October 10, 2018

Volker’s TD Run Sets Tone for Princeton Football As 4-0 Tigers Set Records in 66-7 Rout of Lehigh

GOOD RUN: Princeton University running back Charlie Volker heads upfield last Saturday as Princeton hosted Lehigh. Senior star Volker rushed for 68 yards and two touchdowns to help the Tigers rout the Mountain Hawks 66-7. Princeton, now 4-0 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (1-3, 0-1 Ivy) on October 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Charlie Volker’s sprinting prowess has helped him earn Ivy League titles for the Princeton University track team.

In the fall, Volker’s blazing speed has resulted in him becoming one of the top running backs in program history for Princeton’s football team.

For Volker, his dual athletic focus keeps him sharp through the school year.

“What I love most about doing both sports is that I am competing year round,” said Volker, a 6’0, 220-pound native of Fair Haven, N.J. who won the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal 60-meter dash in 2016 and helped the 4×100 relay take the Outdoor Heps crown last spring.

“There are not a lot of weekends in the year that I am not at a competition. That is awesome because it keeps me on my toes; it keeps me working towards something always. It is so clear to me; here is this thing to get done for this weekend and get after it.”

Last Saturday, Volker got after it, gaining 68 yards rushing with two touchdowns as Princeton routed visiting Lehigh 66-7, improving to 4-0 overall.

Volker got things going for the Princeton offense, darting 52 yards for a TD with 10:41 left in the first quarter.

“The line did a great job stretching that thing out so it was pretty easy for me to make a cut,” said Volker, who scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter and now has 25 rushing touchdowns in his career, eighth best in program history, to go with 1,667 yards rushing so far as a Tiger. “I pretty much went untouched the rest of the way because there was a lot of green there.”

In reflecting on Princeton’s prolific offense that is averaging 53 points a contest, Volker said it is the product of a daily effort.

“All I know is that we come out to practice every day and we just work hard every day and we trust the scheme,” said Volker of the Tigers, who are 4-0 for the only the second time since 1995.

“If we come out in the game and we play like we do in practice, we will be alright. One of his mottos of coach Gleeson (offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson) has been “work so hard that we achieve things that we were not aware of before.” Right now we are just trying to do that. The numbers come as a byproduct of how hard we work and that is just proof that we are working hard.”

Junior defensive lineman Joey DeMarco likes the way the Tiger defense is working well together.

“Everybody is just confident right now, everyone is making plays,” said DeMarco, who has six tackles in the win with a sack and a forced fumble.

“Everyone knows what their role is, everyone is doing really well. We are returning a lot of players, we are going to know each and the communication is going to be good.”

Having been sidelined last year, DeMarco is relishing have a starring role this fall for the Tigers.

“I feel like I am getting better every week in terms of playing a lot of reps,” said DeMarco, a 6’4, 265-pound native of Del Mar, Calif. “It is definitely really special playing with my teammates again. It feels really great.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace wasn’t feeling great at halftime even though the Tigers were ahead 31-7.

“We talked about it at halftime, saying that the score doesn’t indicate the mistakes,” said Surace. “It wasn’t showing up. I wasn’t happy as a coach. We were making mistakes that were uncharacteristic.”

But Princeton’s characteristic intensity overcame those mistakes. “It was the effort,” recalled Surace. “I said that to them the reason it was 31-7 was that our effort was just outstanding on both sides of the ball.

That effort led to a historic performance as Princeton, now ranked No. 21 in the FCS Coaches Poll, set a single-game record for total offensive yards (733) and scored its most points since a 66-0 win over Williams College in the 1950 season opener.

“We have got two guys that we feel great about,” said Surace, referring to running backs Volker and Collin Eaddy (47 yards on 7 carries).

“We are really fortunate with our ability to run and John (quarterback John Lovett) obviously ran it real well (111 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown) as well.”

When the Tiger offense wasn’t marching down the field, the defense was stifling Lehigh star running back Dom Bragalone.

“I know that Bragalone had a lot of carries (22) so to hold him to 52 yards is impressive,” said Surace.

“He is an All-American and is a terrific running back. Bragalone had one run (14 yards) early in the game where we were blitzing and he got us. It is going to happen with him but there was no long run.”

Surace credited DeMarco and defensive line with providing the surge that stymied the Mountain Hawks.

“Joey is so strong and for a guy that is that tall, he can bend; he is really coming into his own,” said Surace. “Jake Strain, Jay Rolader, Sam Wright, and Simeon Lane were good too. We are really in a good rhythm there with those guys. They are really playing well. We are going to see some great offensive lines coming up and that will be the biggest test.”

The win over Lehigh marked the end of Princeton’s non-conference schedule and it will now head into the Ivy League stretch drive, starting by hosting Brown (1-3, 0-1 Ivy).

“If something happens in a non-conference game, it does not affect the outcome on who wins the championship,” said Surace.

“There have been teams like Penn who played really tough schedules and started the year 1-3 and went on that six-game run and won the games that count. This six-game run is going to be critical.”

Volker, for his part, is focused solely on that first game. “What we like to do is to look at each new game as a clean slate,” said Volker.

“A lot of people will be saying things about the scores in the few past weeks and that we are unstoppable. But if you look back at the film, there are plays that look sloppy; there is definitely a lot of room for growth. We have just got to keep working and next week we have a whole new game to look forward to.”