PRINCETON: PU football hits road again

Tigers looking for win to rebound

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   Following a 34-0 loss at Brown on Saturday, things get no easier for the Princeton University football team this weekend.
   The Tigers will travel to Harvard 1 p.m. Saturday to take on a Crimson team that has won four straight games since an Opening Day loss. Princeton hasn’t won in Cambridge, Mass., since 2005 and has lost its last two games, both on the road, since their lone win of the season.
   ”You do a lot of soul searching, but the key is to come back, fight back, battle back,” said PU head coach Bob Surace, whose team is 1-1 in the Ivy League. “What was encouraging was how we handled Sunday. The attitude wasn’t rah-rah or upbeat. The group was frustrated, angry. I told them I’m channeling my anger into preparing for Harvard.”
   While Princeton still controls its own destiny in the Ivy race, the loss to Brown was discouraging for the way in which the Tigers were quickly put in a hole and then never fought out of it. Surace was happy with Tuesday’s practice and looking for the Tigers to make it three straight good days of practice, something that wasn’t there before the Brown game.
   ”You have to fix your own house,” Surace said. “We made some error at every level, starting with me. You have to come out, I told the guys, it’s kind of like the first day of training camp. It’s the second half of the season.
   ”You have to have a short memory, especially when you lose a game by the score it was last week. It was nice to see our guys respond in such a positive way. It wasn’t cheerful, there wasn’t cheerleading on the sideline. It was pads hitting, it was guys running to the football, it was guys blocking and executing plays. That’s what we need to do. Harvard’s obviously terrific. They’ve played as consistently well as any body in the league, if not better than everybody in the league.”
   The Tigers are trying to build on the positives that they have seen through the halfway point, while shoring up some of the points holding back progress.
   ”There are certain things we’re doing well to really well,” Surace said. “First and second down plays have been really good. I don’t get the feeling that I did last year where teams just ran the ball on us.
   ”I think our special teams play has been at a really high level. The situational football has got to get better. It sounds like a broken record for a long time, but our red zone, our third down, our turnovers, in particular. The third downs have been up and down, but the red zone and turnovers have to get reversed, it’s the second half.”
   Princeton has five games left this season, all against Ivy foes. They will face a hungry Harvard team that is looking to remain unbeaten in the Ivy League. The Crimson rotate waves of defensive linemen and their secondary has been making plays as well. Their offense is one of the most balanced in Football Championship Subdivision.
   ”If we could get this game,” said PU senior linebacker Steve Cody, “it would be huge for momentum and team morale and give us some confidence going into the heart of our Ivy League schedule.”
   Cody hasn’t been happy with his play in recent games. He’s a tri-captain along with defensive lineman Mike Catapano and quarterback Tommy Wornham. All are trying to do more to help the Tigers get back on track.
   ”I would like to make some more plays to get us going,” Cody said. “I think top to bottom, me, Tommy and Cat,’ most coaches would tell you we’ve done a decent job as far as being vocal leaders and getting guys ready to go. But there comes a point where you need to lead by example. I haven’t made as many plays this year as I’d like to. I think if I could do that, that’d be a good way to get us going.”
   Princeton’s defense should be helped by the return of leading tackler, Andrew Starks, who was injured in the loss at Hampton and missed the loss to Brown.
   ”We’re going to have to play real well on defense,” Surace said. “We have to continue to play physical. It’s a really good group.”
   Wornham is focusing on bouncing back from an 11-for-27 performance for just 75 yards. His third-down pass was returned for a touchdown on the Tigers’ first possession at Brown, and the deficit only grew from there.
   ”You just have to keep working hard,” Wornham said, “and be positive about it and know things are going to turn around if we keep doing everything right.”
   To help Wornham, Princeton’s offensive line will have to keep Harvard away from him. If the line gives the senior signal caller time to throw, he’s confident he can connect with the Tiger receivers.
   ”Their guys up front are doing a terrific job of getting to the quarterback,” Surace said. “We’re going to have to do a real good job with our pass protection. On the back end, they do a good job of making plays. From the front to the back end, it’s a really solid defense.”
   The Tigers are hoping that their defense can do the same Saturday to slow down Colton Chapple, who has emerged as Harvard’s starting quarterback. It won’t be easy, but Princeton wants to get back to winning this weekend.