Nobody Understands The Depth of These Feelings like Dorian

  • October 20, 2016

BY JAY GREENBERG

A seven-game league schedule rarely offers forgiveness for any loss, which is why Bob Surace’s story never changes: Every week Princeton plays its No. 1 rival.  The Tigers beat Harvard in both of their last two championship seasons and then suffered losses at Cornell (2006) and Dartmouth (2013) that kept them from undisputed titles.

So yes, win or lose against Harvard in this battle of 2-0 league unbeatens at 1 p.m. on Saturday on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, a chance at the championship still will be on the line next week at Ithaca against an improved Cornell team.

“I think the cool thing about our team this year is we approach every game with the same intensity,” said senior nose tackle Henry Schlossberg.

“But we would be lying if we said we didn’t understand the importance of this.”

At least they think they do. Senior safety Dorian Williams, who along with punter Tyler Roth are the only surviving Tigers who played in that last Princeton victory over Harvard in 2013, says he didn’t fully grasp what it meant until the locker room afterwards.

“Our seniors were crying,” Williams recalls. “That’s when I understood.

“I remember running into the end zone and jumping onto Roman (Wilson, who caught the winning pass in the third overtime). I remember our soccer team was there to play Harvard that day and they came down out of the stands, too. I remember Coach Surace in the locker room being just ecstatic.

“To date, that was the greatest game I ever have played in. Just that atmosphere and winning in triple overtime, that is something you can’t really imagine until you are in it.

“I mean, I knew going into the game it was Harvard vs. Princeton, knew we were playing for first place in the league, and how good they were from watching film to prepare.

“But seeing the seniors crying, then I understood.  And now I understand even more after getting beaten by them the last two years.”

In 2014, quarterback Connor Hempel hit bombs of 39 and 49 yards and Harvard scored touchdowns on four straight first-half possessions in a 49-7 victory on Powers Field.  Last year at Harvard Stadium it was 7-7 until the Crimson drove for a touchdown on its final first-half possession. A 42-7 rout against an injury-decimated Tiger team was on.

In case you weren’t a math major, we will help you: After consecutive wins by Princeton in 2012 (when the Tigers were down 24 points 2:15 into the fourth quarter) and 2013 in triple overtime, Princeton has been outscored 91-14 by Harvard. Fair to say, that’s fair retribution.

“My sophomore year (2014) hurt more than last year,” said Williams. “From the first snap they were on us; truly dominated that game.

“Last year it was 7-7 until they scored on their last drive of the first half. That’s not a bad game but then we wore out.”

Princeton travelled to Boston last season without Seth DeValve, DiAndre Atwater, Kurt Holuba, Rohan Hylton, and Spenser Huston, all elite players. Middleweights were going in against heavyweights with hands tied. All the bobbing and weaving James Perry could design was not going to win the fight.

“Harvard has been very good through the years but I thought that [2015] group was especially senior-dominant,” said Surace. “Their elite players made us not quite at that level.

“We fought but, to me, we looked like a team that ran out of gas.”

The tank is topped off this time. Holuba and Hylton—along with Schlossberg and Williams, the biggest engines driving the Princeton defense—are healthy. Lead rusher Joe Rhattigan, used sparingly last week, is fresh and the Tigers have yet to lose a single member of the two deep for the season.

“It gives us a lot more confidence knowing we have all our guys this time,” said senior linebacker Birk Olson.

The Crimson did not blow out Georgetown or Brown, the two so-far common opponents, nor did Harvard manhandle Cornell.  But it would be a mistake to read too much into its 27-17 loss at Holy Cross last week. Quarterback Joe Viviano, leading rusher Semar Smith and wide receiver Justice Shelton Mosley did not play.

It’s difficult to win with without three of your top five skilled players. It’s also hard not to believe the Crimson didn’t get better as a result, the backups becoming that much more tested as the headliners heal.

“They do a tremendous job recruiting athletes,” said Surace. “They are very system- oriented; year-to-year there are not dramatic changes.

“This year they have a more mobile quarterback than they have had in the past, but a lot of things are static. They get players who fit what they like to do.

“Depth wise they are far beyond most of the teams we play. They play as many as 12 defensive linemen. Everywhere, they are hard to wear down.”

Harvard has beaten Princeton seven of the last nine meetings and gotten at least a share of four of the last five Ivy League titles. In consecutive 5-5 seasons, injuries and close losses have kept Surace’s teams from maintaining the standard of excellence it hoped it had established in 2013. With the path to that elite status remaining through Harvard, Princeton (4-1) has another chance.

“Having played against them for three years, you see that when one guy graduates, there is a clone right behind him,” said Williams. “You always know what you are going to get from them.  They always reload.”

 

TIGER TAILS

John Lovett, who has rushed for seven touchdowns and thrown for four in the last three weeks, is the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive time. . . . With 10 rushing touchdowns on the year Lovett is more than halfway to Keith Elias’ school record 19 (modern era). . . . This is only the sixth time since the league was established in 1954 the two teams have come into the meeting 2-0 in the league. . . . Game will be streamed on Ivy League Digital Network and ESPN3. . . . The 2006 Ivy League Championship team will be honored on the field at halftime.