Skip to main content

Know Your 2011 Opponents: Princeton

No matter how you look at it, it was a rough year for the Princeton Tigers in 2010.

In head coach Bob Surace's first season at the helm of the Tigers, the senior-laden team collapsed to a 1-9 record, and got swept in Ivy League play for the first time since 1973.

It wasn't all his fault - his NFL-caliber linebacker got injured in the 35-22 defeat to Lehigh, and a slew of different injuries afflicted Princeton during the course of the year - but by any measure, it was an incredibly rough rookie campaign for the former assistant coach on the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.

The Tigers, though, will be more dangerous in 2011 than last season's record might suggest.  That's because that NFL-caliber linebacker, senior LB Stephen Cody, took a medical redshirt year and will get one more crack at beating Lehigh. All of a sudden, this game doesn't look like such a cakewalk. (more)

"Steven is the captain of the defense, a 240 lb linebacker who runs very well, has the energy, toughness, effort and toughness that you want all eleven players to have on every play.," Surace mentioned in the Ivy League coaches' teleconference in the run-up to the Lehigh game last year. "There's a leadership he brings to the table through his efforts, through his energy."

And for sure, Cody has been nothing short of a serious pest against the Mountain Hawks.

Two years ago, his eleven-tackle effort against Lehigh was in effect decided by his interception return for a touchdown in a 17-14 victory for the Tigers. In a game where the Princeton offense only managed six first downs and only made it to the red zone once, his pick six was the ultimate backbreaker.

And last year - before his serious leg injury, late in the game, that would sideline him for the entire year - Cody was a beast, with 12 tackles and 1 tackle for loss in Lehigh's 35-22 win over Princeton.

Seeing Cody on the other sideline in 2011 once again will make nobody on the Lehigh offense happy. The heart and soul of the Tiger defense will certainly have a large impact.

And Cody is not the only wounded Tiger that will be returning to provide a lift to Princeton's defense.

Senior DE Mike Catapano (37 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles in limited action) and junior S Matt Wakulchik (20 tackles, 1 forced fumble in 3 games) will be returning as well, giving the Tigers even more productive veterans on defense.

And add to that the return of experienced defensemen like junior LB Andrew Starks (89 tackles, 2 INTs) and senior CB Blake Clemons (47 tackles, 2 INTs) and all signs point to Princeton's 4-3 defense being light years ahead of where it was last year in terms of both talent and confidence.

"We'll need to focus on playing fast and playing within our assignments," Clemons mentioned in the run-up to the Tiger's spring game. "I think we've worked hard enough to the point where we won't have to think at all between the whistles. We know everything we need to know pre-snap. So for us on Saturday it'll just be about playing fast, tackling well, and making plays on the ball."

That should be considered a real warning shot to Mountain Hawks that think they can be complacent against a 1-9 team. This defense will not resemble the young, inexperienced unit they met in 2010.


On offense, the Tigers will welcome back senior QB Tommy Wornham, who had his best passing day of the season against Lehigh last year (392 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs).

The good news for Tiger fans is that he'll have a whole season under his belt of running Surace's no-huddle, "fast break" offense (that's a little bit similar to the old Air Lehigh offense), and he'll have a very experienced offensive line, led by senior C Mike Muha, to protect him.

The bad news for Princetonians is that they lose their top two running threats (RB Jordan Culbreath and FB Matt Zimmerman) and their top four receiving threats (WR Jeb Heavenrich, WR Trey Peacock, WR Andrew Kerr and TE Harry Flaherty). They will have to replace almost their entire offensive production from 2010.

The top preseason candidate to get rushing yards is sophomore RB Brian Mills, a speedy back who will be looking to break out after a freshman campaign where he gained 131 yards and 1 TD. For more between-the-tackles running, junior RB Akili Sharp (124 yards rushing) looks like he will be getting the nod.

The most experienced receiver returning on the roster is senior WR Issac Serwanga (160 yards), who is tall (6'3) and speedy, while junior WR Shane Wilkinson (144 yards) would seem to be the top candidate for new possession receiver over the middle.

But - like last year - Princeton's offense will probably have its fair share of surprises, simple because most of the personnel is so new.

Will it be enough for the Tigers to get a win against Lehigh at home, in the Mountain Hawks' only night game of the season?

One thing's for sure: it's never a good idea to underestimate Princeton in their first game of the year at their place.

Ask Lafayette - the only team that Princeton beat last year, 36-33, in double overtime at Princeton Stadium.


Popular posts from this blog

Remembering Lehigh's Battles With The Late Tubby Raymond

(Photo Credits: Delaware Online)

When I heard the news Tubby Raymond, legendary Delaware head football coach, died last week at the age of 92, two immediate memories came rushing back to me.

One occurred on October 16th, 1999, when Tubby had made a complaint to the local paper or radio in the run-up to Kevin Higgins' Mountain Hawks beating his Blue Hens on Delaware's homecoming, 42-35.

I have no idea if the quote even actually happened, but my recollection is that Tubby said that Lehigh had "St. Bartholomew's" on their schedule, and hadn't played anybody.  It was a verbal jab that many Delaware fans took with them to the stands to heckle the Mountain Hawk fans that made the short trip to Newark.

Up until that point, I had watched a bunch of Lehigh football games over the years.  I experienced their rise in the 1990s.  I enjoyed wins, and championships, and playoff victories.

But never had I felt a win so viscerally vindicating than the one over Tubby Raymond&…

Lehigh Wrestling Gets Superstar Treatment at PPL Center. Lehigh Football Needs The Same At Murray Goodman.

"We knew it would be nice," Lehigh wrestling head coach Pat Santoro said. "But it was even better than we expected."

Pat was talking about the reception his Lehigh wrestling squad experienced at Allentown's PPL Center this weekend, when a sellout crowd over nearly 10,000 people came to watch No. 1 Penn State grapple with No. 5 Lehigh in a collegiate wrestling event.

It was, by all accounts, something special to behold. 

"I thought it was really cool and an exciting place to wrestle," said Penn State wrestler Nick Nevills. "These fans were really into it, a rowdy bunch. It's a lot more fun as an athlete to wrestle in an environment like this. I'd say it was one of the most exciting times I have had in my career."

The sense of spectacle at the PPL center, though, puts a spotlight on what more can be done at Lehigh itself to make their athletic contests into spectacles.  It requires money to be spent and energy to be expended.  But the…

What To Look For On Sunday For the FCS Playoff Pairings

Lehigh are the Patriot League Football Champs, and will be playing in the 1st round of the FCS playoffs.

The FCS Playoff Bracket is going to be revealed on ESPNU at 11:00AM on Sunday on a selection show.  The team will be watching the selections live at the Goosey Gander to find out who they will play, and where.

The chance that Lehigh will host a home playoff game appears to be very slim.  Though record is technically not in consideration for whether a team will host a first-round game, other considerations (the lack of lights, no Noon playoff starts) make it difficult if not impossible to host a playoff game at Murray Goodman unless temporary lights are brought in.

Being that's the case, it seems very likely that Lehigh will be playing somewhere on the road in the 1st round.  Below the flip, I will give the bracket predictions of the experts and three things I think you should watch for during the selection show.