Friday, November 03, 2006

Things That Make Me Go "Hmmm..."

The Harvard game notes were released last night on the athletic department web site, and they made me wonder about a few things.

First, the good news. Highly-touted freshman Pete Stoll is getting the start at fullback. Whether he gets some carries himself or just does some blocking, it will be nice to see if he can get some holes open for our non-existent ground game.

It's also nice to see Nick DeGasperis starting at one wide receiver slot. Nick has basically been the starter all season, but minor injuries have shoved him down on the two-deep.

Now for the Hmmm... factor:

Craig Hormann is still listed as the starter at quarterback. That's not surprising as it's clear Coach Wilson is going to stick with him pretty much no matter what. What was curious was Wilson's quote in the game notes where he says there is no special package of plays for backup QB M.A. Olawale. It seems really strange for a quarter with a strong arm but no mobility, (Hormann), to be running the same plays as a quarterback with an unproven arm but great speed, (Olawale). I realize Olawale is just a freshman and practice time is limited in the Ivies, but why Columbia doesn't have a fresh set of plays and schemes to take advantage of Olawale's very different skill set definitely makes me go: "hmmm..."

At the very least, it probably means we won't see much of Olawale in any more games this season unless Hormann is injured. That's too bad, as his agility seems to give us a running threat where we didn't have one before. And if Wilson is understandably jittery about giving Olawale a start, at least a special package of plays for the youngster would give the Lions an advantage if they just shuttled the two QB's during a few offensive series.

But I have to add my usual disclaimer: I am not a coach, don't pretend to be one, and don't think I'm smarter or better than any coach, (with the exception of Yale's Jack Siedlecki - pond scum is better than him), out there.


For the second straight year Columbia is taking on a Harvard team that isn't in first place in the standings, but still seems like the best team in the league. Of all the beatings Columbia took in 2005, none was worse that the 55-7 shellacking from the Crimson at Baker Field. The key starters for Harvard in that game will all be back on the field Saturday at Harvard Stadium.


It begins and ends with tailback Clifton Dawson. Dawson is just 174 yards from breaking Ed Marinaro's 35-year-old Ivy League career rushing record. Dawson has been held under 100 yards rushing only twice this year, and one of those games was against Cornell where he still had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Dawson actually just rested during much of the game at Columbia last year, as the Crimson were running away with it early and they didn't need to risk injuring their star. He finished with 60 yards on ten carries with one touchdown. Of course he also had 64 yards receiving on five catches and another touchdown. Dawson's been less of a receiving target this season, as he's getting about two catches a game.

The suspension of 2005 starter Liam O'Hagan for the first five games of this season didn't hurt that much as the Crimson started 5-0 under backup QB Chris Pizzotti. But you could argue the transition hurt Harvard in O'Hagan's first game back when he entered the contest against Princeton and spurred a rally in a 31-28 losing cause at Princeton Stadium. O'Hagan seems a little rusty with his passes so far this season, but his running has been stellar as he has 110 yards on just 21 carries. Given Columbia's troubles covering running QB's, O'Hagan could be poised for a very big day.

Senior wide out Corey Mazza is leading the receiving corps with 28 catches for 521 yards and six touchdowns. But Dawson's running prowess and the unusual situation at quarterback during the first half of the season has deflated the rest of the receivers' stats. Other than Dawson who has 16 catches, no Crimson receiver has more than 14 receptions.

The offensive line has stepped up to the challenge of protecting new quarterbacks along with getting the holes open for Dawson all season. Harvard's O-line can be especially proud of giving up just seven sacks so far this season.


Speaking of sacks, the Harvard defenders have netted an incredible 38 of them through the first seven games of this season. For those of you without a calculator, that's more than five a game! Those 38 sacks have taken a whopping 242 yards away from opposing teams' rushing stats, so the Crimson have a stingy 63-yards-per-game rushing yards against average. (Incidentally, I liked it better when they used to take sack yards away from the passing yardage totals, since most QB's are trying to pass when they get sacked). A lot of people think that senior lineman Michael Berg deserves a shot at the Bushnell Cup and they have a point since he has five sacks and ten tackles for a loss. But it's sophomore Matt Curtis who actually leads the team with seven sacks and he also has ten tackles for a loss. And there's also junior Brad Bagdis, who also has five sacks and a team-leading 11 tackles for a loss.

Harvard is a little more vulnerable against the pass. The Crimson are giving up an average of 233 yards in the air per game, and Princeton QB Jeff Terrell picked the secondary apart at crucial times in Harvard's only loss. However, the Crimson do have 10 interceptions and have allowed just eight touchdown passes. The secondary only looks somewhat shaky in relation to an astoundingly good defensive line.

Special Teams

Junior placekicker Matt Schindel is not one of the best kickers in the league. He's five-of-ten in field goal attempts with a long of 42 yards. But maybe he's just tired from kicking all of those PAT's. Schindel is 26-of-27 on extra points, and let's face it, that's his main job on this offensive juggernaut of a team.

Junior Steve Williams is a very good, if not spectacular punt returner. He's averaging 10.7 yards per return with a long of 38 yards. Other than Dawson's big return against Cornell, (Dawson has only returned one other kickoff this season), Harvard has been an average kickoff return team. Neil Sherlock and Cheng Ho are getting about 19 yards per return.

There is no other way to slice it; Harvard is one damn good team. I also think Princeton's loss last weekend will produce a shot in the arm for the Crimson as they will at least share the title if they win their final three games. Harvard will probably be favored by the odds makers by 21+ points this Saturday. I'm not sure how anyone can argue with them.


At Fri Nov 03, 02:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not advertise the fact that we may have special plays. No need to give out more info than needed.

At Fri Nov 03, 02:51:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why announce publicly that M.A is part of the package? I would expect to see him by the second quarter.

PS, keep on sticking it to Pond Scum Siedlicki!

At Fri Nov 03, 02:56:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Olawale as a surprise weapon does sound like a good idea, and it was my first thought. But I really doubt that's Wilson's move here, unfortunately. I hope I'm wrong.

At Fri Nov 03, 04:49:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the article in the Spectator, would you expect Coach Wilson to start Olawale?

I'll bet he is not happy with the press telling him who to start!!

At Fri Nov 03, 04:57:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I don't think anyone is telling Wilson what to do. These guys, as am I, are making our case. I have a lot of respect for Wilson, but I think he should be mixing it up at QB. That's all.

At Fri Nov 03, 09:29:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need to start strong and not give up a cheap TD. If we can hold Harvard on its first possession it will set the tone. As for the offense, M.A. cannot simply be brought in on third and long. He needs to establish a rhythm. Let's face it; he is a Division I talent with a Michael Vick element to his game, but if we only put him in when it is obvious that he will run from the shotgun it will make it tough.


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