The Princeton Tigers (7–1, 4–1 Ivy) took their first hit of the season last Friday, losing against Dartmouth 31–7. With two games remaining on the schedule and an Ivy League title in the balance, they take on Yale (5–3, 4–1 Ivy) at home this Saturday.
The last loss puts the Tigers on par with both Dartmouth and Yale, all tied at 4–1 within the Ivy League. If they win the next two games, they would only need one Dartmouth loss to claim the conference championship. If both teams win out, they will share the Ivy League title.
The Dartmouth loss ended a 7–0 win streak for the Tigers. When asked about the game, Head Coach Bob Surace ’90 complimented the competing team.
“At the end of the day, our competitors fought hard and gave a great effort and we didn’t,” he said. “We weren’t quite as detailed as we needed to be and it showed. You know, the disappointing part was not being able to execute things we practiced as well as we should have. And against a team like that, even if you’re just a tiny bit off, they expose you. And that’s what happened in that game.”
No mistake goes unaddressed, however.
“There’s constant growth and learning throughout the season,” Surace said. “Educationally, after every game, we’ll go through our errors and fix what we need to correct. We do that in the early afternoon and then you put it to rest, and you move forward to the next week. And it’s no different after you beat Harvard or Cornell or lose to Dartmouth.”
The game against Dartmouth also saw senior running back Collin Eaddy, who led the Tigers coming into the game with 474 rushing yards, injure his ankle. Surace told the ‘Prince’ that Eaddy spent the night in Dartmouth Medical Center and underwent a successful surgery the next day. Eaddy is now recovering on campus.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the Tigers want to avoid repeating history. In 2019, Princeton had also gone unbeaten through their first seven games until Dartmouth snuffed them 27–10. This was followed shortly by a brutal 51–14 loss against Yale.
Surace won’t let that record intimidate him.
“Every week is a new week,” he said. “There’s different quarterbacks, different wide receivers, different offensive and defensive linemen. So while the history is there, nothing other than certain schematic things are really similar between the two.”
Offensively, the Tigers average about 33 points per game, while their defense has only allowed an average of 17.5. But Yale presents unique challenges. With an average of 31 points per game, and allowing only about 22, the Bulldogs have dominated all of their Ivy competitors except for Dartmouth. Yale won the championship title in 2017 and shared it with Dartmouth in 2019. They’ve won the title a grand total of 16 times, beating Princeton out by 4.
“Our league is a very strong league. Yale is a terrific opponent,” Surace said. “They’re great competitors. They’re well-coached. They’re very talented. They play hard and I think there’s a great deal of respect on both sides because of the challenges that arise when you play a team that’s that good.”
“This is the strongest the league’s been,” he added. “That’s why Columbia beat Dartmouth 19–0. That’s why we beat Columbia 24–7. That’s why Dartmouth beat us 31–7. If we don’t execute in those specific situations — short yardage, goal line, redzone, third downs, it’s going to be a tough challenge.”
The Saturday game is likely to be one of the biggest of the season. With students back from break, attendance is likely to soar.
“Support from our students and alumni, and community gives me chills not just as a football coach, but as an alum,” he said. “I really felt like the Harvard game was the first big event on campus that way since COVID hit and it was so great to see everybody showing their school spirit and enthusiasm and love for Princeton.”
With only two games left this season, the question of the title gets closer and yet no clearer. The last time Princeton won the Ivy League Championship was in 2018.
When asked if he was feeling the pressure, Surace said he was focused on the controllable.
“You know, when I got the job, I asked a teammate of mine who was a high-level professional sports executive if he had any words of wisdom. He gave me three. Control the controllables. Control what you can control” he said. “All we can control is having great preparation and a great practice tomorrow. And if we just stick to controlling what we control, everything else takes care of itself.”
“And if we just don’t allow distractions, or lack of focus, or any of those things seep into the game,” he added, “I think we’ll come into the game with a lot of energy.”
Sreesha Ghosh is an Associate Sports Editor at the ‘Prince’. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sreeshaghosh.