Columbia-Princeton: State of the Rivalry
Bob Surace must still be haunted by his last game at Wien Stadium
Princeton’s game notes and two-deep have been released.
The Columbia-Princeton rivalry has always been one of the most interesting in Ivy football.
For Lions fans, there have been many highs and lows in this series and few of the highs were better than last year’s stunning 38-0 whipping of the Tigers at Princeton Stadium.
Let’s not mince words about the effects of that game; former Tiger Head Coach Roger Hughes was basically fired because of the loss even though the termination didn’t take effect until the season was over. It was a decision a lot of people questioned when Princeton ended up winning three of its remaining six Ivy games, including a victory over its most hated rival, Yale.
New Head Coach Bob Surace HAS to know the Columbia loss got his predecessor canned, and woe to him if he takes his first contest with the Lions too lightly.
One Princeton coach who learned how important the annual Columbia matchup can be was Steve Tosches. After being at the helm when Columbia stunned the preseason championship-favored Tigers in 1988 to end THE STREAK, Tosches seemed to coach his team better and better against the Lions over the years.
Surace was on the field that fateful October 8th, 1988 day when Princeton played the tackling dummy in the Lions stunning 16-13 win. It has to be a feeling that still stings somewhere in his heart, even after all these years.
So even though Surace is new to the job and he won’t be fired even if Princeton gets walloped Saturday, I’d say the pressure is on at least a little bit for him and his staff.
From Columbia’s standpoint, the headline is this:
Columbia has NEVER… that’s right NEVER… Beaten Princeton two years in a row.
It’s a fact that really is hard to swallow since these teams started playing each other in 1871. The Lions have come close a few times in recent years, but it never worked out.
Princeton’s “revenge factor,” that some people are talking about in regards to the 38-0 loss to the Lions last year, really is silly when you realize how much the Tigers have dominated the series over the decades. In other words, if revenge is the motivation, Columbia has that over the Tigers in spades.
Columbia hasn’t beaten Princeton at home since 1997. That includes a stinging 27-24 loss to the Tigers in front of the 2008 Homecoming crowd because of a late CU fumble.
Where are They?
We’ve talked for years on this blog about the attendance by Columbia fans at Columbia games.
But what about the fans of the opposing Ivy teams?
Clearly, New York City is home to at least the plurality of every Ivy school. So why don’t more alums from opposing teams come to see their team play at Wien Stadium?
One notable exception is Cornell, which always has an impressive alumni contingent at the Lions games.
Princeton, on the other hand, is the perhaps the worst fan group when it comes to showing up at Wien. That includes the 2006 game when the Tigers were on the way to a league championship and the visitors stands were still quite empty.
I place most of the responsibility for this on the alumni communications offices at the other schools. Cornell’s big crowds are a direct result of the good job I know they do in their outreach efforts to alums. So, it’s time for the other Ivies to step it up.
Of course, if 17,000 Columbia fanatics decide to pack Wien Stadium on their own Saturday, that would be even better!
Where is Charles Bay?
One of the most devastating single players Columbia ran up against last season was Dartmouth defensive end Charles Bay. But Bay hasn’t started in either of Dartmouth’s first two games this season. Bay did come off the bench in the Bucknell game, but he hurt his shoulder in that contest. He sat out the whole game against Sacred Heart last Saturday. If he is able to come back at full strength in time for the Big Green’s big showdown at Penn this weekend, that could change the nature of that game.
Where is Lyle Marsh? Out!
Speaking of that contest, the young man who I thought was possibly the best running back in the Ivies last season is now out for the rest of this season. Penn’s Lyle Marsh eerily suffered a broken forearm just like Columbia’s Mike Stephens. The conventional wisdom is that the Quakers can brush this off because of all their depth at running back.
I’m not entirely buying that.
Marsh is a great runner, and good enough to be the primary tailback as a freshman in Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli’s system. You can’t just brush off a loss like that. Until Penn proves it can really pass the ball effectively, the Quakers need all the running backs it can get.