BY JAY GREENBERG
He’s good to go, head as clear as the mission. Caraun Reid only had a concussion, hasn’t been in a coma, so he is fully aware of what happened the last two weeks and what’s left for the Tigers now.
Arguably, any win over Yale has had the capacity to save any of the last 135 seasons of Princeton football. But back from a one-game absence comes an All-Ivy defensive lineman to do his part not just to rescue this year but restore the Tiger’s good football name.
“You have respect for another program, but you have to enter a game with some anger for an opponent, especially when the rivalry is this big,” Reid said. “I don’t know any Yale players personally, but with alumni telling you that you have to beat the heck out of them, you feel that pressure coming on and you automatically get carried away by it.
“It’s just something that comes into this. We may respect them, but we are going to try to beat them. But much more than that we have a great opportunity to finish the season with a winning record for the first time in a long time. That’s really big for us.
“Sending our seniors out as winners is something we want to do. And we don’t want to lose any more games. Underclassmen on up, we want that to be our MO. We want to send a message that this year was different and just the start of a different era for Princeton football.”
That’s plenty of reason for the Tigers, 4-4 (3-2 Ivy) and left by consecutive losses at the mercy of Penn beating Harvard to grab a share of the Ivy League title, to still finish up 2012 right.
“But I don’t think we need any more motivation than it’s Yale,” said captain Andrew Starks. “Yale obviously is a huge rival for us.
“I honesty don’t think the bonfire (traditional Princeton celebration for beating both Harvard and Yale in the same season) is in the back of our minds. I know that it is the buzz around campus but Yale is enough for us.”
In fact, coach Bob Surace insists that Yale is plenty, even if the Bulldogs’ record (2-6, 1-4) indicates they have seen better days.
“Their D line, from the Georgetown (24-21 opening game) loss to now, looks like a totally different one,” said Surace. “To hold Brown to 20 points (last week) with the field position the had, was pretty impressive.”
|Andrew Starks '13|
Princeton held Brown to zero points, so it can be argued Surace’s spin is pretty impressive. But Yale also beat Penn on one more any-given Saturday in the Ivy League, testimony the Tigers dare not under prepare, even if Yale has so many quarterbacks hurt it must use a running back at the position. In sophomore running back Tyler Varga, Yale has a back that Surace says would go first if the Ivy League had a free agent draft of players to build a program around.
“Just watched the highlight film (at the Captain’s Dinner) of Keith Elias and Varga has a lot of the same qualities,” said Surace. “There are a lot of strong and explosive guys at this level but most of them are stiff.
“This guy can bend his knees and make cuts that are just as uncanny as Keith’s were. And (Mordecai) Cargill, he is in the group of the five best backs in the league, too.”
The Tigers had trouble tackling last week, which turned out to be no way to beat Penn and keep a share of the Ivy League lead. Now a failure to wrap up Varga would be no way towards a winning record. There are few alumni reading this website who would not have signed on for four wins in 2012 as a season of progress. Not any more after the Tigers looked so impressive four straight weeks, then lost winnable games the last two.
Still, Surace has drawn the distinction between his team being young and being fragile. The Tigers have hardly practiced this week like a team on the downslide. And after reporting symptoms after the game at Cornell, Reid feels blessed to be a part of Princeton’s attempt to both finish this season on the upswing and start the program on one, too.
The protocol left him two days short of being cleared in enough time for Penn, but there is no grieving of that process, or none anymore by the Tigers of their missed opportunity for a share of the Ivy League title. They will be playing Yale Saturday, no better reason to participate in this sport.
RB Di Andre Atwater (ankle) will not play Saturday and is doubtful for Dartmouth. TE Mark Hayes (shoulder) is day-to-day. “He made a lot of progress yesterday,” said Surace. “He is so battle-tested he probably can get away without having as much practice as some of the younger guys.”
RT Kevin Mill (knee) won’t play at Yale but health permitting; Surace would like to find a limited role for the senior. “I feel so bad for him,” said Surace. “He left school to be able to come back and play another year. Plus, he’s such a good player.”
|Mark Hayes '13|
Surace on long snapper Jason Tiemeier: “He has been a good player for three years. We have to build up his confidence.”
Tigers have only one win in their last five trips to the Yale Bowl. In the four losses they have averaged only 6.5 points per game. Of course in the other game they scored 34 points and became 2006 Ivy League co-champions with the Bulldogs.
Mike Catapano is second in the FCS in sacks (1.5 per game). Yale leads the all-time series 74-50-10. Game, which begins at noon at the Yale Bowl, will be televised by the Yes Network.
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