This is the Game
Partly cloudy skies with an incredible 65 degrees are predicted for this Saturday's Columbia-Cornell game at Baker Field.
Columbia football has undoubtedly made some nice improvements this year. The defense is aggressive and effective, and there are a few nice additions to the otherwise moribund offense like freshman Austin Knowlin.
But this team needs an Ivy win and this is the weekend to get it. Cornell is a good team overall, with a good defense and a strong running game, but the Big Red have been very weak on the road. (I'll have a complete scouting report on Cornell tomorrow).
The Lions have now lost 16 straight Ivy contests in a row. That's by far the longest losing streak anyone's suffered in Ivy football since THE STREAK; Columbia's 44-game overall losing streak from mid-1983 to mid-1988. This must stop, and it must stop now.
Columbia-Cornell: Recent History
None of Columbia's Ivy rivalries has been as evenly matched in the post streak era than the one with the Big Red. In the 18 games the Lions have played against Cornell since the end of the streak, the Big Red have won 10 and Columbia has won 8. In that time, no team has won more than two in a row, (Cornell is currently riding one of those two-game streaks), and 10 of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Last year's 45-7 win by the Big Red in Ithaca was one of the rare routs in the recent series.
My own memories of Columbia-Cornell are mostly good. The first full Columbia game I ever attended was the 1988 contest that began with a nice start for the Lions but ended in a 42-19 Big Red win on their way to a shared Ivy title, Cornell had to share the title with Penn despite beating them head-to-head a week after the Columbia game. (The first partial Columbia game I ever attended was a few weeks earlier when CU edged Princeton to end THE STREAK).
A year later, coach Ray Tellier picked up his first victory as a Columbia coach with a 25-19 win in Ithaca, (a game I did not attend, but listened to very closely on the radio in my dorm room).
The 1990 Columbia-Cornell game at Wien Stadium was one of the worst experiences of my life as a Lion fan. In a driving rainstorm that never ended, the Big Red stuffed Columbia 41-0. I was physically and emotionally drenched and drained. The only bright spot was the rain even scared the security guards away and I got to watch most of the game on the Columbia sideline undetected.
1991 was not much better. I traveled up to Ithaca to see the game and the Lions were robbed blind in a 28-21 loss. A late Columbia TD was called back by the officials who said the Lion QB crossed the line of scrimmage before he threw the ball. Replays showed he clearly did not. Apparently, the Cornell coaches screamed bloody murder after the ball was thrown and the refs relented for some reason.
I didn't get to another Columbia-Cornell game until 1998 at Baker Field. The Lions played a very nice game after a slow start in the first quarter and won 22-10.
The game in 2000 was another rough one, but filled with a lot of exciting moments. Jonathan Reese returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Columbia score a TD with less than three minutes to go to take a 31-28 lead. But a very short kickoff allowed the Big Red to march quickly down the field and take a 35-31 lead with less than a minute to go. A Jeff McCall to Doug Peck bomb put the ball inside the Cornell five, but time ran out.
The 2002 game was played in rough weather and another short kickoff and late Cornell TD not only lost the game for Columbia but also spelled the end of Ray Tellier's tenure as head coach.
I was enjoying the 2004 contest until Cornell pulled off a huge late comeback to erase a 26-14 fourth quarter Columbia lead and turn it into a 32-26 Big Red win.
I'm hoping to get some happier memories this Saturday.