Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Burning Questions


Until we get some more information from pre-season camp, there are four burning questions the Lions need to answer before they hit the field for the first game against Fordham on 9/17:

1) Who will be the starting QB?

2) Will Gordon Radlein or anyone else be effective running the ball?

3) Will the very green offensive line step up or be a disaster?

4) Will the relatively green defensive line step up or be a disaster?

For this week, let's focus on Question #1: Who will be the starting QB?

Coach Shoop says it's a toss-up between JOE WINTERS and Sophmore CRAIG HORMANN, but you have to think Winters has the inside track because he's a senior and was named a tri-captain. They even put Winters front and center on the football Web site by having him write an online wrap-up of spring practice. I've liked the little I've seen of Winters so far, though he missed all of last year due to injury. He seems to be fired up about getting his chance, and that's worth something.

On the other hand, Hormann is young, and if he wins the starting job he'll have plenty of time to mature into a stellar QB by the time Columbia expects to be really competitive again. You have to think that since Shoop recruited Hormann and not Winters that the coach will be rooting for his younger guy to step up big when it counts. I don't expect Shoop to give away his choice until the start of the actual first game, so this should be an open question until 9/17 unless someone is injured.

Farewell to Jeff Otis

For the last two seasons, Jeff Otis was the starting QB. Otis had a super 2003 season. In fact I'd say it was the best year for a pure-passing Columbia QB since the John Witkowksi days in the early 1980's. (The running QB Mike Cavanaugh had an awesome 1994 and was great until the middle of 1995 when he was injured and lost for the rest of the season). But Otis had a mediocre 2004, mostly because his top target, tight end Wade Fletcher, was injured for about half the season. He also was victimized by a lot of tipped balls and dropped passes. His overall record as a starter was just 5-15, but I liked Jeff's toughness. He'll always be remembered for hooking up with Fletcher for that 49-yard Hail Mary TD with no time remaining to beat Princeton in 2003. It was the Lions first win at Princeton since 1945. He also shook off some punishing hits against Harvard in the 16-13 win over the Crimson in 2003. So Otis was at the helm at two of games that I would say belong on the top 10 list of Columbia's best games over the last 10 years. So good luck Jeff, and I hope you're enjoying life after college.

And here's that Top 10 List...

Top 10 Best Columbia Lions Games (1995-2004)
by Jake Novak

10)2003: COLUMBIA 16 Harvard 13

Even without star QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Harvard came into Wien Stadium as a prohibitive favorite. But a late interception by Sophomore Prosper Nwokocha set up the winning TD, and ANOTHER pick by Nwokocha a few plays later iced the victory.

9) 1997: COLUMBIA 17 Princeton 0

Columbia records its first shutout in decades and only shutout ever against the Tigers. The win helps ease the pain of two heartbreaking losses to Princeton in '95 and '96.

8) 1998: Columbia 24 DARTMOUTH 14

Columbia's first win over the Big Green since 1971 and it happened in Hanover.

7) 1996: COLUMBIA 31 Brown 27

Columbia never gave up and scored a late TD to grab the lead and got an interception in the end zone to seal the win. The victory sealed a wonderful 8-2 season.

6) 1998: COLUMBIA 24 Harvard 0

Columbia whipped the defending champion Crimson in season-opening Homecoming game.

5) 2000: COLUMBIA 49 Dartmouth 21

Jonathan Reese had a monster game, breaking Columbia's single game and career rushing records.

4) 1995: COLUMBIA 24 Penn 14

Penn came into the game with the nation's longest winning streak. But the Lions defense shut them down.

3) 1996: COLUMBIA 20 Harvard 13 (OT)

In the first season that the new overtime rule went into effect, Columbia used the extra session in the season opener to seal a comeback victory over the Crimson. Marcellus Wiley heroically blocked a chippie Harvard field goal attempt to force overtime.

2) 2003: Columbia 33 PRINCETON 27

"The Jersey Score." Columbia trailed 20-0 after the first quarter, took a late 27-20 lead, and then saw Princeton tie it up with less than a minute to go. That set up a Jeff Otis-to-Wade Fletcher Hail Mary TD pass with no time left on the clock. It was Columbia's first win in Princeton since 1945.

1) 1996: Columbia 20 PENN 19 (OT)

The best game of that great 8-2 1996 season. Columbia's offense was feeble due to some injuries and Penn jumped out to a 10-0 halftime lead. Somehow, the Lions tied it at 13 to force their second overtime of the season. Penn got the ball first, and scored a TD almost immediately, but they missed the PAT. Columbia got the ball and struggled, but a desperate 4th down pass was good for the tying TD. When the Columbia extra point attempt successfully sailed through the uprights, several Penn players were seen writhing on the Franklin Field turf. It was Columbia's first win at Penn since 1976.


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