Game Week

Princeton Preview

The Bulldogs hit the road once again for their third and final away game of the season at Princeton. Kickoff is slated for noon and the game will air on ESPNU. 

The Tigers enter the contest with a 4-4 record (3-2 Ivy) after narrow league losses to Brown and Dartmouth earlier this season. Princeton defeated top-ranked Harvard as well as Columbia and Cornell as they leaned on their talented defense to stymie the opposition. 

Princeton’s offense was expected to be a top performing unit under the leadership of senior QB Blake Stenstrom (6’4”, 220 lbs.) but inconsistencies and turnovers have derailed the Tigers’ offense to date. When the Tigers are in a rhythm, which they’ve shown at times such as in the Harvard contest, they are very dangerous in the running game and passing game. Stenstrom has completed 60.3% of his passes for 1,852 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Despite being a traditional pocket passer, Stenstrom is not afraid to run the ball and Surace has shown increased willingness in recent weeks to run designed QB runs. Junior RB John Volker (6’0”, 210 lbs.) was a former track star and has used that speed to gain 4.5 yards per carry with 6 touchdowns. Junior RB Jiggie Carr (5’10”, 200 lbs.) is also heavily involved in the offensive scheme and averages 4.3 yards per carry. Princeton reloaded at the wide receiver position once again with juniors AJ Barber (5’9”, 180 lbs.) and Luke Colella (6’0”, 190 lbs.) posting impressive statistics. Barber, son of former NFL legend Tiki Barber, has hauled in 36 catches for 530 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Colella has racked up 36 catches for 461 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Princeton’s receiving corps does a great job at finding soft spots in the secondary and gaining substantial yardage after catches. Surace gets very creative on offense and even had Barber attempt a long downfield pass against Harvard which was intercepted. The Tigers will also put a slot receiver or H-back in motion to the sidelines a split second before the ball is snapped and quickly deliver the ball to that receiver on a short outside pass. Given Yale’s inability to stop the reverses on 4th down last week, one has to expect a similar wrinkle thrown into the gameplan by Princeton this week. Princeton’s offensive line averages 300.0 lbs. across the board and is led by 2nd Team All-Ivy OT Jalen Travis (6’9”, 315 lbs.). The offensive line has struggled at times paving the way for just 3.0 yards per carry and has allowed 22 sacks, although several sacks were due in part to Stenstrom holding onto the ball too long in the pocket. Junior TE Tyler Picnic (6’4”, 230 lbs.) is a solid blocker and receiving threat with 17 catches and a touchdown through 8 games. Yale’s defensive strategy this week needs to focus on filling gaps in the running game, getting hits on Stenstrom, and staying true to assignments to limit the big play ability of the exotic schemes Surace may have implemented for this game. 

Princeton’s defense is not only the top defense in the Ivy League, but also the top defensive unit in the entire FCS subdivision. The Tigers are led by two of the best linebackers that we’ve seen in the conference over the last few years in seniors Ozzie Nicholas (6’2”, 225 lbs.) and Liam Johnson (6’0”, 225 lbs.). Nicholas has racked up a whopping 81 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks this season and was named 2nd Team All-Ivy a year ago. Johnson was the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year in 2022 and if it weren’t for Nicholas’ stellar performances, he’d likely be a favorite to win the crown a second year in a row. Senior OLB Nicholas Sanker (6’3”, 235 lbs.) has been impressive on film disrupting plays at the line of scrimmage. Princeton’s defensive line does a great job at occupying blockers in their 3-4 defense to allow the linebackers to roam free. Senior DT Jack DelCarbino (5’11”, 275 lbs.) is a hard defender to move and has been the most productive defensive linemen for the Tigers with 37 tackles. Sophomore DE Bakari Edwards (6’1”, 225 lbs.) is a very skilled edge rusher who leads the team with 4 sacks. The best matchup for the Bulldogs in this contest is our wide receivers versus the Tigers’ defensive backs. Opponents have averaged just 2.4 yards per carry against Princeton but have fared moderately better in the passing game with 5.1 yards per attempt. Harvard and Dartmouth both had opportunities in the passing game but due to errant passes or dropped balls, were not able to exploit the Tigers on many occasions. Sophomore S Nasir Hill (6’1”, 190 lbs.) has been the top performing member of the secondary with 47 tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception thus far. Princeton plays a fast and aggressive style of defense with great effort. Teams have not found success running the ball, particularly in short yardage situations, and the speed of the defense limits the effectiveness of screens. The Bulldogs have to find a way to get dedicated blockers on Nicholas and Johnson on every running play. The offensive staff must get creative with the short to medium passing plays to give Grooms quick options to unload the ball before the blitzers arrive.

Junior K Jeffrey Sexton (6’2”, 180 lbs.) has been successful on just 2 of 5 field goal attempts this season with a long of 29 yards. Freshman P Brady Clark (6’1”, 195 lbs.) has been reliable with 38.3 yards per punt and has not had a punt blocked this season. Our punt protection team will need to be aware of the very fast edge rushers that Princeton utilizes to disrupt opposing punters.

Go Bulldogs! Beat the Tigers!  

39 replies on “Princeton Preview”

50 years ago today (11/10/1973) –

Halfback option pass from Don Gesicki to Tom Doyle on 4th and goal from the 5 caps a come-from-behind 24-21 win over Penn.
I was there. It was cold!

Some observations from the article (presumably written by Bill Wallace):
* the Giants were residents of the Bowl at that time, as it mentions Calvin Hill would be playing there the following day w/ the Cowboys.
* Rudy Green with 3 fumbles lost – imagine the outcry if one of our RB’s had that kind of performance these days.
* Yale passing game: 5-for-14 with 2 interceptions. Multiple rule changes restricting coverage of receivers since then sure has changed the game significantly.
* Interesting to see that QB’s were supposedly ineligible to catch a pass by NFL rules at that time. I didn’t remember that.

One other interesting observation from 1973: back then, the season used to finish AFTER Thanksgiving. Note that the Penn game (third-from-last) was on what is now Princeton weekend. Thanksgiving was Nov. 22, and The Game (a 35-0 home victory for the Bulldogs) was Nov. 24.

Funny that I don’t remember the Harvard game being on Thanksgiving weekend. I do remember there was a relatively small crowd for the Harvard game that year. Small even by today’s standards.

I was at the game as well. If I remember correctly, the headline in the Register on Sunday was Yale wins on a “Calvin Hill Special.” Referring, of course, to the Calvin Hill to Brian Dowling pass against Princeton in 1967.

Voy vey, that memory is emblazoned in my memory. We were sitting, were Don launched that ball , from the 5 yard line . Gary Fencik caught it just past the 30 . ran the rest of the way on the side line.
I wanna see Yale , win this game tomorrow. Thanks for that.

Bulldog10jw, that’s exactly correct. At the old Palmer Stadium. What a play it was. I’ve never seen Yale play on Thanksgiving. At least not in my lifetime. Always the Thursday after The Game. Go Bulldogs!

Not taking advantage. Yale is obviously the better team but they are letting Princeton hang around.

I don’t like Durand in at center, he does not block. Thats why P Defense is getting in on him

Very disappointing first half. This seems to happen when Yale looks good on their opening drive for some reason. I hope the Peterson fumble doesn’t turn out to be the play of the game.

The time is 1.25pm sat Yale Princeton football does yale have a playbook terrible play calling. Come on whats this sand lot football very disappointing.

Win or lose it’s very depressing that it comes down to OT. This game was won by the offense. Twice.

Wow! What a finish. Even tops last year’s game. Now Beat Harvard and take home a Championship!

Pitsenberger 131 yards on the ground. Tipton another 10 receptions. Grooms 23-30 for 232 no interceptions.

Penn FG team blows that game. Horrible line play leads to a blocked kick at end of regulation (admittedly a Hail Mary kick), then they miss a chip shot in second OT. Harvard clinches at least a share of the title.

I really hate when it comes down to 2 point conversions to decide an overtime game. I’m glad Yale has yet to have a game decided that way.

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