"The last thing that’s going to happen is we’re going to start winning like we should."
(YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN, COACH! BUT PLEASE... DON'T RUSH WINNING ON OUR ACCOUNT!)
-Pete Mangurian, September 2014
After two games, I’m still having trouble deciding whether
Princeton has fallen a bit from last year’s championship season.
The big question coming into this season was whether the
Tiger defense would weaken without the super DT Caraun Reid, who graduated in
May. So far, that’s still a big question as Princeton gave up 39 big points to
San Diego and 17 to a Davidson team that not many people thought would get more
than one score against PU. But a closer look yields some better news that I’ll
get to in a moment.
The offense is not as crisp as many thought it would be.
Yes, the Tigers are scoring lots of points but QB Quinn Epperly’s passing
numbers are down from last year’s stratospheric levels. But again, a closer
look quiets those fears just a bit.
And another reason to quiet the fears is the fact that under
Head Coach Bob Surace, the Tigers have typically not played so well in weeks
one and two. Since 2001, the Columbia game has been the launching pad for this
team and it sure looks like that’s where we’re headed again this year.
The biggest reason not to panic about Epperly’s passing
numbers so far is because they were just too good last year to expect him to
maintain that level. The second biggest reason for Tigertown not to freak out
is because Epperly is still running the ball extremely well and it was his
running that really shredded Davidson last Saturday.
RB DiAndre Atwater has been sort of kept under wraps so far
this year, but when he has run he’s been very good. Atwater has 121 yards
rushing on just 16 carries.
Epperly is spreading his passes around more so far this
season than he did in 2013, but senior WR Connor Kelley is the #1 target in the
absence of the graduated Roman Wilson. Look for sophomore TE Scott Carpenter to
get more and more involved in the passing game as he matures.
The offensive line didn’t have its leader, senior LT Spenser
Huston, in the game last week but he’s expected to start Saturday. Center Joe
Tull has also been out so far this year, but could start Saturday. Considering
how much Epperly runs, this line has to be judged differently than others but
it seems to be doing its job well enough this season.
The D is working in some new names right now, but the stats
and points allowed don’t tell the whole story.
First off, LB Mike Zeuli is taking the leadership role he
was handed and doing the job. Zeuli already has three sacks, and leads the team
Junior DB Anthony Gaffney, possibly the best athlete in Ivy
football and the other expected team leader, is also doing his job with nine
total tackles, a tackle for a loss, and two pass breakups.
The new names emerging to fill the void include sophomore LB
Rohan Hylton, who was named Ivy Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after an
11-tackle performance vs. Davidson.
And then there’s freshman DE Kurt Holuba. Holuba was named
one of the top incoming freshmen in FCS football over the summer and he’s been
a starter since week one.
So far, this defense has allowed more points than expected.
But it’s been great against the rush; allowing just 2.0 yards per carry on 87
The pass defense has been weaker than expected; allowing 7.6
yards per attempt, 5 TD passes and so far no INT’s.
Junior Kicker Nolan Bieck is having a very solid season so
far. He’s 3-3 on FG’s, including a 40-yarder last week.
Sophomore Punter Tyler Roth is very solid.
Showing their depth, Princeton took Gaffney off of kick
return duty and gave the job to junior RB Dre Nelson. All he’s done is average
over 31 yards per return and he had a game-opening 89-yard KO return for a TD
last week. Even if you strip out that 89 yard return, Nelson is still averaging
a very good 23+ yards per return.
Punt returning junior Max Lescano can be dangerous.
Princeton’s kickoff coverage teams have been excellent, but
the Tigers did allow one big punt return in the two returnable punts they’ve
had so far.
There’s a reason why Princeton is a 28 ½ point favorite, and
it’s not just because Columbia hasn’t looked decent in over a year.
The Tigers are better than they’ve looked so far in 2014,
and I suspect they’re dying to prove it this weekend.
The "here we go again" mentality from those who say Columbia can never do anything right and it doesn't matter whether we fire Pete Mangurian are all wrong.
Here are three big reasons why:
1) The Columbia administration has NEVER hired the fans' choice.
Did anyone here clamor for Ray Tellier, Bob Shoop, Norries Wilson or Pete Mangurian? Of course not.
It's an outrage that the administration and its blind supporters continue to ignore our specific demands, and then act like they gave us what we wanted. Yes, we wanted Wilson out, but NO ONE asked for Mangurian. I feel guilty for being as nice as I was at the time of his hiring and calling him a "good hire," but I was trying to be somewhat welcoming. Nevertheless, I certainly never lobbied for him or anyone like him for the job. Neither did anyone else.
The only time where the administration and the fans were somewhat in sync was when Shoop was fired and Chuck Priore was offered the job as our first choice to replace him in 2005. Most fans and alums in the know that I spoke too really wanted Priore too. But Priore turned us down.
2) The administration is always secretive, defensive and dismissive of the real fans
This is not just about coaching search committees. This is about an athletic department that never gets it right because it never works with the real alums and students who give a damn about winning. The same coterie of drinking buddies has made or rubber stamped the key decisions for CU sports for 40+ years. Enough is enough.
3) The most woeful sports franchises and programs CAN change
Northwestern, the Red Sox, the Arizona Cardinals. All three were perpetual losers. All three, we were told, had unbeatable structural problems that could not be solved with a few good hires here and there.
Turned out all it took at Northwestern was a new A.D, All it took in Boston was a new GM. And all it took for the football Cardinals was the owner's sons to take over. Suddenly, those impossible, unfixable problems were solved and fixed.
Here's what needs to happen now:
-Give the real fans/concerned alumni a seat on both search committees.
-Keep the search process as public and open as reasonably possible. We have to have accountability this time.
-Do not allow anyone who had a major hand in the Mangurian or Dianne Murphy hires to participate. Give someone else, a new generation, a chance.
The Crimson may have gotten away with one in Providence in
that squeaker win over Brown. But remember what I wrote in my Ivy season
preview: Tim Murphy’s teams have very rarely won big Ivy road games. This may
be a relatively down year for the Bears, but it’s still a big win for Harvard.
This bodes well for the Crimson’s chances at Dartmouth and Princeton.
Why isn’t Yale #1 after that stunning win over Army? Two
reasons. First, the Elis only confirmed what a lot of us have been saying for
many years about how the quality of Ivy football is indeed better than the
past. This is not the worst Army team we’ve seen over the last 20 years, but it’s
still one of the weaker FBS teams out there. I’ve believed for years that a
good Ivy team could play a lower tier FBS team well. The second reason I’m not
ranking Yale first is the Eli defense is still really suspect. Against
Princeton or Harvard they could be in real trouble. We’ll know more about this
team a little further down the road.
Beating up on Davidson tells us really nothing about
Princeton right now, and it’s hard to believe we’ll learn much more about the
Tigers after this weekend’s game at Columbia. But Princeton still has all the
horses to win it all.
Losing to UNH is no embarrassment, especially in the road. But
there do seem to be some defensive issues for the Big Green. Needless to say,
beating Penn this Saturday is an absolute must.
The Bears seems to have come back to life despite the loss
to Harvard. Brown now has a fighting chance of surprising some people this
Losing to Villanova anywhere this year is nothing to be
embarrassed about. But Penn looks a little lost right now. It will take a very
good showing in Hanover for the Quakers to shake off this bad start. Perhaps Al
Bagnoli should have retired after winning the title in 2012.
The Big Red gave Bucknell a better fight on defense than I
expected. Now they have a chance to surprise Yale just as the Elis are busy
reading their press clippings.
It’s the 3rd season after Columbia fired their
previous coach and no one can reasonably say the Lions aren’t clearly worse in
every way than they were in 2011.