Undefeated after seven games, Princeton will look to extend their win streak in a matchup against Dartmouth (6–1) on Friday, Nov. 5.
This is the third consecutive playing year that the Tigers have notched a seven-game win streak to start the season. By securing a 34–16 victory against Cornell University (1–6) last week, Princeton has gone 7–0 in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1903 and is ranked 15th in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Their success thus far has been the result of solid production all around: they are ranked 9th in the FCS in both offense and defense, ahead of the rest of the Ivy League.
“The biggest thing is our effort,” said Head Coach Bob Surace ’90. “Our effort has been terrific. From the first snap at Lehigh, all the way through the last snap Friday night at Cornell, we’ve played with effort. It’s been really fun to see.”
Remaining consistent over long stretches of games has not been easy. Doing so after missing out on an entire football season adds an entirely new layer of difficulty. One of the biggest keys for keeping his team focused has been discipline, explained Surace.
“We’re doing all of the little things — not committing a lot of penalties, lining up right — that I know after not playing last year, everybody was worried about,” Surace noted. “But our guys have done such a great job on their own during their time off to really get the details down.”
The details, indeed, have been at the forefront of the Tigers’ focus. Their red zone offense has produced no interceptions nor fumbles up to this point, while boasting 19 total touchdowns in seven games — ranking second in the Ivy League. Their aggressive defensive unit has also been top-tier. Princeton’s defense has sacked the opposing offense 25 times following the win against Cornell University, also in second place compared to the rest of the conference.
Being league leaders in a variety of categories, Surace assures, has added no external pressure.
“We say this every week: compete against yourself,” he said. “You worry about the process and the scoreboard takes care of itself. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to practice great, to hold each other accountable, to do those things, and then we get to play a really complete game in the league.”
Aside from the game plans and scouting reports, one element that will be crucial to Princeton’s success moving forward is their recovery.
“I break with the team everyday after practice, and we talk about recovery. We talk about hydration, we talk about fueling your body properly food-wise, nutritionally, we talk about sleep,” Surace explained.
Surace noted the importance of recovery both physically and mentally.
“The mental health thing is something we talk about. It’s much different from when I played here in the 1980s. If I see a guy that’s a little bit down, if we see a guy that might look like he’s struggling, you just have conversations,” he said.
“One of the things I think Princeton can really be great at, if the students utilize the resources, is getting to the resources. And there’s so many of them. I make sure they know that they’re fully supported in that way,” he added. “This isn’t 1988 where you were looked upon as soft if you went to see somebody for help. We don’t lift without a strength coach. We don’t practice without position coaches. If you need help academically, or any other way, utilize the resources.”
Proper recovery will be essential as the Tigers look forward toward Friday’s matchup against Dartmouth. Despite losing to Columbia earlier this season, the Big Green is rolling right now. Coming off of a big 20–17 win against Harvard last Friday, they have taken second place in the Ivy League standings, right behind the Tigers.
“Almost every year for the past five, six years — there’s always a lot at stake against Dartmouth,” Surace said. “We have such tremendous respect for them. They have a tremendous program and coaching staff. It really challenges us to be our best.”
In 2018, Dartmouth settled for second place behind Princeton in the Ivy League standings. In 2019, Dartmouth claimed first place.
Surace’s key to the game for the Tigers?
“We’re just going to have to play our best.”
Matt Drapkin is a contributor to the ‘Prince’ sports section. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.