Osborne is becoming more consistent,” said Surace. “He is making really good plays, doing well in the red zone, where we really need him.

(WR) Isaiah Barnes had a string of three straight practices that were his best. And (WR) James Frusciante is probably the steadiest of the three.

“(Freshman LB) Joe Percival has been a very pleasant surprise.  There is a lot of competition at DB, but Markus Phox, James Gales, Andrew Frisby and Chris Smith can help us on special teams.   (Projected starter at SAM linebacker) R.J Paige has gotten better and better.  (Senior backup center) Ryan Peloquin has made a big jump. And (freshman OL) Mitchell Sweigart is going to help us at some point, possibly this year.”

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Darkest Clouds Have a Silver Lining

BY JAY GREENBERG

The caution flag that didn’t warn of the large icy patch, the fast-advancing tree off the edge of the ski slope, and the gasps for breath mixed with the terror at the utter lack of feeling in his legs all remain a blur to Kyle Pearson P15. But 32 months later he has achieved not only the ability to walk on crutches but a clarity about the purpose of his ordeal.

“Some not-so-good things happened, but they came together for a reason,” he said. "We took the circumstances and turned them to our advantage.  

“This has been an experience for Taylor that has helped him greatly. He has grown up a lot the last couple years.”
Taylor and Kyle Pearson 

Taylor Pearson, the Tiger’s once-and-again starting right guard, has been back in school for a year, grateful for gifts that include a father who is alive, a Princeton education, and a huge role on a team loaded up for a run at a second consecutive Ivy League title.

He neither wants to detail – nor excuse – the reason for the sudden and dramatic drop in academic performance during the fall semester of his junior year that resulted in his forced leave of absence from campus.

“It was before my Dad’s accident, didn’t have anything to do with it,” Pearson said. “I can’t really explain what was going on with my head.

“It was one of those things where I had to get kicked in the butt a little bit to start appreciating what I had.  To go through what I did and what my dad was going through at the same time was life changing,

“To have the freedom of college and your group of friends and teammates taken away was shocking. That was incentive to get my act together.”

Two months of assisting in the rehab of his father and others at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo. opened Taylor’s eyes to his gifts and four B’s and an A in the spring semester have put him on target to graduate with the Class of 2015. Plus, improved conditioning, remarkable balance – “It’s amazing how he holds the point for someone who can’t bench-press 400 pounds,” says Coach Bob Surace – and an uncanny instinct to make adjustments amidst the chaos following a snap makes Pearson’s return hugely welcomed to a line that lost two All-Ivy starters in center Joe Goss and guard Max Coale.

Ten linemen saw appreciable playing time last season and will again in 2014. But Pearson, whose work on the scout team helped prepare the Tigers to go 8-2 in 2013, and whose five weeks in Kenya this summer researching his senior thesis in environmental biology helped lower his weight 15 pounds to 280, brings back to that O-line not only a better reading of the pass rush, but of himself.   

“I am not the most athletic or strongest offensive lineman we have by any means,” he said.  “My advantage has been knowing what I am doing.

“I consider myself smart as far as my assignment and being able to change it on the run as the defense changes. I do the best I can with what I have.”

Those lessons were reinforced by a father who, reminded daily by his surroundings at Craig Hospital that he was fortunate to still have full use of his brain and arms, took little time for despair. All the Pearsons – Taylor’s older sister Lauren, a kindergarten teacher; younger brother Harrison, a student at Virginia Tech and mother Leann – followed Kyle’s lead. Or did Kyle follow Leann’s?

“One day in rehab I was sitting with another wife whose husband had been injured when she said, ‘I just wish his mind wouldn’t have been affected’,” said Leann.  “He wasn’t going to be able to work again.

“In that moment, I said, ‘Well, thank you.’  It could have been so much worse.”

It was bad enough.  During a January 2013 intersession trip to the Pearson’s second home in Breckenridge, Colorado with Taylor, teammate Max Coale and his father Frank, Kyle, an experienced skier, lost his balance 200 yards down a 5000 foot Black Diamond run, slid back-first into the tree and came to rest against another one.  He suffered breaks to the vertebrae, T-10 and T-11, 10 broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
Sometimes, Kyle Forgot to Breathe (photos courtesy of Kyle Pearson)

“My first thought?” said Kyle.  “Oh, bleep!"

“My second thought was, ‘I can’t feel my legs anymore.' My third was, 'I can’t breathe.' ”

Taylor and the Coales had completed their runs for the day when they got the call from another skier who heard Kyle’s cries for help and also used his phone to summon the ski patrol.  Six members strong, they got him on the stabilizing board for the helicopter flight to Denver’s St. Anthony’s hospital.

Kyle never lost consciousness, hardly a blessing with the sensation that somebody was standing on his chest and the fear running through him at the absence of feeling below his waist. 

It got worse.  After fusing vertebra T-8 through T-12, the surgeon told Kyle that his spinal chord, while not severed, was so badly – and permanently – bruised that he would not walk again. The pain from the broken ribs – there is not much to do but wrap them up and take shallow breaths until they heal – made morphine his best friend until Dr. Daniel Lammertse, Associate Clinical Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and an affiliate at Craig dropped into the room. 

“He was able to see that I could barely move my big left toe, which so soon after the accident means incomplete paraplegia, rather than complete,” said Kyle. “Once I knew I had a chance, I felt a lot better about it.”

Taylor says he knew immediately that just that little wiggle eventually would make everything be alright, if only because his father and mother would make them alright.  Of course the Pearson's hardly needed the news – delivered by Taylor before Kyle was transferred after two weeks to Craig, a top-10 facility in the nation, to begin rehab  – that Taylor had to leave Princeton for the spring 2013 semester. But they now needed their son and, frankly, he could use a focus.

“They were obviously very upset but very understanding and supportive,” Taylor said.  “They felt it was best for me to be with him in Colorado so I ended up flying out there and volunteering at [Craig].  

“I had wanted to be a doctor when I came to Princeton, then later decided I didn’t have quite the passion for it that I thought.  I don’t want to go to school that long.  But I’ve shadowed doctors in the past and still enjoy the hospital atmosphere.
 
“I was there eight weeks working in several different hospitals, doing physical therapy, occupational therapy, helping out where I could.  People come in and with no motion in their legs and by the time they leave they are walking.  They might need a little bit of help, but they are walking and I got to see the progression.  It was heartwarming.”

Kyle was up on crutches by last summer, thanks to the staff at Craig, the massages of Taylor and the will of the relentless Leann.  She doesn’t remember much about the longest flight of her life, to Denver, after Taylor placed the hardest call of his.
 
“I cried but I wasn’t falling apart all the time, probably because I was almost in shock,” she recalls.

“I asked a friend who had lost her husband a couple years before, "How do you get through something like this, something more than you can even comprehend?’  She said, ‘Take it day by day,’ so that’s what I did that first month. That’s how I developed this strength and determination to work through this as best as we can.
Now There's Balance to Taylor's Life, too

There was a time Taylor thought Eddy Morrissey, his acerbic offensive line coach, was tough as it gets, but it turned out not even close.
  
“Well, after sitting and watching (rehab) for ten months you say, ‘I can do this,’” said Leann. “Before we came home (to Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb) friends asked what they could do to help us prepare.

“I told them (the equipment) we needed so I could start rehabbing Kyle myself. I had learned from some of the best.”

That included a son, who lent not only his ear but his shoulder, to a mother to help keep her going, so she could help keep Kyle going.

“Taylor was our rock,” she said. “He doesn’t get rattled or frustrated.

“He was very clear that ‘Dad is going to get through this, Dad is going to walk again.’ Just to have Taylor there with me when we would go back to the family apartment (at Craig) was so important.  It was a mixed blessing that [circumstances] had him with us. We wouldn’t have wanted Taylor to drop out of school (to help), even though he probably would have.  

“He was my iron, but Kyle, too had an incredible mental state. As soon as he was able, he was on conference calls about work, very upbeat and positive even though not every day can be an improvement. When you reach a plateau or have a setback, it beats you down.”

About nine months into his recovery, at about the time Taylor’s hopes of being ruled eligible to play the final six games of the 2013 season were dashed, Kyle got walloped with a condition called spasticity. Common in cases of spinal cord trauma, muscles receive a garbled signal from the brain that cause involuntary flexing, resulting in severe stiffness.

“I thought I had gotten past the bad part and it didn’t seem fair to have this sneak up on me," said Kyle.  “It was then that I had my little ‘why me?’ moment.

“I haven’t progressed as much as I would have liked the last year. That’s when I have leaned most heavily on Leann and Taylor to keep me going.”

Leann and Kyle
There is a treatment for spasticity. A drug named Lioresal is administered through something called a Baclofen Pump directly into the spinal column, without affecting other body functions.

Kyle is a good candidate both for the pump and as a subject for a thesis about courage. A consulting engineer for the oil and gas industry, he works about half the day around his rehabbing schedule.

‘My expectation is that I will be able to get around with a cane at some point,” he says.

Most of the progress from severe spinal chord injuries occurs in the first 18 month to two years, but it varies per patient and experts in the field never will put a limit on what someone with the resolve of Kyle Pearson eventually can do. Dr. Barth Green, the Director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis – an effort that grew out of the life’s work of Marc Buoniconti, who has been in a wheelchair since making a tackle for The Citadel in 1985 – predicts a cure for even complete cases of paraplegia within 10 years.

Kyle, ready to drive a car that has been fitted with a hand lever for accelerating and braking, isn’t sitting in a chair waiting for medical advances. He will be at the Harvard and Dartmouth games this fall and of course, at Taylor’s graduation in the spring.

“What a celebration that is going to be,” Kyle said.  “Taylor looks at that degree as more of a privilege than he did before all this.

“We were disappointed that he had to leave school, but there couldn’t have been better timing for my sake and Leann’s.  Classic silver lining.

"This experience has helped him greatly.  I’m really proud of him.”

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com



Friday, September 5, 2014

No Baby Steps for Holuba

BY JAY GREENBERG

With two weeks and 13 practices remaining before the September 20 opener at the University of San Diego, we will advise as we have been advised: Don’t look too deeply into the season's first two-deep depth chart, as issued by Coach Bob Surace for Media Day Friday.

Kurt Holuba '18
For instance, John Hill, the incumbent starting cornerback, is listed as first string ahead of Khamal Brown -- who missed all of last season -- because Hill, the highest energy player in camp according to the coach, has done nothing to deserve a demotion. When the season begins, Hill likely will be the nickleback and the taller, stronger Brown, who is having an excellent camp, will play considerably at cornerback.

Of course, so will everybody at every position on the two deep.  But with up to eight players vying for playing time on a defensive line that lost to graduation all five performers with appreciable experience, it is worth noting that the highly-recruited Kurt Holuba has quickly moved into the top six.  He is the only freshman who made the two deep, at the Defensive End position behind sophomore Ty Desire.

Less telling was the listing at Nose Tackle, the position of greatest anxiety as the opener nears, where Dan Dreher is getting the nod, for now, as No.1.  “Somebody has to be first,” said defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Steve Verbit. “Dan is an experienced guy heading into his junior season and an extremely hard worker, but everybody is close. We’re seeing different things from different people.”

Same goes at Rush Linebacker, where there is a deeper set of talents to replace the graduated Jason Ray and Elijah Mitchell than there is to take over for Greg Sotereanos at the Nose. Marcus Stroud is listed first at Rush, but not by much, as there will be a platoon with Birk Olson and Matt Skowron competing for snaps on Saturdays this fall.

Spenser Huston '15 Models the New Unis
Sophomores cracking the two deep included four projected starters -- Desire, Tight End Scott Carpenter, Free Safety Dorian Williams and Sam Linebacker R. J. Paige. Wide receivers Trevor Osborne and James Frusciante, Offensive tackle Mason Darrow and Middle Linebacker Rohan Hylton are in prominent backup roles.

NO LEG UP: Just because there were no backups listed at the kicking positions doesn’t mean senior Brendan Sofen is not pushing incumbent sophomore Tyler Roth to be the punter.

“We are punting the ball with more length and part of it is competition,” said Surace. “Brendan is healthy again and he and Tyler are in a neck-and-neck race.

“I think Brendan has inspired Tyler. Our average distance in six punts the other day was over 40 and that was good to see.”

FASHION DEPT: On picture day, the Tigers posed in their redesigned black uniforms, which they will wear for the majority of the home games.  The black is darker, there is P at the neck plus an added stripe on the undershirt, which can be worn for warmups without putting on the game jersey.  The numbers also are smaller and closer together.

New road white uniforms are scheduled for next year.

TIGER TAILS

There will be a scrimmage at 9:15 am. Saturday morning on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. It is open to the public.

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com


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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Good Luck Trying to Keep Robby Templeton Down

BY JAY GREENBERG

Having watched the coming attractions of The Robbie Templeton Story, Bob Surace is seated back with the popcorn and soda.  Kleenex attached to his clipboard, the coach is rooting for a happily-ever-after.  

Robby Templeton '15
“Robbie is the guy with no luck,” said Surace. “Wrong place, wrong time; fluke injuries and yet he fights through them.

“Because he has worked so hard, you just hope the end of the story turns out to be positive.”

Last spring the wide receiver sprained a knee. Last fall, he fractured a foot.  Throw in the sophomore year pull of the hammy, and it’s easy to believe that someone – probably some Yale guy – is putting on the whammy. Not only did the fifth metatarsal in Templeton’s right foot break last September during camp, so did the surgical screw that was supposed to be the fix.

As a result of this inability to catch a break, Templeton enters his senior year without having caught one ball or one falling star.   No one would begrudge this guy if he chucked football to research a senior thesis on witch doctors. Instead, he continues to get himself open, and we don’t mean just to further disappointment.

“Being around the guys, seeing them fight, seeing what they accomplished last year, motivated me to get back out there and make this year’s ring a gold one,” he said.  

The silver lining to last year’s shared title with Harvard is the opportunity to go one win better this time. Thanks to a wide receiver corps that -- despite the departure of All-American Roman Wilson -- has a chance to be just as prolific as the one in 2013, the Tigers will take their best shot.   Seth DeValve, Matt Costello and Connor Kelley return 139 catches. And even if Templeton can’t even bring that total to 140, he still might add a dimension that perhaps Princeton didn’t have a year ago.

As a senior without previous profile, he is not only Mr. X but the X factor, too.

“I think he can be a deep threat,” said Dennis Goldman, the receivers coach.  “Robbie is very good finding the void in zone coverage and I think the best part about him is he has terrific hands.

“He has some toughness to him. We want our receivers to do a good job blocking the perimeter and he is not afraid to stick his nose in.

He Can Find the Seams in Zones (Nick Conrad photo) 
“Roman was a classic slot receiver for us. He had 90 catches and a good number of those were on those little flips.   The speed sweep, like the one we ran in overtime at Harvard for a touchdown, we have to find a guy who can do those, too.

“If we started a game tomorrow, Robbie would go into the slot to (spell) Seth.  I think he can do the things a slot can do. He has quick feet.”

Of course, this time around those quick feet will have to prove harder to break than has Templeton’s heart.  

“I would say the Lehigh game, the opener last year, was probably when I was most angry,” he said.  “I had worked three years to be out there so that was really hard to watch.  

“I guess I got used to it a little. But it was tough when these guys were going on the big trips to Harvard, Brown and Penn. I remember sitting in the stands at Penn thinking I should be out there.”

Having listened for three years to these coaches telling him that you play as you practice, Templeton should be out there this year.

Underclassmen James Frusciante, Isaiah Barnes, Trevor Osborne, and Lawrence Wilson have flashes of excellence, but need to be more consistent.  Freshman Reinaldo Maristany quickly – and that’s the operative word when you see this kid explode upfield – has asserted himself into the mix. The rest of the freshman class of receivers are beginning to adapt to the speed and workload of the college game as well. And while Surace and Goldman would love to rotate six as the Tigers did in 2012, they will need more reliable receivers to do so. In the case of Templeton, there is a veteran reliability that belies his absence of on-field track record.
Wide Receivers Coach Dennis Goldman

“I have been here four years and know the offense really well,” he said.   “I don’t have the game experience Seth, Matt and Connor do but I have been around this offense [long enough] to know how everything works.

“I know how we play -- fast and physical.   I run good routes and have soft hands. Hopefully, I can take some of the workload off those guys.”

Running back Brian Mills lost the second half of his sophomore year to a back injury and his junior year to a failed position switch but still had a productive senior season.  Des Smith suffered concussions and couldn’t catch his break for three years, then blossomed as a big play tight end.   

“That's why I am coming out here and working hard every day, to have a good ending to my Princeton movie,” said Templeton.

Won’t be a dry eye behind the head coach’s desk.

TIGER TAILS

They Are Fresh and Impressive: Maristany and Kurt Holuba are not the only freshmen who have made a fast impression that could put them on the field early in the season.

“We’ll see if he keeps coming along but (linebacker) Joe Percival has an unbelievable burst,” said Surace.  “I thought Marcus Stroud was the fastest getting up the field and Joe is right there with him.”

And These Guys Are Impressing, Too:  “Seems like (safety) Andrew Frisby has been around the ball a lot,” said Surace. “And he’s not the only junior year jump. Caleb Slate made a big jump in the spring and is making another one now. He has been one of our best (offensive) linemen.. 

“(SAM linebacker) R.J. Paige has been tremendous. Rohan Hylton is cutting down on his errors and playing with great effort. Once he gets to the right spots all the time is going to be tremendous, too.”

Defensive Line Update: “I think we are feeling a lot better about the ends,” said Surace.  “(Tyler) Desire, when he has played outside, Holuba and Evan Kappatos have been solid. 

“We are going to need somebody at the nose to step up.”

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com






Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Training Camp Day 6

Princetontigersfootball.com  - Training Camp Day 6

Theme:
"What I want people to say about me is that I was a great football player. That I cared about my teammates. I want people to say, ‘Man, I would have loved to play with that guy.’ " (Quote courtesy of Drew Brees and MMQB.com)

Coach Surace Quote:
“We continued our emphasis on situational football with a live Red Zone period to finish practice.  Our RB's did an outstanding job finishing their runs, including a 20 yard TD by Dre Nelson.”


 

 






 





















_________________________________________________
Alumni Bio

Name:  
Richard Emery
State:  
Colorado

Position:
Defensive Line
Graduation Year:
1990

Major:
History
Post-Graduate Study:  
Northwestern University

Occupation:  
VP – Sales and Business Development, Mersive Technologies
_______________________________________________


Go Tigers!

2013 Ivy League Champions