First and 10

What you need to know about Princeton football in 2007

A Weekly Blog Summer Special

1 – Princeton loss in 2006. Cornell topped the Tigers 14-7 at Schoellkopf Field, and coach Jim Knowles expects another competitive game when his team comes to Princeton for a Friday-night showdown Oct. 26. “We match up pretty well against them,” Knowles said in August. “All three years that I’ve been [at Cornell], they’ve been really close games. There’s a nice rivalry there.”

2 – Starting running backs returning. Fullback Rob Toresco ’08 and tailback R.C. Lagomarsino ’09 accounted for a third of Princeton’s offensive attack last season. The two combined for 779 rushing yards and caught 49 passes for 491 receiving yards.

3 – Passes thrown by Bill Foran ’08 last season. The new starting quarterback is a former sprinter on the Princeton track team who excelled as a kick returner and part-time wide receiver in the last three years, but he disputes the notion that he’s a running quarterback. “I think that’s a little unfair,” Foran said. “Just because you’re fast doesn’t mean you’re a runner. As a quarterback you have to be both [a runner and a passer]. … I can make all the throws.”

4 – Princeton games decided by a field goal or less last season. The Tigers won all four: 27-26 at Colgate in overtime, 31-28 over Harvard, 31-30 over Penn in overtime, and 34-31 at Yale. “Our largest lead [last season] was 14 points, and that was in the very last game,” head coach Roger Hughes said. “We got to enjoy that lead for two minutes.”

5 – More yards between the kicker and the far end zone. Kickers will start at their own 30-yard-line, instead of the 35. The NCAA made the change to prevent touchbacks and encourage more returns, but offensive coordinator Dave Rackovan is not sold on that logic. “I think it’s going to create injury situations,” Rackovan said, noting that players will have five more yards to build up speed before colliding. “It’s not a great rule, but we have to live by it.”

6 – Uniform number of wide receiver Brendan Circle ’08. Jeff Terrell ’07 slipped 56 passes into the sure hands of number 6 last season, and Circle finished the year with a league-best 835 receiving yards. “He doesn’t have great speed,” Hughes said of Circle, “but he has great savvy and great football sense and understands how to get open.”

7 – Princeton wins in its last seven games against Lehigh, Lafayette, and Columbia. The Tigers have played well against this year’s September opponents in the last three years. With wins over Lehigh and Lafayette in 2006 (the Patriot League’s top two teams), Hughes joked that the Tigers could have staked a claim to the Patriot title.

8 – Ivy championships for Princeton in the league’s 51 seasons. By splitting the title with Yale last year, the Tigers ended a 10-year drought. Princeton celebrated the achievement by including a picture of its Ivy championship ring in the corner of each page of the 2007 media guide.

9 – Starters lost: four on offense, four on defense, plus punter Colin McDonough ’07. Recent graduates J.J. Artis ’07 and Tim Strickland ’07 both were first-team All-Ivy defensive backs last season, and replacing them will be a significant challenge for defensive coordinator Steve Verbit. The punting job likely will go to Princeton-native Ryan Coyle ’09. “He stepped in for two games last year when Colin was hurt and has really shown a lot of promise,” Hughes said.

10 – Games, starting this Saturday. The complete schedule:

Sept. 15 LEHIGH, 6 p.m.
Sept. 22 at Lafayette, 6 p.m.
Sept. 29 COLUMBIA, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 HAMPTON, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 13 at Brown, 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 at Harvard, 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 CORNELL, 7 p.m.
Nov. 3 at Penn, noon
Nov. 10 YALE, 1 p.m.
Nov. 17 at Dartmouth, 12:30 p.m.