Lions fall to Tigers in a Laugher, 43-3
Can Columbia Regroup and Salvage the Season?
The whole family packed up the minivan and headed to Princeton Saturday, only to see the Tigers score on each of their first nine possessions and drub Columbia 43-3. I can't say how great it is to have my little 2 1/2 year-old daughter with me at these routs. Having her there behaving so nicely really takes a lot of the sting off the games. She had a great time, and was even happier the next day when we went to Sesame Place 20 miles outside of Princeton. I could swear that Grover pointed at my Columbia hat and snickered... but enough about that.
Princeton has such a great family-friendly stadium. My daughter was too young to go in the Princeton Tiger "bounce-house," but she enjoyed walking aroung the stadium and everyone was really friendly. She knows all the Columbia fight songs now and loves singing them. God, I am a little worried about getting her hooked into a program that's been losing for so long, but I really want her to share experiences with me before she becomes a teenager and starts "hating" me.
After the game was a different story. Princeton's campus area, particulary Nassau Road, is NOT a family friendly area. The restaurants were too crowded for toddlers and the stores were all high-end. We'll have to remember to go to one of the chains on Route 1 in 2007.
The only bright spot in the game for CU on Saturday was freshman kicker John Rocholl's 47-yard FG that was his Columbia-record-breaking 7th successful field goal in a row. Other than that, it was all Princeton. I was totally wrong in my prediction that it would be a close game. And now I know why:
1) Princeton doesn't have a lot of big names at the skill positions, but they are a deep and experienced team on the defensive and offensive lines; something Columbia is not. We were pushed around all day.
2) Columbia has no real running game, and that is now very apparent to all our opponents. Not needing to key on the run has really hurt the passing game. Our coaches need to focus on run blocking in practice and start drawing up some innovative running plays to open things up, or we'll be facing nickel packages from here on out.
3) Princeton is just a better team than I gave them credit for. They have a pair of hard-working tailbacks, a great wide receiver in Greg Fields, and a defense that just needed a little more motivation to avoid letting down in the second half. Will the Tigers challenge for the Ivy title? I don't see why not. Harvard seems to be slipping and Penn is not as strong as it was 2 years ago. We'll all know more after they play the Bears at Brown on 10/22.
It seems silly to do the play-by-play of a 43-3 rout, so I will focus on some of the key plays that set the tone instead:
1) Todd Abrams forced a fumble on Princeton's first play from scrimmage, but the Tigers recovered after the big pile up. The Lions lost a big momentum-gainer right there.
2) Already leading 3-0 after their firs possession, Princeton took over at their 31 and wasted no time. On 2nd down, Tiger QB Jeff Terrell found Brendan Circle for a 41-yard gain over the middle to the CU 25. 5 plays later they were up 10-0.
3) Trailing 13-0 in the second quarter, Columbia successfully executed a fake punt on 4th and 8 from their own 44. Dan Daylamani took the direct snap and ran all the way to the Tiger 37. But it was all to no avail. Columbia got to the PU 31, but failed to convert on 4th and 4. Princeton took the ball and began a long drive that resulted in another field goal and seven minutes taken off the clock.
4) On their next possession, Princeton faced a 4th and 8 from the CU 34. Terrell delivered with a 9-yard toss to Jon Dekker. 3 plays later Princeton had another TD and a 23-0 lead.
5) Columbia's only scoring drive came on the ensuing possession, highlighted by a 41-yard Craig Hormann-to-Jim Besselman pass on the first play of the drive. Columbia only moved two yards further after that, forcing Rocholl's 47-yarder.
6) On Princeton's first possession of the second half, Terrell avoided lots of would-be Columbia sackers and slipped into the end zone on a 16-yard scramble. That made it Princeton 30 Columbia 3.
7) Trailing 33-3, Columbia's Nick DeGasperis returned a Princeton kickoff 66 yards to the Princeton 20. But Columbia just went backwards after that, and another 47-yard field goal was attempted by Rocholl. This time he hit it way too low and it was blocked by committee.
8) Trailing 40-3 in the fourth quarter, Prosper Nwokocha and the Lions made their first turnover. Nwokocha's nice kickoff return was running out of room at midfield and he attempted to lateral it... it fell to the turf as a fumble and Princeton recovered.
The big question is whether the Lions can shake this off and still make a run at 5-5 or 6-4. If they don't establish a running game, the answer is definitely "no." But luckily, they have a non-league game at Lafayette this week to hone their skills against bigger teams. After that it's homecoming versus Penn before they get a winnable game at Dartmouth. I think it's absolutely imperative that Columbia has at least a good showing in the Lafayette and Penn games if they want to keep improving for the future. The CU coaches will really have to get inside the kids' heads and make sure they forget the Princeton game and concentrate on working harder in practice.