What’s Fair is Fair, And Unfair to Some
BY JAY GREENBERG
After losing by 35 points last week, Columbia coach Al Bagnoli recognized Princeton’s 2018 offense as an outlier, probably the best he had ever seen on an Ivy team in his 27 years coaching in the league. After Lehigh became the Tigers’ latest victim, 66-7, on Saturday Coach Andy Coen offered a different context.
“They’re just a better football team than we are, clearly,” Coen said. “And there are reasons why they are.
“When you look out and their threes [third-string players] are beating our ones, that pretty much says it all. Give me the scholarship money the Ivies give that they say they don’t, but they do, then it would be a whole different look.”
Before Saturday, Lehigh had won five of its six previous meetings against Princeton.
Coen’s teams are 13-16 against Ivy teams during his 12-year tenure, 5-6 since the Patriot League began giving full athletic scholarships in 2013. These are not numbers that reflect a gross competitive disadvantage by schools that Lehigh can choose, or not choose, to schedule.
“I just want to be clear than our guys are not on scholarship,” said Bob Surace after learning of Coen’s comments on Sunday. “So many don’t receive financial aid at all.
“It’s an insult to insinuate that they are coming here for free because they are football players. I don’t want that misconception out there. Our players are not getting one dollar more than any Princeton student who needs financial help.
“It insults the hard work our guys are doing, the strength and performance development staff is doing, and the work our coaches do to develop relationships and recruit kids that fit our program.
“The vast majority of the students on our team are in work-study. We even have kids in work-study who are not receiving any financial aid, getting up early and working in dining halls in addition to everything else they have to do.
“Andy is a good guy. I hope he was misquoted. I just don’t want it out there that we give athletic scholarships. Because we don’t.”
When a team is winning this big, the running-up-the score police inevitably will investigate. Saturday was the first time in the four routs that the Tigers, who led 31-7 at the half, scored more points in the second half than the first. Two of the touchdowns came via the pass.
In their brief post-game conversation at the end of the game, Coen did not indicate any displeasure to Surace about his tactics. In conceding how many third-and-fourth stringers were playing in second half, the coach was trying to make a point about a perceived competitive disadvantage. But no matter how thoroughly a bench is cleared, eyebrows will be raised.
Surace, who during a 2-18 start lost games 34-0 to Brown, 52-10 to Penn and 42-14 to Columbia, always says he remembers being on the other end. But you can’t reign in the enthusiasm of kids wanting to show what they can do, or just hand the ball off on three up-the-middle runs and then punt. With the Princeton reserves on defense playing as well as they did Saturday that would only have prolonged Lehigh’s agony.
“There are 25 minutes to go in the game and there are only so many plays you have that you can run,” said Surace.
“Almost every run we have has something attached to it where we might throw it, depending on the look we get. We are just running our offense, keeping it simplistic like we do in JV games. And the best way to get the game over is to get first downs and take almost all the time you are allowed before the next snap.
“Like the last three weeks, all we tried to do was keep the clock running. The 32-yard touchdown (from Cole Smith to Dylan Classi) was 10-yard route on fourth-and-ten and Dylan broke it. We were not taking deep shots or running trick plays.”
UPON FURTHER REVIEW DEPT:
Yes, with the exception of two holding calls, a turnover leading to the Lehigh touchdown, and a missed tackle on the third-and-ten scoring play, the Princeton performance Saturday looked just as good to Surace on film as it did live.
Actually, it was even better. “When we left the game, special teams probably were the last thing on my mind,” said the coach. “But watching it again, they were much better than the week before, when we had our struggles.
“We almost hit a couple of punt returns early; one of them by Tiger (Bech for 43 yards) before the half helped set up a score. Austin Carbone did a really good job on a kickoff return (of 30 yards). George (Triplett) had a 45 yarder on his only punt and we were clean in all the other areas.”
STARS BEING BORN DEPT:
Freshman strong safety Christian Brown, already a stalwart on special teams, is making an impact in the defensive backfield, too. He had an interception Saturday and a fumble recovery that wasn’t, it being overturned on replay because the runner was deemed down.
“On the interception, Christian was coming from behind, timed it perfectly, and had a great break on the ball,” said Surace. “He was holding it very loose and we’ll work on taking care of it better. But he was very active.”