Football faces spoiler Princeton

Kindergarteners aren’t the only ones who don’t like to share.

After a second-half collapse cost Yale the chance to win an outright Ivy League championship last year, the Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 Ivy) head to Princeton (3-5, 2-3) with revenge on their minds Saturday.

Running back Mike McLeod ’09 breaks into the open field against Columbia on Oct. 27.  In Saturday's win against Princeton, McLeod finished with a touchdown run and 107 yards.
Ryan Galisewski
Running back Mike McLeod ’09 breaks into the open field against Columbia on Oct. 27. In Saturday's win against Princeton, McLeod finished with a touchdown run and 107 yards.

“We had an outright title on the line, and it was one of the toughest games to lose,” defensive lineman Kirk Porter ’08 said. “They made plays and we didn’t, and it was definitely a motivating factor all summer. We said no sharing this year. That was what it was all about this year — no sharing.”

In their last 17 games, the Bulldogs have lost only one game — to the Tigers. Last year, Princeton crushed the Elis’ quest for their first outright Ivy League title in 26 years in heartbreaking fashion.

The Tigers survived four first-half touchdowns by Mike McLeod ’09 and overcame a 28-14 halftime deficit en route to a 34-31 victory. After recording 355 yards in the first half, the Elis were shut down in the last two quarters, as the Tigers limited the Bulldogs to 59 total yards of offense and forced three consecutive three-and-outs.

“You think about it all the time,” fullback Joe Fuccillo ’08 said. “Maybe you might not go back and think about individual plays, but that feeling stays with you no matter what. It’s been kind of our motto this year to finish games in the fourth quarter and to not let up at all.”

Two years ago, the Bulldogs beat the Tigers 21-14 to deny Princeton a share of the league title. The Elis forced seven turnovers and scored two touchdowns in the final 27 seconds to pull out the improbable upset.

“I think that Harvard has all the hoopla around it, but Princeton is a rivalry because I don’t really think that the two teams like each other too much,” Porter said. “The past two games we’ve played with them have had an impact on the Ivy League title. They didn’t get a piece two years ago when we went into their place and beat them. When you have a couple of games like that — that’s all it takes for two teams to not like each other.”

This year, the Tigers will attempt to play the spoiler after being officially eliminated from title contention following last week’s 7-0 loss to Penn. Princeton could not get its offense going against the Quakers and was shut out for the first time since 1999.

With two games left in the season, the Tigers are still searching for an answer at quarterback following the departure of Jeff Terrell, the 2006 Ivy League Player of the Year. Bill Foran and Greg Mroz have split time at the position and have enjoyed moderate success, combining for 208 passing yards per game. But neither quarterback holds a candle to Terrell, who threw for over 440 yards against the Bulldogs in 2006.

The Tigers’ offensive struggles against the Quakers were part of a season-long trend. Princeton averages just 22.2 points per game, a figure only better than that of perennial doormat Columbia.

The Tigers make up for the lack of a reliable running back with a spread offense that attempts to confuse its opponents by moving players around the backfield prior to the snap and by running a variety of option plays. Princeton is second in the Ivies with 168 yards rushing per game, despite not having a single rusher averaging more than 46.1 yards per game.

“There are a lot of things our defense has to get prepared for,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said Tuesday. “It’s a very different attack. We have to have a good week of preparation.”

In comparison, the Bulldogs have three players averaging at least 44 yards per game. Heading the Eli rushing attack is McLeod, the nation’s leading rusher with 182.8 yards per game. Although the frigid weather conditions last Saturday forced McLeod to sit out most of the second half against Brown, the star tailback should be ready to go against Princeton.

“He’d carry 70 times if I left him,” Siedlecki said. “And I probably would let him. It’s [running backs] coach [Larry] Ciotti that keeps me under control. He’s got his little chart that says Mike’s got to come out.”

Although the Bulldogs are heavy favorites on paper, no one is looking past the Tigers, especially given that the past six games between the two schools have been decided by an average of less than 6 points.

“It’s one of those games where you throw the records aside,” Princeton head coach Roger Hughes said. “Both teams come into the game with a lot of pride.”

The Bulldogs have no intention of sharing another Ivy League title. The Elis’ quest for their first outright Ivy League Championship since 1981 and their first perfect season since 1960 continues this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Princeton Stadium.

For live coverage of Saturday’s game go to www.yaledailynews.com/blogs/firstandten.

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