Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's All About Week 2

If you think the Lions and their fans are too giddy about being 1-0 because we're not used to it, you'd be wrong. Over the last 11 years, Columbia has actually been 1-0 six times now if you include this year, so we've been pretty respectable in season openers. But it's been the games after that,the games in week 2, that have defined every Columbia season since 1996. In fact, 1996 was the ONLY TIME in the last 10 years that the Lions followed up an opening week win with another victory in week 2. Here's a look at our recent history in games after opening week wins that should make it clear how big this game against Duquesne really is for Columbia:


After going up to Cambridge and beating Harvard for the first time since 1978, Columbia fell apart in the second half of their home opener against St. Mary's and lost 34-14. The game was indicative of how the Lions would play the first half of that season: tough against the Ivy opponents, but inept against the non-Ivy teams. It was all moot a few weeks later when star QB Mike Cavanaugh was lost for the season with a broken leg. Columbia finished the season 3-6-1.


After a gut-wrenching overtime win over Harvard in week 1, the Lions eked out a defensively-dominated 17-10 win at Fordham. Columbia would go on to be 6-0 before finishing the season at 8-2 and second in the Ivies. 1996 is still the best Lions season of the last 44 years.


After a stunning 24-0 shutout of Harvard in the home opener, Columbia traveled to Bucknell to face the Bison. But two kickoff returns for touchdowns killed a decent effort by the offense and the Lions fell 27-20. This game really defined the entire year for Columbia as the Lions finished 4-6 and 3-4 in the Ivies. It was a year of missed opportunities, capped off by a wasted defensive effort in the last week of the season when the Lions fell to the high-powered Brown offense by a score of 10-3.


After Jonathan Reese and company showed some offensive fireworks in a 43-26 win over Fordham in the home opener, it was Bucknell again that made us fall back to reality. Leading by 10-6 with time running out, the Lions failed to cover a punt that the Bison returner actually fumbled before recovering it and returning it inside the 20. On a fourth and goal with less than 10 seconds left, the Bucknell QB completed a TD pass for the 12-10 victory. The Lions finished 3-7 despite Reese's record-breaking season.


After winning the inaugural Liberty Cup game at home against Fordham on a last-second field goal, Columbia went up to Colgate and never had a chance. The Red Raiders drubbed us 38-6. The Lions finished the season 1-9 and head coach Ray Tellier was sent packing after 14 years at the helm.

I think our track record says it all. It doesn't matter if Duquesne is a powerhouse or not, this game is crucial for the Lions if they're going to have a good season. The good news is that this game is at home, and the Lions are actually favored by 6 and 1/2 points. If we go 2-0, I think these guys are capable of 5-5 or better. But if they lose, 3-7 or worse is a lot more likely.


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