When an easy win causes unease

The Citadel 46, Presbyterian 21.  Concerns?  Yes. 

Presbyterian rushed for 204 yards against The Citadel, averaging 4.7 yards per rush.  In its first three games this season, PC had rushed for a total of 203 yards. 

Blue Hose running back Trandon Dendy came into the game averaging 3.0 yards per rush, with a season long of 16.  Against the Bulldogs, Dendy rushed for 147 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, with a 40-yard TD run included.  

Presbyterian’s previous seven games against Southern Conference opponents (all played over the last two years) included five games in which PC had 61 yards rushing or less, and none of more than 140 yards.  The 4.7 yards per rush garnered by the Blue Hose on Saturday is the best PC has done against any SoCon opponent over that period.

The Citadel’s defense occasionally got pushed around by an offensive line that included a 258-lb. left tackle and a 240-lb. center.  This is not good.  

Against Princeton I thought the defense did an excellent job against the run, particularly considering the Tigers have a fine running back in Jordan Culbreath.  Against PC there were problems, unless there was some major sandbagging taking place.  I don’t see that, though, not when it’s rush defense that’s the issue.

At one point late in the second quarter Presbyterian held a 14-13 lead and was moving the ball, combining its rushing attack with a fairly sharp mid-range passing game.  Then, the Blue Hose got a little greedy, and tried a long pass that was intercepted by Bulldog defensive back Cortez Allen.  On the ensuing drive The Citadel scored a touchdown to take a 20-14 lead into halftime, and the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half.  Allen’s pick was probably the key play in the game; it was certainly important in terms of momentum.

Offensively the Bulldogs did not have much in the way of a ground game, but I am not as worried about that as I am the defensive letdown.  That’s because there isn’t a big need to run the ball when the passing game is working like it was Saturday night. 

PC’s strategy for defending Andre Roberts was a bit curious.  Actually, I am not completely sure the Blue Hose had a strategy for defending him.  Twelve catches for 184 yards and four TDs is a good night (and that’s despite dropping a sure 70-yard TD on the first play of the game).

Then there were the special teams…

Two missed extra points.  Yuck.  (Actually, there were three missed opportunities for PATs, as Kevin Higgins went for two at 26-14 early in the third quarter, which I think was too soon to start chasing the lost point.)  I wasn’t crazy about the kickoffs, either, although I think the coaches were trying some different personnel, so that may not be as big a problem.  The punts seemed a touch slow (in terms of getting them off), as well.

Against Appalachian State, The Citadel cannot afford to give away free points like that, or put the defense in a difficult position after a kickoff/punt.  The Mountaineers will be a formidable enough challenge as it is.

A few other, even more random thoughts:

  • The team wore navy pants again, this time with the “home” tops.  Light blue over dark blue — almost indescribably ugly.  Maybe against Appalachian State we can wear gold jerseys to match the navy pants.  Gold isn’t a school color, of course, but at this point that doesn’t appear to be a serious consideration.  The Citadel should just go all out and become the Oregon of the east.  The Bulldogs could have polka dot tops and horizontally striped pants, or some other Nike-approved combination.
  • Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks wore “throwback” uniforms on Saturday (in this case, from the 1990s, which isn’t all that far back, but we are talking about Oregon here).  The Ducks won big.  Navy wore throwback unis too, and also won big.  Previously winless Colorado also wore throwbacks, and proceeded to shut out Wyoming 24-0.  Maybe The Citadel should consider its own “throwbacks” day.  There would be plenty of options.
  • Attendance wasn’t that bad, particularly considering the weather.  It wasn’t great, but it could have been worse.  I will say that it shows the difference between scheduling Presbyterian and scheduling Webber International.  I expect a very good crowd will be at Johnson Hagood this Saturday for a 1pm start against Appalachian State, which will bring plenty of its own fans.
  • The halftime interview was unintentionally amusing.  Kevin Higgins is a very patient man.  Suggestion:  just have someone give Higgins a headset, and let Darren Goldwater ask him a question or two.  SportSouth actually did this when interviewing Wofford coach Mike Ayers at halftime of its broadcast of The Citadel-Wofford game last season, with Sam Wyche asking the questions.  It turned out to be fairly informative (with Ayers spending a lot more time with the announcers than any coach I’ve ever seen interviewed at halftime).
  • It may have “just” been PC, but Keith Gamble’s interception return for a TD was very impressive.  More of that, please.

Now it’s time for the “real” season, as The Citadel begins its eight-game SoCon slate.  The Bulldogs are 2-1, exactly what everyone thought they would be at this point.  I’m still not sure just what to make of this team, but so far, so good.

Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Presbyterian

This week’s game is something of a blast from the past, at least for older alums and supporters of The Citadel.  Fans under the age of 35 may not realize the lengthy series history between the football programs of The Citadel and PC, though.

Saturday’s game will be the 61st meeting between the two schools, with The Citadel having won 48 of those previous 60 games (with one tie).  The series was played annually from 1921 to 1960, except for the three years during World War II when The Citadel did not field a team.

After the 1963 game (which was played in Savannah), there was a break in the series that lasted until 1971.  From that year through 1988 Presbyterian and The Citadel would meet 16 more times (not playing in 1972 and 1976).  Since the 1988 season, however, there has been only one more encounter, a 33-10 victory for the Bulldogs in 1991.

PC has not hosted The Citadel in football since 1950.  Since then, every game has been played at Johnson Hagood Stadium (except for that 1963 game).  The matchups during the 1950s were frequently either Homecoming or Parents’ Day games.  In contrast, the games played in the 1970s and 1980s usually served as the home openers for the Bulldogs.

Speaking of those games during the 1950s, a while back when I was doing some research for a post about The Citadel’s football uniform history, I came across a series of photos taken by Life Magazine that included action and crowd shots from the 1955 Homecoming game at Johnson Hagood between The Citadel and Presbyterian, won by the Bulldogs 14-13.  I posted links to some of the photos in that piece, but I’ll repost a few here for anyone interested:

Picture 1 (Mark Clark in the stands watching the game)
Picture 2 (the team runs out onto the field in what may have been a photo op and not a “real” run-out)
Picture 3 (same as Picture 2; I think the third coach from the left is Al Davis)
Picture 4 (same as Pictures 2 and 3)
Picture 5 (shot of John Sauer during the game; the coach appears to be a bit anxious, despite the snazzy bow tie)
Picture 6 (PC players are wearing the white jerseys)
Picture 7 (The Citadel has the ball, deep in its own territory)
Picture 8 (I love the scoreboard in this picture)

The Citadel is 26-3 at Johnson Hagood Stadium against Presbyterian, including the first victory for the Bulldogs at JHS, which came in 1949.  Despite the lopsided nature of the series in terms of wins and losses, many of the games have been close.  Particularly in the 1970s and early 1980s, the Blue Hose (one of my favorite college nicknames) would make things tough for the Bulldogs.

Under the direction of longtime coach/AD Cally Gault, PC defeated The Citadel in 1971 and 1979 and lost several other tight contests, which included final scores such as 6-0, 13-7, 21-14, 21-16, 14-7, and 15-13.  Back then it seemed every year for The Citadel started off with a narrow home victory over Presbyterian.

It was, at least to me, a rather congenial rivalry.  I remember going to games at Johnson Hagood as a kid and hearing the occasional “Hose ’em!” chant from a boisterous-but-not-particularly-serious PC supporter (often a stray student who had made his way down from Clinton for the game).  The games were generally competitive, if not always of the highest quality.

My personal favorite matchup in the series is the 6-0 Bulldog victory in 1974.  In that game The Citadel scored the game’s only points in the 3rd quarter, after PC fumbled deep in its own territory.  The extra-point attempt following the touchdown nearly decapitated one of the officials standing beneath the goalposts.  I believe Brian Ruff had approximately 500 tackles in the contest.

The series ended as Presbyterian began its transition from an NAIA school to an NCAA Division II program.  Now, of course, PC has moved up into the ranks of the FCS (I-AA), joining the Big South in the process.  It’s a good move for the school and that league.

What it may also mean is that there could be more opportunities in the future for The Citadel and Presbyterian to meet in football.  One of the disadvantages of The Citadel playing a non-Division I school in football is that if the Bulldogs have hopes of making the FCS playoffs, a win over a non-D1 doesn’t count as far as playoff eligibility is concerned.  A team angling for an at-large berth has to win at least 7 games against Division I opponents (either FCS or FBS).

I think this puts PC on the list of schools that The Citadel can play in its “non-return home game”.  In other words, because the Bulldogs will play a “money” game against an FBS squad each season, a matching contest is needed against a school willing to forgo a home-and-home series.

Presbyterian and Charleston Southern both strike me as candidates to feature in that spot on a semi-regular basis (with Newberry’s Division II status being an impediment to scheduling that school).  Essentially the yearly schedule would be eight Southern Conference games, one game against an FBS school (always on the road), one game against the likes of PC or CSU (always at home), and VMI (with that series resuming in 2011).

Presbyterian’s game against The Citadel will be the fourth and final game the Blue Hose will play against a Southern Conference opponent this season.  PC’s remaining seven games will include six Big South league matchups and a contest against first-year football program Old Dominion.

In its first three games PC has only led once, against UT-Chattanooga.  Presbyterian has been outscored by more than 24 points per game and has been dominated statistically across the board, including allowing opponents over 5 yards per rush attempt, part of the reason why opponents are converting 3rd downs against PC at a 60% clip.

Presbyterian averages a relatively meager 5.7 yards per pass attempt, with a completion percentage of only 52.5%.  The Blue Hose are averaging just 2.5 yards per rush.  PC was more competitive in its last outing, when it led UTC briefly in the second quarter before the Mocs gradually pulled away.  In the other two games, Furman pummeled the Blue Hose (Paladin QB Jordan Sorrells was 24-30 passing), while Elon simply routed PC, running 90 plays to Presbyterian’s 46 and controlling the ball for over 38 minutes.

Basically, this is a game The Citadel should win fairly easily.  That doesn’t mean it’s a lock, though.  PC obviously isn’t going to be intimidated playing yet another game against a SoCon opponent, and may have some confidence after not getting blown out by UT-Chattanooga.

It isn’t a game the Bulldogs are likely to overlook, however.  Sure, the “real season” begins next week with the start of the conference campaign, but this is the home opener, and an opportunity to establish a tone for the games to come.  Things I want to see on Saturday night include:

  • The offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage (PC is giving up 5+ yards per rush — enough said)
  • Receivers catching the ball (the number of dropped passes against Princeton was alarming)
  • Sacks by The Citadel’s defensive front seven (no sacks against Princeton)
  • Turnovers created by the Bulldog defense (especially in the first half)
  • A big play by Andre Roberts (it’s time for one, at least if his ankle is okay)

I’m looking forward to watching a game at Johnson Hagood again.  I’ll be interested to see what the attendance is like.  With South Carolina playing earlier in the week on Thursday night, and an instate school as the opponent, along with it being the home opener, there is a chance for a nice crowd.  Of course, figuring out potential attendance is more complicated than that, as I wrote about earlier this summer.

I was glad to see Presbyterian on the schedule when it was released a few months ago.  I hope I will still be glad to have seen PC on the schedule after Saturday night.

College Football TV Listings, Week 4

This list actually includes every game involving an FBS or FCS school, whether a game is televised or not.  For the TV games, I also include the broadcast announcers and sideline reporters.  There are always a few games (usually involving locally-produced telecasts of FCS schools) where gathering information on game announcers is problematic.  I usually get almost all the information on the announcing teams eventually, however.

As I’ve done in previous weeks, I’m using Google Documents in an effort to make the listings more accessible.

College Football TV Listings, Week 4

— ABC 3:30 pm ET coverage map:  Link

— Areas picking up the Miami-Virginia Tech game on ESPN (as opposed to ABC) will not receive the game in HD.

Additional notes:

  • ERT-SEC (SEC Network) coverage of LSU-Mississippi State can be seen on FSN-Detroit, CSN-California, MSG, and  local affiliates listed here:  Link
  • Raycom affiliates for North Carolina-Georgia Tech are listed here:  Link
  • Southland TV (Southland Conference Network) coverage of Texas Southern-Texas State can be seen on local affiliates listed here:  Link
  • ERT-BE (Big East Network) coverage of Fresno State-Cincinnati can be seen on SNY, CST, ALT, and local affiliates listed here:  Link
  • ERT-MAC (MAC regional syndication) coverage of Buffalo-Temple can be seen on local affiliates listed here:  Link
  • Ball State-Auburn can be seen on FSN-South, Sun Sports, FSN-Southwest, and FSN-Midwest.
  • James Madison-Liberty can be seen on the following local affiliates:  WTLU (VA), WRTV (VA), WGGN (OH), KCFT (AK), WAAY (AL), WBGR (ME), WWMB (SC), WPDE (SC), and WHSV (VA).
  • Boise State-Bowling Green will be carried by KTVB in Idaho and the Bowling Green Sports Network (BGSN).  I have listed the Boise State announcers on my spreadsheet, but BGSN will apparently have its own set of announcers, Greg Franke and Tom Cole.

A lot of the information I used in putting this together came courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s great website (College Sports on TV) and the folks over at the 506.com; there are links to both sites to the right of this page, in the “TSA  Checkpoints” section.

Victoria procul Procer

Sing once again with me
Our strange duet
My power over you
Grows stronger yet

Final:  The Citadel 38, Princeton 7, in the second (and presumably final) act of a “strange” series.  Your humble chronicler was in attendance for this one, and was fortunate not to get sunburned on a surprisingly sunny and warm day in New Jersey.

Was the margin of victory a fair reflection of the difference between the two teams?  Princeton head coach Roger Hughes didn’t think so, and I can’t say that I blame him.  I will say that after the first quarter, I was fairly confident that The Citadel would win the game, even though the Bulldogs trailed 7-3 after the opening stanza.  The Citadel was clearly the stronger, more athletic squad, and only a lot of turnovers and/or bad luck would prevent a Bulldog victory.  It was only a question of how long Princeton could hang around.

To the Tigers’ credit, they hung around for three quarters, and yes, 38-7 is rather harsh on the Ivy League team.  Two long PU drives bogged down inside the 20 during the third quarter, and Princeton botched both of its succeeding field goal attempts.  The first hit the right upright squarely and bounced backwards, while the second, which was both low and slow (in a manner of speaking), was blocked by The Citadel’s Kyle Anderson.

Some quick takeaways from the game:

  • Princeton quarterbacks, in 46 pass attempts, were not sacked.  That’s not good, and has to change if The Citadel expects to compete in the Southern Conference.  I know that the Bulldogs concentrated on stopping Princeton’s running game, but you still have to knock the quarterback down once in a while, especially when the opponent throws the ball 46 times out of 74 plays.
  • The Bulldogs now have more interceptions this year (4) than they did all last season (3).  That’s a marked improvement, obviously.  I would have liked to have seen some turnovers forced earlier in the game, though, when the outcome was still in doubt.
  • Bart Blanchard had a solid game.  The dropped passes (at least 5) about drove me crazy, and I was just a spectator, but he shook them off and wasn’t afraid to continue throwing passes to unproven receivers.  I really liked the way he moved up in the pocket when he threw the TD pass to Alex Sellars, too.
  • Blanchard and Andre Roberts are still struggling with ankle injuries, and it shows.
  • The 34-yard pass to Roberts from Blanchard was an excellent play call, and also a key moment in the game.
  • I thought Terrell Dallas and Van Dyke Jones both ran very hard, which was particularly noteworthy considering each was coming off an injury.  They didn’t seem tentative.  I was concerned that a long layoff from game action (especially for Dallas) might result in some fumbling issues, but that didn’t happen.
  • Jonathan Glaspie…I was so hoping he was going to score.  Two more yards.  Oof.  On the bright side, with an 86-yard return, he can tell fellow Spring Valley product Andre Roberts that between the two of them, Glaspie has the longest career return/reception (Roberts’ career long play is a 78-yard catch).
  • I don’t like the navy pants.  I didn’t like them when The Citadel played UNC, either.

Some quick takeaways from the action off the field:

  • The Princeton band played it fairly close to the vest (by its own standards) and everyone was happy, I guess.  I am not sure if the band members realized playing “Dixie” was actually semi-controversial.  The halftime lampoon job was rather tame and not particularly funny, but I gather that most aspiring Ivy League comedy writers go to Harvard or Dartmouth.
  • Speaking of the Crimson, the biggest reaction by the Princeton crowd when scores of other games were announced was for Harvard losing.  Plenty of cheering for that result, which I found amusing.  I suspect Yale losing would have resulted in a similarly gleeful outburst.
  • I mentioned this before, but Princeton season tickets are only $25, with single-game tickets $7.  I arrived at the stadium to find that game programs were free.  The concessions were reasonably priced, with quality “souvenir” cups.  Most of the fans in attendance also got free magnetic schedules.  Go Princeton!

In my game preview I noted that it is unlikely that The Citadel will be playing a similar two-game home-and-home with an Ivy (or Patriot) League school in the near future, for a variety of reasons.  One thing that needs to happen, though, is that every few years the school needs to play a game in the northeast.  The contingent of alums and other supporters that came to cheer on The Citadel at Princeton was truly impressive.  Those folks deserve to see more games, and I hope that administrators at The Citadel keep that in mind.

It also doesn’t hurt to promote the school in other parts of the country.  After the game I took the train back to New York, and sat next to an intelligent young Princeton student who was very proud of her school.  She wanted to make sure I liked the campus (which I did).  She was blissfully unaware a football game had been played that day, which didn’t really surprise me that much.  She also had never heard of The Citadel, which did surprise me a bit.

Of course, there are people in South Carolina who have never heard of Princeton (and there are almost certainly people in New Jersey who have never heard of Princeton, as well as people in the Palmetto State unfamiliar with The Citadel).  I also realize that one person doesn’t make a survey.  Still, it’s a reminder that it doesn’t hurt to get the school’s name out there.

(I explained to her that The Citadel is a military school.  She was a touch dubious.  I guess my bearing isn’t martial enough.  Perhaps I should sneer more.)

I took some pictures of the campus, including a few buildings and other athletic facilities, and some inside the stadium itself.  I am not a particularly good photographer, and my camera isn’t the best, which is why there are very few “game action” shots.  My attempts at capturing action on the field tended to result in images that only Jackson Pollack would appreciate.  The pictures that aren’t completely embarrassing can be seen at the end of this post.

Finally, the top three outstanding performers that I saw this weekend:

3)  Jonathan Glaspie

2)  Bart Blanchard

1)  Jennifer Hope Wills.  Yowza.

College Football TV Listings, Week 3

This list actually includes every game involving an FBS or FCS school, whether a game is televised or not.  For the TV games, I also include the broadcast announcers and sideline reporters.  There are always a few games (usually involving locally-produced telecasts of FCS schools) where gathering information on game announcers is problematic.  I usually get almost all the information on the announcing teams eventually, however.

As I’ve done in previous weeks, I’m using Google Documents in an effort to make the listings more accessible.

College Football TV Listings, Week 3

Additional notes:

ERT-SEC (SEC Network) coverage of North Texas-Alabama can be seen on CSN-Bay Area, FSN-Detroit, CSN-Washington, MSG, CSN-Philly, and  local affiliates listed here:  Link

Raycom affiliates for Boston College-Clemson are listed here:  Link

Southland TV (Southland Conference Network) coverage of North Dakota-Northwestern State can be seen on local affiliates listed here:  Link

Rhode Island-Massachusetts can be seen on CSN Washington, CSN New England, and CSN Philadelphia.

Southeastern Louisiana-Mississippi can be seen on Cox Sports TV, CSN Philadelphia, CSN Northwest, and CSS.

Coverage maps for the ABC 3:30 pm ET games:  Link

A lot of the information I used in putting this together came courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s great website (College Sports on TV) and the folks over at the 506.com; there are links to both sites to the right of this page, in the “TSA  Checkpoints” section.

Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Princeton

Tune every heart and every voice,
Bid every care withdraw;
Let all with one accord rejoice,
In praise of Old Nassau.

In praise of Old Nassau we sing,
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Our hearts will give while we shall live,
Three cheers for Old Nassau.


**Quick Facts**

– The Citadel’s game against Princeton will be broadcast by Sirius/XM Radio as the “Ivy League Game of the Week”.  The game can be heard on channel 130 (the contest starts at 3 pm ET).
– FIOS1 of New Jersey will televise the game.  The telecast does not appear to be available on any other outlet.
– This will be the Tigers’ first game of the 2009 season, which will be the 141st season of Princeton football.
– The Citadel defeated Princeton at Johnson Hagood Stadium last season, 37-24.  That was not only the first time the two schools had played, it was the first time Princeton had ever faced an opponent from the Southern Conference.

Princeton, of course, played in what is considered the first college football game, losing to Rutgers 6-4 in 1869.  That game was played in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  In a return match the following week, Princeton beat Rutgers 8-0 at Princeton (the first of 33 consecutive victories for the Tigers over the Scarlet Knights), thus claiming the first of what the school’s media guide trumpets as “28 national titles”.

Princeton’s football history has a lot of historical significance, but the “28 national titles” bit is pushing it, in my opinion.  None of those titles were recognized at the time the games were played.  They are all “retro titles”, awarded by various college football historians.  Also, the game was far from “national” in the 19th century, when Princeton had most of its championship teams.

There were only two games played in 1869, so Princeton is generally considered to have shared the mythical national title with Rutgers, since the two schools split the games.  A couple of  authorities give the title to Princeton alone, probably based on point differential, and possibly the fact that Rutgers as a national title winner in football just seems instinctively wrong.

There were also only two games in 1870.  Rutgers played in both, beating Columbia but losing to Princeton.  With a 1-0 record, Princeton claimed (many years later) its second consecutive national championship.  The media guide notes this particular championship was “unanimous”.

Another 1-0 record in 1872 was enough to garner a share of the national title.  In fact, from 1869 to 1877 the Tigers would play 11 games, winning 9 (with one tie).  That 9-1-1 record over a nine-year period was enough for Princeton to retroactively claim eight national titles, either undisputed or shared, only missing out in 1871, a year in which no college football games were played.  (I am mildly surprised Princeton does not claim at least a share of the 1871 title.)

Princeton continued to have success on the gridiron in the 1880s and 1890s, as well as the early 1900s, racking up many more national titles, and actually playing more than one or two games per season.  The Tigers’ status as a “national” power began to wane when the game started to become truly national.  Princeton continued to play like-minded institutions in its home region, rarely venturing outside the east.

In fact, in 141 years of football, which includes 1197 games, Princeton has only played 82 different opponents (and that’s counting opponents like Lawrenceville Prep, Columbia Law School, and Princeton Seminary).  In contrast, The Citadel (which historically has tended to play close to home itself) has played 93 different opponents, 11 more than Princeton, despite playing 211 fewer games than the Tigers.  Princeton has never played a current member of the Big XII or Pac-10, and has played only one SEC school (Vanderbilt).

Michigan comes to mind as an example of a school that became a football power near the end of the 19th century, and maintained a national presence.  The Wolverines have played 138 different opponents in 1207 games.

So if you hear a Princeton alum boast that his team won the national title in ’89, just keep in mind that he’s talking about 1889, and that all the games took place in the east, against opponents like Stevens Tech and Wesleyan, and that the national title was not based on an 1889 poll, but rather was retroactively awarded to the Tigers in 1932 by Parke Davis.  Davis was the pre-eminent college football researcher of his day.  He was also a Princeton alum who happened to play on the 1889 team.

(Davis also determined that in 1896, Lafayette and Princeton had shared the national title.  The two teams had played a scoreless tie early in the season; each had then won the remainder of its games.  The head coach of Lafayette in 1896?  Parke Davis.)

I don’t really intend to belittle Princeton’s football history; far from it.  I just think claiming a bunch of “national titles” which are something less than national detracts from the larger point, which is that the Tigers’ football past is both long (longer than any other school save Rutgers, obviously) and fascinating.  I could write about it all day, but nobody wants that.  I will mention a few things, though:

– Princeton has been known as the “Tigers” since at least 1880, a nickname that came to be when the team played a game wearing black shirts with orange stripes.
– The Tigers’ career rushing TD record is held by Knowlton “Snake” Ames, who scored 62 times in a career that ended at the close of the 1889 season.  I’m guessing that may be the longest-held individual school football record of consequence, for any school.
– Hobey Baker, who is the namesake of college hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy, played hockey and football at Princeton.  Baker was the captain of the 1913 gridiron squad.  He is the only person to be a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
– The first non-Princeton grad to coach the football team was Fritz Crisler, who coached the Tigers from 1932-1937.  Crisler was very successful at Princeton before leaving to coach Michigan (where the basketball arena is named for him).  He is generally credited with creating the two-platoon system (different players for offense and defense), and the distinctive Michigan helmets were his design.  Crisler had originally created the “winged helmet” look at Princeton.  When he left, Princeton dropped the look, only to bring it back in 1998.
– Princeton had a great run of success from 1950-52, going 26-1 over those three years.  The coach of the Tigers during this period, Charlie Caldwell, had pitched briefly for the New York Yankees.  Caldwell would eventually be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
– In 1951, Dick Kazmaier would win the Heisman Trophy, the third and last player from a current Ivy League school to win that award.  His performance that year against Cornell was so good it would be the subject of a Sports Illustrated piece ten years later.  Kazmaier (who also won the Maxwell Award that season and was named the AP’s Male Athlete of the Year) was drafted by the Chicago Bears, but turned down the NFL in favor of Harvard Business School.
Charlie Gogolak, the younger of the kicking Gogolaks (older brother Pete played for Cornell), kicked for Princeton in the mid-1960s.  The Gogolaks, born in Hungary, were the first “soccer style” placekickers to make an impact on the college and pro football scene.  Charlie Gogolak was the first placekicker ever selected in the first round of the NFL draft, by the Washington Redskins.
– Dean “Superman” Cain is both the single-season (12) and career (23) record holder for interceptions at Princeton.  Cain’s 12 interceptions in 1987 came in just 10 games, an FCS record on a per-game basis.
– For 82 years, Princeton played its home games at Palmer Stadium (which had a capacity of anywhere between 45,000 and 70,000, depending on era and what source you believe).  In 1998, the Tigers began playing at the new Princeton Stadium, which has a listed capacity of 30,000.

Princeton certainly doesn’t need more than 30,000 seats anymore.  Attendance used to be much higher in the days when Ivy League football was more prominent.  An estimated crowd of 49,000 watched the 1951 Cornell-Princeton contest referenced above, and similarly-sized or larger crowds would occasionally watch league games as recently as the 1970s.  However, with the Ivy League’s “demotion” to I-AA (now FCS) status in 1981, attendance (and the quality of players in some cases) began to decline.

Last season Princeton averaged 9,384 fans in five games at Princeton Stadium.  This wasn’t a one-season blip, either.  Average attendance in 2007 was 10,215; in 2006, 12,220; and in 2005, 9,370.  When the new stadium opened in 1998, the initial attendance figures rose to a season average of 20,475, but as the draw of the stadium wore off, attendance gradually declined to its current level.

This has happened despite inexpensive ticket prices, and when I say inexpensive, I mean it:  season tickets are just $25, with single-game tickets going for $7.  There can’t be many better deals than that in all of Division I football.

Declining interest in Princeton football, and Ivy League football in general, can be traced to the aforementioned transition to I-AA in 1981.  An article in The New York Times (from 2006) details the decision by Ivy administrators to go along with the move down the gridiron ladder, which still angers a number of former players, coaches, and alumni.

The supporters argue (I believe with some merit) that the Ivies could have continued to play non-conference games against the service academies and other upper-tier private schools (like Duke or Northwestern), maintaining I-A (now FBS) status.  After more than 25 years at the lower level, however, I think the window of opportunity for the Ivy League to move back up to I-A has passed.  As it is, Princeton’s last game against Rutgers came in 1980, which is perhaps symbolic of the Ivy League’s move down the football pyramid.

Another issue that rankles some is the Ivy League’s continued refusal to participate in the FCS playoffs.  From the linked article, former Harvard president Derek Bok was quoted as saying:

“Once you start worrying about a national football championship, then you begin to worry about getting the quality of athlete, and the numbers needed, to win a national championship…that worry leads to pressure to compromise academic standards to admit those athletes. That’s how even responsible institutions end up doing things they don’t like doing.”

Sorry, but I’m not buying that.  First, the Ivies compete in championships in other sports, including basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and baseball.  Are academic standards being compromised to admit athletes in those sports?  Bok’s comment also implies that other schools that do compete in the playoffs compromise their standards.  It’s essentially an insult to leagues (and their member institutions) that do participate.  He’s looking down his nose at schools like The Citadel, or Colgate, or William & Mary.

There can be a fine line between being elite and being elitist.

Of course, I can’t write a preview of the game without at least briefly discussing the events surrounding the appearance by the Princeton band at last year’s football contest in Charleston.  From an article in The Star-Ledger of New Jersey:

In a clash of cultures that threatened to spiral into bloodshed, the Princeton University band received a harsh welcome from offended cadets at the Charleston, S.C., military college when the two schools’ football teams squared off for the first time over the weekend.

The band’s president, Princeton senior Alex Barnard, said some 80 over-aggressive cadets roughed up two people, broke a clarinet, stole members’ hats and cursed the band when it inadvertently marched along the “Avenue of Remembrance,” a campus street that honors The Citadel’s war dead.

Later, as the band performed its unusual routine during the halftime show, the crowd of 13,000 booed relentlessly, chanting “Go home, Princeton” and shouting profanities and anti-homosexual slurs. Several videos of the display have made it onto YouTube.

After the show, a group of cadets again gathered around the band members, reducing some to tears before police intervened, Barnard said.

Of course, that was one viewpoint.  There were others, like this one.

Princeton’s band is what is known as a “scramble band”.  The point of having a scramble band, from what I can tell, is…well, I’m not sure there is a point.  Princeton’s version has been banned from appearing at West Point (at least two other Ivy League schools have also suffered the same fate; the folks running the U.S.M.A. do not suffer fools gladly), and was also not allowed to play at Lafayette for many years.

Probably the most well-known example of a scramble band inadvertently hurting its own school’s cause occurred in 1982, when Stanford’s band helped archrival California win the annual “Big Game” during what is arguably the most famous play in college football history.  Another such band, the University of Virginia’s “pep band”, is no longer allowed to play at its own school’s varsity events, a ban in place since 2003.

It’s possible that such bands tend to attract students who are naturally go-against-the-grain types.  For example, last year’s Princeton bandleader was a fellow named Alex Barnard.  When not leading the band, Barnard led protests against Ugg boots (one of several animal rights protests in which he participated) and enjoyed the benefits of dumpster-diving.  (Of course, protesting Ugg boots may not be out of the mainstream.)

That’s fine and all — life would be rather boring without some different viewpoints — but there is something to be said for being respectful of others, especially when in their “home”.  Princeton’s band chose not to show such respect last year when it made its brief tour of The Citadel’s campus, and the cadets responded in emphatic fashion.  Maybe they were a bit too emphatic (and some of the, uh, “rhetoric” was not needed), but speaking as someone who is probably more mild-mannered than the average alumnus of The Citadel, I don’t have much of a problem with the overall response.  I am sorry that a wind instrument lost its life in the fracas, however.

I don’t know if The Citadel is sending its band to Princeton for Saturday’s game.  I doubt it, both for financial reasons and because administrators at both schools are undoubtedly going to strive to avoid any repeat of last year’s confrontation.

Last year Princeton led The Citadel 17-7 at halftime.  The Tigers were efficient on offense and kept the Bulldog offense at bay for much of the half.  Princeton did not look like a team playing its first game of the season.

Momentum changed early in the third quarter when Mel Capers blocked a Princeton punt that was subsequently returned for a TD.  The Citadel would score 30 unanswered points to first take the lead, then put away the game, as Princeton was unable to sustain a drive until late in the fourth quarter.  Once Princeton lost control of the game, it was simply unable to get it back.

This year Princeton returns four starters along its offensive line (although there are several changes in position along that line).  Also returning for the Tigers is running back Jordan Culbreath, who impressed many observers during the game at Johnson Hagood.  Culbreath gained 74 yards rushing that day, much of them hard-earned.  He’s a good, tough runner (who can also catch passes out of the backfield).  Culbreath was a unanimous All-Ivy selection last season.

The Tigers need to find new starters at both receiver positions, tight end, and quarterback.  The returning QBs for Princeton have a combined two career pass completions between them.  Figuring out who will start at quarterback is likely to be the Tigers’ biggest challenge.

On defense, Princeton must replace several starters along the line.  The Tigers do have an interesting candidate to play nosetackle in 6’5″, 285 lb. Matt Boyer.  Princeton (which runs a base 3-4) has solid returning starters at inside linebacker, and experience on the outside (although two of the potential regulars there have significant injury histories).

The Tigers have three regulars back in the secondary, including three-year starting cornerback Carl Kelly, who will probably draw the assignment of covering Andre Roberts (who only caught four passes in last year’s game, although he did have a 54-yard punt return).  Kelly will get plenty of help defending Roberts.  The other corner spot appears to be open, with several candidates vying for the starting role.

Princeton has an experienced placekicker but needs to find a new punter.  The Tigers’ return game last season was rather mediocre and needs to improve.

While Princeton has not played a game yet, it did scrimmage Rowan University (a Division III school with a solid football program) in an effort to be prepared for “live” game action.

It’s hard to draw many conclusions from The Citadel’s game against North Carolina.  I am going to assume (hope?) that the offensive line won’t be overmatched quite like that again this season.  In fact, it’s possible the o-line will be a team strength.

The Bulldogs need Bart Blanchard’s ankle to be fully healed.  It appears that Terrell Dallas and Van Dyke Jones may be ready to play against Princeton, which is good, although I worry a little about Dallas coming back relatively quickly from an ACL injury.

I thought the defense acquitted itself well against UNC.  Forcing turnovers should continue to be a major priority for that unit.  It will be interesting to see how the defensive front fares against Princeton’s experienced offensive line.  Mel Capers, whose play in the game against the Tigers last season was so critical to changing the game’s momentum, may not play football again, which is a shame (although a final decision has apparently not been made yet).

The Citadel’s special teams were mostly good against the Tar Heels.  Sam Keeler’s performance, in particular, was encouraging.  The kicking game will need to be just as solid against Princeton.

I like the idea of this series, which was conceived by current Princeton AD Gary Walters and Les Robinson, former director of athletics at The Citadel.  I think it would be neat if The Citadel played other schools from the Ivy League or Patriot League in home-and-home series from time to time.  However, my guess is that this will be the last such home-and-home for a while, particularly with an additional SoCon game (due to Samford joining the SoCon) and the resumption of the series with VMI in 2010.

I should note that Princeton has scheduled some other schools out of its normal “comfort zone” in recent years.  Besides The Citadel, the Tigers have played two games against the University of San Diego, and have also faced Hampton.

I look forward to seeing Old Nassau.  I just hope that the hospitality includes a Bulldog victory.  I’m not counting on it, though.