Star Linebacker Tyler Leads Defensive Charge As Princeton Football Stifles Lafayette 28-3
By Bill Alden
Jeremiah Tyler emerged as a defensive force last fall in his sophomore season for the Princeton University football team.
Linebacker Tyler earned second-team All-Ivy League honors, recording 29 tackles, including five for losses, and two interceptions in helping Princeton go 10-0.
But while the 6’2, 225-pound Tyler’s athleticism and knack for making the big play marks him as a standout, he is more focused on helping the squad than individual glory.
“I am trying to lead my guys to a victory each and every week and get better every practice because that is what really matters,” said Tyler, a native of Detroit, Mich. “It is not about my role; it is about all of us playing together because we are a team. There is no me.”
Last Friday evening, Tyler and the Tiger defense played very well, stifling visiting Lafayette in a 28-3 win before 4,521 at Princeton Stadium that improved Princeton to 4-0 and extended its winning streak to 14.
“We had a lot of guys running to the football, coach [Surace] preached that all through practice this week,” said Tyler, who had six tackles with 2.5 for a loss against the Leopards.
“Those guys were a talented team, we just had to get them on the ground. We had to continue to play as hard as we could each and every down; every position mattered in the game for sure because they do a lot of motion stuff that throws a lot of defenses off. We were disciplined; I was happy to see that we were flying to the ball.”
Tyler flew to the ball on a crucial fourth down and one midway through the second quarter, corralling Lafayette running back Jaden Sutton for no gain with Princeton clinging to a 7-0- lead.
“It was pretty clear, I came clean off the edge and it was really open, it was nice,” said Tyler, recalling the stop.
“I thought that the wideout was going to come down on me but he didn’t, so I kind of hesitated but then it just opened up.”
With Princeton giving up just 10.7 points a game, the Tiger defense has come together.
“We are definitely in synch,” added Tyler of the unit that features eight retuning starters. “We love each other, we show each other respect all the time. We just have to keep that going.”
Princeton head coach Bob Surace tipped his hat to his team’s stingy defense.
“They are so good offensively, they challenge you every snap,” said Surace, of Lafayette who managed just 33 yards rushing on 22 carries and 129 yards passing on the evening.
“I thought that was one of the best defensive efforts that we have had and we kept the ball in the second half.”
Surace points to Tyler as a catalyst for the Tigers. “Jeremiah makes you tick, you feed off of him,” said Surace.
“At one point he is standing behind me; I am watching the offense and a guy was down injured and I asked him what are you doing over here and he said I have got to pick the offense up. He literally has that personality, he makes the team respond.”
As an All-Ivy center in his playing days for the Tigers, Surace relished Princeton’s grind-it-out effort against the Leopards which saw it gain 203 yards rushing on 53 carries.
“Who knows how the year is going to go, it might be our style,” said Surace, who got 89 yards on the ground and three touchdowns from junior star Collin Eaddy with senior Ryan Quigley rushing for 67 yards, sophomore Trey Gray gaining 32 and scoring a touchdown and back-up quarterback Zach Keller bulling for 29.
“Yeah, you want to beat Bucknell and hit seven TD passes [in a 56-23 win on September 28] but coverages tonight were dictating those weren’t going to be the open routes. We managed the game well. We were up 2-0 on the turnover margin. This is like an O-line dream. Every play is four yards, five yards. You are just grinding and you are executing. It might be 1988 beautiful football with Judd Garrett carrying it 42 times.”
With the Tigers playing at Brown (1-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 19 to start its Ivy stretch drive, Surace knows his team must play sharper football to keep piling up the victories.
“We have to come back Sunday and we have to clean up,” said Surace, whose team is 1-0 in Ivy play by virtue of its 21-10 win over Columbia on October 5 in its league opener.
“It is little things; my whole point is that our details have to pick up. This isn’t a team that might just roll over everybody. This is a team that has got to grind a little bit more. That is fun as a coach, seeing the heart these guys are playing with.”
Tyler, for his part, believes the Tigers will play with heart as they look to defend their Ivy crown.
“We have to lean on each other when we get into that,” said Tyler. “There is a lot of good competition that we are going to go against so we just have to band together and stay strong.”