October 23, 2002: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! The Varsity Typewriter column
back in a big way
By Sophia Hollander 02
Photo: Fumble! Heading into the Columbia game, Princeton led the Ivy League in turnover ratio (+3). (Gene Boyars)
David Splithoff 04 lay crumpled on the ground like a piece of paper the Columbia defense had tossed away. As Lions and Tigers swarmed 50 yards downfield, few paid attention to the Princeton quarterback as he raised his bruised head and peered into the endzone. He saw his wide receiver Patrick Schottel 03 hopping madly and a line of Lions slinking slowly off the field. Splithoff smiled.
In the space of 38 seconds, he had erased Princetons dreadful first-half memories and inserted elation into its October 5 Ivy opener. Instead of entering the second half trailing 147, Princeton could file away its two fumbles, intercepted pass, and overall sloppy play as part of the past thanks to the game-tying toss.
Mark it up to a second straight week of pregame preparation paying off. We go through it twice a week, said Splithoff of the Hail Mary pass. I dont like taking big hits, but sometimes, you know, if you take a big hit and get the ball off, theres going to be a big play because of it.
The momentum swing provided by the last-second touchdown helped propel Princeton (21 overall, 10 Ivy) just past Columbia, 3532 before 9,103 fans at Wien Stadium. The Lions (12, 01) still had a chance to win with 37.2 seconds left, after a 19-play drive culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass to Steve Cargile and a two-point conversion. But the Lions failed to recover the onside kick as the final seconds spun off the clock.
A week earlier against Lafayette, linebacker Zak Keasey 04 heeded coach Roger Hughess advice to draw a line in the sand. After hurtling out to a
240 lead in its home opener, Princeton watched as Lafayettes Joe McCourt streaked 36 yards to the Princeton goal line, while Tigers tumbled desperately behind.
The resulting 246 halftime score against Lafayette served as an eerie echo of Princetons implosion against Lehigh a week earlier, when the halftime score was 247. In that game, the Tigers would not score again and lost, 3124. As time progressed against Lafayette, the similarities between the two contests became more and more striking. The Leopards went on to score 19 of the next 22 points, despite a halftime tongue thrashing from Hughes, who pounded home the point he had been making all week: Draw the line.
But unlike the Lehigh game, when the sidelines remained quiet and nervous as they watched their lead slip away, this time the Tigers steeled themselves to come back. Clinging to a 2719 lead and the Leopards advancing downfield in the fourth quarter, Princetons Brandon Mueller 04 managed to swat quarterback Marko Glavics pass aside during a blitz. Keasey snatched the ball out of the air, effectively snuffing out the Lafayette drive. That just stopped them, said Splithoff. That set up everything.
Princeton went on to defeat Lafayette 3419 in front of 13,275 fans at Princeton Stadium, giving Hughes his first victory against a Patriot League team since becoming the Tigers head coach in 2000. It also prevented Glavic from notching his second heart-breaking victory against Princeton. In the teams last meeting two years ago, Glavic, then buried so deeply on the Leopards depth chart that he was not even listed, came off the bench to throw a game-winning touchdown pass with two seconds remaining.
Their first two victories of the season may have been as mottled and bumpy as the Henry Hudson Parkway, but the Tigers will take them. Hopefully weve exorcised all those demons, said Hughes after the Columbia game.
Splithoff and Cameron Atkinson 03 distinguished themselves as potent Tiger forces during the two games. Against Lafayette, Splithoff rushed for 62 yards and completed 15 of 22 passes for one touchdown and 213 yards. In the next game he connected on 14 of 19 passes, for a total of 202 yards and two touchdowns, despite being sacked five times.
Atkinson earned his fifth and sixth career 100-yard rushing games and scored four touchdowns, three against Lafayette. In the two games he rushed for a total of 224 yards. But perhaps even more encouraging for the Tigers than Atkinsons dominance was the able performance by backup Jon Veach 05, who stepped in against Columbia after Atkinson was leveled by a hard hit.
Atkinson would return to the game, but in his limited time Veach scored two touchdowns, including a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter that bumped the Tigers ahead, 2824. Princeton would not relinquish the lead again. We have three good tailbacks and all three of us could step in any time, Veach said. Were all ready when the time comes.
Veachs time came this weekend. But if Princeton continues its season of uneven sparks against Colgate October 12, it will soon be someone elses turn to draw a shaky line in the sand.
Sophia Hollander 02 is a writer living in New York. She is a regular contributor to the New York Times sports section and a culture columnist for The American Prospect.
league, major winner
Photo: Armed and dangerous: Chris Young 02 showed much promise in his first full year of pro baseball. (Jim mclean/Sportsphotos)
Playing professional baseball once autumn rolls in usually means one thing: Championships are on the line.
Last month in Hickory, North Carolina, it took all that former Tiger two-sport star Chris Young 02 had left in his right arm after his first full season as a pro ballplayer to help decide the fifth and final game of the South Atlantic Leagues championship series. In 2000, Young broke many Tiger baseball and basketball fans hearts when he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates after he was drafted in the third round, but he is making the most of his opportunity.
Young, whose Hickory Crawdads had taken a 20 lead in the series before almost letting it slip away, got the ball in the deciding game and did not disappoint his team, giving up just one run in six innings. He was losing 10 when he left the game, but the hurler kept his team close, and the Crawdads delivered three late-game runs to win 32 and earn their first-ever SAL championship. Young also pitched and won the first game of the series against the Columbus RedStixx.
I was a little tired my arm has seen better days but I only gave up two runs in 14 innings, and I gave my team a chance to win in our biggest games of the year, said Young, the only Ivy League athlete ever to earn Rookie of the Year honors in two sports. Championships are fun at any level. Overall I thought it was a very successful season.
Youngs season at Hickory also included a trip to the SAL All-Star game in June just weeks after getting his diploma. The politics major was able to complete his final semester, which included two classes and his senior thesis, via e-mail while at spring training in Florida. His thesis was on the impact that Jackie Robinsons integration of professional baseball in 1947 had on racial attitudes and stereotypes within the media, particularly the New York Times. On the mound, he finished the year 119 with a 3.11 earned run average for the Pirates low, single-A team. Despite slowing down a bit in the second half of the season, Young and his 9093 mph fastball still stir up plenty of hope within the organization. Young is expected to pitch for the Pirates high, single-A team in Lynchburg, Virginia, next year.
Hes made great strides this year, mostly because he was able to attend spring training from start to finish, says Brian Graham, the Pirates director of player development. Hes definitely one of our top pitching prospects. Hes 6' 10", hes got a good, athletic body, and a tremendous makeup very competitive, a great work ethic. Everybody likes him and gets along with him. Hes a model player.
Photo: AP/Wide world photos
Lauren Simone 02 and the rest of Princetons 2002 national champion womens lacrosse team present President George W. Bush with a Tiger lacrosse T-shirt featuring the score of last seasons win over Yale, his alma mater. Princeton and the rest of the NCAA title teams from last spring attended a champions celebration at the White House on September 24.