Penn receiver Miles Macik remembers Nov. 6, 1993, vividly. It was a windy, overcast Homecoming afternoon. Hated Princeton was in town. Over 35,000 fans jammed Franklin Field. The Ivy League title was at stake as the two best teams in the Ancient Eight squared off. Now, two years later, Macik is just thankful he and the rest of the Quakers get to do it all over again. "Everything that could possibly hype this game up is there," Macik said. "All the pieces are in place. This is the big one." Penn won that 1993 clash, 30-14, on its way to a perfect 10-0 season and its first Ivy title since 1988. But even though it is Homecoming again, and the weather should be blustery again, and the Tigers are back in town, and Franklin Field should be packed, and Princeton and Penn are on top of the Ivies another time -- even with all that, times have changed going into tomorrow's 1:30 p.m. game. Two years ago, Princeton was the defending league champion trying to stave off the young and hungry Quakers. Penn came in with momentum on its side, having demolished Yale 48-7 in New Haven, Conn. This time around it is Penn (5-2, 3-1 Ivy League) which is the defending Ivy kingpin, and Princeton fighting to get to where the Quakers are. Last week the Tigers (7-0, 4-0) enjoyed a 44-14 thrashing of Columbia, the team that halted the Quakers' 24-game winning streak earlier this season. While the Tigers were mauling the Lions, the Quakers were struggling through a sloppy affair in a rain-drenched Yale Bowl, beating the Elis 16-6. Ugly or not, the win kept Penn in the race -- though this year's game will not feature two undefeated teams, as the 1993 meeting did. "[The Yale win] kind of set the stage to this week where now we have an opportunity to control our own destiny," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "If we can win our last three games starting with Princeton and then Harvard and then Cornell, we have a shot to at least share the Ivy League title." If the Quakers are to navigate their way past step one of Bagnoli's plan, they must contend with a Tigers team that has been strong all year -- dominant at times -- on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the most telling aspect of Princeton's overall performance thus far this year is its nation-leading turnover ratio. "They're at a plus-three average per game, which is phenomenal," Bagnoli said. The Tigers' turnover ratio was helped immensely in their rout of Columbia last week. Princeton picked off Columbia quarterback Mike Cavanaugh on each of the Lions' first five series. While Penn quarterback Mark DeRosa has gone without an interception the past two weeks, he did throw 13 in the first five games of the season. So keeping the ball away from Princeton's potent secondary is a concern -- but not an overwhelming one. "It's a concern of ours because they have some great athletes," Macik said. "We've seen some good corners this year, and they're probably some of the best. They're very disciplined. They disguise their coverages very, very well. "At the same time, we're going to stick with it, see how it goes, and I think we'll be okay. I think the passing game, pretty much all year long, has been the strength of our offense when it's working." Certainly part of that strength has been Macik, who will break the all-time Ivy League record for pass receptions with his first catch tomorrow. Macik is currently tied with former Princeton receiver Derek Graham at 122 career catches. He is also two away from the league record for all-time touchdown receptions. "It's in the back of my mind, I think, but even if and when the [receptions] record gets broken, it's not something that I'm going to look at until the season's over anyway," Macik said. Princeton linebacker Dave Patterson also has a chance to break a major record tomorrow, albeit a team one. Patterson is six tackles away from tying the all-time Princeton record of 309. He and Macik are currently the front-runners for the Ivy League player of the year award. Like Macik, Patterson doesn't want to think about records or awards tomorrow. He's more worried about what the Tigers have to do to stop Penn. "It's easy to say we have to take away Macik," Patterson said. "But there's also [wide receivers Felix] Rouse and [Mark] Fabish. Even if we can take Macik out of his game, there are other weapons. There's no one person we can shut down to shut down the whole team." Penn could say the same thing about Princeton's offense, particularly at quarterback. Signal callers Harry Nakielny and Brock Harvey have split time virtually down the middle all season in the same manner as Penn running backs Aman Abye, Jasen Scott and Dion Camp, and figure to do so again tomorrow. "I told them that we'll put it on a series-to-series rotation," Princeton coach Steve Tosches said. "They just will have to be prepared and ready and step in that huddle and make plays. Fortunately they've been doing it, and they certainly have handled it very, very well." A Penn defense that has looked consistently solid despite its inexperience will have to cope with this two-headed passing attack, as well as the running of star back Marc Washington. Patterson and company will see if they can fend off a Penn offense that shredded Brown for 58 points two weeks ago. The Ivy League title race will reach a climax. And Penn will try to make the 87th chapter of this bitter and historic rivalry as glorious as the 85th was.Comments powered by Disqus
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