While the rest of the Ivy League’s football teams are gathering for spring practice, Princeton football has passed that stage in the calendar. Over the spring recess, the Tigers traveled across the Pacific to take on the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters in Osaka, Japan. The “Legacy Bowl” was an exhibition game held March 21 in recognition of Kwansei Gakuin University’s 125th anniversary.
The Tigers prepared for their match against the Fighters, described as the Alabama of Japan (due to winning four consecutive national collegiate football titles and a record 27 total collegiate titles), while adjusting to reduced caloric intake due to smaller portion sizes, jet lag, and other obstacles.
“Usually we have a big projector, but we had to crowd around our coach’s laptop in a hotel room to watch game film,” said quarterback Garrett Gosse ’16.
The Tigers ultimately came out on top, scoring five touchdowns and a field goal in a 36-7 victory. Chad Kanoff ’17 paced Princeton with strong play at quarterback, completing 15 of 20 passes for 207 yards and earning game-MVP honors.
The score differential does not, however, truly capture the benefits of playing against the Fighters. “A big part of Japanese culture is discipline and respect, so even though we were winning by a lot in the fourth quarter, they were still trying as hard as they could,” said tight end Dylan White ’16. “From a football perspective, it’s awesome — it gets guys who usually aren’t playing a lot more experience.”
While time spent with the team may more often be associated with practices, lifts, film review and meetings, the trip was unique in the amount of free time allotted for exploration and cultural activities.
“We drove to these temples outside Kyoto and practiced zazen with a Buddhist master,” White said, referring to the meditative discipline. “The master talked about how the practice of zazen could help us with sports. It’s all about focusing and centering yourself. My teammates and I really enjoyed it.”
Another trek led to the Tigers filling the stands at a sumo wrestling match.
“It was really cool to see the skill and discipline that it takes to get these guys to where they were,” White said, noting his and his teammates’ appreciation for the precision and physicality of the sport.
While immersing themselves in the culture of Japan was an important aspect of the trip, the Princeton players spent plenty of time bonding with their counterparts at Kwansei Gakuin.
Linebacker Ray Han ’16 noted that a language barrier existed (only a few of the Kwansei Gakuin players spoke English), although the players could always find ways to communicate: “We were talking about music during one of our dinners, and a player who spoke broken English got up on his chair and started singing a Drake song word for word.”
White also made note of the bonds made with the Kwansei Gakuin players, particularly through the meals had together at a formal reception and when the Princeton and Kwansei Gakuin students had dinner together in groups divided by position. Said White, “Their coaches talked about the long, lasting relationships we’d have from this game, especially in today’s social media-based world, and that we’d always have a resource and friend in Japan.”
Off strong play from freshman goalie Ellie DeGarmo (nine saves), women’s lacrosse defeated Yale 7-5 in New Haven to remain undefeated in the Ivy League (8-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy). The Tigers will play away against top-ranked Maryland (12-0) on Wednesday.
No. 13 men’s lacrosse (6-3 overall, 2-1 Ivy) lost 13-10 in an upset on Saturday to No. 20 Stony Brook (9-2, 2-1 American East) after losing a 4-1 first quarter advantage. The Tigers will play away against Lehigh (4-8) this Tuesday.