October 24, 2007: Sports

Close call
Tigers outlast Columbia in a wild Ivy opener

Destiny’s first stand
Radio play-by-play sent news to campus of Princeton’s goal-line stand against Chicago.

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Greg Mroz ’08

Backup quarterback Greg Mroz ’08 led two of Princeton’s six touchdown drives. (Beverly Schaefer)

Close call
Tigers outlast Columbia in a wild Ivy opener

By Ashley Wolf ’08

With three minutes remaining in the first half of its Sept. 29 football game against Columbia, Princeton seemed poised for a blowout, leading 21–3. But the Lions, as Princeton head coach Roger Hughes later would say, had energy and fight, and the Tigers were plagued by inconsistencies. Princeton would lose its lead before rallying for a 42–32 win in a game that was not decided until the final minutes.

“We certainly find ways to keep games close,” Hughes joked afterward.

The Tigers saw their early advantage — built on touchdowns by the scrambling feet of quarterback Bill Foran ’08 and the diving heroics of running backs R.C. Lagomarsino ’09 and Rob Toresco ’08 — quickly shrink before halftime.

With 2:14 remaining in the second quarter, Columbia wide receiver Austin Knowlin caught a long pass from quarterback Craig Hormann down the right sideline. Dan Kopolovich ’10 had his arms around Knowlin, but the receiver pulled free en route to a 69-yard touchdown. Three plays later, Andy Shalbrack intercepted a Foran pass and returned it for an uncontested touchdown, cutting the Princeton advantage to 21–17.

Columbia started the second half with another Hormann-to-Knowlin touchdown pass, giving the Lions their first lead since the game’s opening minutes.

Toward the end of a fruitless third quarter, Greg Mroz ’08 replaced Foran at quarterback. Mroz helped Princeton advance to Columbia’s 8-yard line, where he turned over the show to the capable hands of Lagomarsino. Diving into a mass of blue shirts, the junior tailback rolled right and slipped under the hands of would-be-tacklers for the go-ahead touchdown.

In Columbia’s ensuing possession, defensive end Tom Methvin ’09 forced a fumble on the first play, and Princeton’s offense took advantage of the turnover with a quick strike. Mroz found Jake Staser ’08 deep in the end zone for the only Tiger touchdown pass of the day.

“I don’t feel like we lost a beat when Greg came in,” Toresco said after the game. “He just came in and took control.”

But Columbia was not quite finished. The Lions responded with a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion, trimming Princeton’s lead to 35–32.

Mroz was taken out after an injury to his throwing hand (X-rays later showed no broken bones), and Foran returned to seal the win for Princeton. With 1:29 remaining, he faked a handoff to Kenny Gunter ’10 and dodged his way to the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown run.

Early in the game, Foran showed his ability to escape trouble, eluding the defense by running or completing passes while in the grasp of Columbia tacklers. Though Hughes complimented Foran on improved decision-making, there were still times when his desperation attempts ended in lost yards or turnovers for Princeton.

The pressure of a tight game did not seem to faze Foran, Mroz, or the rest of the Tigers, perhaps because of familiarity. Last year, when Princeton was 9–1, it never held a lead of more than 14 points and won four games by a field goal or less.

“[Close games are] all we’ve really known the last few years,” Toresco said. “It’s kind of second nature.” end of article

Ashley Wolf ’08 is a molecular biology major from Montville, N.J.

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Radio play-by-play sent news to campus of Princeton’s goal-line stand against Chicago.

(Princeton Alumni Weekly)

Destiny’s first stand

On Oct. 28, 1922, three undersized defenders from Princeton made a play that would define one of the Tigers’ most storied football teams. And when Charlie Caldwell ’25, Harland “Pink” Baker ’22, and Oliver Alford ’22 stopped Chicago fullback John Thomas at the goal line on fourth down, preserving an improbable 21–18 Princeton win, the feat echoed far beyond the bleachers at Stagg Field, thanks to the first long-distance radio broadcast in the history of collegiate sports.

Telephone lines carried the play-by-play from Chicago to New York, and hundreds of students gathered around radios at University Field, Palmer Laboratory, and the Western Union office to listen to the action. “Each place was crowded with eager students,” The New York Times reported, “cheering madly one minute, groaning hoarsely the next.” After the game’s final play, students paraded down Nassau Street, lit a bonfire, and rang the Nassau Hall bell (a celebration that, until then, was reserved for wins over Harvard or Yale).

Eighty-five years later, it seems hard to imagine a Princeton-Chicago game inspiring such passion. The Uni-versity of Chicago dropped its football team from 1940 to 1968 before returning to play in Division III, and the Tigers, who play in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, have not contended for a national title in the last half-century.

But in 1922, coach Amos Alonzo Stagg’s Maroons were a Big Ten powerhouse, and Princeton ranked among the finest teams in the east. The rare east-west showdown provided a perfect opportunity to expand radio broadcasting, which had been used locally since 1920.

Princeton led the game early, but Thomas, the Maroons’ bruising runner, wore down the defense, scoring three touchdowns to build an 18–7 Chicago lead. The Tigers’ luck turned early in the fourth quarter, when Howdy Gray ’23 returned a fumble 42 yards to the end zone. Minutes later, Harry Crum ’24 completed a Princeton drive with his second touchdown of the day, putting the Tigers ahead 21–18.

Chicago still had time to respond. Making use of its passing attack, Stagg’s team reached the Princeton 7-yard line. Three runs pushed the ball within a foot of the goal, setting up the Tigers’ famous fourth-down stand.

After the game, legendary columnist Grantland Rice dubbed Princeton a “team of destiny.” The Tigers would live up to their billing, beating Harvard and Yale to win the Big Three championship and complete an 8–0 season.

One player, Don Griffin ’23, would later credit “the twin authorities of fact and fiction” for the 1922 team’s legendary status. But technology also played a role. As Donald Herring 1907 wrote in PAW, “The wonders of wireless telephony were never better exemplified.” end of article

By B.T.

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Photo by Hyunseok Shim ’08

Sports Shorts

Sheena Donohue ’10, at net, and teammates Lindsey Ensign ’09 and Parker Henritze ’09 combined for 79 of Princeton’s 95 kills in WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL’s back-and-forth 3–2 win over Penn Sept. 29. The match was about as close as they come — four of five games were decided by four points or fewer — and coach Glenn Nelson called it a “huge win” to open the Tigers’ quest for an Ivy League title. Princeton also beat Juniata the following day for its seventh consecutive victory.

WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY finished first in a field of 47 teams at the Brooks Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, Pa., Sept. 29. Christy Johnson ’10, Liz Costello ’10, and Jolee Vanleuven ’09 finished in the top 10. MEN’S CROSS

COUNTRY placed two runners in the top five — Ben Sitler ’10 and Michael Maag ’09 — to finish third at the event, behind Villanova and Syracuse.

WOMEN’S SOCCER won four consecutive games, including its Ivy League opener at Dartmouth Sept. 29. Alexandra Valerio ’11 and Melissa Whitley ’08 scored goals in Princeton’s 2–1 win over the Big Green. MEN’S SOCCER recorded back-to-back shutouts against in-state rivals, tying Monmouth 0–0 Sept. 27 and beating Fairleigh Dickinson 2–0 Sept. 30.

MEN’S TENNIS topped the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Yale; and Brown to reach the finals of the ECAC Invitational Sept. 29–Oct. 1. In the championship, Princeton played well in doubles but dropped all four singles matches, falling 5–2 against Penn State.

WOMEN’S GOLF placed first in a 14-team field at the Penn State Nittany Lion Invitational Oct. 1. Susannah Aboff ’09 shot a tournament-best 71 in the opening round and finished second in the individual standings.

In FIELD HOCKEY Sept. 29, Cornell scored with 21 seconds remaining to beat Princeton, 4–3, and drop the Tigers into a tie for second place in the Ivy standings. Holly McGarvie ’09 scored two goals for Princeton in the loss. end of article

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