Sunday, October 08, 2006

Columbia-Iona Analysis

Columbia 24 Iona 0

Why Columbia Won

The defense just wouldn't have it any other way. They stuffed Iona time after time and scored two touchdowns of their own in the second half to put the game away. Because of six sacks and a bunch of other tackles for a loss, the Gaels posted an astounding negative-16 yards rushing. Meanwhile, Columbia's offense failed to put Iona away on several occasions, but it did protect the ball; turning it over just once while the defense recorded three takeaways.

Why Iona Lost

Their offense never got anything going. Their two deepest penetrations into the Columbia side of the field, a drive to the CU 39 in the third quarter and another to the 38 early in the fourth, ended in interceptions. The second one was picked off by Chad Musgrove and returned 75 yards for a TD. The Gaels defense played strong, especially against the run, but the offense never took advantage of the opportunities given to them by the "D."

Columbia's Stars

He's come close to winning my MVP award every game so far, and this time I'm finally giving it to senior tri-captain Adam Brekke. Brekke had two sacks and shared in another tackle for a loss to lead the team with 10 total tackles. He was the guy guessing right all day as he directed the defense to its fourth straight sterling performance. Coming in a close second was senior lineman Darren Schmidt who had one-and-a-half sacks and fell on a fumble in the end zone forced by week one and week three MVP Drew Quinn to give CU a 17-0 lead. Chad Musgrove also was in the running for timing the Gael QB Michael Biehl's pass perfectly and returning his interception down the west sideline into the south end zone with grace. Justin Nunez, Andy Shalbrack, and of course, Drew Quinn also had standout games.

Columbia's offense provided some solid, if not spectacular, performances. Junior QB Craig Hormann had his best game of the year, going 22-of-37 for 215 yards with one TD and one interception. The pick was not entirely his fault, as Iona defender Reggie Dorsainvil simple took the ball away from Lion receiver Tim Paulin. The INT actually led to a Columbia touchdown, since it gave the Gaels the ball at their own three and five plays later Quinn forced the fumble that Schmidt fell on for the score. Hormann seemed more poised and his arm looked strong. However, he faced the lightest pass-rush of the season as the Gaels recorded no sacks and rarely pressured the QB.

Nick DeGasperis was a big bright spot as he came back from injury to snag seven passes for 84 yards. His best moment came on a 3rd and 16 play from the Iona 28 when he got wide open and made a catch at the Gael five and held on after a massive hit from Dorsainvil. Jordan Davis had a mixed game, but he got back on the 600-yards-for-the-season pace with 64 yards on 18 carries. He also had two nice runs called back on Columbia penalties.

Jon Rocholl missed his first field goal of the year, but it was a tough 44-yard kick into a pretty strong wind. He nailed a 42-yarder later in the game and was perfect on his three PAT's. He punted mostly well, but did have one or two weaker kicks than usual. Patrick Huston reached the end zone on one of his kickoffs, but Dorsainvil, (there's that name again!), returned it to the Iona 28.

Columbia's Weaknesses

Coach Wilson was happy with the pass blocking, but the offensive line did not do enough to get the Lion running game going. There were Gael defenders in the backfield on too many Columbia running plays to mention. Iona is a defensive power in the MAAC, but the MAAC is much weaker than the Ivies. Penn and the other stronger defensive teams on the Lions' remaining schedule must be licking their chops looking at our ground game. Something has to change. Either Columbia needs to execute its existing plays better, or it needs to try new ones.

Atmosphere at the Game

The overcast weather kept getting better and better until it felt like a late-summer day by the fourth quarter. Only a little more than 4,000 people showed up, but the crowd was pretty vocal with their "thunder sticks" and because so many kids were in attendance on Columbia's "Staff and Family Day at Baker Field." Many of the same carnival attractions from last weekend's Homecoming celebration were set up again this week in the pre-game picnic area. I actually watched most of the second half from the Athletic Director's box as a friend of mine invited me up. It was nice, but I missed the roar of the crowd at times. If Columbia pulls off the huge upset at Penn this coming Saturday, I expect to see a nice crowd for the Dartmouth game at home on 10/21.


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