Penn 44 Columbia 16
Another Ivy game, another whipping by four touchdowns or more. Penn came into Baker Field and blew the Lions away with an amazing running attack and an even more amazing run defense. We were never in the game.
There were some personal positives for me. My daughter had the time of her life again, this time getting to sit with the band and even playing their drums for a good chunk of the 4th quarter! Boy, did she cry when we had to leave, but now I have her counting down the days until the next home game against Yale. The weather was also great, except for about 20 minutes in the 4th quarter where it drizzled and got windy.
The Homecoming tent was less crowded than I expected, but the attendance of 10,100 at the game was respectable. I thought I would see more Penn fans on the other side of the field, but perhaps the 8 straight days of rain leading up to the game scared them away.
Penn should win the Ivy League title for sure. I predicted they would early in the summer and then stupidly reversed myself when I heard Harvard was going to start their transfer from Tulane at QB. It turns out that was just a smokescreen as Harvard has a troubled passing game and is just relying on running back Clifton Dawson on offense. Brown is the only Ivy that has a chance against Penn. They play each other at Brown in two weeks.
There were some positives on the field for Columbia too, but let's break down this game overall:
Running Away With It
This season, Columbia has had some trouble with stopping the run. But in the wins against Fordham and Duquesne and in the close loss to Lafayette, the defense was able to make big plays on the ground when they needed to. Not so this week, as Penn's Sam Matthews ran for 155 yards and Joe Sandberg had 95 yards. Sometimes they ran through gaping holes in the line big enough to fit the state of Texas. Other times, we missed tackles. But it's clear now that the only teams we'll be able to beat are ones with poor running attacks, and there aren't that many of those in the Ivies this year. Brown's Nick Hartigan, who ran for 245 yards against Princeton Saturday, is definitely looking forward to coming to Wien Stadium on the last weekend of the season. If he stays healthy, he has a chance to break the all-time Ivy single game rushing record of 323 yards set by Matt Johnson of Harvard against Brown in 1991. Johnson and Cornell's Scott Oliaro, who had the #2 single game rushing mark with a 288-yard day versus Yale in 1990, were both "one-hit wonders." Hartigan has been a 4-year star, so it would be interesting to see if he can do it and take the "who's that?" factor out of the Ivy rushing record leader board. The only bad thing would be to see him do it against the Lions, who are happily a rare victim of record-breaking performances in Ivy history.
We Can't Run
Falling behind 21-0 early is one way to take your running game out of the equation. But Penn's defensive line had plenty to do with it too. Jordan Davis ran for 30 yards on 10 carries, so he still hasn't had the 15-20 "touches" we need to see before deciding if he's got a chance to carry the load. He is only a freshman, but he seems tough enough to make a difference if he gets some blocking.
First Time for Everything
The game featured two firsts for me. 1) Early in the 3rd quarter, we seemed to have a Penn Pass to the West sideline pretty well-covered by two guys in the secondary. Instead, both Columbia defenders knocked into each other! The Penn receiver danced down the sideline for an 80-yard TD. 2) After getting a TD to make it 37-16, Columbia tried an onsides kick that was recovered and returned for a Penn TD! Not exactly what I was hoping for, but at least I can say I saw those two plays in a football game.
Sophomore Craig Hormann still has some trouble fumbling snaps, but otherwise he looked good. He went 28 of 40 for 302 yards, two TD's, and no interceptions. I hope Coach Shoop scraps the shuttle system with Joe Winters and gives Hormann the ball from here on out.
Once again, the best thing about the game for Columbia was our kicker. Freshman Jon Rocholl had a 47 1/2 yard field goal to end the first half that looked like it would have been good from 55 yards. He also nailed a 71 yard punt that was about 60 yards in the air. He's an NFL prospect for sure. He did have one extra point blocked, but it was his first unsuccessful PAT of the year. And of course, it didn't matter in this game. He's now 8 of 10 in field goals and 4 of 5 on extra points.
Bowser's Big Numbers
Senior Brandon Bowser had 11 catches for 179 yards and a 72-yard TD in the game. He didn't make an impact in such a rout, but he does get open and if he can do it against Penn he has to be confident about his chances against everyone else. I'd like to see him make a run at 10 TD receptions and 1,000 yards receiving on the year. Right now, he has 364 yards and 4 TD's.
DeGasperis' Nice RAC's
Junior wide receiver Nick DeGasperis had a couple of really nice runs after catches in the game. Coach Shoop needs to draw up more plays where his skill in this area is exploited. I'd like to see some quick screens, slants, and even shovel passes to DeGasperis to see where they lead.
Penn reserve running back Kyle Ambrogi shot himself to death early in the week, and the crowd at Wien observed a moment of silence before the game. It was about as classy as it could get, although I would have preferred a little more, (maybe armbands for both teams). Nevertheless, I heard no off-color comments in the stands and everyone seemed to have the proper respect.