Princeton's Dave Patterson may be a great linebacker, but he'd make a terrible football analyst. This is what he had to say last week about the trials and tribulations of stopping the Penn offense: "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." How wrong he was. The Tigers used a two-pronged defensive strategy, centered around putting the clamps on all-everything Penn receiver Miles Macik, to take command of the Ivy League title race. One facet of the strategy involved the coverages used to shut down Macik, who came in averaging seven catches per Ivy contest. He was held to a paltry three against the Tigers. The results were nothing short of disastrous for the Quakers offense. Penn receivers Felix Rouse and Mark Fabish were able to get open most of the day against the the part of the Princeton secondary not being used to stop Macik. But quarterback Mark DeRosa did not find them nearly often enough to move the ball consistently. The other part of the Tigers' strategy -- a blitzkrieg of a defensive pass rush -- combined with the shackling of Penn's most reliable receiver to render DeRosa unable to make the plays needed to keep Penn in the game. It was a sweet dose of deja vu for the Princeton defense, which last week picked off Columbia quarterback Mike Cavanaugh on each of the Lions' first five possessions. While the Tigers' stifling combination of coverages and blitzing did not show up as much in the interception column against the Quakers -- DeRosa threw two Saturday -- it was responsible for eliminating any real semblance of offense for Penn, especially in the second half. DeRosa went 5 for 16 for 87 yards in the second stanza, while Macik was held to a mere one catch. "As we saw last week, if you can get inside a quarterback's head, get pressure on him, he's going to be quick about his passes or try to scramble," said Princeton defensive lineman Darren Olivera, who had 3 sacks on the day. "I definitely think [the pressure] got to him, as it would any quarterback. When a quarterback can't sit in his pocket and make his reads in the secondary, it's definitely going to affect his play. "With Macik, I think [Tigers cornerback] Damani Leech did an excellent job covering him. I think the combination of the two really worked for us today." Leech received congratulations from several of his teammates, as well as Penn coach Al Bagnoli, in the postgame interview session for the job he did on Macik. In truth, though, it was -- as most success in football is -- a team effort. Thanks to an unusual combination of zone coverages, Leech rarely found himself all alone against Macik. "We changed up our coverages, as you have to. A kid like Macik, you're not going to shut him down alone," Princeton coach Steve Tosches said. "We did not want to put our secondary in one-on-one situations that often?We mostly wanted to play zones and just keep changing the zones up -- try to keep someone in front of him and try to keep someone behind him." The strategy worked to near perfection. When Macik tried to go long, free safety Tom Ludwig was right there in coverage along with Leech. When the most prolific receiver in Ivy League history tried to run medium-range slants, it was often Tigers linebacker Ryan Moore moving in to help. In the second quarter, it appeared DeRosa had adjusted to the Tigers' scheme. He found Rouse, who had single coverage on him all game long, with a pretty pass in the end zone to cut into Princeton's 14-3 lead. "It was obvious to everyone that they were taking away Miles and that they were shifting their whole coverage over there," Rouse said. "Pretty much all I had to do was beat that corner. It was pretty much that they were saying the other receivers had to beat us. That was the mentality we thought they had." But the Tigers had figured out DeRosa's mentality also. Take away Macik, throw in some heavy blitzing every once in a while, and you've got a recipe for derailing the Penn offense. DeRosa's first instinct on each passing play, understandably, is to look for Macik. By the time he got around to looking in another direction, he had no time to get the ball away with any accuracy thanks to the Tigers' mad-rushing defensive line. "As I'm dropping back they're coming through the line," DeRosa said. "The play just gets totally altered right there. Maybe the receivers come open for a second, but maybe that's when I'm trying to run and get to the corner. They had a great scheme today." They had a great scheme, and they ran it to perfection. And now they have an Ivy League title well within their sights.Comments powered by Disqus
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