Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Instant Redemption? Scouting Princeton

Joe Rhattigan

Every Columbia fan wants more wins, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a fan who wouldn't trade these opening two losses to St. Francis and Georgetown for a win this Saturday at home against Princeton.

That's just the way it goes in a non-playoff participating league like the Ivies, where in-league games actually decide who wins championships. The Ivy games also all represent more than century-old rivalries that transcend athletics. 

As for this year, the Lions are searching for that breakout win that can rally the fans and make them some new ones. 

Here's what they'll be up against this weekend:


We've come to think of Princeton as a passing team over the last few years, but so far this year the Tigers have been featuring a two-headed running monster attack. RB's Joe Rhattigan and Charlie Volker have combined for an average of 150 yards per game. They also both sport yards per carry averages of more than five yards. 

By contrast, the passing attack has been spotty. Primary QB Chad Kanoff has no TD passes and four INT's. QB/WR John Lovett has completed eight of 12 passes so far, but as a receiver he hasn't made the biggest impact with just seven catches and none for more than 10 yards. Dangerous receiver Isaiah Barnes hasn't made a big impact yet. 

This kind of imbalance is odd for a team that's scoring so many points overall, (31.5 per game). But one reason is Princeton has been just fantastic on 3rd down, converting them at a stunning 52% clip. Of course, when your running game is so good that you rarely face 3rd and long, that can happen. 

And that's been the key to the Tigers so far this season. They run a lot of plays and are staying competitive with a running attack and scoring TD's every time they get into the red zone. 


Princeton's opponents have been passing as well as the Tigers have been running. Lehigh and Lafayette have combined for a stunning 11.2 yards per pass attempt against a Princeton secondary that's trying to adjust to losing some All Ivy great players like Anthony Gaffney. The Tigers still have senior DB Dorian Williams, who is excellent, but he's been forced to shoulder way too much of a load on his own. With Columbia's passing game showing so much weakness so far, the question is whether this game will provide healing opportunities for Princeton's passing defense or the best evidence yet that it's not ready for prime time.

The run defense has been good, and not just because Tiger opponents have been passing so much. Lehigh and Lafayette still ran the ball plenty and collectively averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. The senior trio of LB's Brik Olson, Rohan Hylton, and Luke Catarius are getting the job done. Sophomore LB Mike Wagner is getting in some licks too. 

The defensive line is getting two sacks a game and finally seeing some results from the super-hyped Kurt Holuba. 

Special Teams

The big potential star here is freshman punt returner Tiger Bech. Punter Tyler Roth has been excellent. Placekicker Tavish Rice has been perfect on all nine of his PAT's, but he hasn't attempted even one field goal yet. 


I thought Princeton had a chance to make a run for the Ivy title this year, but it's first two games seem to put those thoughts in doubt. On the other hand, the Tigers under current Head Coach Bob Surace have often played very different football in weeks one and two than they do the rest of the year. The Columbia game is usually the contest where you learn the most about where Princeton is going. So pay close attention. 

1 comment:

oldlion said...

If we come out with swagger and play that way from the beginning instead of sporting them a few scores we will win. This does not look like an unbeatable team. Smallish Princeton OL stands out to me. What we need to see on offense is decent QB play and no self induced errors. On defense we need to seal the left side of our DL, which has been vulnerable to outside runs and screens.