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Princeton not passing up the chance to get better
There will be more than spring in the air when football practice begins today.
A combination of factors will put the focus on the passing game — on both sides of the ball — when Princeton University runs its first of 12 sessions before the annual spring game April 28.
With a roster filled with candidates at quarterback, wide receiver and defensive backs, this will be an ideal situation to drill 7-on-7.
More to the point, the passing games last fall resulted in too many lopsided statistics.
Opponents averaged 270 yards, Princeton just 156. Opponents scored 24 touchdowns through the air, Princeton a mere six. Opponents picked off 14 passes, Princeton only three.
“We’ll be spending a lot of time situationally,” third-year head coach Bob Surace said in his office yesterday, “whether they’re not being focused enough or us doing something differently schematically. This is a great time to build habits, and our primary focus will be to work on development.”
Much of the situational work will be done inside the 20, the area commercially known as the red zone. Last year, Princeton reached the red zone more times than its opponent, then failed to reach the end zone much fewer times than its opponent.
“There are certain things we do well,” Surace said, “but it doesn’t matter if you get to the red zone and don’t get into the end zone.”
That’s as good an explanation of any for its second straight 1-9 record. That, and another issue: turnover ratio.
Princeton lost that battle as well, dropping the ball 21 times and allowing the other guys to fall on it nine times. Princeton only recovered five of the other teams’ fumbles while causing 16.
So many improvements to make, so little time.
“Third down conversions, turnover ratio, stripping the ball; we can fix those things and put an emphasis on those,” Surace said.
Improving the bottom line will have to include a reduction in long pass completions, while on its side of the ball eliminating so many dropped passes.
On the positive side, Surace can’t say enough about his front seven.
His All-Ivy punter is back; the offense has developed some nice depth, and the team’s weight room numbers are much improved.
One question will not be addressed this month. Although Ivy League Rookie of the Year and first-team running back Chuck Dibilio is expected to drop by, he will only watch.
The cause of his December stroke remains undetermined, but he has been running sprints and doing light lifting.
“We’re preparing as if he won’t be back, but I wouldn’t count him out,” Surace said. “He’s doing therapy. He’s remarkable.”
Perhaps spring will be as well.
By Paul Franklin, The Times, Trenton