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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lehigh 29 Princeton 28

Nice night to watch a game at Princeton Stadium.

Nice first half for Princeton, up 22-3.

Looked good for the Tigers.

But Lehigh didn't go into the game ranked #22 in the FCS for no reason.

The Mountain Hawks came back mightily, surviving a Princeton "answer" to win 29-28.

A few thoughts:

1.  Princeton's offense will get better, and it was pretty good last night.  That said, I thought that QB Quinn Epperly far outshines QB Connor Michelsen in terms of "tough" situations.  The latter had a tendency to lock and load on a single receiver last night, and at times looked pretty bad doing it.  He threw into double coverage early in the game for an easy pick, tried to pile drive a laser into a covered receiver on a failed two-point conversion and threw a pick with a few minutes to go to seal the game for Lehigh.  Even with that, his locking onto a receiver too early caused him to miss wide open swing receivers on the left side time and time again.  There were several occasions where the running back was so wide open that he could have run 30 yards upon an easy toss to the weak side.  Even with that, where was the offensive coordinator or another offensive coach?  Clearly, they had to see that and should have adjusted for it.  The Tigers didn't, and it might have cost them the game.  In contrast, Epperly showed a sense of urgency that seemed to suggest he moves the team more easily.  Finally, NFL gurus suggest that if you have two quarterbacks you have no quarterback.  It's hard to tell whether head coach Bob Surace and offensive coordinator James Perry are innovators versus coaches who are making things more complex.  I'll go with innovators for now -- they put up 28 points against a good team, and normally that should be enough to win.

2.  Princeton's defense was not good in the second half last night.  First, credit goes to the Lehigh coaches, who adjusted.  Second, demerits so to the Princeton defensive coaches, who showed the biggest blind spot of the night.  Lehigh kept on going to its left, picking on the right side of Princeton's defense.  Yet, time and time again, the defenders, particularly the defensive backs, played a containing sort of defense that had them too far off the ball.  At some point, you would have figured that they would have adjusted and jumped some routes to break up plays or create a turnover.  They did not do it, and it helped cost them the game.  Also, the Tigers ran a blitz package at least four times in the game to the Lehigh QB's blindside, only to have Lehigh run a screen pass toward that side that went for at least twenty-five yards each time.  At some point, you have to adjust for that possibility.  Again, expect that part of the Tigers' defense to improve.

The positive news is that they outplayed a good offense in the first half.  The negative -- they couldn't sustain it for two halves and they looked pretty bad in the second half.

3.  The Princeton players most likely to get repetitive motion injuries are back-up QBs Malik Hawkins and Garrett Gosse, who, somewhat frenetically, signal in the plays from the sidelines.  Those guys got quite a workout, as it's not so simple and a few baseball-like signs from the third-base coaching box.  These guys wielded their arms incessantly the entire time the Tigers had the ball on offense.

4.  It was one that got away.  You are not supposed to lose when you are up 22-3 at the half.  Early in the second half, with the ball, the Tigers should have embarked on a time-consuming drive to wear down the Lehigh defense, keep them on the field, and push them around a bit.  While the Mountain Hawks seemingly took their vitamins and halftime and came out with an aggressiveness they did not display in the first half, the Tigers stuck with Michelson and the passing offense, didn't have a particularly good set of downs, went three and out and only ran about seventy-five seconds off the clock.  That gave Lehigh a boost and got them going.

Fun night at Princeton Stadium, even with the loss.  The Tigers are innovative on offense, showed something on defense in the first half and have some good skill position players.   They just had difficulty closing this one out.


Anonymous George Clark said...

Saw this one on NBCSports channel. Tough loss for the improving Tigers, although disheartening I am sure. Hope the Ivy broadcasts are supported out there in TV Land...Tigers have a lot of "innovative" weapons. This one's on the defense.

6:11 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

You're right, George, it was on the defense. Lehigh was #24 in the FCS going into the game (maybe #22) and they had played two games. So. . . to fare that well in one's first game against a ranked team was pretty good. That said, I continue to believe there's no such thing as a good loss (or a bad win). We are what our record says we are -- 0-1, and we need to finish games. That was a problem last year, too.

How will the basketball team fare?

7:11 PM  

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