PU Football Falls at Dartmouth, Loses RB Eaddy; Hosting Yale, Looking to Stay Atop Ivy Standings
TOUGH HIT: Princeton University football player Carson Bobo gets tackled in a game earlier this season. Last Friday night, senior tight end Bobo had one catch for 10 yards as Princeton fell 31-7 at Dartmouth. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, host Yale (5-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) on November 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As the Princeton University football team girded last week for its clash at Dartmouth, a number of players got ill with the flu.
Early in the contest last Friday night at Hanover, N.H., Princeton was hit with a sickening sight as Tiger senior star running back Collin Eaddy suffered a serious leg injury and was carted off the field in what turned out to be the last play of his stellar college career.
Reeling from that loss and dealing with a Dartmouth squad on a roll, Princeton found itself in a 17-0 hole.
“It was a challenge from a standpoint, there are no excuses, said Princeton head coach Bob Surace. “Dartmouth was great.”
The Tigers battled back, making it a 17-7 game late in the second quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by John Volker to culminate a 13-play scoring march.
Surace believed his team had some momentum at that point. “We have been down to Monmouth (overcoming a 21-6 deficit to win 31-28 on October 9),” said Surace.
“We have been up on teams. We have had to hold leads, we have had every scenario. You are confident in your players, I thought we settled in. We go down and score and we have a two-minute drive and we didn’t make the field goal into halftime.”
But pivotal sequence late in the third quarter that saw Dartmouth score on a TD reception by Jonny Barrett and minutes later get another score on an interception return for a touchdown by Isaiah Johnson put the game out of reach for the Tigers. Neither team scored again as the Big Green posted a 31-7 win, leaving the rivals both at 7-1 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, tied atop the league standings along with Yale (5-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy).
“We had a couple of opportunities in the third quarter and we don’t capitalize,” lamented Surace. “They do and then they get the pick six.”
While the Tigers created enough opportunities to stay in the game, they didn’t convert when they got inside the 20-yard line.
“That is one of the best defenses, if not the best defense, in the country,” said Surace, whose team rushed for 161 yards and passed for 189 in the loss.
“On our base plays, we executed really well. In the red zone, we executed really poorly. That is not just players, it is what we did and what I had in game plan-wise. We will have to reevaluate that. To go one for four in the red zone against them, it is not going to be a good finish, it is not going to be the outcome that you want.”
In order to execute better, the Tigers will have to be sharper on both sides of the ball.
“Every week, things are not as good as they seem or as bad as they seem,” said Surace.
“Every week we make corrections and we work on fixing things. Our situational football has to tighten up, that was evident. Defensively it was a lot of errors, they run a great offense. There is a lot of deception. We have been really good against deception for the majority of the year, other than the Brown game. We struggled with some of it, that was something we have got to fix.”
One thing Surace doesn’t have to fix is his team’s competitive spirit.
“It was never effort, we played hard,” said Surace.
“I don’t think anyone has had more than 15 first downs on them, we had 24. It wasn’t effort. If you don’t have effort, you have bigger issues.”
Despite the hard setback last Friday, Princeton is still very much alive in the Ivy title chase.
“Fortunately because of how we played the first seven weeks, we are in this position where we can overcome a loss and still reach our goals,” said Surace.
“The challenge is to come back this week with energy and with renewed purpose.”
Surace is confident that his players will be up to that challenge.
“We have got a really strong group of leaders and that will get us to practice,” said Surace.
“There is 100 percent confidence that we are going to come out ready for practice and have our best week because of the people that we have that way. We are going to be outstanding at that.”
With Princeton hosting Yale on November 13, it will be dealing with an outstanding quarterback in Nolan Grooms who has passed for 1,205 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 307 yards and two TDs for the Bulldogs.
“They started the year playing two quarterbacks, he was really a rotational change of pace,” said Surace, referring to Grooms.
“After they lost to UConn, they put him in and in the last couple of weeks, he has changed their dynamic. They are running the ball incredibly well, they are getting you in space. The number of explosive plays since he has been in there is more than anybody I can remember.”
In Surace’s view, the formula for victory on Saturday is simple.
“We have got to be more disciplined, we have got to be more precise and we have got to finish drives on offense,” said Surace.
“We are going to go against a Yale team that is playing out of their minds. They are playing their best football. We are going to have to play our best game.”