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By Dave Morrison
PRINCETON – In the midJuly heat, after a covid-restrictive workout at Hunnicutt Field, Princeton quarterback Grant Cochran already had a lengthy list of things he wanted to accomplish.
And it looks like the sophomore is making good on everything on his list.
Obviously, first and foremost on that list is to lead the Tigers to the postseason.
That is going to happen, the Tigers sitting at 5-2 and No. 10 in the most recent Class AAA playoff ratings. The Tigers will have a chance to improve with a game at No. 11 George Washington on the Hill in Charleston Friday.
Cochran didn’t telegraph it but he likely also wanted to take a run at his own season yardage and touchdown (17) records. The touchdown record is already in the bank (with 22 in just seven games) and he is a scant 130 yards from the 2,024 he threw for last season.
It’s not clear if the Kennedy Award was on his list but it should be after the season Cochran has put together.
One of his big to-do items was to cut down in turnovers. If there was a negative mark on all the things he accomplished after getting thrown into the fire against Oak Hill in Week 2 last season, it was interceptions. He threw 15.
It first bears noting that in his first start – as a freshman – all he did was set the Princeton school record for passing yards in a game with 372 yards. Of course he broke that this year with 407 yards this year at John Marshall, at the time No. 10 in the Class AAA ratings.
Those interceptions in 2019, he was well aware of the number.
“Definitely to throw less interceptions,” he said quickly when asked what his personal goals were for the 2020 season.
He has done that.
Cochran has thrown just six interceptions against those 22 touchdowns, and has thrown multiple interceptions just once this season, in the second Bluefield game when he threw two.
Last season he threw multiple interceptions in five of nine games, including four in that record-setting first game against Oak Hill.
He averaged an interceptions per 19.2 attempts.
This season he has improved that mark to one per 27.3 attempts.
He thew an interception in all but one of his nine starts in 2019. He has thrown just one in his last three games, over 72 attempts.
Cochran has also greatly improved on his completion percentage.
Last season he completed just over 50 percent of his passes (148 of 293, 50.5 percent). This season the sophomore has completed 60.4 percent of his attempts (99 of 164).
Cochran has shown a total grasp of the offense. He has spread the ball around, and put his talented wide receiver corps, led by Ethan Parsons (37-742-9) and Josiah Honaker (22–642-9) to good use. They have the ability to stretch the field and score from anywhere on the field. Carter Meachum (14-184-2) and running back Amir Powell (12-189-2) also have been making key contributions in the passing game.
Cochran has shown the ability to look off receivers and check down and audible, a significant growth over where he was at this point last year. All in this the year of Covid-19.
When I look at Princeton’s offense, these improvements Cochran has made are big reasons why Princeton is seemingly firing on all cylinders offensively (scoring over 54 points in the last four games, a span that has seen Cochran complete 53 of 84 passes for 1,129 yards and 15 touchdowns against two interceptions).
It is also what makes Princeton an intriguing squad entering the postseason.
George Washington will be a great gauge. As coach Chris Pedigo said the team isn’t trying to playoff posture, rather play and get better.
The Patriots are led by quarterback R.T. Alexander, who has completed 37 of 73 passes for 817 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has been picked off five times.
John Goetz (15-269-4), Taran Fitzpatrick (6-249-3) and Brody Thompson (7-147-1) are top targets. De-Anthony Wright is the leading rusher with 488 yards and four touchdowns.
Amor Powell leads the Princeton ground attack with 910 yards and 17 touchdowns.