November 20, 2019

PU Football Routed by Yale On Senior Day But Still Alive in Ivy League Title Chase

DOGFIGHT: Princeton University receiver Andrew Griffin goes up for the ball against Yale last Saturday. Senior star Griffin made six catches for 68 yards in the game but it wasn’t nearly enough as Princeton fell 51-14 to Yale. The Tigers, now 7-2 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, play at Penn on November 23 to wrap up the 2019 season. Despite the loss to the Bulldogs, the Tigers could gain a share of the Ivy title if they defeat the Quakers and both Yale (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) fall in their finales. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Andrew Griffin paid his dues in waiting to get a starting role at wide receiver for the Princeton University football team.

After not seeing any varsity action as a freshman and getting into a couple of games in his sophomore year, Griffin made three catches last fall as a junior in eight games.

Emerging as a star receiver this year, Griffin came into last Saturday with 25 catches and a team-high six touchdown receptions as Princeton hosted Yale in its home finale and honored Griffin and his fellow seniors in a pregame ceremony.

Reflecting on his progress, Griffin said it was a matter of applying the Princeton program’s philosophy of diligent preparation to be ready when opportunity comes calling.

“It is next man up, we had some wideouts that went to the NFL and we had some wideouts who graduated that were really good,” said Griffin, a 6’1, 210-pound native of Avon, Ind. who has enjoyed success off the field, having been named as CoSIDA All-District II first-team Academic All-America selection and a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Award, given by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame to the outstanding scholar-athlete in college football.

“For a bunch of other guys and me, it is our first year as starters. I think we have the culture that once we get the opportunity, we do what we need to do.”

Griffin was hoping that his final home appearance in Princeton uniform would be leave some special memories for the guys in his class.

“It is Senior Day. We want to go out and we want to have a good performance in front of our friends and family, stuff like that,” said Griffin.

While Griffin produced a good performance, making a team-high six catches for 68 yards, it turned out to be rough day for the Tigers as they fell 51-14 to Yale before 6,676 at Princeton Stadium.

Despite the loss to the Bulldogs, the Tigers, now 7-2 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, could gain a share of the Ivy title if they defeat Penn in their season finale on November 23 and both Yale (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) lose in their final games.

In assessing the setback, Griffin acknowledged that the Tigers misfired early on as they found themselves trailing 30-7 at halftime.

“We came out here and we didn’t execute situational football offensively in the first half,” said Griffin.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do and we had some quick possessions which allowed them to get scores.”

Griffin credited the Yale defense with keeping Princeton off stride. “They played a little differently than we thought they had; we thought that they would be up on us,” said Griffin.

“We had a lot of plays drawn up for that and they gave us some space so we needed to run the ball and throw the ball on the outside.”

In the second half, the Tigers couldn’t get into a rhythm.“It just started getting away from us,” said Griffin.

“We needed at some point to make a stand, we needed to make a score, hit a big play and none of those things happened.”

With his team coming off a 27-10 loss to Dartmouth in a battle of unbeatens at Yankee Stadium, Princeton head coach Bob Surace didn’t see any hangover from that setback.

“I don’t think it carried over from that; we practiced well, we had enthusiasm,” said Surace. “We didn’t play as well as I would like.”

In Surace’s view, a key sequence in the contest came early in the second quarter when Princeton was trailing by three and muffed a punt, opening the floodgates for the Bulldogs, who proceeded to reel off 20 unanswered points and seize control of the contest.

“We got it to 10-7, we were getting the ball back and he fumbled a punt,” said Surace.

“We are making mistakes at key opportunities and we have to figure that out.”

Yale, on the other hand, took advantage of its opportunities as quarterback Kurt Rawlings passed for 338 yards and a program-record six TDs with JP Shohfi making eight catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns and Reed Klubnik coming up with seven receptions for 107 yards and three touchdowns.

“They made plays, their receivers made some great catches,” said Surace.

“I don’t even want to look at the third down stats right now but it seemed like every third and long, they were converting (Yale went 8-of-14 in third down conversions). We struggled to maintain our pass rush lanes and allowed the quarterback to step up or scramble early in the game. We probably over adjusted; we weren’t getting enough pressure on him from the middle of the second quarter on.”

In the meantime, the Tiger offense struggled in the crunch, going 1-for-4 on fourth down conversions.

“It has been a common theme now for three weeks on our short yardage and our fourth downs,” said Surace, who got 80 yards rushing and a touchdown from junior running back Collin Eaddy.

“We are not doing well enough in those areas, it is hurting us. We were fortunate it didn’t hurt us in a few games prior to Dartmouth. It certainly hurt us in the last two. We had opportunities. At the end of the day, you have to make plays and execute better.”

With Princeton still having an opportunity to get a share of the league crown as it plays in Philadelphia on Saturday to end the season, Surace is expecting his players to rise to the occasion.

“It is no different than anything else, we have done a good job of not getting too high when we have had success,” said Surace.

“At the end of the day, we have to make corrections and there are going to be plenty of those. We have to come out and fix the issues we are having.”

Surace believes his senior group will be determined to end things on a high note.

“We are going to rely in their leadership,” said Surace. “They are going to come out, I know, with a lot of energy and look to get this thing right next week.”

Griffin, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will be bringing plenty of energy to Franklin Field.

“We have got to finish strong, we get only 10 weeks to play in the Ivy League,” said Griffin.

“We know we don’t have a postseason, we know we don’t have anything after that so all 10 weeks count. All we can do is win the game. So it is finish off the season with a win, regardless of seniors, freshmen, sophomores, or juniors. It is doing this program justice by getting a win, that is what we want to do.”