Tag Archives: Princeton football

Q&A with Dave Revsine, Author of ‘The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation’

Dave Revsine (Courtesy Dave Revsine)

Dave Revsine (Courtesy Dave Revsine)

When Princeton football hosted Yale last November, the Ivy League-leading Tigers drew nearly 15,000 fans to Princeton Stadium. But that turnout pales in comparison to the frenzy surrounding the 1893 Princeton-Yale game, a clash between two undefeated powerhouse programs. In his new book, The Opening Kickoff, author and sports broadcaster Dave Revsine opens with a chronicle of that Thanksgiving Day game in Manhattan, which drew an estimated 50,000 spectators and illustrated how “football had become a big business.” Even before the turn of the century, the sport’s headlines had a distinctly modern feel: disputes about eligibility and improper benefits, concerns about the safety of the game, and coaches who aimed to use their celebrity status to stay on top. Revsine spoke with PAW in July about the role that Princeton and other prestigious institutions played in the early history of college football.

Your book begins with the 1893 Princeton-Yale game, which followed a decade of rapid growth in the popularity of college football. What was behind this explosion of interest?

There are a couple of factors. From the schools’ point of view, I think they very quickly understood that it was a great public-relations vehicle and that it was a way for them to make money. So, you had this huge explosion in the number of colleges … and you had this period where people were founding colleges and then searching for students to serve. Obviously this wasn’t a problem with the Princetons, Yales, and Harvards of the world, but it was certainly a problem with other schools: How are we going to differentiate ourselves? And they quickly saw football as a way to do it.

From the fans’ point of view, I think the newspapers play a huge role. People had some leisure time on their hands that they hadn’t had before, and football gave people an entree into the social elite because these teams were associated with these universities. You might not be a Yale or a Princeton grad, but you could be a Yale or a Princeton fan — and being a fan, by association, made you a part of Yale or Princeton. I think that was appealing to a lot of people.

The powers of college football then were academically distinguished institutions — Harvard, Yale, and Princeton — yet the game then was exceptionally brutal and bloody. How did the leaders at these places reconcile the brutality of the sport with the larger mission of their universities?

It depended on the school. Harvard, for years, was sort of the conscientious objector — but the conscientious objector who still participated. The president of Harvard was adamantly opposed to football and resisted getting into the fray with Yale. Yale was the first football factory, and as I say in the book, Walter Camp was the foreman. At times [Yale] would deny the brutality of football. They would say that while it might be brutal the way that it’s played out in the hinterlands, the way that we play it — the science of the sport — is not very brutal. Continue reading

Epperly-to-Wilson Puts Princeton Over the Top, Again

After a storybook comeback in last year’s Harvard game, the Princeton football team seemed to have used up all its luck. As the Tigers dropped three of their next four games, Quinn Epperly ’15’s lob to the end zone, which was caught by Roman Wilson ’14 for the winning touchdown, looked more and more like a fluke. But one year later, on Oct. 26, the Tigers went to Cambridge and proved that they didn’t need luck to take down Harvard — they had the talent.

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Quinn Epperly ’15, show in action against Columbia, continued his remarkable season with a record-setting win at Harvard Oct. 26. To date, he has thrown for 15 touchdowns and run for 11. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

This year’s game ended in an almost identical fashion to last year’s. Needing to score, Epperly chucked it into the corner of the end zone and Wilson, with a Crimson player right on him, came down with it. Last year’s score put the Tigers up late in the final quarter of a game that ended 39-34. This year’s touchdown ended the third overtime period in a game that saw Princeton put up 51 points to edge Harvard’s 48.

What was striking about Saturday’s game was how different Princeton’s offense looked this time around. With quarterback Connor Michelsen ’15 sidelined by an injury, it was the first time in Epperly’s college career that he took every snap. Last season, he split time with Michelsen against Harvard, and each had his moments. As the tape of the final touchdown shows, however, Epperly’s pass could just as easily have been one of the worst moments of his season. He was under pressure and threw off the wrong foot, leaving it up to Wilson to get around the defender and make an outstanding catch.

This season, the game-winning touchdown exemplified how far Epperly, and Princeton’s offense, has come. Filled with confidence during his best passing game ever — he broke one school record with 37 completions in the game and another with six passing touchdowns — Epperly faked a quarterback dive, selling it completely, and delivered a perfect throw to his favorite target, Wilson.

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Epperly ’15, Michelsen ’15 Lead Football to 3-1 Start

It has been seven years since Princeton football fans have seen their team win at least three of the first four games of the season, and when the Tigers began the season 4-0 in 2006, it turned out to be an exciting year that included a bonfire and an Ivy League championship. 

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Quinn Epperly ’15 (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

Saturday’s 42-26 win over Lafayette gave the Tigers a three-game winning streak as they begin the hardest part of their schedule. Princeton’s impressive offensive attack has been led by its quarterbacks, specifically Quinn Epperly ’15.

Sharing time at the quarterback position last season with Connor Michelsen ’15, Epperly’s most well-known pass came with 13 seconds left to play in the 2012 Harvard game to receiver Roman Wilson ’14 — a touchdown that capped Princeton’s comeback win. This season has been an extension of that success. In the Georgetown game, Epperly became the Tiger to rush for four touchdowns in a game since Keith Elias ’94. Against Columbia, he became the first Tiger to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Chad Roghair ’91. And in the win over Lafayette, he was responsible for five more touchdowns (four passing, one rushing).

“Quinn did some really good things,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said afterward. “I thought he really executed well.”

Epperly and Wilson connected six times for two of Epperly’s passing touchdowns. He also threw scoring passes to receiver Connor Kelley ’15 and tight end Des Smith ’14.

“I think the way our offense is designed a lot of guys are contributing, we’re working extremely hard all practice or all week long in practice, and that’s just how it works. One guy one week will have a breakout game … and anybody can have that type of game at anytime,” Kelley said. “That’s what makes our offense really great.”

Michelsen also has contributed significantly to the offense, leading the team in passing yards this season and driving the Tigers down the field on six of their seven scoring drives against Lafayette. Epperly, a dual running and passing threat, often comes into the game when Princeton reaches the red zone.

“I think that definitely a lot more credit should be given to [Michelsen] than probably is,” Epperly said. “A lot of those drives that I’m scoring on he’s leading down the field and I’m just kind of running it in at the end, so he definitely probably deserves more credit than he’s been given.”

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Multiple Quarterbacks Contribute in Football Opener

Coming into the Lehigh game Sept. 21, one of the major questions Princeton football fans had was who would be starting under center. Despite a full 60 minutes of play in a tumultuous 29-28 loss, that question has yet to be resolved. Quarterbacks Connor Michelsen ’15, Quinn Epperly ’15, and Kedric Bostic ’16 each played a role in the offense during the opener.

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Roman Wilson ’14 caught nine passes for 168 yards and a touchdown in Princeton’s 29-28 loss to Lehigh. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

With a 22-3 lead at halftime, the Tiger offense seemed to be clicking, and the defense able to contain Lehigh’s explosive offensive ability. The second half, on the other hand, told a different story. The Princeton defense was unable to stop the Mountain Hawks from reaching the end zone. The Tigers took back the lead on a 17-yard touchdown rush by DiAndre Atwater ’16 with 8:03 left in the game, but they were unable to convert on 2-point conversion. Lehigh would come back down the field to score once again, giving them the 29-28 lead with 2:45 left on the clock.

Princeton’s last possession ended when a Michelsen pass attempt was intercepted at the Lehigh 37 with 1:50 to go in the game. The Mountain Hawks were then able to gain a first down and run out the clock.

Michelsen, the returning starter, was not the only one taking snaps for the Tigers. Debuting a formation they call Ninja, in which they spread the tackles out to the wide-receiver positions while keeping the center, two guards, and a quarterback and running back in their normal spots, the Tigers aimed to use the abilities of several players to pass, receive, or run. At times the offense positioned Michelsen, Epperly, and Bostic as quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. (Receivers Seth DeValve ’15 and Connor Kelley ’15 also were high-school quarterbacks.)

 “I think the nature of the quarterback position is changing a little bit, and the high-school athlete is back, whether he’s a runner, passer, all those things,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said. “We don’t want to have those guys standing next to me the whole game, so let’s utilize them.”

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Alumni, journalists pay tribute to Kazmaier ’52

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Dick Kazmaier ’52, No. 42, eludes a Rutgers defender on the Oct. 20, 1950, cover of PAW. (Photo: PAW Archives)

News of Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier ’52’s death last week prompted tributes from several alumni and sports journalists. 

New Yorker writer and Princeton professor John McPhee ’53, a close friend and former roommate of Kazmaier, said that the former football star’s “strongest characteristic was loyalty and his greatest talent was friendship,” according to the Associated Press

The athletic communications office’s TigerBlog highlighted Kazmaier’s modest manner: “When you’re the only Heisman Trophy winner in the long history of a football program and you had the kind of [football] career that Kazmaier had, you naturally have a bit of ‘that’s him, that’s the one’ celebrity about you. Kazmaier wanted no part of that.”

Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67 spoke about Kazmaier’s wisdom and humility in a statement on GoPrincetonTigers.com:

“Notwithstanding all of the achievements in his athletic, business, and philanthropic endeavors, Dick remained one of the most self-effacing individuals I have ever met. He never sought the spotlight and always led in a thoughtful and ethical manner.

“Indeed, Dick was also the father of six daughters and he became a major force behind the scenes as he helped to implement the Title IX Legislation that was passed in 1972 in order to provide equal competitive opportunities for women in college.

“As is the case with many of his Princeton friends, Dick was a personal mentor and advisor for me in my role as Athletic Director; and I will miss him dearly as a friend.”

Update: NPR’s Frank Deford ’61 devoted his Aug. 7 commentary to Kazmaier, “a honey of a guy.”

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Heisman winner Kazmaier ’52 dies at age 82

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Dick Kazmaier ’52, right, with Bill Bradley ’65 at the No. 42 retirement celebration in 2008. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

Dick Kazmaier ’52, the former star halfback and Princeton’s lone Heisman Trophy winner, died Aug. 1 in Boston. He was 82.

Kazmaier, a versatile runner and passer from Maumee, Ohio, mastered coach Charlie Caldwell ’25’s single-wing offense and led the Tigers to consecutive undefeated seasons in 1950 and ’51, winning three of college football’s top individual awards — the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, and Walter Camp Trophy — in his senior year.

He was drafted by the Chicago Bears but bypassed the NFL to pursue an M.B.A. at Harvard and a distinguished career in business. He later chaired the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

In 2008, the athletics department honored Kazmaier and former basketball standout Bill Bradley ’65 by retiring the No. 42 — worn by both stars — for all Princeton teams. The University also unveiled a life-sized statue of Kazmaier in a Heisman-esque pose, now located on the plaza outside Jadwin Gymnasium.

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