Friday, September 15, 2006

Columbia-Fordham: Keys to the Game


Columbia University Lions (0-0) vs. Fordham University Rams (1-1)

Saturday September 16, 2006 12:30 PM

5th Annual Liberty Cup Game

Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at Baker Field
218th Street and Broadway
New York, NY 10034

For tickets and more game info, click here: FOOTBALL TICKETS

What to Look For

This is new Columbia head coach Norries Wilson first game. He will attempt to become the first CU coach since Aldo "Buff" Donelli in 1957 to win his first game.

Columbia is playing things extremely close to the vest as it still has not released any game notes or a two-deep roster for the game. Coach Wilson was quoted in Friday's STUDENT PAPER saying that he may not tell the players who's starting until 10 minutes after 12 on game day!


The two-deep is now out HERE and there are some surprises.

Osadebe on the Bench
The biggest deal is Tri-Captain and 2005 2nd Team All-Ivy Usche Osadebe is NOT starting at right guard. Osadebe made the switch from defensive lineman this off-season at Coach Wilson's urging, and now he's not even starting! This could simply be because Osadebe is not 100% ready for the new position and he needs a little more time. I do hope he gets a lot of playing time, maybe even on both sides of the ball. Osadebe deserves to be on the field as much as possible.

So it looks like there WAS an injury in the scrimmage against Harvard as freshman running back Ray Rangel, who the coaches have been praising highly, is out for a month with a sprained ankle. Argghhh!

Wide Receivers: Going with the Veterans
After what was reportedly a tough competition for the split end spots, Wilson is going with seniors Nick DeGasperis and Adrian Demko. DeGasperis got a lot of playing time last year and showed a lot of heart, but Demko has never really made much of an impact. I expect to see some heavy rotation at this position, both during tomorrow's game and throughout the season.

The Young Lions
Five of the eleven starting positions on defense are being filled by freshmen and sophomores. This is indeed a young team that will have to prove they're ready. I expect all of Columbia's opponents to test the youngsters early and often.

Special Teams
I love the fact that Chad Musgrove will join James Cobb as a kickoff returner. These guys could make for some exciting returns. Tad Crawford will handle the punt returns again. He has been sure-handed, but unspectacular in his returns so far, something that needs to change because Columbia MUST win the special teams battle to make up for its weaknesses elsewhere. The good news is John Rocholl is back doing all the placekicking and punting and Patrick Huston is doing the kickoffs. They were both excellent a year ago.

Columbia is rolling out a new pre-game picnic area where ticket-holding fans will be able to get up to four free beers before the game. It will be interesting to see if this helps boost attendance at the games, increases rowdiness, or simply fails to make any changes to the Baker Field atmosphere for the fans.

Fordham is playing in its third game of the year, while Columbia is just starting its season now. Past experience shows this has helped Columbia more as the Lions have clearly used the extra time to scout the Rams and get better prepared. In the five times Columbia and Fordham have played on Columbia's opening weekend and Fordham's third game since 2000, the Lions have won three times and rarely looked rustier than the Rams. One exception was 2004, when Fordham jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead and held on for the 17-14 win.

Keys for Columbia

1) Stop the Run, or at Least Neutralize it When it Counts

The Lions must stop the Fordham running game, and the Fordham running game is all about James Prydatko and the larger, improved offensive line in front of him. Prydatko had a good game against Columbia last year, but the Lions stopped him when they needed to. They will have to do that again to hope for a chance to win. Fordham's added size up front and Prydatko's added experience may make that very hard to do.

That job falls primarily on the shoulders of senior nose tackle Todd Abrams, sophomore Phillip Mitchell and his fellow sophomore Conor Joyce. Pay attention to Mitchell's play in particular, as Coach Wilson has been talking him up as a potential NFL prospect one day.

2) Gain Some Ground

On offense, Columbia needs to establish some kind of running game. Neither starting tailback Jordan Davis nor backup James Cobb needs to rack up a 100-yard game, they just need to keep the Fordham defense honest. The Columbia offensive line looks small on paper, with Daniel Palmer the biggest man at 293 lbs. They'll have to play bigger than they are and stay as fast as possible. Weak offensive line play tomorrow will reflect very poorly on Coach Wilson, who was a star offensive lineman himself at the University of Minnesota.

3) Throw Short, Throw Long, Throw Often

Even if Columbia establishes the run early, it's important for the Lions to test Fordham's questionable secondary. I'd rather see the linebackers cheating to stop the Columbia pass than sneaking up on the line to stuff the run.

Starting QB Craig Hormann is a real talent with fantastic arm strength. He was a lot better than you could expect any starter on a team as bad as last year's Lion squad to be. What should be two glorious years as a full-time starter for Hormann begins now.

4) Keep it Neat

Coach Wilson has to have these youngsters ready to play and that means no fumbled snaps, no obviously missed routes, etc. Columbia can make up for some of its inexperience by not LOOKING inexperienced.


FYI: The online sports book "Bet Us" has this game as a "pick 'em."

Fordham is a one-dimensional team, but their one dimension is precisely where Columbia was the weakest last year. Prydatko and the Ram offensive line have what it takes to give the Lions fits, but some of their advantage should be eroded by a wet field, (it's been raining steadily in New York since Thursday and it still may be raining by game time), and the Lions new quick-adjusting defense. Other than that, the Fordham offense has little to offer as QB Derric Daniels is still more of a liability than an asset.

Defensively, the Rams have been impressive overall, but they have not really been tested for four quarters.

Columbia is a big mystery, but some of the returning players are strong enough to create a little optimism. Hormann is a talented quarterback, and the offensive line will be better.

Expect a low-scoring game with Columbia's superior special teams making the difference.



San Diego 24 Yale 21

Holy Cross 23 Harvard 20

Brown 20 Georgetown 3

Lafayette 21 Penn 20

Colgate 31 Dartmouth 10

Lehigh 20 Princeton 17

Cornell 17 Bucknell 7


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