Monday, October 20, 2014

Tigers Get The Max Whenever the Opposition Punts

BY JAY GREENBERG

Put your hands together, please, for the best set of hands on the Princeton Tigers: Punt returner Max Lescano’s. 

Max Lescano '16
With nary a hint of a bobble, let alone a drop, in 41 clean snags since taking over the job last season, Lescano has proven almost as sure as fair catches -- and sometimes not-so-fair catches -- are to be taken for granted by the fans.

Well, at least they are until an opponent gets a score off a short field. Coaches, on the other hand, don't have to wait for something to go wrong to live in fear of it, but Lescano is removing the anxiety. 

“There is a lot of hidden yardage that Max is responsible for,” said Bob Surace, who didn’t have to watch the film of the 3-2 Tigers 27-16 win over Brown Saturday to be reminded. “There was a short one that he ran up and got, then there was a long one he ran back and got that one, too.

“When Tyler (Roth) booted that (64 yarder) and their guy couldn’t get to it, 15 more yards were added on the roll, giving us great field position.

“We had a few missed blocks on punt returns, but we played really well on special teams. One punt Tyler would like to have back (a 30-yarder), but we punted it well (six total for an average of 43.8 yards, two inside the 20), kicked off well (Nolan Bieck 61.8 average, with three touchbacks) and covered well.”

Through five games Coach Andy Aurich’s units have probably been the best of the 5-year Surace era, which considering the quality of the kickers -- Joe Cloud, Otavio Fleury, and Patrick Jacob – that have come through the program recently – is quite the compliment. 

“We hit our (two Bieck) field goals and the (three) extra points,” said Surace. “We would like to have had better get-off on our field goal block (attempts) because we were close a couple times, but we went hard.

“We’re getting good protections, good snaps, holds, and are in a pretty good rhythm on all those units, which is great.”

NEXT MAN UP DEPT:

Just as Connor Michelsen, a former starter came through grandly in the absence of Quinn Epperly Saturday, senior linebacker Garrit Leicht, who has had his first-string position snatched by the dynamic Rohan Hylton, may have his chance this Saturday. Hylton was ejected for targeting Brown quarterback Marcus Fuller with a helmet hit, which usually means a half-game suspension for the following game.
Garrit Leicht '15 

Surace made his case for Hylton privately and had no further comment, except about his superlative linebacking play.  

“Mike Zeuli has been playing as well as any linebacker I have been around and Rohan the last couple of weeks has been at Mike’s level or even a notch above on some things,” said Surace. “He is playing tremendous. Garrit is playing tremendous.”

Leicht, who still will spell Hylton in the middle, drilled some on the outside at practice last week as the coaches would like to get an obvious asset on the field as much as possible. But the emergence of Freshman Joe Percival  has left less need for backup there, at least for now. "Joe has been really good," said Surace.

That said, all situations are fluid, as Michelsen can remind Leicht.

AFTER THE CATCH DEPT:

Next to the improved passing game. The biggest steps forward the Tigers took Saturday were downfield.

“All three of our receivers did a great job finishing,” said Surace. “It seemed like we got extra yards almost every time we threw the ball out to the flat or on a hitch or a curl. 

“Seth DeValve’s (31-yard catch and run in the third quarter to set up Princeton’s only score of the second half ) was a physical play, and some like (Matt) Costello’s (49-yard touchdown) were good open field runs.
Seth DeValve '15

“We have been missing that, haven’t maximized yardage in our pass game. They really stepped up.”

HOW ABOUT A FEW SPRINKLES ON THAT VANILLA?

After jumping to a 24-0 lead and then killing two more promising second quarter drives with penalties, Surace decided only bad things could happen putting the ball too often into the air. But with Will Powers running well in the absence of DiAndre Atwater, the 39 yards rushing in the second half were disappointing. The Tigers wanted to run more clock.

“The last drive (Joe Rhattigan ran for one first down) before Princeton took an ethical knee at the Brown 12) was positive,” said Surace. “The two before that, I’ll take the blame.

“At this point of the year, we don’t work our four-minute drill a lot and Connor hasn’t had as much repetition at that. I was trying to time the rhythm of his cadence with the clock and we ended up with a delay penalty on a third-and-short when we should have had a first down.

“Then we had another where he was trying to get it off and we started that play a little late. Connor played a terrific game but I shouldn’t have put him in a situations where he was rushing anything. Those were two first downs we should have had.”

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO TOWN

“Even the one we lost (at Harvard) three years where it was 42-39 with seven or eight minutes to go, we have had some unbelievable games with them,” said Surace about Saturday’s upcoming third clash in three years between Ivy League unbeatens. “They were three or four plays better three years ago; two years ago we got that big throw (Epperly to Roman Wilson) at the end; and last year we were one play (Epperly to Wilson again) better in three overtimes. 

“This is great for the league.”

TIGER TAILS

When the Tigers took that gentlemanly knee at the Brown 12 to let the clock expire, they passed up the opportunity to stay perfect for the year on red zone conversions. Princeton is 21-for-22 with 16 touchdowns. . .About 45 members of the 1964 team, Princeton’s last undefeated one, will be on the field at halftime Saturday for a 50th anniversary celebration. . .The '64 Tigers will spend time with the current ones on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium on Friday afternoon.

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Plenty of Pass Defense This Week as Tigers Beat Brown, 27-16

BY JAY GREENBERG

Next Man Up for Princeton, in the absence of Quinn Epperly and DiAndre Atwater, is a senior quarterback, Connor Michelsen, who had started 14 previous games, winning nine before losing the starting job midway through last season through no fault of his own and senior running back Will Powers, who runs just as hard as Atwater, who this season has been running very hard indeed.

Win or lose, its almost always about the depth. On Saturday, Michelsen did what anyone who has watched him during his time at Princeton has come to reasonably expect. He threw for 367 passing yards and for two touchdowns to Matt Costello, while Powers ran for 69 yards and another score.
Princeton got a 24-point jump on Brown, which missed more tackles than Princeton missed two of its best players and despite their absence, won 27-16.

That happened because a lot of the Next Guys Up in the program are proven guys, including the next guys on a defensive unit that, frankly, spent too much of the first four games looking for the guy next to them to make a play. But they made plenty Saturday to keep Princeton, 3-2, unbeaten in the Ivy with 5-0 Harvard coming in next week.  
Will Powers Runs it in from the Nine

A week ago the defense, giving up third down conversions at a discouraging rate, blew two 16-point leads into a 31-30 loss at Colgate. Surace felt a different vibe almost from Saturday’s start.

“Early in the game we stopped them on a couple of critical short yardages and that might have affected how they called their plays,” said the coach.

“Anthony Gaffney had some of the best tackles he has had. On that bubble screen to start the game (his tackle) announced that we were going to play physical football and it was electric on the sideline.

“Our pass rush was the best four man rush we had this year.”

Brown quarterback Marcus Fuller threw an Ivy league record 71 times, completing only 29 and just one touchdown, which came deep into the fourth quarter. After having recorded only 11 breakups in the first four contests, the Tigers had 16 in this one. Their interceptions -- one by Andrew Frisby in the end zone, the other on a back foot throw that hung up for Khamal Brown -- came late in the game, but they did come, even after John Hill dropped three interception chances, one of which likely would have been a pick-six.

Most importantly, the Tigers held Brown to three field goals from inside the red zone, two in the second quarter, when there still was plenty of time for a Brown team known to wear you down to grind its way back into the game.

“That was one of the things we had trouble with in the first four games; the red zone defense and this week we stepped up,” said Matt Arends. “That’s a huge confidence boost, we were much more energetic.”

The Tigers Brown called 10 running plays the entire game, a reflection of its deficit but also of  its view of the Tiger run defense.   

“We did what we thought we had to do to win the game,”  Coach Phil Estes said.  “We saw they had been getting beat over the top. “

That happened three times Saturday. Troy Doles got behind Matt Arends on a slant for a 70-yarder that set up the first Brown field goal and James Gales was beaten on a slant for a 42-yarder before the second field goal. Just after Rohan Hylton was ejected for targeting Fuller with a helmet hit after he released an incomplete fourth-down pass, Fuller, given a second chance, led Brian Strachan perfectly on a slant that Khamal Brown couldn’t have done much to stop.

Otherwise, you could hardly have asked for better from a Princeton defense that was on the field much of the second half, after the Tigers, who killed two second quarter drives with penalties, couldn’t or wouldn’t crank up their usual circus.
Nolan Bieck's First of Two Field Goals Puts the Tigers up 3-0

“I crossed out some of Coach (James) Perry’s plays,” said Surace. “It was going take a lot of miracles for them to come back from that score. 

“If we were going to lose this game, we were going to turn it over or make big mistakes. I was just so confident in our defense.”

The offense made just one play after halftime really. Seth DeValve, playing for the first time in four games, broke two tackles and on a 31-yard catch and run that enabled Nolan Bieck, who has hit nine straight field goals, to make it a three-score game.

DeValve had 10 catches. You could say he picked up a lot of the slack for missing teammates.

“It was a joy to be back,” DeValve said. “When you are out you realize what you really have, in that you sometimes take it for granted. I was just really happy to be able to play today.”

Michelsen, exceptionally sharp through the first quarter and change, seemed happy to have him. The Tigers first drive stalled at the nine, but the next time they were at the nine, Powers went around the end to make it 10-0. Costello caught a deep curl and won a race for the marker, then caught one in the end zone in front of a Brown defender to make it 24-0.

It never figured to be this easy. And it really wasn’t. The Tiger linebackers and secondary had to make a lot of plays on the ball they hadn’t been, and did.

“They threw so much they were bound to complete some,” said Arends.

But not enough to even get close, quite the job by the Tigers.

TIGER TAILS

“We will know more about DiAndre next week,” said Surace.  “I think Quinn is definitely short term. The way he finished the week I think we’ll be in good shape. I’m pretty confident about DiAndre moving forward as well.”


Thursday, October 16, 2014

What Princeton Must Do to Defeat Brown

BY JAY GREENBERG

1) Continue to stop the run. Tigers are third in the FCS in rushing defense off a small sample, but a promising one considering some relative inexperience in the front seven. Andrew Coke, Brown’s principal running back, is a bruiser opposite from track star John Spooney, who last year burned the Tigers for a 71-yard touchdown on the quickest of openers before leaving the game with an injury. 

2) Block Xavier Russo. He is Brown’s outside version of Mike Zeuli.

Dre Nelson '16
3) Knock the ball down and knock it loose. So far, Brown’s 11 new offensive starters hasn’t made for a superior passing attack, but then again Colgate was supposed to be a running team, yet passed the ball on the Tigers almost at will on third downs. Princeton hit hard but forced only one turnover, probably an aberration, but time to prove that with some takeaways.

4) Get that End Around Going.  With Roman Wilson graduated, the Tigers have gone to a staple of their 2012 and 2013 offenses only once. Colgate got penetration on Dre Nelson and the play failed. A year ago, it succeeded on all eight calls. It’s harder to run this play for a back than a receiver, but it’s a waste of rare Ivy League speed to not have Nelson, who has two kickoff returns for touchdowns, more often out in space.

5) Play action. It worked a year ago in Providence, when the Tigers hit several big plays in roaring back from a 17-0 deficit to completely control the second half.  Brown is as physical as ever, not as experienced as usual, so maybe there will be a big play or two coming from the Princeton offense finally, in a game it might have to win in the twenties for once.

Jay Greenberg
jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com
  


Tigers Still a Work in Progress as the Ivy Grind Begins

BY JAY GREENBERG

After getting the ball over the 50-yard line on ten of the 12 possessions, having two 16-point leads, and still losing 31-30, not even the routs the Tigers suffered in Year One of Bob Surace’s five seasons prompted more self-questioning than the defeat last Saturday at Colgate.

James Perry
“When you go on the road and play as hard as we did, that’s a tough loss for an offensive coordinator,” said James Perry. “I would have liked to have put the kids in a better position to win and I think I could have done that.

“But when you play as hard as we did, you win more than you lose. I would expect us to keep getting better.”

The good teams do. Fifty-two weeks ago, after a rout of a Lafayette team at that stage appearing nothing like the eventual Patriot League champion, did anyone know how good the 3-1 Tigers would become? After falling behind 17-0 at Brown, they had an epiphany of a 38-17 win over an always tough and well-coached opponent, then reeled off five straight wins, only one of which, at Harvard, was close.

So where is this 2014 version following a sluggish opening loss to 4-1 San Diego, routs of Davidson and Columbia squads with a combined record of 1-10, then a one-point loss on the road to a big, powerful 4-2 Colgate team that probably will showdown with FCS-ranked Fordham for this year’s Patriot title?

Bob Surace won’t answer big picture questions because, until the season is over, he doesn’t believe there is one.

“You play every game as hard as you can and your record is what it is,” said the coach. “(At Colgate) we fought our tails off and took away [the running game] they do best, but we made mental errors.

“When two good teams play, it’s going to come down to small details and execution. The bottom line is they did a better job, but not much.

“We didn’t finish. You can’t break down at the 35 yard line.”

The Tigers have converted 14-of-17 red zone opportunities for touchdowns, 17 of 17 for scores (the 3 others being field goals). The failures to get themselves in prime scoring position more often against Colgate -- exacerbated by the loss of the big play abilities of the graduated Roman Wilson and the injured Seth DeValve – grew agonizing when the defense got the ball back twice for late drives that were stopped on fourth down.   

“In order for us to capitalize on one of our greatest strengths – our conditioning – we have to get those next two first downs (after midfield),” said Perry. “We really have an advantage when we get into the red zone. 

"After four plays, the defense isn’t as tired as it will be in the red. So we just have to get a couple more efficient plays and a lot of it is by passing the ball.

“We probably are as good as we ever have been up front. Di Andre (Atwater), Will (Powers) and Dre (Nelson) are running it hard and Joe (Rhattigan) is a good player, even if he didn’t get any snaps Saturday. So we have depth at running back and I think we have it the passing game, too. We just have to complete it more, that’s all.

Steve Verbit
“Part of that is having more manageable third downs. All of a sudden we’re second-and-nine and off-track, which hasn’t been our trademark. Credit Colgate, but overall we haven’t maintained the efficiency level we did all last year.”

“The good news is that some of the young [receivers] we are playing – James (Frusciante) and Scott (Carpenter) – while Seth has been hurt are stepping up. As a result, I would expect those guys to play better this week and our pass game will have to get better.”

The Tiger defense has mirrored the offense, succeeding with the run, struggling with the pass, a disappointment since an experienced secondary was expected to be the strength of a defense lacking experience on the defensive line and outside linebacking positions. That failure has been a surprise, but maybe not really, considering the young line is doing a better job of plugging the run than hurrying the pass.

“We have gotten very limited pass rush out of the four-man rush this year,” said co-defensive coordinator Steve Verbit. “The pass rush has been generated by bringing defensive backs or linebackers.

“We need more push up front and, in the back, we have to do better job of going for the ball. We play well in spurts, then give up the big play and that’s the thing that counts.”

Jim Salgado
“I thought on Saturday we were as physical as I’ve seen any defense play around here in a long time. It’s somewhat surprising that many balls didn’t land on the turf. But if we continue to play like that, the ball is going to start to come out.”

Whether it does or not, the Tigers still have to cover better. Verbit and Salgado have not sold out the pass coverage to jack up more blitzes; will not rob Peter to pay Paul.

“We’re still around 30 per cent (blitzes) and a lot of times we do it for the run,” said Verbit.   “(Playing the pass) starts with the people up front, but whether you are bringing one or 10, you still have to win the battles. 

“On the perimeter there are only two things that count—the guy running the route and the guy going up for the ball. I don’t think we have won a single one-on-one downfield this year.”

The safeties have played better than corners, corners who have experienced success at this level and probably will again. 

“I played the position,” said Salgado. “So I try to figure out how can we can help these guys, what more can we do to get them to see the ball coming down and make a play on it. It’s not like these guys haven’t gotten in the fire before and bounced back.

“There is no magical formula. We just have to keep working on it and hope it carries over from practice to the field.”

TIGER TAILS

This meeting is No. 81 between Princeton and Brown. Tigers, who lead the series 53-27 have won the last two after five consecutive wins by the Bears. . .  The game, which has a 3:30pm start, will be televised regionally on NBC Sports Network and streamed on the Ivy League Digital Network.

Freshman offensive lineman Richard Bush has been named one of just five recipients of the 2014 National Football Foundation National High School Scholar-Athlete Awards.  He will to be honored on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Criteria for the award include academic achievement, athletic accolades and community involvement.

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com


Monday, October 13, 2014

If It Is a Good Shot, Surace Will Always Take It

BY JAY GREENBERG

If the Tigers, who got the ball back with 46 seconds to play in the half, had run out the clock, they would have taken a nine-point lead into the locker room on Saturday. But even after the Raiders intercepted Quinn Epperly and, after running the ball back to the Princeton 13, hit a jackpot touchdown on the one play there was time to run before they would have had to kick a field goal, Bob Surace is not taking a knee begging anyone for forgiveness, especially himself.

James Frusciante '17 (#89) Had a Career-High
Six Catches on Saturday
“If we hadn’t returned the kickoff past the 20 yard line, we would have just run out the half,” the coach said Sunday. “But because they had an offsides penalty, we got the ball at about the 35 yard line with the wind in our favor and two timeouts.

“We handled the first three or four plays (a second-down catch by James Frusciante had advanced the ball to the Colgate 46) really well,” said Surace. “I thought if we could get the ball close to the 30, that was something [kicker Nolan Bieck] could hit, even if it was a 50-yarder.

“We had 25 seconds and needed 15-20 yards for something he [Bieck] is going to hit 50 per cent of the time and 25 yards for something he is going to hit 75-80 per cent of the time.”

NAME YOUR POISON DEPT:

Or, if Surace had let Bieck kick after Dre Nelson ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, rather than going for two with a bubble screen to Trevor Osborne, the Tigers might still be in overtime, tied 31-31, instead of losing 31-30.

The Tigers are only one-for-four on two-points tries this season, after going seven-for-12 in 2013 and six-for-nine in 2012. But you can’t love the 50-plus points the Tigers have put up in six of their last 14 games and criticize them for recklessness at the same time. 

“You second-guess yourself if you have put guys in positions where they aren’t comfortable,” said Surace. “To me, the only risk is if the numbers aren’t right and in this case [the two-point attempt] we had four guys out there to their three.


“There were multiple blocks missed. It should have been a layup. We only go for two if we have a high percentage chance of succeeding.”

AND WHILE WE’RE AT IT, WHAT WERE THE ODDS. . . .

Of stuffing Colgate’s bread-and butter running game, which came in averaging 5.2 yards per carry, to 2.3 yards over 48 rushes and still losing the game?  

“They were a really difficult team to defend the run against and I thought we were tremendous,” said Surace.  “We not only tackled but got knock-back tackles; there were a couple plays they fell forward for extra yards, but very few.

The quarterback (Jake Melville) has been breaking a huge run every game and we took that away. The only play our eyes were [looking the wrong way] was when [Colgate] dropped that chance for a touchdown in the first quarter on a miscommunication (between Dorian Williams and Anthony Gaffney).

“Both guys played the run initially and left us in catch-up mode but we did a good job correcting it as the game went along. Dorian was down in the box a lot [12 tackles] and on a couple of underneath routes, Gaffney couldn’t have been on his guy any tighter. 
Bob Surace '90 Looks On as Dorian Williams '17 (#3) and Anthony Gaffney '16 (left) Tackle a Colgate Receiver
“There were some disappointing pop passes to the tight end that we didn’t play well, some of them with double coverage. And on the play at the end of the half where the quarterback lobbed it across his body, we just didn’t cover that well. If we had played in front of the guy that wouldn’t have been a reception. 

“But the touchdown in the corner (on Khamal Brown)  was a good catch against good coverage. The deep ball they caught down the side on John Hill, was a terrific throw, terrific catch.

“When we don’t blitz, we have to get a little bit better pressure on the quarterback.”

TAKEWAY ALL ELSE AND . .  . .  

The Tigers finally got a turnover – and by the way the video shows Mike Zeuli had as much to do with dislodging the ball from Melville as the credited Williams – with 1:15 remaining to give them one last shot. But to Surace, the most obvious reason Princeton is 2-2 instead of 4-0 is its giveaway-takeaway differential.

“We are minus-three on the year,” said the coach.  “Last year we finished plus-10.”

AND YOU THOUGHT NOSTRADAMUS WAS A SCHOOL IN INDIANA

Dre Nelson '16 Takes the Opening Kickoff En Route
to a 100+ Yard Touchdown
Special teams coach Andy Aurich not only drew up Nelson’s return, but also forecast it.

“At the meeting (Friday night) he told [the special teamers] about all the kickoff returns we were going to do and this was one was going to be first,” said Surace. “He told them if we execute it we will score a touchdown to open the game.

“Will Powers handled his block that got the run started. But that was 11 guys executing flawlessly and then Dre doing a great job outrunning a couple of guys who had angles on him. Really good to see.”


TIGER TAILS

Senior Wide Receiver Matt Costello immersed himself deeper into the Princeton Football record books against Colgate this past Saturday. Costello surpassed Judd Garrett '90 moving into 10th place in all-time receiving yards, now totaling 1,386 yards in his career. Costello is also now tied with Phil Wendler '00 for seventh in all-time receptions with 124 catches.

On Sunday, John Lovett threw two touchdown passes to Reinaldo Maristany in a Junior Varsity loss to Milford Prep Sunday. . . .Alex Ford and Sam Huffman each had interceptions while Quincy Wolff and Jimmy von Thron recovered fumbles for the Tigers on defense.

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tigers Lose By a Little at Colgate and It Hurts a Lot

BY JAY GREENBERG

HAMILTON, NY. -- Considering the expected physicality of Colgate and the surprising accuracy of its sophomore quarterback Jake Melville, perhaps Princeton was only enjoying the illusion of control here on Saturday, up 23-7 with three minutes to go in the first half. 

Thereafter the Raiders, unbeaten in the Patriot League, made the plays and the Tigers, except for their first series of the second half, made no more, really, in a 31-30 defeat that had its elements of honor and of course, did nothing to damage their Ivy League chances.

Nevertheless it hurt. The Tigers (2-2, 1-0 Ivy) had a lead, had two shots in the end, and had unconverted chances from which they will revisit their pain in film studies on Sunday. When you lose by one, it’s never one play, one decision, but it aches in just one place: the heart.

“The close ones sting the most,” said Will Powers. “And [the part] that hurts the most is that that the offensive line played awesome.
Will Powers '15 Added Punch to the Tiger Running Game Again This Week on 9 Carries for 45 Yds. and 1 TD

“That was a big physical team we played and we controlled [them] up front. It hurts because the rest of the offense didn’t do its job.”

The Princeton linebackers played superbly again – Rohan Hylton had 18 tackles, R.J. Paige 11 and Mike Zeuli 10 in holding Colgate’s bread-and-butter running game to 2.3 yards per carry. However, the defense had no answer once Melville began to play pitch-and-catch with his receivers on third downs, many of them long-yardage situations.

“We were going to stop the run -- that is their strength -- and we did a pretty good job,” said Bob Surace.  “We put our DBs on some islands and [Melville] threaded it. 

“We have to get a better four-man pass rush. It didn’t seem like we had him under duress enough.”

Nevertheless, down 16 points twice during the game, Colgate was in plenty of trouble of its own.

Dre Nelson ran back his second opening kickoff of the season for a touchdown – a 100-yarder -- and the Tigers did what they always do after their first touchdown: Go for two. Unfortunately, the bubble screen for Trevor Osborne from Tyler Roth was blown up – a point that, of course, Princeton would come to miss – but for a while there would be plenty more coming, even when two more first quarter drives were stalled on two critical penalties.  

After a holding penalty the Tigers faced a third-and-20 when Quinn Epperly was intercepted, but that seemed as good as a punt because the Tigers were moving the ball so well and their defense was swarming so hard. After an Epperly sneak finished off a 59-yard run to the eight yardline by Di Andre Atwater, Nolan Bieck salvaged points off the second penalty with a 38-yard filed goal that made it 16-0 at the end of the 1st quarter.

The Raiders countered with a 12-play, 64-yard drive, but thanks to a short punt, the Tigers got those seven back quickly. On a third-and-eight at the Colgate 38, James Perry had Connor Michelsen take an end zone shot to Matt Costello’s back shoulder and the senior receiver impressively came down with the ball to make the score 23-7 with 3:06 to play in the half. 

Matt Costello '15 Secures the Catch While Keeping Himself In Bounds for the Touchdown
Even though it took only 2:16 for Melville to thread one to the back of the end zone to Alex Greenawait through the coverage of Anthony Gaffney, the Tigers seemed to be well using the 46 seconds remaining in the half towards another score when Epperly’s pass over the middle was picked off by Mike Armiento and run back to the Princeton 13.

Colgate had only one play to take a shot before sending in the field goal unit out for a scoring chance and exasperatingly for the Tigers, the Raiders hit their one shot when Colgate's John Quazza caught a lofty touchdown pass from Melville in front of dime back Chris Smith.

The Tigers had been one or two plays from giving Bieck a shot to make it 26-14 at the half. Instead they went to the locker room with a foreboding lead of only two points.

“I underthrew the [interception],” said Epperly.  “It was a big (points) swing, but we still led the game and had lots of opportunities to make plays after that and didn’t do it.”

Still, with the help of two Colgate penalties on its first series of the second half, Princeton got the ball back. Complemented by a 26-yard completion to Nelson, the Tigers pounded the ball right back down the Raiders’ throat. The drive was finished by Powers with a bulldozer of a 12-yard run and Princeton’s two score lead was restored.

Again, Colgate answered too easily by going 76 yards in seven plays, scoring on a Risley Lesko catch over Khamal Brown even as the Tiger corner was flagged for pass interference.

The Tigers, who never scored again, got some stops after that but made them too late.

Princeton stiffened in the red zone on one Colgate drive of 13 plays, forcing Jonah Bowman to hit a 23-yard field goal for the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. Mike Zeuli and Ian McGeary stuffed John Wilkins on fourth-and-one at the Princeton 24 to give the Tigers the ball back with 6:59 to play. But six yards short of a first down -- and normally within Bieck's range -- the Tigers faced opposing headwinds and decided to keep its offense on the field. Colgate would go on to bat down both of Michelsen's passes on third and fourth down, a gut-wrenching turnover on downs.

Yet there still was 3:14 remaining, enough if the Tigers could get a fast stop, but Melville completed a pass for one first down and Demetrius Russell ran nine yards on third down for another. Thus the ball was at the Princeton 34 when Dorian Williams, who had 12 tackles in the game, forced and recovered a Williams fumble with 1:15 remaining.  

Epperly ran for one first down to keep hope alive, but then threw too high for a well-covered Matt Costello on third-and-long. And even had the fourth-and-seven prayer for Connor Kelley been answered, there would have been no time to get Bieck on to try to win the game.

“Colgate forces you to grind out four-and-five-yard gains and we did that pretty well,” said Surace. “Last time we played them (in 2010) it would have been 80-0 had they not put in the JVs. 

“This was reminiscent of the Penn loss [in 2012] where we played so hard and, I thought, won the line of scrimmage, but ended up losing on a crazy (double-deflection) and some errors. Good teams win these types of game. 

“Di Andre and Will ran hard, there were times our receivers fought for extra yards. Without Seth (DeValve, for a third straight week) we had guys step up and we moved the ball, taking a few downfield shots and hitting the one to Costello.

“But we would like to have a few more explosive plays and were just not there yet. We got stuck on the 35-yard line four times when we needed another first down to get some points. So to grind out 12-play drives, we can’t have the error that we had.”

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com


Thursday, October 9, 2014

What Princeton Must Do to Defeat Colgate


1)  Get physical. The Red Raiders, big and strong on both lines, have three sizable running backs and the willpower to wear you down. There may not be another contest this season where the Tiger defensive depth will come more into play.
Quinn Epperly '15 

2) Get Ahead. Colgate has run the ball 220 times this season, passed it only 117. The Red Raiders will not abandon the run easily, but this is not a team built for coming from behind.

3) Set the Edge. Quarterback Jake Melville, who has run for four touchdowns and broken a 63 yarder, is a containment challenge for the Tigers’ emergent rush linebackers, Marcus Stroud and Birk Olson, and Princeton’s inexperienced defensive line.

4) No Dozing. Just when you start to think Melville will never throw the ball, he does, and reasonably accurately (57 per cent).   “Almost like a wishbone team, they will try to get your eyes in the wrong spot and throw it deep,” said Bob Surace. The Tiger secondary, sharp at Columbia, can’t afford another San Diego.  

5) Be Up to The Usual Tricks. Not a lot of quickness on the Colgate front, and therefore not much of a pass rush. The secondary covers well, but Quinn Epperly should have lots of time to set up. And when he doesn’t have time, the Red Raiders will be challenged to catch him when he slips the pocket to make a play with his feet.

Jay Greenberg

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com