Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 38
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
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AIR SUPPLY: Princeton University junior quarterback Tommy Wornham shows his passing form at the program’s recent media day. Last Saturday in Princeton’s season-opener at Lehigh, Wornham produced an aerial display, hitting on 32-of-51 passes for 392 yards and a touchdown. Wornham’s heroics, though, weren’t enough as Princeton fell 35-22 in the debut of new head coach Bob Surace. The Tigers will look to get into the win column this Saturday evening when they host Lafayette (0-2).

PU Football Shows Firepower in Surace’s Debut But Comes Up Short in 35-22 Defeat at Lehigh

Bill Alden

Bob Surace was a bundle of nerves last Saturday in making his debut as the head coach of the Princeton University football team.

“You are excited and anxious,” said Surace, reflecting on what was going through his mind in the moments before the contest at Lehigh. “You want to find out how your guys are going to respond when things get moving at game speed.”

Over the course of the afternoon Surace saw his guys do a lot of good things as they battled the Mountain Hawks before a crowd of 6,344 at Goodman Stadium.

The Tigers piled up 528 yards of total offense with junior quarterback Tommy Wornham producing the most prolific effort of his Tiger career, hitting on 32-of-51 passes for 392 yards. Star receiver Trey Peacock made eight catches for career-best 196 yards while Andrew Kerr had a career-high 11 catches for 125 yards.

The made-for-Hollywood tale of senior running back and tri-captain Jordan Culbreath took another positive turn as he rushed for 56 yards on nine carries in his first game since being sidelined early last year due to aplastic anemia.

Junior placekicker Patrick Jacob booted five field goals, the most for Princeton since Derek Javarone had five in a win over Columbia in 2005. Jacob was later named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Tiger limited Lehigh to 2.9 yards a rushing attempts, made two sacks, and had an interception.

But in the end, Surace didn’t like what he saw on the scoreboard as Lehigh pulled out a 35-22 victory to improve to 2-1.

“I told them to take pride in their effort,” said Surace, a 1990 Princeton alum and All-Ivy League center for the Tigers who returned to his alma mater after a nine-year stint as an assistant coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. “But it is a results business. It is not a game of yards, it is a game of points.”

Surace acknowledged that his team’s sluggish start put it behind the eight-ball against a Lehigh team that came into Saturday with two games under its belt.

“It took us eight minutes to adjust to the speed of the game,” said Surace, whose team fell behind 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

“We wanted to be aggressive but as much as you prepare, you can’t duplicate game speed. Once we got going, it was an up and down game.”

With Princeton trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, Wornham got the Tigers going as he hit Peacock on an 80-yard scoring strike.

Princeton, though, quickly relinquished its 10-7 lead as the Mountain Hawks went on a 58-yard march that culminated with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Sean Farrell.

The Tigers regained some momentum right before intermission as Jacob hit a 24-yard field goal as time expired in the half to narrow the Lehigh lead to 14-13.

“At the half, we told them this isn’t the same Lehigh team as last year,” recalled Surace. “They have just about everybody back and they are one level above what they were last year. We knew it was going to be a dogfight.”

The teams battled on even terms in the third quarter, each kicking two field goals to make it 20-19 Lehigh entering the last 15 minutes of regulation.

In the fourth quarter, Lehigh used some trickery to seize momentum, scoring on a halfback option pass to build its lead to 27-19. The Tigers responded with Jacob’s fifth field goal of the day.

The Mountain Hawks tacked on another touchdown and had a late interception to put the game away.

“We have to find a way to finish,” said Surace. “We moved the ball and got field goals but they got touchdowns. That was the difference in the game.”

Unfortunately for Princeton, its difference-maker on defense, senior linebacker and tri-captain Steve Cody, saw his season come to a rough finish as he broke his leg in the fourth quarter and later had season-ending surgery.

“Steve is the leader of the defense; he is a guy you want in the foxhole next to you,” said Surace, reflecting on Cody’s misfortune.

“Any time a guy goes down with an injury, it is tough. He had put so much of himself into being the next in a great line of Princeton linebackers.”

The Tigers put a lot collectively into the opener. “You want to be exhausted at the end of the game,” said Surace. “The players played to exhaustion and the coaches coached to exhaustion.”

Surace will be looking for the Tigers to keep pushing as they host Lafayette (0-2) on September 25.

“You need to reflect and then move on,” said Surace. “I learned in the NFL that you need to correct mistakes and go on to the next game. The players will be looking for us to provide answers. In all the teams I have been around, you see the most improvement from week one to week two.”

The Tigers will need improvement in several areas in order to beat the Leopards.

“We need to take another step,” asserted Surace. “Lafayette is 0-2 but their first game was like ours where they outgained Georgetown but lost. Last Saturday, they were ahead of Penn for 56 minutes. We need to cut down on penalties and turnovers and be better in the red zone.”

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