By Craig Sachson, PrincetonTigersFootball.com
The last time we saw the Princeton football team take the field, the Tigers were finishing off a 34-14 win at Franklin Field to clinch the program’s 13th Ivy League title, and its fourth in the last nine years. It’s a moment that will be etched in the memories of every player and coach from that day.
It’s also a moment that is 42 weeks old, which means it’s time to start making new memories.
That time officially begins Saturday at 1 pm ET when the Princeton Tigers make their 2022 debut at an undefeated Stetson team. This will be Princeton’s second meeting all-time against Stetson; the Tigers defeated the Hatters 63-0 in their home opener last year.
This is a different situation in a variety of ways. The 2021 matchup came in Princeton’s second week, which allowed the Tigers time to shake the rust off in the opener and make improvements. It was also a home game, as opposed to one in the heat of Florida. As head coach Bob Surace notes, this is also a much different Stetson team.
“I’m impressed with what I’ve seen from them in the first two weeks,” Surace said. “They really improved their team speed, and they have shown it by attempting about 15 deep throws over the first two games, and they hit a bunch of them. The backs and receivers can all run, so we’ll need to be ready. Defensively, they are very blitz heavy because they can play man-to-man in the secondary.”
Surace’s main focus right now is his own team, which lost a strong group of seniors from last year’s Ivy League championship team, but has worked incredibly hard over the last 42 weeks to be ready for another title run.
WEEK 1 NOTES
Opening Act • Princeton has gone 6-5 in season openers under Surace. That’s especially impressive when you consider that the Tigers lost each of the first five. Since a 2015 win at Lafayette, the Tigers have won their last six openers by an average margin of 27.3 points.
Flight Risk • This will be Princeton’s first team flight since the 2018 season opener, a 50-7 win at Butler. Princeton has made four flights in the 2000s and has gone 2-2 in those games (wins at San Diego, 2004, and Butler, 2018; losses at The Citadel, 2008, and San Diego, 2014).
O Captain, Our (Many) Captains • Last year, Princeton Football named a record six captains. That record lasted all of one year, as the 2022 Tigers will be led by seven co-captains: Carson Bobo, Henry Byrd, Dylan Classi, Andrei Iosivas, Matthew Jester, Uche Ndukwe and Michael Ruttlen Jr.
Climbing Ivy • Princeton returns six All-Ivy League players this season, including first-teamers Henry Byrd (OL), Carson Bobo (TE) and Will Powers (P). Andrei Iosivas (WR) and Uche Ndukwe (DL) were both on the second team, while Dylan Classi (WR) earned honorable mention.
Plead The Fifth • Princeton will start a different quarterback for the fifth straight season opener this weekend. Though the starter has yet to be named, nobody on the current roster has started a game yet.
2017 – Chad Kanoff (27-17 win over San Diego)
2018 – John Lovett (50-7 win at Butler)
2019 – Kevin Davidson (49-7 win over Butler)
2021 – Cole Smith (32-0 win at Lehigh)
Catching Up • The quarterbacks may lack experience, but their top targets don’t. Senior wideout Dylan Classi has 76 catches for 1226 yards and is on pace to become the 16th player in program history to record 100 career receptions. Classmate Andrei Iosivas was one of the breakout stars of 2021, catching 41 passes for 703 yards and five touchdowns, while tight end Carson Bobo has 40 career catches and brings versatility to the tight end position.
Grounded • Sophomore John Volker took over the main rushing duties last November following the injury to Collin Eaddy; after only 11 runs during the first seven weeks of the season, he had 24 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown in the final three games.
Tackling The Issue • Princeton lost its top five leaders in tackles last season, as Jeremiah Tyler, James Johnson, Samuel Wright, Daniel Beard and Trevor Forbes combined for 215 stops on the season. Senior Matthew Jester is the leading returner with 30 stops in 2021, including three sacks.
Sack Race • Princeton does return two of its top pass rushers from last season. While Samuel Wright led the team with 11.5 sacks last year, both Uche Ndukwe and Cole Aubrey recorded six sacks apiece for the Tigers. Ndukwe posted his total in only six games before suffering a season-ending injury.
What’s Next • Princeton will make its 2022 home debut Saturday, Sept. 24, in a 3 pm home game against Lehigh. Those teams met in Week 1 of the 2021 season, a game Princeton won 32-0 on the road.
• Quarterback Brady Meitz has thrown for nearly 800 yards while also completing nearly 60% of his passes through the first two weeks of the season.
• Stetson has three receivers (Nazeviah Burris, Quinton Lane, Michael Martinez) will at least 11 catches through two games. Burris has a team-best 14 receptions, while Lane leads the Hatters with 21.5 yards per catch and two touchdowns.
• The tandem of Kaderris Roberts and Jalen Leary are averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game. Roberts has broken at least a 30-yard run in each of Stetson’s two games.
• The Hatters have 17 tackles for loss in the first two games of the season; Majeste Hansberry ad Alex Alteus have four apiece.
• Rassie Littlejohn has two of Stetson’s four interceptions.
• Stetson has outscored teams 38-7 in the second half this season.
By Craig Sachson, PrincetonTigersFootball.com