Friday, November 30, 2012

Surace: These Were 23 Seniors Who Cared


BY BOB SURACE

Our seniors went 2-6 to 1-9 to 1-9 their first three years and could easily have pointed fingers, saying it wasn’t their fault. Instead getting this program turned around became their only football goal, whether they played a great deal or not at all. 
Stuart Ahlum '13

I have a lot of sadness whenever seniors leave. But these guys, who stayed loyal through a coaching change, who cheered up Jordan Culbreath, Chuck Dibilio and Khamal Brown through sudden and devastating health problems and who remained positive and dedicated through so much adversity and so many losses over their first three seasons especially left their mark, no matter how visible they were or were not on Saturdays.  I cannot watch them move on without thanking them individually.

I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to Coach Roger Hughes and his staff for bringing to Princeton these 23 men who have been so special to me and this football program:

Stuart Ahlum – He has been our scout team quarterback almost every week this year and did a really good job whether he was mimicking a runner-runner thrower like (Harvard’s) Colton Chapple or a drop back passer like (Cornell’s) Jeff Mathews.  I’m really proud of the progress and loyalty Stu showed.

Mike Catapano – Since I first became associated with the program as a freshman 26 years ago, I would put Mike’s performance up there next to any Princeton player. And his leadership was exceptional. There are very few two-time All-Ivy players and captains and he is deserving of every bit of recognition he gets. To me, he and Kyle Juszczyk, the slot tight end from Harvard, were the two best players in the league this year, head and shoulders above everybody else.

Joe Cloud – He was one of the best punters in Princeton history, a three-time all-league selection, and I still don’t think people realize his entire impact. He improved so much his senior year in his punts into the red zone, where we had three fumble recoveries that Joe made possible.  

Tim Dondanville '13
Tim Dondanville – When you list the many unsung persons, Tim is the captain of that group.  He signaled the plays from the sideline and helped our young quarterbacks when they came off the field.  Just a true student of the game.  He is the president of our Uplifting Athletes chapter (raising money for Aplastic Anemia research and treatment). For a guy who did not play, he was one of the best leaders I ever have been around.

Alec Egan – Unfortunately Alec had some injuries early in his career that hurt his development time. He made huge strides this year and pushed the offensive linemen ahead of him on the depth chart all season. His work on the scout team against guys like Catapano and Reid was a big reason we jumped to 31 sacks this year and Alec is a top leader on campus, an officer at his eating club.

Mark Hayes – Mark is one of the favorites players I have coached. In improving every year, he has gone from being a good blocking tight end to being an exceptional blocking tight end who made significant contributions to the passing game as a senior.  In my opinion, he was the most valuable player in our offense.
Hanur Kim '13

Hanur Kim – It was great to see Hanur come back his senior year and contribute on the field.  He was an integral part of one of our best touchdown drives of the year – 86 yards to break a shutout and send us in at halftime leading Lafayette -- and graded extremely high in an alternate role at left guard.  

Tim Kingsbury – Tim has been a solid player all three years. But in this one he stepped up into a leadership role that had been filled by Steve Cody and was one of the most productive members of our defense. An ultimate tough guy, he is deserving of his All-Ivy (honorable mention) recognition.

Greg Kohles – Greg was one of our better special teams players. For a senior to play a significant role on units that had success this year, he is a true example of hard work and commitment.  The coaches and team were excited to see his continued improvement lead to a valuable role this year.

Greg Kohles '13
Matt Landry – Matt is a big, fast, physical player who played his best game of the year against Dartmouth.  He made significant contributions earlier in his career on special teams and defense and it was great to see his hard work lead to the success he had on our defensive front this fall.  

Charlie Langerhans – Charlie is a guy who didn’t get on the field with the varsity, yet worked his tail off every day and was playing his best football the last few weeks. One of the reasons our offensive line improved as much as it did was having to block Charlie every day in practice.  He pushed our guys to be better players and won a game ball the second-to-last week of his career. One of the more touching moments in our (post-season) team meeting was to see our guys give him a two-minute ovation for his contributions.

Charlie Langerhans '13
Brad Megay – Brad has excelled in a situational role on defense the last two years.  He really improved his pass rush; three sacks were terrific. He always has been a physical run stopper and was a huge factor on a really good defensive front this year.

Kevin Mill – Kevin always is going to be one of my favorite people. He was an elite player who had unfortunate injuries his last couple years that prevented him from being on the field but he came out to every practice, helped our young offensive linemen get better and truly was one of the guys who were the heart and soul of our team.

Tom Moak – There is a reason he is going to be a successful coach.  He is as knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the game as anyone and improved his physical skill to where he made big contributions.  His poise as the holder throwing the two touchdown passes were highlight plays that kept momentum going in situations that could have been deflating.  And for not being a big guy, he was one of the most physical receivers we had.

Kevin Navetta – It was great to see Kevin, who had a major injury his freshman year, come back and play a significant special teams role and get on the field in some defensive packages.  He was an extremely hard worker and physical player; pound for pound one of our toughest guys.

Kevin Navetta '13
Brian Pourciau – Brian, who has bounced around between different positions, found a home and made great strides at linebacker this year.  One of our hardest working guys, he was another who pushed our offensive line and special team units to get better.

Caraun Reid – One of the best interior defensive linemen in the 26 years I have been associated with Princeton Football.  And certainly one of the three or four best defensive players in the league in 2012.  He was terrific against the run, one of the best pass rushers on the inside, and emerged as one of the better players at his position nationally.  At our banquet, so many members of the Princeton football program were able to see why Caraun is possibly the most well-rounded student in the Ivy League.  Not only did he kick it off with an outstanding invocation, he closed it by showing everyone his singing talent.

Akil Sharp – Similar to Kevin Mill, Akil put his heart and soul into being the best player he could be. He had an outstanding training camp and then got hit with the injury bug but never stopped working and, both early and late in season, made contributions as a top running back.  He also was helpful to our young backs, truly one of the most unselfish players I have been around.

Mandela Sheaffer – We moved Mandela from wide receiver to safety as a sophomore, when we had holes in our defensive backfield, and he learned the position on the run. To see his development as a three-year starter from solid player to force, especially against the run, was terrific. He is a tremendous leader, which was best exhibited when he brought Khamal (Brown) over to the sidelines during practice (the sophomore corner suffered suddenly memory loss that would be diagnosed as a dangerous bleeding AV Malformation) but we saw that type of leadership with him all the time. It was great to see him come up with big plays in key moments, like the pick against Harvard.

Andrew Starks '13
Andrew Starks – Andrew has been a fantastic player for three years, a multiple All-Ivy selection who nevertheless improved his game every year. I thought he was as good as any linebacker I saw on video on any team. More important, he was as strong a leader as at any level as I have been around and that would include the NFL.

Luke Taylor – Luke joined our program as a walk-on from sprint football.  It’s a shame we didn’t get him earlier because he made terrific strides as a player. Another one of our players whose contributions were only known to the coaching staff and the young DBs that he pushed everyday.  He made (Anthony) Gaffney and (Matt) Arends much better players.

Jason Tiemeier – He was a four-year starter who worked as hard as anybody on our team and improved so many things from his conditioning to his leadership of the special teams.  He took his position as seriously as anybody and made significant contributions in his four years here.  I admire how hard he worked.

Shane Wilkinson – In key moments, he has made some of our most outstanding plays, starting in his junior year when he had his coming out party at Harvard. This year he was so consistent, so reliable, my image of him always will be making diving catches for first downs. The thing people do not see is how improved he was as an all-around player and blocker.  He did both the big catches and the little things well.

These were 23 guys who this Thanksgiving gave me reason to be thankful they were in the program when I became the coach.





Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Catapano a Finalist for Defensive Player of Year


Mike Catapano '13

Mike Catapano is one of two finalists for the 2012 Asa S. Bushnell Cup for Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.  The winner will be announced at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3 at the Vanderbilt Room of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Catapano, who led the Ivy League with 12 sacks, was second in the league with 15.5 tackles, and had five games with at least five tackles, joins Brown defensive back A.J. Cruz in contention for the defensive award, while quarterbacks Colton Chapple of Harvard and Jeff Mathews of Cornell are the finalists for the offensive honors that Mathews won last season.

Jay Greenberg


These Were the Plays and Players of 2012


BY JAY GREENBERG

Princeton football turned in 2012, while plays and players turned heads:

BEST MOMENT – This program wasn’t rebuilt in one day, obviously. But a Roman – in this case Wilson -- put the exclamation point on the upgrade with a 36-yard touchdown catch from Quinn Epperly with 13 seconds left remaining to complete a 24-point fourth-quarter comeback for the ages against Harvard.

Roman Wilson '14
WORST MOMENT – Matt MacZura’s 33-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining, culminating a torturous 15-play drive, gave Georgetown a 21-20 victory.  It seemed like the Tigers, who at that point had won two of their last 22 games over three seasons, never would learn how to get out of their own way.

BEST MOMENT OFF A WORST MOMENT – On the first play the following week at Columbia, Anthony Gaffney burst between the blocks of Mike Zeuli and Joe Bonura to take the opening kickoff back 93 yards for a touchdown.  After the Georgetown debacle (eight mostly horribly-timed penalties and two lost fumbles) Tigers insisted they still believed but at some point you need tangible reinforcement. The freshman blowing by the Lions blew in fresh air, the bench went berserk and Princeton rolled to a cathartic 33-6 rout.

BEST SINGLE GAME PERFORMANCE BY AN INDIVIDUAL TIGER – Gaffney also had two interceptions in the Columbia game.  Honorable mention to Caraun Reid --- two-and-a-half sacks, four tackles for a loss in 19-0 shutout of Brown. Mike Catapano was relentless – two sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble against Dartmouth and Connor Michelsen threw for a spectacular 390 yards (29-for-35) at Cornell.    

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAY --  Reid bulldozed his blocker before the ball barely was in the hands of Brown’s Mark Kachmer, giving the running back no chance to escape a safety.  Greg Sotereanos, who ran over his guy, too, also could have made that play, like he did the one at Lehigh, when he shed his block and tackled Keith Sherman for a loss on fourth-and-one.  It happened way back in the third game of the season but should not be forgotten. 
Anthony Gaffney '16

BIGGEST DEFENSIVE PLAY –- Tigers, off consecutive losses, were pushed all around the field by an injury-riddled Yale team in the first half, but Trocon Davis stayed home on a trick throwback, intercepted running back Mordecai Cargill’s floater and took it 100 yards to the house.  Changed not only the game against Princeton’s archrival, but perhaps the perception of the season.
BEST THROW – By Connor Michelsen on a sprint out, just before he was about to get buried, 35 spiraling yards over a defender to Wilson, who turned it into a 72-yard touchdown at Cornell.           

BEST CATCHES – You pick: Mark Hayes, running a slant, took the ball literally off a Brown defender’s back for a clutch first down.  Matt Costello put away Yale with spectacular body control at the back corner of the end zone, going up and coming down with a perfectly thrown 9-yard lob from Epperly.

BEST DRIVE – Duh, 90 yards in 11 plays in 1:44 to beat Harvard with 13 seconds left. That said, a dropped interception and a roughing-the-passer penalty helped.  For sheer execution, the coach’s dream was 13 plays, 69 yards in 6:57 culminating in the Costello catch in New Haven. Fifty-two of the yards were on the ground, when Yale knew the Tigers wanted to eat the clock and couldn’t stop them regardless.
Connor Michelsen '15

BIGGEST BREAK – Harvard’s Chris Splinter, who was beaten by Wilson on the winning score, two plays earlier dropped what should have been an interception thrown by Epperly.

WORST BREAK – Tip of Michelsen’s pass by blitzing DB Daniel Ritt caromed to lineman C.J. Mooney, who ran in the game-tying touchdown in the loss to Penn that ended up denying the Tigers a share of the Ivy title.  Bogus roughing-the-passer call on Mike Catapano – he was pushed in – kept Georgetown’s winning drive alive but that was a non-conference loss, albeit a maddening one.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER – Phil Bhaya.  Struggled as a sophomore starter on the corner against Lehigh’s Ryan Spadola (who didn’t?), then got hurt and had to battle for a starting spot this season as a safety.  Wound up all conference honorable mention.

MOST EXCITING PLAYER – Wilson.  The catch to beat Harvard was only the most memorable, not his best.  Turned the corner on a 34-yard touchdown run against Lafayette that was a big corner-turner for the program, and stiff-armed a Cornell corner on his way to the 72-yarder.

HARDEST MISTAKES TO SWALLOW – Sophomore Michelsen, his team up 21-14, threw into double coverage off his back foot and Penn's David Twamley intercepted, changing the season.  Freshman Dre Nelson fumbled away a strong late drive at the Cornell 30 and the Big Red only needed a field goal to squeak by.  

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER – Mike Catapano. Best defensive player in the Ivy League this season.

Greg Sotereanos '14
UNSUNG HERO ON DEFENSE – Catapano, Reid and Andrew Starks were running ballcarriers down, often in the open field, to big cheers. But Tim Kingsbury almost always was in the right place.

UNSUNG HERO ON OFFENSE – Tight end Mark Hayes’ blocking was dominating. One of his 15 catches was in the end zone from holder Tom Moak off a botched snap, another, from Epperly, gave Princeton the lead in the fourth quarter at Cornell.

HARDEST WORKER – Impossible to shame Catapano. But Andrew Starks, running from sideline to sideline, never quitting on a play from the first one of the game to the last, gets at least a draw.

BEST PLAY CALL – On first-and-ten at the Brown 15, offensive coordinator James Perry caught the Bears in man-to-man and Michelsen threw an overhand lateral to Spenser Huston, a tackle who would never be anybody’s man. He scored untouched from 15 yards out.  

TOUGHEST PLAYER – Epperly lasted three quarters with a separated throwing shoulder against Dartmouth and completed 11 of 18 passes.  Catapano is a throwback whose relentlessness will open eyes at an NFL camp this summer, whether he is drafted or not.  But LB Alex Polofsky is 5'9" on his tiptoes and seemingly never was driven backwards on a tackle.

BEST HOLE BY THE OFFENSIVE LINE – Huston sprung Di Andre Atwater’s 53-yard burst down the sidelines to put Princeton up over Georgetown on the second play of the fourth quarter. But with a number of backups giving starters a rest, Akil Sharp ran through a canyon for 10 yards to get the Tigers to halftime with a 7-0 lead over Lafayette.
Will Powers '15

BEST SINGLE INDIVIDUAL EFFORT ON AN OFFENSIVE PLAY - Will Powers took Michelsen’s swing pass, broke two tackles and dove to the end zone on a 30-yarder that put Princeton ahead of Penn.

BEST RUNS -- Atwater ran away from everybody for the lead against the Hoyas and Wilson made a big-time cut up field to score from 34 at Lafayette. But considering the situation, third-and-21 at Princeton’s four, Powers’ burst up the middle for 37 and a remarkable first down against Brown, was good at it gets.

WORST 30 MINUTES – Tigers were manhandled on both lines in the first half at Lehigh and you could smell the fear it was going to be another excruciating year. But in their first game against an FCS powerhouse that already had played two games, all Princeton needed was a chance to warm up. Tigers outplayed Lehigh in the second half to open eyes, including their own to the possibilities.

WORST 20 SECONDS – Right after the Wilson catch against Harvard, waiting to find out reason for the flag lying ominously on the field: After five years of too many penalties against the Tigers at seemingly the worst possible times, whew, it was too many men on the field by the Crimson.

BEST KICK -- Joe Cloud punted a 68-yarder at Columbia that the return guy caught over his shoulder or it might have rolled to 80 yards.  If you missed it on the highlights, it is still visible in the night sky every 90 minutes.
             






Saturday, November 24, 2012

It Was So Much Better and Still Not Good Enough


BY JAY GREENBERG

Both quantitatively and emotionally, the Tigers’ glass measured exactly half-filled in 2012.  The same coach who engineered a huge improvement to 5-5 remains haunted by how much bigger the season still could have become.  

After five consecutive losing years and consecutive 1-9 records in Bob Surace’s first two seasons, the rational hopes for Year Three were for a move to the middle that, as it turned out, didn’t exist. In an Ivy League even more balanced than usual, Princeton, which defeated presumed powerhouse Harvard, which let eventual champion Penn escape in the second half, turned out to be as talented as anybody and didn’t get a share of the title.

“It kind of hit me Monday night,” said Coach Bob Surace.  “There were so many good things but the big errors by the team and the coaches haunt me.

Bob Surace '90
“There was a terribly unfortunate play against Penn where a tipped pass gets knocked back to a defensive lineman who runs it in (for the game-tying score). There were 50-50 (officials) calls, five or six of them that went against us in three losses (in the last four games) or we would be sitting here talking about a championship.

“You don’t get rings for beating Harvard and Yale. You get a bonfire, which was awesome celebrating with students and alumni, but for a team the ultimate goal is winning the title.  You want to win both and we didn’t. And when you see how close it was, that’s why you have sleepless nights, thinking about what I could have done better.”

In the end, the Tigers made too many mistakes.

“I harp on decisions with the players,” said Surace. “So after  almost any turnover I think back on how I could have presented something better to better get through to them.

“For two years we had been playing from behind. This year we played from ahead and a few times didn’t finish out what we could have done.  We were much better in the red zone (62 per cent touchdown conversions) and on third (40 per cent) and fourth (64 per cent) downs and now we have to improve in the red zone and on turnovers even more.   

“We were minus-23 last year and minus-one this year, essentially even, and our record was even as a result. In our last four losses, the three league games and Georgetown, we had 15 turnovers and only created three. In the three league games it was 11-1. So how do we get to being a double digit plus, where you have a much better chance of winning the league?

“Penn was able to go from a big hole in turnovers in non league games (eight in a loss to Lafayette) and learn from that and be pretty clean in their league games.

“We had them 21-14 and had two chances inside the 35 to get a two-score lead against a team that wasn’t throwing it too effectively against us and we didn’t score. Then we had chances to stop them and didn’t.

“You can’t second guess the ball bouncing the wrong way, but [Connor Michelsen’s end zone] interception was our error. We have young players and you try to hit every situation possible, so it’s my fault for not building enough good habits. (Mike) Catapano, (Andrew) Starks, Mandela (Sheaffer) (Mark) Hayes, those seniors built habits over four years.  We had lots of guys step up. And I’m looking forward to building habits (with underclassmen) in such a way that we limit our errors.”

Seven freshman and sophomore starters were a reflection of a deepening talent base that now must replace stars and leaders. Most of them are on defense, but four starting-level players graduate from the offense, too.   

WR Shane Wilkinson, who caught 62 passes the last two seasons; TE Hayes, who emerged as a dependable receiver in addition to providing perhaps the best blocking services of a tight end in the Ivy League; RB Akil Sharp, whose ankle problem basically made him the backup running back behind sophomore Will Powers, graduate in June.  So will Kevin Mill, a potential all-conference OT who missed the entire second half of the season.   

Mill’s ACL tear, which necessitated the move of Taylor Pearson ’14 from guard to tackle, and forced more underclassmen to play significant snaps, had the silver lining effect of bringing back a practically two-deep veteran offensive line for 2012.

Max Coale '14
“When I first got here we were taking defensive guys like (Kevin) DeMaio, and (Mike) Muha and trying to have just five offensive linemen with ability,” said Surace. “We have built depth.

“It’s unfortunate Kevin had that (knee) injury, that was hard because of what he put into the program and (backup sophomore guard Jack) Woodall went down, too.  But (Britt) Colcolough, (Tom) Yetter, (Joe) Tull, (Mike) Ramos, and (Ryan) Peloquin made big jumps (as underclassmen).  Next year Joe Goss will be a four-year starter and Max Coale and Spenser Huston three-year starters.

“I thought a lot of the sacks early in the year – maybe this is an old O-lineman talking -- were quarterback driven.  They held onto the ball too much, there was a process [sophomores Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly] had to go trough.  Once the timing got right, we were operating at a tempo and rhythm, even while using six receivers and two quarterbacks.

“When we were 0-2, it would have been easy for the quarterbacks to say they weren’t getting enough reps or Wilkinson to say ‘I’m not getting my catches.’ But they bought into everything. And there was a combination of creativity and utilization by our offensive staff that had to think quickly with our no-huddle.  

“I was really pleased.  If the league had allowed (its coaches) to vote for somebody named Qunner Micherly, he might have been the All-Ivy quarterback.  The play at that position in this league is really high and I don’t remember a game where I said ‘their quarterback is better than our quarterback.’  As good as (Harvard’s Colton) Chapple was against us Connor and Quinn played equal to Chapple that day, and Connor wasn’t outplayed by (Cornell’s Jeff) Mathews."

Using two quarterbacks in packages that played to their individual strengths proved to be a coach’s dream and a tribute to offensive coordinator James Perry’s touch.  But as Michelsen showed running ability and Epperly’s throwing velocity and accuracy improved, the differences between them became blurred.  So even if the system isn’t broken, Surace still is fixing to make Michelsen, Epperly and Kedric Bostic ’16 compete to never leave the field. 
Kedric Bostic '16

“I told all three of them this:  If there is separation that is clear on video and at practices and it shows that it should be one guy, it will be,” said Surace. “But if it is not clear, lets see how we can utilize the guys so we are the best team possible. 

“Even if one guy is the starter, I foresee us continuing to have packages where you have multiple quarterbacks in the game at the same time.  When Quinn and Kedric were in the (Dartmouth) game together, our success rate on those plays was extraordinarily high.  I’m not going to live and die with that, but if it will mean a 10-20 play package each week.”

That will impact somewhat the situation at running back where, despite consistent yardage and highlight plays by Will Powers ‘15, plus some promising early bursts by DiAndre Atwater ‘16, the depth was tested by injury and of course, the absence of Chuck Dibilio, who plans to re-enroll in spring semester and hopes to return to the playing field.

Dibilio, who in January suffered a blood clot and a stroke of still-undermined cause, has been taking medical tests and gathering opinions of specialists who may disagree about the level of risk in what is an almost unprecedented situation.  When Tedy Bruschi returned to the Patriots, the problem that caused his stroke, a hole in the heart, had been corrected.

“I was so glad to see Chuck at the bonfire,” said Surace. “You grab him by the arm to give him a hug and he is rock solid, just in great shape.

“But other than to tell him I will support him, I have removed myself from the process in favor of doctors who can tell us whether we are putting any of our players, not just Chuck, at risk.  I’m not going to let my selfishness to see this young man run again influence that.

“We all want to see him play.  If not, we will put him on staff or have him do something to be part of the team.”

If Dibilio returns, he will have missed a year, making an immediate resumption of his old workhorse role problematic.

“There was a known quantity that Chuck would carry 25 times a year and would get somewhere in the 150-yard range,” said Surace.  “That put more work on the coaches to specialize things, like putting Will Powers on special teams.  

“Will is a very good special teams player, so it would be hard to give him the ball more than 15 times and see him last as a strong runner through the year.  We have to be cognizant of the number of reps we are giving guys and the contributions they can make elsewhere.

Will Powers '15
“Will was going to get 10-14 carries a game and maximize every one.  He pass blocked well and underrated was how well he caught the ball and what he did after catching it.

“There was that play against Cornell a swing pass on third-and-eight where two guys had him boxed in and he got ten yards to keep a drive alive that we scored on.  He had one where he beat a guy to get a first down on the winning drive against Harvard, and then the spectacular one against Penn where he broke two tackles and dove into the end zone.  And I would have told you last year at this time I didn’t see that part of his game, another example how players can grow.

“Will does all the things you need to be reliable as a three-down back. But if we are going to continue to rely on him on special teams, you have to watch how much we extend him. And it’s a good group behind him.

“(Freshman) Di Andre (Atwater) showed really good ability. Unfortunately he sustained injuries two different times. He has to prove he is durable but Di Andre is a worker. I’m confident he will attack the off-season.

“At times in practice, Dre Nelson looked terrific.  We never got him out in the open field as much as we would have liked but for a freshman he had a terrific year so I can foresee him being in a role where he starts to make plays. Using two quarterbacks in the game at once against Dartmouth took up a little bit of his role. And when Akil came back healthy enough to contribute, I felt he deserved the opportunity.

“Going into camp (sophomore Jonathan) Esposito, was a guy who had a great off-season and we thought was going to emerge.  He had a foot injury that he battled back from and a couple of ball control issues; we gotta get him back to where he was because when he was confident he looked really good.  And I think (freshman) Zach Smith led the world in JV rushing yards; he had to have 500 in four games.”

“With (junior) Brian Mills, I will chalk up (a lost season) to me thinking that he could be an every down corner.  I think if we had put him there from every day as a freshman he would have been fine but he struggled some.  We moved him back (to running back) because we were so banged up and tried to get him up to speed but there is only one football and it was just so hard to get it to him. 

“Brian will have a role in the offense next year.  If he is healthy he can play a big role.  But if not (Mills was plagued by back issues in 2011), we are going to manage it.

“Roman Wilson added a dimension to the run game that was really positive, helped us spread the ball around. And I think that kept Powers and the quarterbacks strong.

Jonathan Esposito '15
“But we want to go from an above-average rushing team to a being really good one again and improve the number of explosive plays.  Will had a couple, DiAndre had a couple and Roman had one, but five (of 25 yards or more) isn’t enough. The year before we were in the mid-teens. I think we can get there again, especially with the linemen coming back.”

If the Tigers were going to make a significant improvement in 2012, it was presumed a defense with two NFL-potential defensive linemen and a veteran linebacking crew anchored by seniors Andrew Starks and Tim Kingsbury would have to be the team’s strength while an inexperienced offense grew.  Essentially that happened. Going into 2013, it is the defense that has the greater question marks.

“In the last 27 years, as long as (assistant head and defensive line) Coach (Steve) Verbit has been here, Mike Catapano had as good a season on defense as Princeton has had.” said Surace. “Twelve sacks, one of the nation’s leaders, 15-and-a-half tackles for losses, five pass breakups and three caused fumbles.  

“His effort was unbelievable from every practice to every game.  He, Caraun (Reid), Starks and Kingsbury are high motor guys and that’s what we have to replace.

“(Junior) Greg Sotereanos hasn’t had to do that yet because he had Cat and Caraun.  (Junior) Alex Polofsky and (sophomore) Garrit Leicht haven’t because they had Starks and Kingsbury and (junior) Phil Bhaya hasn’t because of (senior) Mandela Sheaffer.  Andrew took his intensity from being really good to obsession and what these guys brought to the locker room and the practice field became contagious.

“Even in games where we didn’t stop teams like we wanted, you still saw guys hustling to the ball. Harvard was up and down the field but we just kept playing and eventually we got a pick, made a stop, tipped the ball or got off the field.  We don’t win that game if we didn’t have the leaders we did.”

With Reid’s return uncertain, linebacker is the position definitely hardest hit by graduation.

Luke Merrill '15
“We tried to build depth and should have done more of it earlier or we would have been further along than we were,” said Surace.  “(Sophomore) Luke Merrill when he had opportunity would grade very well. (Sophomore) Jess Patton played a lot when Garrit was out and did very well.  I think (freshman) Wes Moon is going to be highly competitive at SAM; he reminds everyone of Starks, a high school safety who is now up to 228 and probably will be 235 like Starks. 

“In the preseason I was using the name Leicht with Catapano, Reid, Starks; that’s how well Garrit played in the spring. Unfortunately he was hurt and it wasn’t until late in the year where we felt comfortable giving him 25 snaps a game.  He and (junior) Alex Polofsky will be in the middle, then it’s a matter of where we want to put (sophomore) Mike) Zeuli, on the back end or is he a SAM backer?  

“If Mike outgrows safety, he will make a heckuva SAM backer because he is tough and physical and can cover.  He came off a major knee injury and never missed a beat, never missed a practice.

“Early in the JV games (freshman) Marcus Stroud stepped up then he got hurt, then (freshman) Baxter Ingram stepped up before he got hurt.  And in the pre-season (freshman) Andrew Ehrets was maybe the best in that bunch. Those guys are going to push. We finally are going to have the 2-3 depth at linebacker I have always wanted.”

If Zeuli goes to linebacker, competition is wide open for Sheaffer’s job at strong safety, next to Bhaya.

“(Sophomore) Jimmy von Thron did okay on special teams (after coming back at mid season from a concussion) but didn’t get a lot of reps on the back end, one of those unfortunate things,” said Surace. “We have Jimmy and (freshman) Max Lescano as guys I feel comfortable about.  

Taylor James '14
“We are going to have to make a decision on (freshman) Matt Arends. He did very well at corner but there is part of me that says he will be an exceptional safety.

“I’m told it will be 12-18 months before Khamal Brown will be allowed to have contact, so that would take us to 2014 on him.  (Junior) Trocon Davis struggled in training camp with his tackling and as the year went along he got stronger and stronger at it. And he was a special teams dynamo, too.

“I am super-enthusiastic on (sophomore) Jakobi Johnson and (freshman) John Hill. They are guys who allowed us to make Mills a running back again. (Junior) Taylor James probably was our best cover corner in the spring, granted (freshman Anthony) Gaffney wasn’t there. Then Taylor tore his hamstring in camp and by the time he got back it was too late. I anticipate he will have a really good offseason, and we’ll see. 

“The offseason is huge for everybody.  I thought Bhaya would compete this year, couldn’t have told you he would be as good as any safety in the league.”

Trocon Davis '14
Place kicker Nolan Bieck was more challenged in 2012 by snapping and holding misadventures than by pressure kicks.  After three field-goal misses against Georgetown, the Tigers started scoring touchdowns, leaving the freshman no opportunities to win or lose games in the fourth quarter.  That, of course will change.

“The history of freshman kickers in this league is that they make a big jump,” said Surace.  “I anticipate Nolan will make one with his kickoffs too.

“These guys never admit weakness, but freshmen typically wear down if they are playing all year and his kickoffs lost distance. It probably was a little big technical, too, there were some mishits and Nolan’s not one to mishit.  After going through the issues we had with our protection and snapping, I think he’s really confident we will get everything fixed.”

Bieck had done nothing to warrant losing the job when (sophomore) Brendan Sofen, who had suffered a leg injury during camp, became available again by Game 7.

Nolan Bieck '16
“I told Brendan I want him to do all three -- kick, kickoff and punt -- and he is the leader in the clubhouse as the punter,” said Surace. “When he injured his leg he couldn’t kick deep but he was able to work on his drops because they weren’t extending his leg. He became so much more consistent.

“There is only one Joe Cloud, a three time All-Ivy guy, a borderline NFL prospect.  So it would be hard to say we will replace a punter as good as that.  But we probably will bring in somebody to compete with Brendan and be real solid there.”           

Senior Tom Moak caught 13 passes this year and also threw for two touchdowns off bad Jason Tiemeier snaps, demonstrating the value of the holder, who will have to be replaced, perhaps with (junior) Connor Kelley or Bostic. A long snapper to replace the graduating Tiemeier is also on the recruiting list.

“We have guys who did it in high school,” said Surace. “And we’ll look at them in the spring.”

jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Surace Nominated for Robinson Award


BY JAY GREENBERG

Bob Surace '90
Bob Surace is one of 20 finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award, which honors the National Head Coach of the Year in FCS football.  He is the only Ivy League coach nominated for the honor, the winner of which will be announced on Dec. 17 at the FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation in Philadelphia.

Coming off 1-9 seasons in his first two years as coach of the Tigers, Surace ‘90 directed an improvement of four wins in 2012 to complete Princeton’s first non-losing season in six years.  Victories over Brown and Harvard ended 5-game losing streaks to both schools and a win over Yale produced Princeton’s first traditional bonfire – for wins in the same season over Harvard and Yale -- since 2006.

Playing with seven sophomore and freshmen starters and without Ivy League freshman of the year Chuck Dibilio, a running back who had suffered a stroke in January, Surace rallied the Tigers from an 0-2 start and kept the team in contention for the Ivy League title until the final week of the season.




Gaffney joins Reid, Catapano as 1st Team All-Ivy


Anthony Gaffney ’16 joined Mike Catapano ’13 and Caraun Reid ’13 as All-Ivy 1st Team selections, the league announced Tuesday.  Gaffney was the only freshman to earn a place on the first team and made it in a second spot, as a retrun specialist.

Princeton second-team selections were punter Joe Cloud '13, left tackle Spenser Huston ’15 , wide receiver Roman Wilson ’14 and linebacker Andrew Starks '13.

Safety Phil Bhaya ’14 and linebacker Tim Kingsbury '13, earned honorable mention

Jay Greenberg


Monday, November 19, 2012

Tigers Celebrate A Turnaround Year


BY JAY GREENBERG
Mike Catapano '13

Princeton celebrated its first non-losing football team since 2006 with the annual Donold B. Lourie ’22 Banquet at the Hyatt Regency Princeton Sunday night, honoring the following Tigers before 286 attendees:

Richard W. Colman Award (excellence in scholarship, athletic skill, team contribution and sportsmanship) – LB Andrew Starks.

John P. Poe/Richard Kazmaier Trophy (loyalty, devotion, courage, modesty perseverance and determination) – Caraun Reid.
Andrew Starks '13 

Ronald A. Rogerson Award (Inspirational player) – DE Mike Catapano.

Dr. Harry Roemer McPhee Award (durability and fortitude) – LB Tim Kingsbury.

Henry “Hank” Towns h82 Award (senior mentor to younger athletes, devotion to Princeton, contributions to the community at large) – S Mandela Shaeffer.

Charles W. Caldwell Memorial Trophy (most improved senior) – TE Mark Hayes and WR Tom Moak.

Donold B. Lourie Award (top freshman offensive player) – OT Britt Colcolough.

Harland “Pink" Baker ’22 Award (top freshman defensive player/players)  -- DB Matt Arends and DB Anthony Gaffney.

Class of 1952 Award (excellence on special teams)  -- P Joe Cloud

Britt Colcolough '16
The master of ceremonies was Tom Criqui ’88.  Opening remarks were made by Anthony DiTommaso ’86, Princeton Football Association President.  Award presenters were Anthony Cicia ’92, Lorne Keller ’86, Stephen Lamberton ’99, Matthew Whalen ’88, Brigham Walker ’07, Christopher Browne ’05, Abi Fadeyi ’06, Ronald Grossman ’67 and Robert Holly ’82.

Prelude to Disaster Dept:  Dartmouth broke open Saturday’s game by scoring three touchdowns within 4:13 Saturday, all the while Princeton had just three touches. But when Bob Surace looks back on the 35-21 defeat that ended the season a 5-5, there was The Play before The Plays.

“We had them third-and-ten (after three plays into the second half) and they threw that screen and we had it bottled up,” said the coach Sunday. “We had about five guys there, and [Dominick Pierre] made a move to beat us on the perimeter.

“[Phil Bhaya] tackled him short of the first down but it was close enough they went for it and the next play they hit us with the double pass.”

Matt Arends bit on that 54-yard touchdown thrown by receiver Ryan McManus to Bo Patterson, who was 20 yards from the nearest defender.

“We were in zone coverage and they ran the bubble screen, which puts (the corner) in a tough situation,” said Surace. “You see the bubble screen, you want to get in on the tackle.

“For the most part Anthony (Gaffney) and Matt have been pretty good against double moves and (other sucker plays) but they caught us on that one, which can happen to a veteran player too. It was a really well-executed, well-timed play. 

“It’s still only 14-14. But when we get the ball back they made a great play on defense forcing the fumble by Quinn (Epperly).  Then we fumble the kickoff return and before anyone was back in their seat from halftime it’s 28-14.”

Courage Dept:  Epperly, the sophomore quarterback who landed on his throwing shoulder and suffered a separation on the fourth play of the game, will never have to prove his resolve over the next two seasons.

Quinn Epperly '15
“We have a lot of guys who are fighters and Quinn is one of them,” said Surace. “He is a tough competitor.” 

After taking medication, Epperly made good throws on two drives. One ended in his touchdown run, the other died on a marginal holding call on backup tight end Alex Powell and a botched field goal snap.

“All of them were on the run though,” said Surace.  “He couldn’t drop back and throw when we had to, down 28-14.

“He couldn’t extend the field. As long as we had the lead or were within a touchdown we could run most of our stuff.  It was when they had a 2-score lead that I probably should have not had Quinn out there. When we had he and (freshman) Kedric (Bostic) out at the same time it was very effective.”

Bostic replaced Epperly following his weak underthrow for an interception in the fourth quarter and completed four of five passes on an 73-yard touchdown drive culminating in the quarterback’s 9-yard run off an excellent play fake.  But of course, leading by three touchdowns, Dartmouth was playing soft.

On Empty Dept: The two quarterbacks (Connor Michelsen suffered a separation of his throwing shoulder at Yale) were not the extent of the Tigers’ debilitation.
Jason Ray '14
Linebacker Jason Ray was injured on Dartmouth’s first play from scrimmage and didn’t return, then nose tackle Greg Sotereanos was gone before the half.

 “When I said (after the game) we ran out of gas, I meant a lot of guys had to play a lot of plays,” said Surace. “Matt Landry played well, but it was more than he played all year.

“It was a lot of plays for Ian McGeary, a lot of plays for Brad Megay.  Those guys played okay but they were put in situations they hadn’t been accustomed to for nine weeks.  Maybe we extended them a little too much.”

Ultimate Truth Dept.:  “We turned the ball over 11 times to one in the Cornell, Penn and Dartmouth games combined,” said Surace about the three conference losses as the Tigers finished 4-3. “Tough to win with those numbers.”

Fix It Dept:  TE Mark Hayes will not need surgery for his posterior cruciate ligament tear that kept him from playing in his final collegiate game. “He probably was a day or two away from being able to play in a short area as a blocker,” said Surace.

OT Kevin Mills, who never returned to complete his senior season after his comeback attempt lasted one play of the Harvard game, probably will undergo ACL surgery. “If he was ever going to play football again he would need the surgery,” said Surace.  “He probably will do it for health reasons anyway, to play with his kids some day.”

We will be posting three season wind-up pieces this week and next before beginning the semi-weekly posts that will take us up to spring practice.

 jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Disarmed Tigers Drop Their Finale, 35-21


BY JAY GREENBERG

At the end of Turnaround Year, the Tigers arrived at the corner of Winning and Non-Losing with one arm, quarterback Connor Michelsen’s, tied behind their backs. After only three plays Saturday, when Quinn Epperly suffered an apparent separated throwing shoulder, they were practically down to no arms at all. 

Thus their best remaining weapon, after the shovel pass, would have been the head butt, even ifno ifs ands or buts about ita ghastly series of mistakes evaporated a 14-0 second-quarter lead into 35-21 loss to Dartmouth on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

Nevertheless, the Tigers were doomed almost from the start. Michelsen, saying he was good enough to go, tried to lie his way into the game but the statistics told the ultimate truth: Dartmouth (6-4, 3-3) almost doubled the time of possession (39:35 to 20:25) and ran 32 more plays, which was far more than the Tigers could afford to give Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams, even if they made some second half stops to keep the game from turning into an humiliation.

“He’s a great player, making throws while getting dragged to the ground,” said Mike Catapano, who had two sacks, three-and-half tackles for losses, and multiple tips of the hat for the freshman Big Green quarterback. Williams threw for 284 yards and ran for another 82 while the Tigers, playing catch-up, had no real means to overcome their errors.

Epperly hung in there into the first series of the fourth quarter, when he threw a lollypop five yards short of Shane Wilkinson, picked off by Garrett Waggoner. 

”You saw it, he had nothing on it,” said Coach Bob Surace. “I should have made the adult decision and let Kedric (Bostic) play more.”

But the freshman struggled, too, until putting together an 8-play 73-yard drive, which he capped with a 9-yard run off an impressive play fake. Surace’s second-guess notwithstanding, there weren’t enough throws in Tiger arms yesterday to get into a fair fight with Williams, who was mercilessly harassed by Caraun Reid and Catapano and still exploited freshmen corners Matt Arends and Anthony Gaffney on two bombs in the course of throwing for three touchdowns.

“Cat chased that sucker all over the field, like Rocky (Balboa) chasing [chickens] and couldn’t get him down enough,” said Surace. “He is so quick and can throw the ball.

“Hope he goes pro or we have to play him for three more years.”

It shouldn’t take the Tigers, who finished at 5-5 after consecutive 1-9 seasons, three more years to end a losing streakit became three games Saturdayto Dartmouth.

“We made some dramatic improvement,” said Catapano. “Everybody thought we would be last in the league, we had to overcome a lot and we fought every play. That’s what I am most proud of.”           

Thus there was considerable consolation in a first non-losing season in six, but according to senior captains Catapano and Andrew Starks, none at all in Penn hanging on to beat Cornell, 35-28 to win an Ivy League title that the Tigers might have shared with a win and a Quaker loss. Winning yesterday would not have gotten Princeton any better than second.

“I didn’t even know what time that game (in Ithaca) started,” said Starks. “To be honest with you, we just wanted to win this last game.

“[Penn’s loss] doesn’t relieve any of the [disappointment] right now.”

Starks was asked if he still felt like attending Saturday night’s bonfire to celebrate the wins over Yale and Harvard.  

“We really don’t have any choice but to want to go to the bonfire,” he said. “This campus and this community have looked forward too much to this to not go out there and enjoy this thing. 

“It would be a slap in the face the support they gave us, just be wrong. This is a way to finish out the four years of the senior class. You don’t want to lose a game, especially your last one, but we have to a quick bounce back and go out there and have a good time with the guys tonight for the last time.”

The 24 seniors, who lost 24 of their first 30 games, all-but one member of the coaching staff that recruited them, and three good players to life-threatening conditions in their four years at Princeton, want to be remembered as the class that turned the program back around. That’s will be up to the three underclasseses of course. But for a while it had looked like these Tigers might do even better than a move to middle, actually go from worst to first.

Four straight wins in midseason and Harvard’s second loss last week lost had built a case that Princeton, which had won a cliffhanger over the Crimson and dropped two toughies to Cornell and Penn to come into the final game at 4-2, were as good as anybody in the league. But not with two crippled quarterbacks.

“We lose our right handed quarterback the game before and then we lose our left-handed quarterback the third play of the game, just couldn’t overcome those things,” said Surace. “We needed to have a bigger lead at halftime.”

Epperly, who took a painkiller after getting hit on a run in the initial series, completed two roll-and-throws to wide open Shane Wilkinson and Tom Moak and then ran the ball in himself from the four to stake Princeton to a 7-0 lead. Seth DeValve’s punt block, bounced perfectly up into the hands of freshman John Hill, who ran it in from 23 yards to make it 14-0. But the joy didn’t even last through the extra point.

An overly enthusiastic Starks ran onto the field to celebrate, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was tacked on to the kickoff, and even getting called for an illegal block call didn’t keep Dartmouth from decent field position. A tipped pass thrown to a short guy landed in the hands of the long guy, Victor Williams, which with the aid of a roughing the passer penalty on Greg Sotereanos, set up a 7-yard touchdown pass to Justin Foley. The lead was cut in half.

Epperly, with more guts than velocity, found Wilkinson for 22 yards on a fourth-and-two and then ran the ball to the two on second down. But Alex Powell, in the game at tight end because senior starter Mark Hayes would miss his final game with a torn knee ligament suffered at practice, got called for a hold.

“I guess nobody holds our two NFL D-linemen on running plays but we get called,” said Surace sarcastically. On third-and-goal at the 17, Epperly nevertheless almost made it, only to get bent back at the two and have to come off the field again. The Tigers decided to settle for three and didn’t even get that when Jason Tiemeier again mis-snapped, this one high over the head of holder Tom Moak.

“He had done such a good job for three years, continues to be so good in practice, it’s shocking when that happens,” said Surace. “Even if we wanted to make a change our backup, Sotereanos, had an elbow injury and was out of the game.’

Catapano sacked Williams to foil a Dartmouth drive right before the half, but 14-7 did not feel nearly as good as 21-7 or even 17-7 would have. The Tigers unraveled stunningly in the third quarter.
             
On the first possession, Dominick Pierre made two yards on fourth down at the Dartmouth 46. And just one play later, Williams threw a lateral pass to Ryan McManus, Arends abandoned deep responsibilities and Bo Peterson was 20 yards behind any Tiger for a 54-yard touchdown that with the conversion tied the game.

From there Princeton had just three touches before Dartmouth was up 28-14. Epperly fumbled to set up a 53-yard touchdown drive, Will Powers coughed up the ensuing kickoff, and Dartmouth converted again from just 25 yards out.

“Will Powers didn’t fumble because we didn’t have a quarterback,” said Surace. “The bad snap has nothing to do with Quinn playing hurt.

“Nobody really cares that Mark Hayes wasn’t playing but the coaches. We have to make plays.”

The Tigers made many this year to improve by four wins, plenty to promise that the worst is over, but not enough to get a cut of the title or have a winning season. Ultimately, however, the losses against Penn and Cornell were more haunting than this one. Catapano said that bonfire ignited at Cannon Green was symbolic of more than just wins this season over Harvard and Yale, but the re-lighting of the program.

“It’s great to win historic games,” he said. “Obviously today stinks but we’ll light it up and use it as a burning drive for these guys for next year.”

TIGER TAILS

RT Kevin Mill, who never returned after Princeton’s first play of the Harvard game, will need knee surgery. “I spent 38 seconds this week talking about the bonfire,” said Surace. “We were focused on Dartmouth and our guys played very hard. I told them I was proud of them.”


 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

These Seniors Stayed the (Obstacle) Course


BY JAY GREENBERG

Few college athletes have known the trouble that Princeton’s football class of 2013 has seen:  Three life-threatening illnesses of teammates, devastating injuries to key players, the unexpected firing of the coaching staff that had recruited them and 24 losses in their first 30 games.

Long seasons. Long vigils for Jordan Culbreath, Chuck Dibilio and Khamal Brown. More gratifying for these seniors than making it all the way to Saturday’s finish is their feeling that they are anything but anxious for it to end.
Shane Wilkinson '13

“Above everything else,” said Shane Wilkinson. “I am just proud to be a part of this class, to have gone through what I went through with these guys.

“I hope we can finish it right. But regardless of what happens Saturday, we have laid a foundation for the future.”

For these survivors, that is a reward greater than the prospect of a first winning season in six; better than Saturday night’s bonfire after a game against Dartmouth to celebrate wins over Harvard and Yale; perhaps even better than the possible 3-way tie for the Ivy League championship, should Princeton and Harvard win and Penn lose at Cornell.  

Princeton’s seniors figure they already have won more than just one game’s difference between 6-4 and 5-5, most of them saying their deepest motivation for their final game is simply in beating a Dartmouth team that has defeated them in the last two meetings. The Tigers ended five-game losing streaks to Brown and Harvard this year and this would be one more notch in their belts.

“To me the difference between 6-4 and 5-5 is that it will mean a win over an Ivy League school,” said Joe Cloud.
Joe Cloud '13

Win or lose, a bonfire celebrating two other wins this season will proceed three hours after the game on Cannon Green regardless, which is fine by Coach Bob Surace. 

“I’m happy its Saturday instead of Friday, I don’t want it to be a distraction,” Surace said.  “After the season you can celebrate wins over Harvard and Yale whether it’s on Saturday, Monday or Tuesday.

“Last week of the season there are so many distractions.  The (Sunday night team) banquet. Senior Day. Bonfires.  Let’s focus on Dartmouth.”

But the coach already is celebrating one thing, and not prematurely:  His relationship with the seniors he inherited as sophomores.

“Once you join a family, it’s your family,” said Surace. “These guys aren’t [Roger Hughes’s] guys,  they are our guys. 

“Whether they wanted me or I wanted them it didn’t matter, they had to get better and I had to get better. 

“After two [1-9] seasons prior to this year, as a coach you wonder about accountability. Were they going to be all in?  This group has never missed a beat.  They get the credit now because they did the work.

“I told the team many times they have to take ownership, too. This is our team, not my team. I’m a good listener to those guys, it if is something that makes sense. At their suggestion, we don’t meet any more on Wednesday mornings so they can have more rest. 

Matt Landry '13
“These seniors, All Ivy guys and everybody, have come out and practiced hard every day and enjoyed doing it. That’s essential. The accountability for this group has been tremendous thanks in part to the example the seniors have set and I am really happy for them.  I am going to miss coaching all these seniors.”

It is clear Hughes recruited good players, just not enough of them. The depth from Surace’s sophomore and freshman classes has enabled this turnaround but these seniors led it. Bright young persons of many dimensions attend Princeton. These guys weren’t going to lose scholarships by finding something else on campus to do. But they took ownership of seeing the football program turn.

“Anytime the carpet is ripped out from under your feet (by the coaching change) it is going to be an adjustment,” said captain Andrew Starks.  “There were tough times along the way but [Princeton] has a way of assuring you that you made the right decision.

“I think the guys did a tremendous job. Through the adversity we have  -- illness, injuries, a lot of losses we did a tremendous job of handling it and staying focused.
           
Clearly, they bought in.

“It was clear the first time we met with Coach Surace that the things he thought had to be addressed were the same things I thought had to be addressed,” said Matt Landry.  “It’s not easy to be a football player here under any circumstances and we dealt with a lot of setbacks, probably more than most seniors will go through over four years.

“I knew we were on the right track. And I’m grateful it started to happen while I’m still here.”

TIGER TALES

With Connor Michelsen’s throwing arm in a sling through the Tuesday and Wednesday practices and the starting quarterback’s availability being a Friday decision at best, Surace was asked if it might dictate more of a running game plan with Quinn Epperly. “Earlier in the year maybe,” said the coach. “But Quinn’s completion percentage is essentially the same as Connor’s. He has improved so much as a passer.”  . . Di Andre Atwater (ankle) is moving better but has missed too much time to likely see any action Saturday, although he probably will dress.  

Kevin Mill '13
Saddest practice sight this week was Kevin Mill, whose knee rehab lasted just one play of the Harvard game, standing on the sidelines at practice,  the fine right OT’s hopes of playing in his last college game gone.. “I’ve known about the possibility for a few weeks now, but I think it will really hit on Saturday,” Mill said.  “It’s tough, but it is what it is. 

 “Obviously, the teams success make it a little easier. Coach (Eddy) Morrissey talks about getting paid for the work we put in and this has been awesome.  And I’m getting a Princeton degree. Never thought that would happen.”
           
Princetontigersfootball.com will not go into hibernation following the final game.  Within the next two weeks we will be posting season follow-ups including 1) A sitdown with Bob Surace reflecting back on the season and looking forward to 2013; 2) The coach’s tribute to each individual senior  3) Our look back at the highlights and lowlights and honorees for the 2012 season.

Every other week from December until the beginning of spring practice, we will be posting features on alumni, historical lookbacks to great Princeton seasons and performers and, of course, any off-season news or developments.  Your input remains welcome at jaygreenbergsports@gmail.com.