Monday, August 25, 2014

They Will Give Each Other a Run for Precious Carries

BY JAY GREENBERG

Available:  Approximately 58 carries that Brian Mills left behind when he exited the FitzRandolph Gate last spring.  All due respect to the value of the world’s greatest undergraduate education, that entry to success in life still isn’t as broad as was that hole he ran through for a 53-yard touchdown at Georgetown.

Will Powers '15
Behind an offensive line that powered the Tigers to 217.8 yards rushing per game, every touch of the ball in 2013 was a privilege, as it likely will be again in 2014.  With five running backs who combined last season for 1099 yards each bringing a little something different back to the table, nothing will be handed to any of them, except the ball smoothly from Quinn Epperly, whenever the call is not for him to keep it himself. 

Epperly, the 2013 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, also ran for 609 yards. Two other quarterbacks, Connor Michelsen and Kedric Bostic, combined for 199 more. The only limitation to Princeton’s record-setting offense was a 60-minute clock and a field only 100 yards long. 

You may get tired of reading stories about Princeton’s great depth. But in 2013 the defenses got tired, an obvious benefit that caused DiAndre Atwater, Dre Nelson, and Will Powers to take a claim check on their egos every time they came back to the bench in favor of a fresher man.

“You see the defense breathing heavy and we’re still coming, it definitely feels awesome,” said Powers, a multi-tooled senior, who ultimately is the most sacrificing member of a superbly unselfish group.

“At the end of the year you look up and he has a blocked punt, a big catch, a broken tackle on a clutch run,” says Coach Bob Surace.  Indeed, if you look up Powers’ numbers -- 47 carries for 217 yards a year ago -- they lie about the length of his contribution, particularly on special teams.

DiAndre Atwater '16
“I never have been a big numbers guy, in high school either,” said Powers, who having played for his father Bill at Jupiter Christian HS (FL), sounds exactly like the son of a coach. “Whatever my role is, I want to make the most of it.

“But I am looking to make plays and that is on me, too, because they give me enough opportunities.”

A wide 195 pounder, Powers is built to pound the ball into the end zone, but the 6-3 Epperly, who scored 18 rushing touchdowns in addition to throwing for 25, is built for it even better. The quarterback is the biggest guy the Tigers have to take the ball in goalline opportunities and, of course, the one who poses to the defense the greatest dilemma, which has something to do with why Tiger running backs only accounted for nine of the team’s 56 offensive touchdowns.

Clearly, if a Tiger RB is going to score, it probably is going to have to be an explosive play from farther out, exactly what Bob Surace and offensive coordinator James Perry have in mind for Atwater in his junior season.

“He has been a very solid player,” said Surace. “We're excited to see if he can take that next step.

“As he matures, we would like to see more explosive plays.”

Atwater’s career longest remains a 53-yarder against Georgetown in the second game of his freshman year. In gaining 472 yards a year ago, his greatest single gain was 28.  The only two touchdowns were on runs of 18 and 17 in the opener against Lehigh.

Dre Nelson '16
“It’s always hindsight – if I would have made this cut, or just done that – when you watch film,” said Atwater.   “There was another one I almost broke against Lehigh, then one or two against Penn because they play their safeties so far up into the box that with one miss I would have been off to the races.

“That’s what I was working on this summer; agility, cutting, stuff like that.  Hopefully we’ll see that come to fruition his year.”

Bursting with star capabilities, Steve Atwater’s kid won’t need 25 carries a game to bust a big one. “Yes, there’s some pressure (about being the son of a perennial Pro Bowler) but I have a friend who says pressure makes diamonds,” smiled Di Andre.

The shoulder that kept him out of the bitter finale at Dartmouth has been fixed. Nevertheless the competition is fixing for a battle to get on the field more.  Joe Rhattigan and A.J. Glass saw playing time during blowouts as freshmen and Rhattigan, a between-the-tackles type, brings a dimension that likely begs for an increased role sooner rather than later. 

So does Dre Nelson, the junior mighty-mite who had THE touchdown run of the 2013 season, a 42-yarder in which he outraced two Yale defenders to the edge, then left another in the dust with a move at the 30.  Because Roman Wilson has graduated, auditions for the end-around, a staple of Perry’s offense, are being held as camp opens this week.

Joe Rhattigan '17
Nelson has the quickest burst on the team, Seth DeValve probably the longest stride. With as many as three quarterbacks on the field at a time, the ball – still only one allowed, last time Perry disappointedly checked -- also is going to come back to Epperly or Bostic for some races to the corner, too.

“I’m excited to see where that part goes,” said Nelson.  “If Coach [Perry] wants to use me in some of the roles he used Roman in, I’m definitely willing and ready.

“But the great thing about our offense is that it can evolve and change.  We can do anything with it.”

The Ivy League record 5116 yards put up in 2013 will be hard to beat. Then again, maybe not.   

“[The yards] might be spread out a little more,” said Powers. “Teams are going to focus on Quinn but that just opens things for everyone else.

“We have a lot of weapons.”

TIGER TAILS

Practices are 2:10-4:30 through Saturday this week, with no double sessions scheduled until next week.  A scrimmage will be held 9:15-11:30 a.m. on Powers Field in Princeton Stadium on Saturday, September 6.

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com






Monday, August 18, 2014

As 'The Pick', 2014 Tigers Need to Choose Their Battles Internally.

BY JAY GREENBERG

Just two full seasons removed from consecutive 1-9 records, Princeton, the preseason favorite to repeat as Ivy League champions, has gone from the hunters to the hunted. 

Of course, it may help that the Tigers also are the haunted.  A Week 10 loss at Dartmouth cost them an undisputed title, causing quarterback Quinn Epperly to announce to the team at the end of spring practice that nothing less than 10-0 is going to be acceptable in 2014.  

Coming from a returning league Offensive Player of the Year and a captain, this would seem like quintessential reassurance that the Tigers won’t be blinded by the glares created by their championship rings. Nevertheless, Coach Bob Surace would prefer that when the Tigers hit the field on August 26, their concentration be on the process, not the results.

Quinn Epperly '15
“They are 18-22 year-olds and they get excited," the coach said recently. 

“It’s like being picked to win in the preseason. I don’t care what they say. I see better than I hear. To me their focus should be on becoming better players than they were last year, not worrying about week 10, which is a long way down the road.

"That’s what we are working to have their focus be. And for the most part it has been.”

As for the loss of the opportunity to any longer sneak up on anybody, Surace suggests it’s an insult to suggest Princeton ever did.

“We have good coaches in our league who always have prepared for us,” he said.  “We prepared our tails off for Brown three years ago and they kicked our butts 35-0. The last two years we beat them because we made more plays.

“I didn’t care when we were picked fifth (in 2013) so I don’t care when we are picked first. It’s all about how we approach every day. I hope our habits are engrained.

“Epperly was the best offensive player in the league last year, yet Connor Michelsen has been preparing for this season with as much, if not more, focus and dedication than any other season in his four years here. So Quinn has guys pushing him to get better every day.  Anthony Gaffney can’t worry about the Penn receiver in week eight, he has to concentrate on being the best player he can be today.”

As Year Five of the Surace era begins, depth has increased so greatly at every position that even seven returning All-Ivy players will be pushed to keep their starting positions.  But of course, the Tigers will prepare for their September 20 opener at San Diego with some spots more open than others:

DEFENSIVE LINE – “Obviously we lost (all three starters on) our defensive line,” said Surace. “I don’t know if is going to be a weakness but, unlike at some other positions, this is one where we have no guys who have played 50 per cent of the reps.

“Evan Kappatos and Ian McGeary got to play (in 2013) when we didn’t have Greg Sotereanos the first two weeks, which is good. And the number of blowouts we were in -- that doesn’t happen very often -- enabled us to get Tyler Desire and Dan Dreher a lot of reps in pass rushing situations.”
Dan Dreher '16

It is a lot to expect the long, quick, and intriguing Desire to instantly live up to the standards of Caraun Reid, an NFL draft choice. But the next step in that process will be the sophomore being able to stay on the field in running situations. 

“Tyler was anchoring the run game this spring much better and we expect him to be a rock solid player,” said Surace.  “Kappatos and McGeary are wide bodies but both need to be more consistent so they need to step it up at training camp.

“We have added to the mix two of our better athletes in (converted linebackers) Brannon Jones and Baxter Ingram, plus have five freshmen coming in. You combine (the highly recruited freshman Kurt) Holuba with Desire and you really feel comfortable. I also love the way Henry Schlossberg, John Hummel, Grayson Fisher and Dreher practice. Plus, Vic Prato came on during the spring.

“It will be an interesting group to sort out. We probably will play a little more niche, like when we found ways to get (running back) Dre Nelson on the field (during his freshman and sophomore years) He wasn’t the best player for every down. But he could do some things exceptionally.”

RUSH LINEBACKER

Jason Ray and Elijah Mitchell, who set the edge and rushed the passer in an effective one-two combination, have graduated, compounding the need for new sources of pressure on the quarterback.

“Birk Olson, Matt Skowron and Marcus Stroud all have explosive ability and had good springs,” said Surace. “None of those guys had practically any playing time last year and yet their mental mistakes were at a minimum.  We probably will alternate those three for a while.”

SAM (OUTSIDE LINEBACKER)

“Teams went to so much spread offense with three and four wide receiver that Mike Zeuli was playing 75 per cent inside instead of at the SAM and so was Luke Merrell,” said Surace.  So we moved them both to inside backer with Garrit Leicht and Rohan Hylton (at the other inside spot.)  

“We feel good about R.J. Paige, Teddy Graves and Jimmy von Thron, so let’s let them compete for a spot (at the SAM) where we need a guy on the field 25 per cent of the time and let Zeuli and Merrell play at the spot where we can use them 80 per cent.    When teams play more of a base offense, R.J, Teddy and Jimmy are ready for that.”

TIGHT END

“Scott Carpenter had one of the best winters of any of our guys and that led to a confident spring,” said Surace.  “Both Mark Hayes (’13) Hayes and Des Smith (’14) were exceptional blockers who as seniors turned out to be exceptional receivers.  We think Scott might be versatile enough to do both earlier in his career.

Scott Carpenter '17
“Dylan White has flashed at times, but we want him to be more consistent.  He was very thin coming to us, but has put on 25 pounds and his blocking has improved. He is a big target, faster than Des and Mark, and a reliable receiver.  We need him to get the strength to be a blocker. He is starting to turn the corner.”

WIDE RECEIVER

With the return of Seth DeValve and Connor Kelley, both all-Ivy League players, plus Matt Costello, who easily could have been an all-Conference selection, the Tigers are loaded with proven clutch possession-type receivers.  But if the offense is going to approach last season’s record-breaking efficiency, at least some of the many dimensions of Roman Wilson need to be replaced.

“Roman was an All-American. It might take a few guys to replace all the things he did,” said Surace.  ‘Robbie Templeton may not be able to run those shovels and inside routes like Roman did but Robbie is taller so he may be a better target down the field.”

“It doesn’t happen often that a Senior makes the physical jump that Costello made this off season. He’s always been a possession guy, and now he is more athletic and stronger.  I am very impressed.

“James Frusciante had a good, consistent, spring in the slot.  Trevor Osborne is very explosive and working on cutting down his mental errors and improving his technique.  There are days he looks like he is going to be a big time guy and he knows we want that light to turn on this year.

“Isaiah Barnes and Lawrence Wilson also flashed with great practices that told you they have a chance to be special but need to be more consistent to solidify a role.”

OFFENSIVE LINE

Mike Ramos '15
“We continued to play eight-to-ten guys in the course of a game," said Surace. "So when you lose a Joe Goss and a Max Coale, you can still feel like you have a lot of experience coming back.

"Taylor Pearson, who was a starter (in 2013) is back (at right guard) and so is (first-team All-Ivy left tackle Spenser) Huston, who has been a rock for three years.
With Mike Ramos and Britt Colcolough at the other tackle, we have three guys playing at a (potential All-Ivy) level at the two spots.  

“We moved Joe Tull to center last year too and he seemed to be a natural at it.  The last three years Ryan Peloquin has been very solid as a 20-play-per game type playing in place of Joe. We would like to see him expand that.

“Caleb Slate was our most improved lineman in the spring. He is really pushing to play a significant role behind Jack Woodall, who has been a constant at the guard spot. And (tackles) Mason Darrow and Max Wardaki had terrific springs as well.”


Jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Two Inches Meant to the 1966 Tigers is Immeasurable


BY JAY GREENBERG

Stas Maliszewski and Paul Savidge, probably the best combination of interior defensive linemen in the East, had graduated. So had Ron Landeck, who had broken the all-time single-season Ivy League yardage record; Charlie Gogolak, a kicker so good he went sixth overall to Washington in the NFL draft; and Lauson Cashdollar, who had just set a Princeton record for catches in one season.

Of six first-team All-Ivy players on the 8-1 team of 1965 only one, safety Marty Eichelberger, was returning. And still nobody knew the trouble the 1966 team would see until during its three-week training camp in Blairstown, N.J.  Sophomore tailback Doug Boe collapsed during drills, got up,  then buckled again and was taken to Princeton Hospital. Permanently brain damaged, he would spend five months in a coma before dying from pneumonia.
 
Dick Colman
On top of jarring tragedy, the hits to Princeton’s title chances kept on coming. Homer Ashby, regarded as the team’s best offensive lineman, and expected starter Ron Marvin suffered camp injuries that ended their football careers while the team’s returning offensive backs -- tailback Bob Weber (who also was the team’s chief passer) and Dave (Truck) Martin -- were not expected to be ready for the opener against Rutgers.

Three returning members of a strong defensive backfield were most of what the Tigers had to recommend them for hopefully a seventh consecutive winning season, never mind an Ivy League championship over defending champion Dartmouth, which had ended Princeton’s 17 game winning streak at Palmer Stadium, 28-14, to close the 1965 season.

“Bad Day at Black Rock”, one of the feature films the coaches screened for the players to break up the Spartan tedium in Blairstown, may not specifically have been shown the day that Coach Dick Colman counted 29 Tigers unable to practice.  But to Eichelberger, business continued at usual.   

“My freshman year, we had 150 guys (including 55 high school captains) come out,” Eichelberger recalls. “As a sophomore, you took a place at your position behind at least two guys.

“Having practiced with and against these guys every day for three years, I always was impressed with our talent. Players just had to wait their turn. The coaches did a good job of holding us accountable and camaraderie was really tight. When Landeck moved to offense-only in ’65, he spent a lot of time coaching me.            

“We had lost the players who got most of the publicity. But even with them we had lost to Dartmouth so what do stars guarantee?  I still thought we were pretty strong all around.”

The last team in the league running a single wing offense, the Tigers figured to need any advantage they could get.  They would have to play too many sophomores to run anything too sophisticated, though. Seven returning defensive starters knew they would have to hold the fort.

“I wasn’t of the opinion we could match the ’64 (9-0) team or ’65 team (8-1),” recalls cornerback Hayward Gipson, then already a two-year letterman.  “But if the offense developed, I thought we had a chance to make it a race.”

Dick Bracken runs against Harvard
Few outside the team agreed and, as the season began, the Tigers weren’t changing any minds, either.  Against Rutgers at Palmer Stadium, sophomore tailback Dick Bracken, playing in place of Weber, debuted with 172 total yards, running for one touchdown and throwing to Steve Pierce for another.  Still, Doug James’ 49-yard punt return that set up a touchdown was by far the most impressive offensive play as Princeton, which lost two fumbles, suffered nine penalties and gave up touchdowns of 88 yards (on a kickoff return) and 82 yards (on a pass) barely held on to win 16-12.

The following week against Columbia, a driving rain reduced an expected Palmer Stadium crowd of 30,000 to just 2,000 and obliterated enough yard markings to cause the officials to erroneously give the Tigers a first down on a 15-yard penalty when they had started the play needing 17. 

An early Bracken TD run and a jitterbugging 83-yard touchdown punt return by James built a 14-0 lead.  But Lee Hitchner’s tackle on a two-point conversion attempt ended up being the difference when Columbia, which rallied on 67 and 80–yard bombs by Lions QB Rich Ballantine, ran out of time to get its field goal team on the field at the Princeton 20.

At 2-0 (if barely) the Tigers went to Hanover, NH sick of losing to Dartmouth (only 3-7 against since the Indians since the Ivy League’s formation in 1956). That was before Colman's team got sick period.  An apparent case of food poisoning that would put 40 team members in the infirmary the following week began to set in during a 30-13 debacle.

The Tigers scored first and last and moved the ball in between, too. But Dartmouth got the red zone stops and, thanks to 313 passing yards, a tie with Harvard for the early league lead.

“After what happened the year before, we were focused,” recalls Eichelberger. “But Dartmouth had a good team and we had changed things that week, dropping a fourth [linebacker] into coverage, so that instead of coming up and rotating to the left as usual, we were going back and rotating to the right.  

“We didn’t have enough time to get ready for it and made some big mistakes.”

With the Tigers giving up big plays on defense, and looking green and uncoordinated on offense, Colman thought they were suffering more than just a bad day and bad food against a superior opponent.

After the Tigers arrived back at Caldwell Field House, Colman, a cerebral Quaker whose most profane expression was ‘fiddly-dee”, delivered the toughest, most impassioned lecture anybody who ever played for him can recall.

“He wasn’t a screamer but he could make you feel like nothing,” recalls Pierce. “He didn’t hold back, said he thought we were quitters and losers.”

Remembers Bracken, “He said we were more concerned with girlfriends and eating clubs than football. “I was a sophomore, of the mindset that if they said ‘jump’ I started to jump, and he scared the hell out of me. It made me feel like we were letting the school down.
Lee Hitchner Makes a Stop Versus Columbia

“The seniors took up the challenge.”
           
Those seniors who weren’t taking up all the space in the training room, he means. Starting offensive tackle Bob Hausleiter was lost for the season with a neck injury suffered at practice, then Martin, who with Bracken’s emergence was being moved to fullback to give the Tigers a two-headed threat out of the backfield, returned from a two-game absence only to have his nose broken by All-American Ray Ilg on the second play of the next game, against Colgate.  

“Put his foot through my facemask and my nose into my right ear,” recalls Martin, who spent the rest of the contest having his features put back in place, while the Tiger offense continued to look faceless.  Colgate was just as stymied though until, thanks to a Tiger penalty, the Raiders kept possession following a punt and drove 45 yards for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter Bracken was stopped on a double reverse on fourth-and-four at the 14 and the Tigers, 7-0 losers, had dropped consecutive games for the first time in four seasons.

Captain Walt Kozumbo Closes In
Content to defer to the more vocal Gipson and linebacker Ron Grossman, Captain Walt Kozumbo said he never considered himself an orator. “My role model had been Paul Savidge, who tried to lead by example,” Kozumbo recalls. But with the season on the brink, teammates remember the defensive end making an eloquent plea that the 2-2 Tigers not let go of the rope.

“Walt unequivocally and unhesitatingly, said, “We are going for the gold’,” recalls Grossman.  “With no superstars to depend on and an injury list that never stopped growing, we resurrected our confidence and recommitted ourselves. We knew our limitations, but still thought we could win.”

Certainly the Tigers thought they could win their next two, against Penn, whom the Tigers had clobbered over the last three meetings by an aggregate score of 140-0, and Brown, which had enjoyed only one winning league season in the 10-year existence of the Ivy League At Franklin Field. Against Penn, the Tigers completed drives of 68, 70, 60 and 60 yards while defensive end Charles Baby blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety. Martin contributed 92 yards in his first full game of the season as the
Tigers rolled 30-13.

This was by far the best the offense had looked, and despite two late Penn scores on big plays, a good defense was hunkering down.

“(Assistant) Warren Harris was an outstanding (defensive) coach,” recalls Eichelberger.  “Straightforward, emotional, and always pushing you forward.

“How the hell did you get into Princeton?’ he asked me one day when I made a mistake, but you also got kudos when you did something well. The approach was professional all the way. Every Sunday, every member of the team would receive a grade on three-by-five card.

"Losing is part of life that teaches you to crank it up. We just wanted to win. I don’t have any memory of us developing a chip on our shoulder about being written off. (Linebackers Jim) Kokoskie and Grossman were tough guys. We still had good players.”

This was especially true in the secondary, where junior Bruce Wayne was joining three seniors who had played together for three years.

“James was our best overall athlete in terms of speed and agility,” recalls Wayne. “Marty was the fiery captain of the secondary, a very good athlete with good hands and football sense who kind of kept the four of us together.

“Gibby (Gipson) wasn’t the fastest guy, but he was a good hitter and a proven run defender who used his football instincts to always get the job done.”

Gipson, the first African American to play football at Princeton, had been accepted from Day One.

“In high school (Abington, Pa.) 20 per cent of the players were African-Americans so this wasn’t an anomaly to me,” recalls Eichelberger. “Gibby was forthright, fun and articulate, all you would want as a teammate and friend. He was in my wedding.

“I think everyone realized he was in a tough spot, was sensitive about it, and embraced him.  Most of the guys on our team had gone to public high schools, were not elite private school guys.”

Indeed Gipson, who says he came on a whim for a campus visit convinced he would not be comfortable at an Ivy League school, was stunned by his reception. 

“Of the students that I met, I enjoyed everyone,” he recalls.  “Including Bill Bradley.”

Truck Martin Prepares to Go Over the Top
“My high school (Scotch Plains, NJ) had an African-American population of maybe 10 per cent. I had done all the things -- student body president, National Honor Society -- that students need to do to get into Princeton. So I wasn’t coming from an inner city educational experience that would make it night and day for me.

“As I recall, there were maybe 10 African-American students in an undergraduate population of 3,200 at Princeton and five were in my class.   But I knew what kind of education I was going to get, and the school was in New Jersey, so I could get home whenever I felt the need.

“If I had any misgivings when I made my decision, they were about snobbery, not racism. I thought a wealthy student body might present an issue more than anything else. But I believe my freshman class was [Princeton’s] first that consisted of more public school than private school students. So there were other changes going that were all positive under President (Dr. Robert) Goheem’s administration.

“My first day as a student, I ran into Bill Bradley on Nassau Street and he remembered me.  That was very impactful for me.”

No member of the starting secondary missed a game in 1966, hugely impactful for turning around the season. At other positions, the Tigers continued to drop.  Against Brown, tailback Weber went down, as did starting guard Lynn Brewbaker but Colman had beefy underclass line replacements in Bob Mauterstock and Dave Hantz, helping the one-two backfield combination of Martin and Bracken wear down the Bears in the fourth quarter, 24-7.

Harvard’s late come-from-behind 18-14 upset of Dartmouth two weeks earlier had opened the door for the Tigers, 3-1 in the league even if they were not believed to be in the same league with the Crimson. Harvard came to Palmer Stadium a two-touchdown favorite.

“I remember after a practice that week sitting in the empty stadium, knowing Harvard had beaten Dartmouth, thinking, ‘it just isn’t over yet.’” recalls Center Bob Ehrets, who, given the opportunity to start when incumbent Carl Behnke was moved to defense, was emerging as the Tigers’ best offensive lineman. “Everybody had written us off, but I felt confident, I really did.”

Since Harvard averaged 219 rushing yards per game with a three-headed monster of tailbacks Bobby Leo, Vic Gatto and fullback Tom Choquette, the Tigers, prepped by assistant coach Arthur Robinson’s scouting report, logically decided to load up against the run.

“Leo was good outside, Gatto good inside and their quarterback (Rick Zimmerman) was good but only on short passes,” recalls Wayne. “Having Doug James back there as the safety to take care of any long balls, we decided to jam an extra cornerback -- whether it was me or Gibby depending upon which side they split their end -- near the line.
Bob Weber Makes Yards Against Brown

Kicker Ted Garcia missed a chip shot field goal on an early drive but after Martin had led the Tigers back downfield, the Princeton kicker nailed a second opportunity for a 3-0 second quarter lead. But Harvard responded on the next possession by going 74 yards, finishing off the drive when Leo out-dove Baby to a ball lying in the end zone because Gipson had stripped it from Gatto.

Baby immediately ran off with a dislocated shoulder. The next man up in an endless chain was senior Larry Stupski, whose own availability had been limited over the first six games.  He couldn’t stop Harvard from driving 63 yards with the second half kickoff to go up 14-3, but after Martin fumbled at the Princeton 19 on the next series, Stupski made consecutive tackles of Zimmerman for losses and Kokoskie yanked down an interception on third-and-long.

The Tigers had rescued themselves from disaster.  Runs by Martin and John Bowers picked up first downs and completions by Bracken to ends Pete Zeitzoff and Pierce enabled Martin to leap over the top for the last two yards to make the score 14-9.

Stupski later recalled that he and Hitchner had to talk Colman into going for two. James, the full-time safety and tailback-in-a-pinch, doesn’t remember any discussion, only that, as the fastest guy on the team, the call on the conversion attempt was for him to sprint for the corner. 

“I knew two offensive plays,” James recalled. “The sweep and the sweep pass, and the coach called for the sweep.

“Harvard saw me in there, wasn’t stupid.  Their guys were yelling, ‘watch the sweep!’  I ran right and there were about five guys waiting.  

“I looked up and saw Bowers in the back of the end zone.”

James' pass was lobbed as perfectly as it had to be, over a defender standing two yards in front of the receiver. Bowers turned and caught the ball just inside the back line to leave the Tigers down by just a field goal.  Palmer Stadium was alive again with the possibilities. 

Zimmerman scrambled for a first down at midfield, but on third-and-five, Gatto got thrown for a loss. When Eichelberger unsuccessfully gave five yards trying to break a punt return, the Tigers began the fourth quarter at their seven-yard line.  

Quarterback Chuck Peters -- the lead blocker in the single wing scheme, had – what else? -- been hurt earlier in the game. His replacement was little used senior Tad Howard.

“Tad was measurably below Peters, my roommate, in strength and blocking skills, but he was a great head and a team player,” recalls Martin. “He got in the huddle and said, ‘We are going down and going to score. Anyone who doesn’t believe this, go to the sideline. ‘“

Bracken remembers the veins standing out in Howard’s face as he forcefully called the plays.  “The way our defense played we always felt two or three touchdowns would be enough,” recalls Howard. “Now we needed just one.

“It wasn’t that complicated. We went on the same snap count every play for four years. Colman apparently didn’t want to confuse us, must have thought we were idiots.”

On the first play, Martin broke two tackles to gain 16 yards of precious operating space. Bracken completed passes of 19 and 11 yards to Pierce.  On fourth down and one, Martin went wide for two, then plunged inside three times to the Harvard 32. Bracken went left for 18 more, then bulled to the three.  On Martin’s third try, he leaped and stretched the ball over the top of the goal line. Princeton had chewed up eight-and-a half-minutes of the fourth quarter clock to go ahead 18-14 with 6:18 to go.

The euphoria was short lived. Leo’s kickoff return to the 33, compounded by a personal foul penalty, set Harvard up at the 48. Leo then reached back to make a remarkable one-handed catch on fourth down to keep the drive alive.

A third-down pass made it fourth-and-two at the 20.

“They hadn’t run at me all day, but I thought ‘maybe this time they will, so I thought I had to be moving forward,” recalls Kozumbo.

Indeed Choquette ran off right tackle but Kozumbo shed a block and grabbed the fullback low, just before Kokoskie arrived and James grabbed the ball carrier to keep him from falling forward. The side judge quickly made an accurate spot. As Wayne went to all fours, the chains were stretched beyond the ball, but not as far as the Tigers’ belief in themselves. Harvard was short by two inches with 1:35 remaining.
It's the Tigers' Ball -- And Game

While most of the Tigers leaped with joy, Stupski picked up the ball and threw it into the stands.  After Bracken picked up a first down and Martin ran around with the ball to kill the clock, the Tigers celebrated what Colman called Princeton's biggest and most thrilling upset since beating Penn 20 years earlier. That time, Princeton had played only the spoiler. On this occasion, it had moved into a 3-way tie for the league lead with games remaining at Yale and at home against Cornell.

Both of the Bulldogs sensational sophomores, Brian Dowling and Calvin Hill, were too injured to play, but the Tigers recognized a dangerous wounded animal, having become being one themselves.
“There is nothing that hasn’t happened to us,” said Gipson as Brewbaker had to come out of the lineup again and Bohdan Stefkiwsky, another lineman who had had become a starter, went down. Then, so did Bracken on the first play from scrimmage but now bad things were happening to the other guys, too.  Eighty-six yards of Yale penalties resulted in one touchdown being called back on a hold – the field goal then was missed – and stalled two other long drives.

Nevertheless the Bulldogs had converted a 70-yard drive in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead that threatened to hold up until James’ late third-quarter interception -- off a hurry by Grossman -- set up a 42-yard drive capped by Martin’s one-yard dive. But a successful Garcia PAT was killed on a procedure penalty and when he missed the retry, Princeton was still down a point and running out of time.

In the descending darkness – the game had started at 2 p.m. for television, Yale used 13 plays to pick up three first downs and reach a second-and three at the Princeton 28.
Stupski (left) and Kokoskie Apply Pressure

“With three minutes left, we thought we were doomed,” recalls Kozumbo. But after being penalized for delay of game as a result of substitution confusion, the Bulldogs made up only two of the yards on a third-down run. From the 31, Coach Carm Cozza ordered a punt.

“Somebody in our huddle said ‘James is going to run this back.’” recalls Grossman. “ I said 'hell no, we’re blocking it. I had just missed one in the end zone earlier.”

Grossman led the charge up the middle.  “The snap wasn’t dead-on, [punter Bob Kenney] had to juggle it for a spilt second and that made the difference,” recalls Kozumbo, the second guy in. “He kicked it into my right arm.”

“Larry (Stupski) said later that when he knew he couldn’t get there he started looking for the ball.”

Stupski found it at the Yale 40. Gipson leveled Kenney with a memorable block and Stupski had a five-blocker escort though the darkening mist, running like he had materialized out of the Tigers’ dreams. After falling into the end zone, Stupski held the ball to the turf as if to make sure the officials believed it.  

There was 2:02 to go.  After Princeton got one stop, James, playing tailback in Bracken’s absence, couldn’t make a first down, but Yale’s last prayer in Princeton's 13-7 victory was gobbled up by Eichelberger at the gun.

“They are all guts,” glowed Colman, “I don’t know how they do it,”  Frankly, this time, neither did his Tigers, still in a 3-way tie for the lead after having been outgained from scrimmage, 311 yards to 161. 

“We were really elated after Harvard, mostly thankful after that one,” recalls Kozumbo.

Dartmouth was finishing with Penn and Harvard with Yale. Cornell, coming to Palmer Stadium at 4-2 and with huge offensive and defensive lines (averaged 238 pounds), represented giant unfinished business. 

Bending, not breaking, Princeton held the game scoreless despite 112 yards by Pete Larson, the league’s leading ground gainer, and dodged a bullet early in the fourth quarter when Gipson recovered a fumble at the Tiger 20. The Tigers countered with enough yardage before having to punt to allow a second Gipson recovery, off a hit by Hitchner, to set them up 51 yards away.

On fourth-and-six Bracken threw to Howard to keep the drive alive. Bill Berkley gained a first down at the nine, and on third down Bracken swept left for five yards, going in untouched for a 7-0 lead.

Princeton forced two three-and-outs, James sealed the deal with an interception, and the Tigers celebrated their three-way share – the hardest share -- of the Ivy League title with locker room champagne and cigars. Long into the morning on The Street, the Tigers, most of them members of Tiger Inn, partied. Kozumbo, a Cannon Club guy himself, overdid the scotch so badly that he developed an aversion to it that exists to this day. 

One more ongoing life lesson taught by Princeton’s Ivy League champions of 1966.

“Like the Cinderella stories, it has all the classic ingredients -- background, plot, conflict, action, crisis, resolution,” says Grossman. “Good qualities were underestimated, ignored or unrecognized but we expected more of ourselves.

“We emerged from obscurity, triumphed over hardship and, to everyone’s surprise, had success.”

Princeton had been outgained by 220 yards for the season, scoring just three more touchdowns than it gave up. The Tigers threw only two touchdown passes all year. But clutch fourth-quarter plays made them one of just five teams in the school’s history to ever combine Ivy and Big Three titles. The whole of the ’66 team vastly exceeded the sum of its parts. 

“All for one and one for all,” says Martin. “Trite, but true.

“When they moved me to fullback I beat out Bill Berkley. He was so down about it, but right from camp his attitude was ‘how can we work together?’  When I wasn’t effective in the Cornell game for reasons I can never explain, Bill came in and played outstanding on our touchdown drive, one of the key reasons we scored at all. Howard came in for Peters and in a clean uniform led the team 93 yards. We don’t score without him.

"We had one story after another like that. There is tangible power that comes from feeling the power of the team. We were on the brink of a very non-Princeton season -- .500 being impossible to swallow after the prior two years -- and we won five straight.  Our best players were not as good as the best players from 1964 and 1965. We were so outmanned by Harvard that to win was an incredible accomplishment and the way we did it was storybook.

“Most special of all, 48 years later the camaraderie and teamwork has mushroomed in value.”

Of the 19 football members of the Class of ’67, 16 survive.  Jim Kokoskie died in 1969, on a Princeton visit, when a truck crossed the centerline of Route 206, hit his car and killed him instantly. Peters -- Rhodes Scholar, Harvard Medical School, surgeon -- battled depression before taking his own life in 1989.  Stupski passed away from an unusually deadly strain of prostate cancer in 2013.

“Larry Stupski was my best friend," said Martin. "We both got married in college, he moved back to California when I did, and we stayed in touch.

“Last year, before he passed away, Joyce, his wife, asked me to put together some Princeton support so I put out an email and he heard from 16 of us in his hour of need. That’s a damn good expression of the importance of team and friendship and the epitome of it was the memorial service. Ten of us (seniors on the ’66 team) plus two earlier team members from our class and [22] other Tigers came.

“We decided to wear our class blazers to the memorial service at AT&T Park (Stupski, once-CEO of Charles Schwab, was a minority owner of the San Francisco Giants). Looking out at a sea of orange and black, I gave one of the eulogies before we all came up on the podium and in front of 700 people did the Tiger locomotive cheer in Larry’s name.

‘The vividness when you are playing is so phenomenal that, years later, you can remember plays and team events. But in many respects the more time that goes by, the more caring there is amongst the team, and that's even more powerful.”

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com


Friday, July 18, 2014

Princeton Football in San Diego


Tigers Take on the Toreros 9/19/14-9/20/14
 
The Princeton Tigers will travel to San Diego to face the USD Toreros on Saturday, September 20 at Torero Stadium. In conjunction with the game, we will have a Friday evening reception and pre- and post-game tailgates on campus. Full details are listed below.
 
The football team last took an out-of-region trip in 2011 when they traveled to Hampton, VA for a memorable weekend with lots of orange and black camaraderie.  The student-athletes and coaching staff look forward to another team-building successful weekend, this time in sunny California, and are now asking for your support.  
 
Please consider being a Princeton Football San Diego Weekend Sponsor by making a gift at one of these levels:
$25,000 - All-American
$10,000 - All-Ivy
$5,000 - Presidents Club
$1,000 - Coaches Club
(All sponsorship donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law & count toward your annual Princeton Football Association donation, and includes signage recognition throughout the weekend).
You can make your gift online by visiting:https://makeagift.princeton.edu/athletics and selecting ‘Princeton Football Association’ from the drop-down menu.  Please be sure to write ‘San Diego Weekend Sponsor’ in the comments box.  *Note: If you plan to attend events please use registration link below.
 
We hope to see as many PFA members out at San Diego as possible! To register to attend, please visit: https://tigerstacklesd.eventbrite.com or print the weekend brochure [below] and mail back the registration form.
 
WEEKEND DETAILS
Friday, September 19th
Reception at The Lodge at Torrey Pines
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
11480 N Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037
Welcoming remarks by Princeton Club of San Diego President Beverly Randez ’94 and featuring a talk by Head Football Coach Bob Surace ’90. Enjoy drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres while mingling with fellow Princetonians, including PFA members, PVC members, and Princeton Club of San Diego members. The Lodge at Torrey Pines sits on the coastal cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is a one-of-a-kind setting, located on the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, host of the 2008 US Open. Reunions attire suggested. Pre-registration required
 
Saturday, September 20th  
Pre and post-game Tiger Tailgate
Area between Jenny Craig Pavilion and Fowler Field
11:00 a.m. & 4:00 p.m.
Enjoy great food, wine & beer, entertainment, and much more. Activities for the entire family, including face painting! Don’t forget to wear your orange and black! Pre-registration preferred
 
Princeton Tigers vs. the USD Toreros
1:00 p.m.
Tickets for the football game vs. San Diego are on sale for $10 at the Princeton Ticket Office and can be purchased by calling (609) 258-4TIX
 
 
LODGING INFORMATION

Bahia Resort Hotel
The Bahia Resort Hotel is situated on a secluded 14-acre peninsula in Mission Bay and boasts over a mile of beautiful sandy beaches. Book by August 18th under the Princeton Room Block to receive special rates starting at $149 per night.
998 West Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA 92109
Reservations: (800) 288-0770 or reserve online at https://shop.evanshotels.com/bahia_groups/soc-pctsd0914.html
 
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
With views of the Pacific Ocean and storied Torrey Pines Golf Course, The Lodge’s Craftsman Era architecture and suite of amenities promise an unparalleled stay. Hotel guests may play golf on the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course. Book by August 18th under the Princeton Room Block to receive special rates starting at $295 per night.
11480 N Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037
Reservations: (800) 656-0087 or reserve online at https://shop.evanshotels.com/lodge_groups/%20soc-pctsd0914.html  
Golf at Torrey Pines
Out-of-town guests should request a tee time when making their room reservation. San Diego residents may request a tee time by demonstrating proof of residency. Information about tee times and fees is available online at
www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/golf/torreypines
-------------------------------------------------------
 
Please see brochure below for event information surrounding our trip to San Diego.  Click on brochure to enlarge. 
 



NOTE:  When printing registration forms please go to printer properties and change to "Landscape format" to for it to print full page properly.

Any questions or problems email Football@princeton.edu.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

At 25, Counting Their Blessings as Tigers

BY JAY GREENBERG

Even with rosy outlook generated by the arrival of the talented Garretts to Princeton in 1986, Judd noticed almost immediately the grey areas in the school’s football tradition.

“My memory is walking into Caldwell Field House when we first got here and seeing that the pictures of all Princeton’s championship teams were in black and white,” he said.  “That meant it was a long time since the last championship (in 1969).”

From 1970-85, the Tigers had enjoyed but two winning seasons when new coach Ron Rogerson sent young assistant Steve Verbit west to look for some guys in Kodachrome. A defensive back in Tulare, California, an hour from Fresno, became central to the plan.

Frank Leal '90
“I had taken trips to BYU and the University of Utah and then those offers both went away” recalls Frank Leal ’90.  “I didn’t know half the Ivy League schools when Coach Verbit showed up preaching passionately about the Princeton program, the education, about it being a 40-year, not a four-year, program.

“I was looking to stay close to home, but my high school coach, Tyrone Whatley, a big man with a deep voice, pulled me aside and started ripping into me about passing up an opportunity to go to Princeton. ‘You are not looking anywhere else,’ he told me, so I took a recruiting trip here and saw the close-knit relationships; the family nature that remains true today.

“I met a solid group of guys whom you could tell were very close, making it easier for me to go so far away from home.”

Twenty-five years later, the same crowbar necessary to separate Judd Garrett '90 from a football he was carrying and Frank Leal from the opposition’s best receiver, would be unable to pry apart Princeton’s 1989 Ivy League co-champions. “I would say I stay in touch with 25 people from that team,” says Gary Kempinski ’90.

Before they gathered for food, drink, fellowship and potential violations of the Princeton Honor Code on the golf course at Springdale Golf Club on Monday, the football class of ‘90 presented the Princeton Football Association with a record (for the 25-year challenge) $25,000 towards the next set of color pictures on the Caldwell walls.

“Frankie Leal, Vince Avallone (’90) and Rob Freeman (’90) communicated with their classmates and did a really magnificent job,” said Verbit, Princeton’s co-defensive coordinator.  

“They did a great job for the program and in their allegiance with one another, stepping forward to be so generous to help Princeton football continue its great tradition.”

Only a short list of icons in the modern era of the program that have meant more to Princeton on the field than Garrett and Leal, the offensive and defensive stars of the 1989 team.  Over three seasons, Garrett ran for 3109 yards, caught 137 passes and scored 41 touchdowns while Leal had 16 interceptions.

Judd Garrett '90
“Before there was the term ‘shutdown corner,’ that’s what Frankie was,” recalls Verbit.  “He was extremely consistent, very competitive, loved the challenge and met it.  

“With him, you didn’t have to worry about that [game-breaking opposition] player. You could put your plan together based on how you thought you would be able to hold up at other positions.  It’s a nice thing coming into a game having a guy who can take their big-play guy out of the game plan.

“Judd was a complete player running, catching and throwing.  Of all the (three) Garretts he probably was the most athletic.  He had a knack for feeling that defender, knew when to make that late cut, knew when to spin.”

Thanks to a mind boggling loss at Columbia that ended the Lions’ NCAA record 42-game losing streak and the surrendering of 97 and 59-yard touchdown bombs that erased a 10-0 lead in a loss to champion Dartmouth, the Tigers got no farther than six wins in 1988. Leal spun that failure positively, deciding with his secondary mates to tape their fingers for 1989 where the missing championship rings were supposed to be.

"To look down at when you're discouraged or tired," said Leal. 

Indeed, there was fatigue and discouragement in 1989. The Tigers lost 46-0 to Holy Cross and dropped  a 14-7 crusher to Yale when Leal missed a tackle on a 30-yard touchdown run and Garrett fumbled away a late drive at the Bulldog 14.  It was presumed the title had been blown until Harvard upset Yale the next week while Princeton was rallying to beat Cornell and claim a share of the title.

Thus did 30-game career starters Leal -- today the owner of a Los Angeles-based management consultation company for the media and entertainment industries -- Garrett and center Bob Surace gain the rings that had slipped from their fingers in 1988.

“There was a feeling going into all three years I played that this was going to be the year and we fell short the first two,” said Garrett.  “We weren’t expected to do much (in 1989) because Jason (quarterback Garrett) had graduated and we had other (senior) losses besides, but guys stepped up.”

Twenty five years later, a lot of those same men have done it again with their checkbooks for the program now headed by Surace, their captain.

“I have always tried to stay close to Princeton football,” said Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach and the older brother of Judd, Director of Pro Scouting for the Cowboys.  “But then my center, whom I am fond of, became the head coach.

“Bob becoming the steward for the program gives everyone a great feeling.  We know the kind of guy he is, the kind of player he was, the kind of coach he is and the kind of experience the kids are getting as a result.”

Twenty-five members of the ’89 champions gathered from all over the country Monday, black and white manifestation of how they feel about each other and Princeton football.

 
jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Campers Drilled on What It Takes to Become a Tiger

BY JAY GREENBERG

With six one-day camps to choose from this summer, high school football players are offered more than just one opportunity to fall in love with Princeton. But the way the Tiger coaches look at it, they receive only one chance to make a good impression.

“We’re looking at them, but they go to camps to help choose their colleges,” says Coach Bob Surace. “We have seen the film on most of these kids, and now they are looking at how we run our camp and which coaches help them.

Coach Surace Welcomes The Campers
“Most (of the campers) tour our campus the day before or the day after a camp. So this is 90 per cent them evaluating us.

“They may come in thinking, ‘It’s just Ivy League football, but they see our guys coach as well as any coaches in the country.  Every camper gets coached like our Princeton players are coached.  We run this like our own practices so that they will say,  ‘I have to get all my ducks in a row with admission and financial aid because I see myself at this place.’ 

“I want them to leave here saying,  ‘This is the best place.  I don’t want one kid saying. ‘Oh, it was just so-so.”

Twenty-one of this fall’s 27 incoming Princeton football freshmen and 20 rising sophomores proved happy, if exhausted, summer campers here as high school players. Winning Ivy League championships like last season’s builds credibility for a program of course, but the base of a winner comes from relationships that begin under the hot summer sun.

“Seth DeValve came as a high school quarterback,” said Surace. “He wasn’t as good as the other guys at his position so we tried him at receiver and tight end and he clearly took to it.   

"Jimmy (Salgado, now co-defensive coordinator) and Dennis (receivers coach Goldman) thought Seth was a college football player at those spots.”

The Princeton staff also learned that day how DeValve thought of himself as a football player first, the kind of mentality coaches covet.

Steve Verbit
“I came 100 per cent thinking I was going to be a quarterback and it turned out I played quarterback for about 10 minutes,” recalls DeValve ’15. “Maybe I was a little disappointed initially, but when they moved me that day to every place but offensive and defensive line, I thought it was fun. 

“I remember it was hard, probably the hardest workout I had ever done. But unlike the other camps, which were kind of run like a combine where they were testing you, this actually was a practice, what I felt it was an accurate depiction of what I could expect at Princeton.”

In the summer of 2012, Tyler Desire showed up to play every position he had in high school, which was most of them, including kick returner.  His length and quick first step convinced Surace and Steve Verbit, the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, that the kid had the best chance to be special as a defensive end. So that is what Desire has become, not that he couldn’t have become a lot of things.

“We just saw he was a good athlete, so good that at every position we sent Tyler to that day he grew,” said Surace, “ It told us he takes well to coaching.

“We are looking at these camps for the same effort and attention that we get from our players. So if they can’t work hard here for one day that’s not a good sign, but these are really highly-achieving kids. Most of them understand the work ethic it takes to play college football.”

A full day session, which costs $160, is open to anyone.  A rising high school sophomore from a Princeton area high school has attended each of the first four sessions this summer – there are two more on July 11 and 12 -- to see what he could learn, not just what he could learn about Princeton. 

Most of these kids, however, are rising seniors who have sent the Tiger coaches intriguing highlight videos plus junior year transcripts that make a Princeton application worth a shot.  Film always leaves the question of the quality of the competition, and of course, doesn’t show practice habits. So most of these students have been encouraged to attend by the Tiger coaches, who would like to validate in person, against mostly college prospects, what was seen on video.

 “We are going to push them; we are going to have great attention to detail,” said Verbit, who organized the first Princeton high school camp in the late eighties with an all-Ivy center named Bob Surace serving as an instructor.  “Every young man who comes will have an opportunity to leave here a better player and has an opportunity to showcase his talents.”

All sizes, shapes of players, and color of high school helmets sit on the grass along the practice field fence in the morning, ready to become five-and-a-half hours better than they were when they stepped out of the car.  

“Compete your tails off, you are making each other better,” Surace tells the assemblage when he calls it to the center of the field. No sooner do the campers break up to work with position coaches than running back coach Sean Gleeson already is scolding them that jogging to the next drill will not be acceptable.

Some of these kids, who have flown in from as far away as Germany and Hawaii to attend as many as four camps at Ivy League schools in eight days, arrive at Princeton fatigued at best, injured at worst.  “There is one kid here who has gone to 16 of these camps,” said Verbit.  “No wonder why he is limping.”

One father, who has shepherded three other prospects besides his own from a Texas high school, is taking them to another Ivy League camp the next day. 

“It’s a grind for these kids, they get tired,” he concedes. 

Jim Salgado
“Especially if they are going to another camp the day after ours,” smiles Verbit. 

Since fatigue makes cowards of us all, the coaches are observing a lot more than just skill.  “You look to see who gets in front of the line for the next drill and who is content to be in back,” said Verbit. 

Some of the lines are considerable.  The numbers – at 180-210 a day, Surace estimates about 1200 will attend at least one of the Princeton camps this summer -- are made more manageable with the aid of current Tigers, plus coaches at a number of Division III coaches who help out expecting to find some good fits for their academically-oriented schools, too.

“One thing that is the same as it is at every other program in the country is time,” Surace tells the campers.  “So how are we going to utilize it?

“How do we meet?  How do we watch video? How do we practice?  I hope at the end of the day you will say, ‘In no other camp did we work harder.”

“That’s our expectation. It’s important to us that you leave here saying,  ‘of all the camps I’ve been to, this was the most efficient and professional. “

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com