SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Hold Those Tigers!

A funny thing happened to the Princeton Tigers' football team last night. They won their first opening game since 1998, and in convincing fashion against Lafayette, 35-18 (the Tigers led 35-6 at one point). Click here to read all about it. The Leopards went into the game with the #2 defense in Division I-AA, and the Tigers' offense went into the game with a few question marks, such as the depth on the offensive line, the consistency of senior quarterback Matt Verbit, and the identity of key receiving targets since B.J. Syzmanski left Old Nassau for the Cincinnati Reds' farm system (and a $750k signing bonus) after his junior year (the Ivies' have a much discussed, much dissed rule that renders a varsity athlete ineligible in every sport if he signs a professional contract in any sport).

The Tigers went into their opener picked to finish sixth in the Ivies. That selection probably underestimated the quality of their defensive, especially their linebackers and defensive backs. As to the former, the Tigers returned 6'4", 230 lb. junior linebacker Justin Stull, who was a first-team all-Ivy player last year, and another big linebacker, Zak Keasey, who was a first-team all-Ivy player two seasons ago before taking last year off. Similarly, the Tigers returned defensive backs Jay McCareins and Brandon Mueller, first- and second-team all-Ivy selections from two years ago. All four of those players give the Tigers exceptional quality on defense.

Last night's game was an auspicious beginning for Princeton, who got good production from junior running back Greg Fields and had many different players catch the ball. Next weekend Princeto travels to balmy San Diego, which suffered a thrashing at the hands of one of the Ivy's favorites, Penn, 61-18, at home in San Diego.

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