Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Usual Penn at the End of an Unusual Week


BY JAY GREENBERG

With no wiggle room left if they want to claim at least a share of the Ivy League title, the Tigers stared claustrophobically at four walls Monday into Tuesday, waiting for Sandy to pass.  Time hangs heavy on the hands of a team on a deserted campus during mid-term break and coming off a last-minute loss at Cornell besides.

“I was worried Monday about having one hundred 18-to-22 year old men stuck in their rooms,” said Coach Bob Surace.  “A few guys wanted to come down (to meeting and weight rooms) but I said the University says stay in your rooms; we don’t need a branch or something to hit you.

Mike Catapano '13
“It is what it is, everybody is dealing with it in the East. There is a lot of tragedy on the Jersey coast and it puts things in perspective.   But these guys have always been great with their responses, whether it was with Chuck (Dibilio), Khamal (Brown) or this.  There was a lot of energy at Wednesday’s practice.”

Much of the rest of New Jersey continues to wait for its lights to come back on. In the meantime Surace doesn’t want his players getting any bright ideas that Penn, Saturday’s 1 p.m. opponent on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, still isn’t Penn, never mind its 3-4 record and its loss to Yale.  Penn competes against the caliber of non-conference schedule – going 0-3 against William and Mary, Lafayette and Villanova -- that Surace says he would like to play when he builds Al Bagnoli’s depth.

The Quakers had eight turnovers in their loss to the Lafayette team that Princeton beat, 35-14, no reason for the Tigers to relax, actually motivation to get eight turnovers, too.

“Penn beats Brown 20-17, Princeton beats Harvard, 39-35, Princeton loses to Cornell 37-35, “ said Surace. “The games come down to details and we have to be detailed.”

To add to the anxiety is this not-so-small detail:  Caraun Reid and Mike Catapano were wearing yellow (please don’t touch) vests during Wednesday’s practice because of upper body issues. Princetontigersfootball.com will not insult your intelligence by telling you of the importance that these guys play and play well. And Surace would say only that both his All-Ivy-to-be defensive linemen would be evaluated at the end of the week.

Brad Megay is a third defensive linemen whose status was unclear, not what you want to hear going into a game with Penn.

“I think it’s a very underrated Penn team,” said Surace.  “They have struggled some in the red zone and have had some turnovers but when they have won the turnover battle they are a really good team.”

Akil Sharp '13
The Tigers (4-3, 3-1 Ivy) dropped the turnover battle last week in Ithaca and lost to a really good Cornell team to end Princeton’s winning streak at four and leave Harvard, Penn and the Tigers in 3-way tie for the Ivy League lead with three games remaining. That’s motivation enough, but the Quakers also have a 5-year winning streak against the Tigers and has won the last three games by an average of 35 points.   

This season Princeton already has ended five years of futility at the hands of Brown and Harvard, but Penn being Penn, the Quakers are more than just a loose end to a turnaround season, more like a deep grudge. All the more reason for 100 young men to climb the walls during a dark and stormy night.

TIGER TAILS

RB Di Andre Atwater has just begun jogging and is doubtful for the game. Akil Sharp, however, ran well at practice and should be ready to share the carry load with Will Powers and Dre Nelson.  . . RT Kevin Mills still isn’t practicing but has yet to be ruled out for the season.  . .  In addition to five straight, Penn has won 11 of the last 13 meetings.  Princeton’s only win over the Quakers on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, memorably was in 1996 in overtime, when Rob Toresco, appearing to be stopped on fourth-and-one in overtime, laterelled back to Jeff Terrell for a touchdown and Penn botched an extra point snap that would have forced a second overtime  . . . Princeton has won at least twice in its new digs over every other Ivy team.