Friday, September 29, 2006

Princeton vs. Columbia, Keys to the Game

Princeton (2-0) is an 8.5 point favorite against Columbia (2-0) this Saturday

It's hard to argue with the point spread this weekend as Columbia has yet to really face a quality opponent and Princeton seems to have beaten two in Lafayette at home and Lehigh on the road. The Tigers present match up problems for the Lions with their big receivers and opportunistic secondary. But Columbia still has a chance to win this game or play well enough to make a significant step towards improving in the Ivy League.

Columbia Musts

Columbia must put heavy pressure on Princeton QB Jeff Terrell who has only been sacked once all year. Even without intense pressure, he's thrown four INT's and I think the Lions will need to grab at least two or three turnovers tomorrow.

The Lions must guess right on defense and isolate the ball carrier like they did against Fordham. With the Rams, it was easy to guess that James Prydatko was going to get the ball time after time, but Georgetown mixed it up better and so will the Tigers. Columbia cannot replicate the way it played the run against Georgetown and hope to win.

On offense Columbia must test Princeton's run defense. The Tiger D-line seems pretty solid, but not as strong as the secondary. I'd like to see the CU coaches continue to call reverses, and off tackle runs like they did in the Georgetown game. Seeing Columbia execute reverses as well as they did last week was a welcome first for many of us who for years have been watching this team try to establish the straight-ahead run, fail... and then just give up. That said, I'd also like to see us run some fake reverses. Now that we've established the fact that we may bring WR's Austin Knowlin and Tim Paulin to run the reverse at any time, perhaps Hormann can keep the ball and get some big yards along the sideline.

Speaking of Paulin, he definitely has great speed and size and he needs to be used as a weapon as much as possible. Perhaps he can draw some of those very tall Princeton defensive backs off of Knowlin when he gets free along the sidelines.

But the passing game must include more throws to the tight ends. When the chips were down last week, QB Craig Hormann finally found Jamal Russell for a big 36-yard pass to set up the game-icing FG. Russell is faster than most tight ends and he needs to exploit his size against the Princeton linebackers. Perhaps the Lion coaches have been throwing to him less in the first two weeks in order to unveil him as a weapon more completely in crucial Ivy League play. A real surprise could come in the form of the other tight end, 6"6 Troy Evangelist, who still hasn't caught a pass. A number of short passes to Russell and Evangelist in the early going could put Princeton off balance and set up the run and deep passing game at the same time.

Hormann needs to have more than 200 yards passing. Craig has done what's necessary to win the first two games, but this is a much tougher test and 150 yards passing won't cut it this time. If he mixes his targets with throws to WR's, TE's and his running backs, he's got a shot.

But the Tigers are a very solid team, and it looks like they may defy the preseason odds and make a run at the Ivy title again this season. It also seems like Roger Hughes has finally grown into the head coaching job, (I thought his first 4-5 years were an embarrassment for a school with so many resources). I expect Princeton to run the ball outside and use the built-in advantages they have in WR's Brendan Circle and Brian Brigham as much as possible. QB Jeff Terrell may be induced to throw 2-3 interceptions, but his defense is just as likely to ensure the Tigers don't pay for those mistakes on the scoreboard. Terrell is also a good runner, a troubling fact for a Lion defense that continues to have trouble wrapping up opposing QB's when they're forced to scramble.

Some mitigating factors in Columbia's favor include what should be a decent-sized homecoming crowd and the fact that at least some of the Tigers probably don't believe the Lions have improved as much as they truly have. I also expect some trickery from this opportunistic Columbia coaching staff and despite the overwhelming number of freshman and sophomores on the field, this team has pulled off difficult plays like a veteran squad.

I expect this to be close but in the end Princeton should prevail, 21-16.

Columbia-Princeton History

The Lions have played the Tigers 75 times since 1874, and won just 13 of those games. That's a record in futility that's hard to fathom, especially when you realize that five of those Columbia victories have come in the last 18 years.

For the great teams of Columbia's distant past, Princeton was always a bugaboo. The 1933 Rose Bowl Championship team suffered its only loss that year to the Tigers, 20-0. The 1961 Ivy Champion Lions lost to Princeton 30-20 when, trailing 23-20, they had what looked like a sure TD drive killed by an interception returned for a TD.

More recently, Princeton has been the culprit in some of the toughest losses Columbia has had to bear. The Tigers ripped our hearts out with overtime wins in 2000 and 2004, and squeaked out a 35-32 win in 2002.

Columbia has exacted some revenge, however. The 1988 16-13 win over Princeton ended the team's 44-game losing streak and will forever act as an embarrassing stain on the memories of the Old Nassau faithful. And the 2003 Hail Mary win with no time left at Princeton Stadium, (a game I like to call "The Jersey Score"), was the sweetest win of the brief Bob Shoop era.

But while Columbia fans can keep the bitterness of our bad history versus Princeton in our hearts and use it for motivation to cheer louder tomorrow, I hope the Columbia coaches don't try to burden the team with a lot of history they may or may not be able to relate to. This game is about them and their generation as they begin an Ivy League schedule that will test them to the very core. They certainly don't need any added pressure and they shouldn't need any added motivation either.


Dartmouth (+17.5) at Penn

The Quakers have some questions to answer about their starting quarterback position and the defense. This game should help them in some ways, but the Big Green just can't provide enough competition to truly test Pennsylvania. Dartmouth will surely fare better than it did against UNH last week, but not all that much.

Prediction: Penn 31 Dartmouth 7

Yale (+9) at Lafayette

I'm not exactly high on the Elis, but I think this line is a little bloated in the Leopards favor. Lafayette clearly has problems on offense, and that will play into the hands of Yale's "bend and sometimes break, but not always," defense. The Leopards are good at stopping the run, and I don't expect Mike McLoed to pass the century mark or Eli QB Matt Polhemus to do much damage scrambling either. This will be a close one, but I think Lafayette will pull out a squeaker at their nice new field.

Prediction: Lafayette 20 Yale 17

Harvard (-4.5) at Lehigh

Now that Harvard is on to QB #4, it's clear the Crimson are a lethal squad no matter who's under center. I expect Lehigh to do a better job stopping Clifton Dawson than anyone else has this season, but they would shut him down and that's going to kill them in the end.

Prediction: Harvard 21 Lehigh 17

Albany (-6) at Cornell

Cornell needs to get their offense going and it won't be easy against a pretty strong Albany defense. Last week's nine-point performance against Yale had to have been very demoralizing for the Big Red who have been riding high on emotion these past two seasons. The good news is that this is a night game, and Albany's worst showing of the year came under the lights in an awful loss to Fordham.

Predicton: Cornell 17 Albany 14

Brown (-2) at Rhode Island

I expect the Bears to bounce back after a demoralizing loss to Harvard last week, but it won't be easy. Joe DiGiacomo will have to prove he deserves to lead this team.

Prediction: Brown 31 Rhode Island 27

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Scouting the Tigers

Princeton surprised a lot of people last year with a 7-3 record, including a thrilling win over Harvard in Cambridge. But with every starting member of their big offensive line graduating, and the loss of superstar Jay McCareins also to graduation, it seemed like a safe bet to predict the Tigers would fall back towards the bottom of the Ivy League.

But it's not looking like that's going to happen so far. The new offensive line has played extremely well, and the Princeton defense has been fantastic. In fact, it's hard to put a finger on any glaring weaknesses on this team, and that has to be a scary problem facing the Columbia coaches right now.

On offense, Princeton is led by senior quarterback Jeff Terrell, who can run as well as pass. With Brown's Joe DiGiacomo failing to impress in his first two games, Terrell has a great chance to make 1st team all-Ivy. He does have a tendency to throw interceptions, as he already has four this season, but otherwise he seems solid.

One key to Terrell's success is he has only been sacked once all season. The Lions will need to put pressure on him to see if he is the same player with defenders bearing down on him. But if they do manage to flush Terrell out of the pocket, Columbia will have to be ready for him to scramble. In both the Fordham and Georgetown games, the Lions were burned by QB scrambles out of what seemed like sure sack situations. And Terrell seems to have more scrambling ability than the Fordham and Georgetown signal-callers.

Terrell mainly throws to senior WR Brian Brigham and junior WR Brendan Circle. They're both talented and they will test the Lion secondary that hasn't really taken on a team with multiple receiving weapons yet this season. I will be surprised if the Tigers don't throw the ball 30 or more times on Saturday.

The running game also features multiple weapons, but it hasn't been as strong this season as it was last year. Starting fullback Rob Toresco has been inconsistent and no one else is emerging as the go-to back. But the Tigers hand the ball off to a lot of guys, and that could wreak havoc on a Columbia defense that seems to thrive on guessing who is going to get the ball and thrusting toward him. If Terrell mixes his handoffs to three or four backs and spreads his passes around, this could be a long day for the Lions.

The defense has been tough overall, giving up just 24 points in two games. But the strength seems to be in the pass defense, where the secondary has intercepted four passes and held opponents to an average of just 168 yards per game. Cornerback J.J. Artis and free safety Tim Strickland have already each been named Ivy League Defensive Players of the Week in this young season. That said, the Tigers are giving up a less impressive 129 yards on the ground per game, and that may be an area where the much-improved Lion running game can make a dent. But 129 yards a game is still a solid average, and nothing to be ashamed of.

Princeton's special teams are solid, and the Tigers are coping with the graduation of their excellent plackicker Derek Javarone with sophomore Conner Louden. Louden seems to be pretty reliable from 35 yards in, and he has only missed one attempt so far. But without McCareins, the Princeton return game has visibly suffered. Columbia has shown a few weaknesses in its return coverage so far this season and this might be a week where those weaknesses aren't exploited. Tiger punter Colin McDonough is one of the best in the league.

Princeton looks a little less disciplined so far this year than it has in the past. The Tigers have already been penalized 12 times for a big 154 yards in two games. And the five turnovers lost has them dealing with a negative turnover ratio of 4:5. Columbia must force some turnovers in this game to win, as this is one area where Princeton seems vulnerable.

I'll have a more complete game analysis and prediction tomorrow.

Homecoming Ceremonies

This year's homecoming at Wien Stadium will take time out to honor the 10th anniversary of the 1996 team that went 8-2 and the 45th anniversary of the 1961 team that won the Ivy League title. I also expect there to be a special moment to honor the memory of '96 team captain Randy Murff, who went on to join the Air Force and died in a training flight in the summer of 2001.

Randy was the 315-pound leader of yet another undersized Columbia offensive line on a 1996 team that relied on a powerful defense and an opportunistic offense to post the best season for the Lions since 1961. He needed to lose well over 100 pounds to qualify for the Air Force officer's training program after graduation, and he did it. You can read more of Murff's inspiring story here: Murff's Story

Memories of 1996

I was living in Cleveland in 1996, but that didn't stop me from getting to three Columbia games in that magical season. The best game was at Penn, when the Lions pulled out a 20-19 overtime win when it seemed like they were going to lose several times during the game. Columbia won it on a miracle TD pass in OT after Penn had scored an easy touchdown but missed the extra point. Fighting extreme fatigue during the drive back to Cleveland that night was well worth it.

The next game I attended was the Homecoming washout against Lafayette. In near monsoon conditions, the Lions managed to eke out a 3-0 win. The weather robbed Columbia of what could have been a wonderful Homecoming crowd set to honor its still undefeated team.

But the worst came a couple of weeks later when the Lions fell to a weak Princeton team at home, 14-11. An excessive celebration penalty against future NFL all-pro Marcellus Wiley led to a Tiger touchdown, and a long field goal attempt by the otherwise great Matt Linit to tie the game in the final seconds fell short. To add insult to injury, I was turned down for a job at ABC News in New York the next day and I had to wait another five months to get back to the city.

But more than the individual games, what I really remember about that 1996 team was how it never gave up and won so many games in overtime, or by slim margins. Even after the Princeton loss and the 40-0 thumping by eventual undefeated league champ Dartmouth a week later, Columbia finished out the year with impressive wins over Cornell and Brown at home.

The memory of that '96 team is a little marred by what happened next, as the team sank back first into mediocrity and then became a cellar-dweller once again in the Ivy League. Why the athletic department or the individual recruiters weren't able to seize the momentum from that season and move forward has always been a mystery to me. Perhaps special players like Wiley, Murff, and all-Ivy linebacker Rory Wilfork just come around once in a while and that's the best you can hope for. But I can't help thinking someone dropped the ball after that season and Columbia is still trying to recover.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

IVY League Roundup, Week 2

It's still too early to really get a handle on the entire league, but Saturday's games are putting the Ivy picture into better focus.

Harvard 38 Brown 21

There really shouldn't be any downplaying of this victory for the Crimson. Everyone in the world knew Brown needed to stop Clifton Dawson to win, and the Bears flat out couldn't do it. Dawson torched them for 181 yards, 7.1 yards a carry and three touchdowns. It what almost everyone thought would be a close game between title contenders, the fourth quarter started with Harvard ahead 31-7. That a team can start its third-string QB and still win so dominantly on the road says a lot about the depth of this Crimson program. Harvard must be considered the odds-on favorite to win the title now, and any Ivy team that challenges them head-to-head will be lucky to do it.

In fact, I'm beginning to think the suspensions Coach Tim Murphy handed out this preseason may have been a result of how deep he knew his team was. Punishing his starting QB O'Hagan and basically booting one of his co-captains must have been a lot easier to do with the knowledge that there were plenty of go-to guys on the bench. And suspending players at the top of the depth chart has the nice side effect of motivating everyone else and keeping them in line.

Yale 21 Cornell 9

In what seems like it was a sloppy game, the Bulldogs beat the Big Red at Schoelkopf with a big fourth quarter. Mike McLoed had a strong game with 104 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns, (one as a receiver). Cornell is still looking for its first TD of the year, and I have to say I'm surprised by the way they just don't seem ready to play. The Big Red was penalized 10 times and they had some bad turnovers. It may turn out that Yale is a better team than I expected them to be, but I'm still not sold on QB Matt Polhemus, who went nine-of-19 with one interception. He looks pretty good as a runner, but I think he might benefit greatly if Yale just lets him throw the ball a little bit more. We may not know exactly what the Elis are made of until they play Penn at home on October 21st.

Villanova 27 Penn 20

The really eye-popping aspect of this game at Franklin Field is the huge number of yards the Quakers defense gave up; 542! Another area of concern is at quarterback where Penn starter Robert Irvin could not repeat his strong performance in week one. Irvin was yanked after going eleven-of-24 for just 87 yards and two interceptions. His replacement, Bryan Walker, was not much better; he was five-of-16 for 60 yards but no picks. Despite these problems, Penn had every chance to win this game and almost tied it up in the final moments. That was all thanks to superstar Joe Sandberg, who ran for 94 yards, caught a pass for eleven more and threw the Quakers only TD pass on an option. Luckily for Penn, they should get better in a hurry against Dartmouth when they face the weak Green this Saturday at home.

UNH 56 Dartmouth 14

A little more than seven thousand people saw this massacre that was very much expected by everyone around the league. New Hampshire is a top program with a great QB in Ricky Santos, and he had a five TD passes and a 24-of-32 day for 318 yards. Dartmouth ran the ball pretty well, finishing the day with 106 yards on the ground, but the Big Green didn't really get a chance to showcase any weapons. Starting QB Mike Fritz was 15-of-23 with two TD's but also two interceptions. He will try to connect with his best receiver, Ryan Fuselier, as much as possible this season, but that will get tougher as the season goes on and Fuselier deals with more double-teams. After an tough opener against a good Colgate team, this loss to UNH, and this coming Saturday's tough match up with Penn at Franklin Field, you have feel sorry for Dartmouth. If Coach Buddy Teevens is able to get these guys to overcome what is going to be a very tough month, he will deserve a lot of credit.

Princeton 26 Lafayette 14

The Tigers defense looked great for the second week in a row, and QB Jeff Terrell had one of his better games in Princeton's home opening win under the lights. Lafayette managed just 77 net yards rushing and 129 yards in the air. Terrell went 20-of-31 for 261 yards and three touchdowns. He also connected with eight different Tiger receivers. Princeton's offensive line, the main area of concern after all of last year's squad graduated, has been performing well. Starting Tiger tailback Rob Toresco had a rough game with 12 yards on ten carries, but Princeton still managed to break the 100-yard barrier on the ground thanks to some good runs by Terrell and a Toresco's backups. And the pass protection has been superb as the front five has only given up one sack in the first two games. This team is starting to look very, very good, but it's hard to tell just how good its opposition has been. Lehigh and Lafayette are usually pretty good Patriot League teams, but not always. Neither team has shown much on offense all season, and it's possible their ineptitude has greatly contributed to the Tigers' stellar defensive stats. Obviously, we'll know more after they take on our Lions in New York this Saturday.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Columbia-Georgetown Post Game Analysis

Why Columbia Won

The Lions jumped out to a big lead and did just enough to protect it when Georgetown finally woke up. A touchdown on their opening drive set the tone for a dynamite first half, and Columbia walked away with touchdowns on both of its first half trips inside the Hoya red zone.

Jon Rocholl was perfect again, nailing all three of his field goal attempts, (including a 45 and a 41-yarder), and notching a 63-yard punt as well.

The best sequence for the team as a whole was with the score 20-14 Columbia, the defense forced Georgetown to walk away with no points late in the fourth quarter despite the Hoyas having a first and goal at the two. Then the Lions took over at their 12 and drove all the way to the Georgetown seven before Rocholl hit a chip-shot field goal to seal the game. It was a great moment for the Lions in true gut-check time.

Why Georgetown Lost

Too many mistakes. First the coaching staff chose to ignore the great play of backup QB Matt Bassuener in the previous week's game against Brown and started Ben Hostetler again. Hostetler was terrible, throwing three interceptions in the first half that led to 10 Columbia points. On defense, the Hoyas committed a number of costly penalties to keep Lion drives alive.

After the Hoyas regrouped and were knocking on the door, they had a sure TD pass dropped and lost a chip-shot field goal opportunity that would have put the score at 20-17. The Hoyas missed another medium-range field goal in the late stages of the first half.

Columbia Standouts

I thought Rocholl was again outstanding and he was my MVP of the game. The Ivy League also named him Special Teams Player of the week, for the second straight week. Can a kicker win the Bushnell, (league MVP), award?

Adam Brekke was close to getting my MVP last week, and he comes up just short again this time. He stuffed some key Hoya plays with big tackles and he also had a big interception in the second quarter to end a promising Georgetown drive.

Eugene Edwards sparkled again. A week after blocking two Fordham field goal attempts, he picked off a Hostetler pass in the first quarter and returned it 47 yards to the GU eight. Three plays later a 7-0 Columbia lead was 14-0.

Freshman Andy Shalbrack had a number of big tackles in key moments again, and he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week.

I thought Jordan Davis' workmanlike 95 yards on 25 carries were a big help. He saved his best run for the most crucial moment as he peeled off a 17-yard gainer on that final drive for Columbia late in the game.

Justin Nunez, every coach's favorite as the hardest-working walk-on anyone's ever seen, made see key tackles to go along with his first ever career interception in the first half.

The offensive line did a better job of protecting Craig Hormann, giving up just one sack, but it still has a way to go as the Lion QB is struggling to find his rhythm.

Hormann was also a bit sharper. Some of his throws were off but he made a lot of great plays too. His block on Tim Paulin's 34-yard reverse for the first score of the game made all the difference. Hormann also didn't throw any interceptions.

And the team showed some great emotional fortitude. Lots of Columbia teams in the past would have lost total focus after blowing most of a 20-0 lead and facing a situation where the opponent had four downs to get two yards for the go-ahead touchdown. To not only stuff the Hoyas on that goal line stand, but to also march almost all the way down the field for a field goal right after that was a great show of mental toughness.

Columbia Areas of Concern

A week after looking so strong against the run against Fordham's star James Prydatko and the big Ram offensive line, the Lions wilted against the Hoyas crop of unknown runners and small front five. It's hard to say what caused the turnaround, but Georgetown almost ran at will during significant portions of this game. That's going to have to chance if Columbia wants to have a chance against Princeton this Saturday.

There was also a little bit of an obvious let down after the Lions jumped out to that 20-0 lead. While it was encouraging that Columbia came off the 37-7 win over Fordham and stormed out of the gate to play the first two and-a-half quarters with intensity, they will definitely lose a lot of games this year if they let themselves get too comfortable with a lead. This team has not trailed for even one second in any game this season, and it will be interesting to see if it can keep its focus if when it first falls behind.

Hormann needs to hook up with a sure-fire target and get comfortable with him. The freshman Austin Knowlin is extremely talented and he's already a great weapon, but he's too short to throw to more than a few times a game right now. I think Hormann needs to do what he did to start that wonderful game-winning fourth quarter drive and throw more passes to junior tight end Jamal Russell. Russell is tall and strong and should be a comforting target for Hormann when the Lion QB is under pressure.

The defense needs to cover the sidelines better and not allow quarterback scrambles. Georgetown may have succeeded at the run despite its size problems because of its ability to take it to the sidelines where the Lion defenders are smaller. For the 19 years I've been watching Columbia football, the team has always had trouble with allowing opposing QB's to turn sure sacks into 15+ yard gains on scrambles. Stopping this kind of thing needs to be a priority this week in practice.

We need a nice crowd Saturday. This will be homecoming for a 2-0 team against a bitter Ivy opponent. If we don't see 12,000+ at the game this weekend, I fear the team will really feel an emotional let down. Right now, they're predicting nice weather for the game, but it is only Monday.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Saved By the Rocholl

Columbia 23 Georgetown 21

(Quick recap)

Jon Rocholl did not kick a game winning field goal with no time left, but he was a perfect 3-3 on field goals, (including a 45-yarder), and also kicked some nice punts that all helped Columbia avoid blowing a 20-0 3rd quarter lead. Rocholl is my game MVP.

The Lions defense again provided most of the spark in the first half, but the offense was sharper than last week, getting a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, and driving down the field late in the pressure packed late moments of the fourth quarter to essentially put the game out of reach.

For the second week in a row, Georgetown got a major spark when Matt Bassuener came in to replace Ben Hostetler at QB. Georgetown also managed to take control of the line of scrimmage as the Hoyas ran the ball at will throughout the second half. But a key goal line stand got the defense back into the game.

Columbia QB Craig Hormann had a more solid game, going 14 of 25 for 158 yards, one TD, and no interceptions. Jordan Davis got a career-high 25 carries and 95 yards and the running game was mostly effective. A couple of big reverses, the first a 34-yarder by WR Tim Paulin for the opening TD, the second a nice scamper of about 15 yards by WR Austin Knowlin on the Lions' final drive, made a big difference in the game.

In the first half it was all about the three interceptions thrown by Ben Hostetler, one of which was returned all the way back to the Hoya eight yard line by Eugene Edwards. Three plays later, Hormann found Demko for an eleven yard TD pass and a 14-0 Lion lead.

Bassuener started showing what he could do early in the 3rd quarter after Columbia had taken a 20-0 lead on the 45-yarder by Rocholl. He was an incredible 17 of 24 for 177 yards and three touchdowns, but he also scrambled well and directed the running game brilliantly. If he isn't starting for Georgetown for the rest of the season, they should fire Head Coach Kevin Kelly right away.

Key Turning Point in the Game

Bassuener's brilliant moves cut the Lion lead to 20-14, and with about six minutes left and the Hoyas were knocking on the door with a first and goal at the two. Columbia got lucky on one play when they forced him to throw a little off-balance and a wide open Hoya tight end wasn't able to catch the ball. But all the other plays on that goal line stand were the result of Columbia's solid defense, and Georgetown had to try a 30-yard field goal into the wind. A bad snap doomed that play and the Hoyas never even got the kick off.

The Lions took over at their eleven and did anything but sit on the ball. Hormann hooked up with tight end Jamal Russell for one big gainer, Knowling got his big reverse play, and Jordan Davis also had a nice 15+ yard run before the Columbia drive stalled at the Hoya seven. Rocholl made sure the drive produced some points with the chip shot 24-yarder and the lead was up to 23-14.

Georgetown drove down the field for one more TD, but it was scored with just nine seconds left and the game was over.

More later...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Columbia-Georgetown Preview

Columbia is Favored by 11.5 points over Georgetown

(Source:, but please don't take this link as an encouragement to gamble! Gambling on football is a no-win situation and gambling on Ivy League football is a sign of a serious problem... no really it is).

For the odds makers to give Columbia the nod with a double-digit spread shows very unusual respect for this program and a huge amount of skepticism for Georgetown right now. I would have made Columbia a touchdown favorite, but I'm not interested in enticing bets. This bigger spread is probably very much about trying to induce heavy wagering on Georgetown.


Columbia must maintain the defensive intensity that was so evident on the field against Fordham. The Lions really wanted to hit and hit hard on every play, and they did. I suspect there could be a let down after the big 37-7 win and because this game is just before the homecoming showdown with Princeton. Hopefully, the Lion coaches have impressed upon the players that every game is very precious. How a squad that's gone 3-17 over the past two seasons could forget that I'm not sure, but we are talking about 18-21 year-old kids here.

More specifically, Columbia needs to show that the aggressive 3-5-3 defense can guess right against a more varied offense. The Hoyas don't have any one great weapon like Fordham had in James Prydatko, but they do mix the run and the pass well and that means keying on one player will NOT be something the Lions can do all day. It will also be interesting to see if Georgetown learned something valuable from watching game film of the new CU defense. No other I-AA or I-A school that I know of uses the 3-5-3, and Fordham may have been more confused by it than anyone else will from here on out.

Georgetown has decided to start Ben Hostetler again at QB, despite the fact that he was yanked in last week's Brown game and was outplayed by his replacement, Matt Bassuener, albeit in garbage time. Hostetler's stats are unimpressive. In three games, he's thrown for just 392 yards and a 5.1 yards-per-attempt average. He has three TD passes and three interceptions. He's not much of a runner either with 30 yards on 20 carries. I suspect Georgetown first-year coach Kevin Kelly will be keeping Hostetler on a short leash.

Hostetler's #1 target is receiver Brent Craft, but that's all relative. He has just 13 catches for 110 yards and no TD's. The team is high on another receiver, Jasper Ihezie, who is 6"4 and has good speed, but he only has three catches so far this season.

The running game is very weak, as the top runner Emir Davis has just 59 yards on 16 carries. This might have a lot to do with the Hoya's undersized offensive line. The left side of the line features two starters who weigh just 260 pounds, and the center is just 240. The right side of the GU line is much bigger with a pair of guys at 290 pounds each. Columbia is coming off a very successful game where it controlled the line of scrimmage against a much bigger Fordham O-line, so if the Lions don't keep it up this weekend; it will probably be the result of a let down.

The secondary will be tested much more this week than it was last week against Fordham. The Lions pass rush must help out, and it has a chance to rack up some sacks against that smaller offensive line, but at some point Columbia's defensive backs will need to shine in coverage. I expect the Hoyas to test 5"7 junior cornerback Jo Jo Smith to see if they can take advantage of his shorter size in "jump ball" type situations. Smith does have good speed and his aggressive play was on display last week when he stripped a Fordham receiver of the ball at the CU one-yard line, but he'll need help. Columbia can go a long way to demoralizing Georgetown early by stuffing some pass plays in the first quarter.

Georgetown's defense is the stronger unit. They've only allowed 60 points all season, and that average is skewed by last week's 34 points given up to Brown. But the Hoya's have been allowing lots of yards on the ground and through the air. This tells me the GU defense is probably stiffening up in the red zone, and getting red zone TD's has been a problem for Columbia for the last couple of seasons. Columbia must convert a TD when it gets into the red zone, preferably in the first half, instead of relying on Jon Rocholl to bail them out with a field goal every time.

At the line of scrimmage, Columbia needs to keep up the good work when it comes to run blocking. Jordan Davis and the other rushers had a lot more room to run against Fordham than they did at any time last season. But the pass protection wasn't as strong as it needed to be most of the game. I expect the Hoyas to rush QB Craig Hormann hard and often. I think the Lions can neutralize that with some screen passes and a few quick throws to the tight ends. Draw plays might also be a remedy, and I'd like to see Davis make the Hoyas pay with some good gains up the middle. How Columbia responds to the rush early will set a tone in this game.

Ultimately, the game comes down to two questions for Columbia. 1) Will the defense play with as much passion and aggressiveness as it did last week? and 2) Will the offense play a more complete and consistent game? I like Columbia's chances on defense, but I think the Lions' offense may still be a bit rusty so early in the year. The one advantage Columbia is sure to have is on special teams, where Rocholl's leg is never in question. I expect him to have another multiple field goal game and that could be the difference.

PREDICTION: Columbia 23 Georgetown 14

In the Papers

The Columbia Spectator has some pretty thin Lion football coverage today, but there are a couple of interesting takes on the game in the Georgetown student paper, The Hoya.

Or course there is nothing in any of the New York papers.


Harvard (-3 1/2) at Brown

Without a doubt, this is the game of the week in the Ivies and perhaps all of Division I-AA. Harvard is down to its third string QB, but Clifton Dawson is healthy and as effective as ever. As good as he is, I think the Brown defense, led by Zak DeOssie, will be more prepared to stop Dawson and hold him to 125 yards or less. This is finally the year for the Bears to get over that Crimson hurdle.

PREDICTION: Brown 27 Harvard 23

Yale (+2) at Cornell

Both teams are coming off poor performances in their openers. But I think Cornell is a much better team than they showed against Bucknell, while Yale was not so out of character in its big loss to San Diego. Cornell should also get an emotional lift from all-time great Ed Marinaro's presence in the stands as the school will be honoring him and the rest of the 1971 Ivy Championship squad at Schoelkopf Field. This will be a close one as both teams have decent weapons on offense.

PREDICTION: Cornell 24 Yale 21

Lafayette (+4 1/2) at Princeton

Princeton has a very strong defense, but its offense is not going to be very effective this season without that huge and versatile offensive line it had last year. Lafayette is hungry after playing a pretty good game in a losing cause at home to Penn. The Tigers have been living a charmed life since last season and that ends tomorrow.

PREDICTION: Lafayette 20 Princeton 10

Villanova at Penn (no line)

Penn made its case as a true Ivy title contender last week against Lafayette, sending a big crowd home disappointed after they came to see the Leopards in their newly renovated stadium. Villanova is a better team than its 0-3 record indicates, and it will be really hungry to "show-up" the cross-town Ivy swells, but I think the Wildcats will only be able to make it close.

PREDICTION: Penn 28 Villanova 24

University of New Hampshire (-28 1/2) at Dartmouth

This is going to be an ugly game. It would be great if the Big Green put some fear in UNH's hearts at some point, but I don't think it's going to happen. Any chance of a letdown is also diminished by the fact that this is an old intrastate rivalry.

PREDICTION: UNH 45 Dartmouth 7

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Ivy League: Week One

For people trying to gauge the strength or weakness of an opponent, there's no evidence that's as potentially misleading than a week one performance. The radical changes so many teams show from week one to week two should give anyone pause before they decide to make any grand statements about teams that are 1-0 or 0-1. So take just about everything you see below with a grain of salt.

Harvard 31 Holy Cross 14

Harvard has so much depth it's really disgusting. The Crimson were forced to start their second-string QB Chris Pizzotti this season because #1 Liam O'Hagan was suspended for half the season. Pizzotti goes down with an injury in the opener and sophomore Jeff Witt comes in and doesn't miss a beat. Of course, any QB is going to look good with an all-world running back like Clifton Dawson behind him. Dawson was awesome again in the game with 170 yards on 24 carries including two touchdowns. But the next four games should be a little tougher for Harvard as opponents will start putting 8 guys in the box to stop Dawson and put pressure on whoever's throwing the ball. Harvard has a recent history of dodging one bullet, but not two or three when it loses its #1 QB. In 2003, Ryan Fitzpatrick went down and the Crimson won one game with backup Garret Schires, but then they were beaten by Columbia a week later. This Saturday's game against Brown in Providence will be a toughie. If Dawson is contained in any way, the Crimson are dead.

The Harvard defense, on the other hand, looked pretty good against an admittedly mediocre Holy Cross offense. Still, holding the Crusaders, (who came up with that nickname by the way, Osama bin Laden?), to just 40 yards rushing was impressive. They did give up some big passing plays, but overall Harvard did not look like a patsy in the air. This still looks like a very, very good team and the next two weeks at Brown and Lehigh will show us whether Harvard will be a 2nd/3rd place team in this league or its champion

Brown 34 Georgetown 21

Brown began the post Nick Hartigan era with an impressive offensive show versus Georgetown. Instead of going with one guy to replace Hartigan, the Bears ran the ball by committee and had good success with 207 yards rushing on 45 carries. And the default dean of Ivy quarterbacks, Joe DiGiacomo had a solid game, going 14 of 20 for 205 yards and no INT's. The final score is a little deceiving as Georgetown scored two late, almost meaningless touchdowns after falling behind 34-7.

We won't really know how good Brown is until this weekend's game against Harvard. For the Bears, it will all be about that offensive line and whether it can get some kind of a running game going against the stingy Crimson D. DiGiacomo is a good quarterback, not a great one. And while he has the ability to win games by hooking up with star receiver Lonnie Hill a few times per game, he won't have that luxury against Harvard.

Either way, this should be another great game in a rivalry that's becoming a great one for these teams and this league.

San Diego 43 Yale 17

It seemed like embattled Yale Head Coach Jack Siedlecki was making excuses as he reacted to the Elis thrashing by San Diego at the Bowl. He basically put the loss on the shoulders of San Diego's great QB Josh Johnson and left it at that. The fact is the entire defense was weak, giving up more than 200 yards rushing to go along with the 345-yard performance from Johnson.

On the offensive side, Yale QB Matt Polhemus looked good as a runner with 54 yards on eight carries, but less impressive as a passer, going just 11 of 28 with an interception. Top Yale tailback Mike McCleod was held to 63 yards on 18 carries. I was impressed when McCleod rushed for 600+ yards last year as a freshman, but if he turns in similar stats as a soph it will be a lot less impressive. Yale might improve by leaps and bounds next week and it's possible San Diego really has become a Division-IA level squad, but I'm not so sure.

Bucknell 20 Cornell 5

The Big Red just didn't look ready to play in a shocking 20-5 loss to Bucknell on the road. But they still rushed for 234 yards and out-gained the Bison overall by 436-331. I think Cornell will bounce back strong this Saturday at home versus Yale, but it's starting to look like this team is not as good as I thought it would be and the November 11th game against the Big Red might now be a winnable one for Columbia.

Princeton 14 Lehigh 10

The Tigers put up a fine defensive effort and Lehigh is a quality opponent, but this 14-10 win does nothing to answer the questions I have about Princeton's all-new offensive line and still untested QB Jeff Terrell. The Tigers managed just 108 total yards on the ground on 34 carries for a 3.2 yards per carry average. And Terrell threw three interceptions. I will have to hold off on any pronouncements on Princeton until they play a team with a stronger offense.

Colgate 28 Dartmouth 7

Dartmouth hung in this game for a surprisingly long time, but fell apart at the end to lose by 21. It's nice that the Big Green kept it close for as long as they did, but they had just 170 total yards on offense! Again, things could change for Dartmouth, but not this Saturday against the powerhouse University of New Hampshire. New QB Tom Bennewitz did pretty well, going 14-of-22 and not throwing a pick. But he didn't get any TD's either and his 4.6 yards-per-attempt stat was positively anemic.

Penn 21 Lafayette 11

The Quakers looked like well, the Quakers, in this nice road win for Al Bagnoli's 100th career victory at Penn. Joe Sandberg had a monster game, rushing for 166 yards on 24 carries. New QB Robert Irvin was efficient, going 17-of-27 for 182 yards. This was an especially impressive win because it was the first game at Lafayette's remodeled stadium and the crowd support was definitely there for this interstate rivalry.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Craig's Still the Man

Player Profiles

Today's Columbia Spectator has two good short pieces, one about my game 1 MVP Drew Quinn and another on wide receiver Austin Knowlin. Unfortunately, there's another silly piece on how all good QB's need to have a swagger to be winners. It certainly doesn't hurt to have confidence, and I agree that ex-Coach Shoop made a bad choice in shuttling signal-callers last year, but there's nothing wrong with letting quarterback know he may lose his job if he plays badly.

That said, I think Craig Hormann didn't do such a bad job against Fordham. He was rushed heavily all day and kept his calm most of the time. He also showed a little more mobility than he did last year. He still completed 63.6% of his passes, and some of his incomplete throws were wise tosses out of bounds to avoid sacks. And most importantly, his yards-per-attempt average was 7.0, the gold standard for a quarterback.

Remember, this is a guy who's throwing to an almost totally different receiving corps, and he must really be missing deep threat Brandon Bowser who graduated. I think Hormann will do a much better job against Georgetown this Saturday.

Ivy League Honors

It's early in the season, so it must mean Columbia has some players winning weekly honors from the Ivy League office. I don't mean to be crabby, but it seems like CU players get a little edge in the early season because the league officials know our team doesn't usually have much to crow about later in the year. Let's hope we change that trend this season.

Jon Rocholl won Ivy League Special Teams player of the week for his 3-3 field goal kicking performance. Austin Knowlin won Ivy League Rookie of the Week, and Eugene Edwards and Drew Quinn made the weekly honor roll.

Scouting Georgetown

The Hoyas are very difficult team to read and my sympathies go out to the Columbia coaching staff. Last week they knew Fordham would rely heavily on the run and the Lions could focus on stopping tailback James Prydatko. Georgetown doesn't have any one weapon as lethal as Prydatko can be, but it has a more balanced offense and a slightly tougher defense.

The biggest mystery is who will be the Hoyas' starting QB. Former NFL QB Jeff Hostetler's nephew Ben Hostetler was the starter for the first three games. But he has been unspectacular and was yanked in the second half last week against Brown. He was replaced by junior Matt Bassuener, a converted defensive back, who looked sharp, albeit in "garbage time," going 17-for-21 for 154 yards and two touchdowns. His, and Hostetler's, favorite target is 5"11 165-pound junior wide receiver Brent Craft who had six catches, but none for more than 18 yards. The other notable target is sophomore Kenny Mitchell, who had three grabs, but two were for touchdowns.

No matter who gets the start for Georgetown, Columbia will have to rush him hard. And that could be easier than it was last week, because while Fordham had a very big offensive line, the Hoyas' front five is positively puny with an average weight of 268 pounds and no one starter over 290. For anyone who thought Columbia would always be the smallest guys on the line, here come the Hoyas to disabuse you of that belief, (Columbia's O-Line averages 280 pounds). But the most glaring possible weakness is at center where Georgetown is starting a 240-pound freshman named Dan Methany. I like Columbia nose tackle Todd Abrams and his chances for plugging up the middle and dominating this kid. This may be the one time this season when Columbia's D-Line gets a nice advantage. The defenders certainly made the most of their opportunities against that big Fordham line, and unless the Hoyas have a bunch of guys with super athleticism that covers up their size issues, this looks good.

But the defense will still have a tough time, even with that small Hoya offensive line in front of them. I thought the Lions benefited greatly from excellent guess work against Fordham. After all, the Rams had James Prydatko and nothing else so it wasn't too hard to figure out what they were going to do most of the time. Georgetown will mix it up, and it will be a true test of the new 3-5-3 defense to see if the Lion linebackers can react quickly to a varied attack.

Another concern is the Columbia secondary. This unit has been the best on the team since 2004, but it was not tested last week and we haven't seen what it can do without the graduated Prosper Nwokocha and Keenan Shaw. If Bassuener starts and it turns out he does have real talent, he could hurt the Lions. Again it's a mystery, but a mystery Columbia must prepare for with aggressive and smart play.

Georgetown's defense is the better of the two units on this team. Their best strength seems to be rushing the passer, as they Hoyas have recorded seven sacks in three games this season, and at least two in each game. Brown did roll up 34 points on these guys last week, but Brown has a very experienced QB in Joe DiGiacomo, a great offensive line, and a true star wide receiver in Lonnie Hill. But it should be encouraging for the Lions to see that five different Bruin rushers gained a total of 207 yards on the ground Saturday for a 4.6-yards-per-carry average. Columbia should test Georgetown's run defense early and maybe even mix Jordan Davis and James Cobb in the first quarter instead of waiting for the second half to insert Cobb like they did last week.

Ultimately, I like Columbia's chances. The team must know the competition really only gets tougher from here on out, (with the exception of Iona in week 4), and this is just about a must-win if the Lions want to achieve a successful season. I think the defense will eventually take advantage of the small Hoya O-line and the offense will improve over last week's performance. One big advantage is on special teams, where Jon Rocholl is picking up where he left off last season. Georgetown kicker Eric Bjonerud has been perfect on PAT kicks, but he has yet to attempt a field goal all year.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Columbia-Fordham 360

For every Columbia game I attend, I like to pass on the entire experience from every angle. Obviously, this 37-7 win over Fordham was a pleasure for many reasons.

Getting to the Game/Atmosphere

A family obligation stopped me from getting to Baker Field as early as I wanted to, but I did get the car parked and into the complex about 20 minutes before kickoff.
One shocker was seeing the Twin Donut, a mainstay for decades at 218th and Broadway, closed for what seems like a long time. There was a sign outside that read, "Coming soon, Twin Donut!" But that sign seems an awful like those bogus placards they put outside businesses that are kaput that say they are just closed "for inventory." Of course, my first thought was of the parking lot and whether I will be able to use it for an emergency space at future games. I did see some people parked there, but I forgot to ask them if they had to pay anyone to get those spots.

As soon as I walked into the gates on 218th and Park Terrace, I witnessed a heavily bearded, and obviously drunk, gentlemen, being escorted out of the area. I can only presume he was cooked on the free beer Columbia was giving out to all of-age fans with game tickets in the new picnic area, but it's possible he abused himself with his own stash. The picnic area itself on the field turf practice field was nice with a live band singing its hearts out, but there was no one there. I realize there may have been a few more people there a little bit earlier, but I did expect to see more stragglers.

Once entering Wien Stadium, I was disappointed by the small crowd. With the weather turning out to be just wonderful, I expected more. However, the seats on the home side filled up more as the game went along and the final announced attendance turned out to be about 4,400... weak, but not a total disaster. The trouble is, even with the big win this week I don't expect the stands to be much more crowded for the next game against Georgetown as game day coincides with Rosh Hashanah... but you never know.

The field and the stadium do not look much different from last season. There is still no midfield logo of any kind and both end zones feature a snazzy "Columbia" written on the turf. (Before last year, one end zone used to say "Columbia" and the other read "Lions"). But everything looked good with no visible effects from the heavy rains that hit the New York area on Thursday and Friday.

There were more security guards in the stands than I can ever remember, and some newly posted signs indicating the fact that the chair back seats were the "premium seating area." I didn't see anyone getting their tickets checked, but some of the guards did ask people who had their feet on the seats to remove them.

All in all, the atmosphere was about as good as you can hope to have with 4,400 people in the stands. Most of the students, wearing snazzy new t-shirts they were each given for free, looked into it and they certainly were having fun by the end of the rout.

And Now... the Game

Columbia took the field looking pretty good in their new uniforms. The team also looked fired up. But once again, they looked smaller in total size than the Fordham squad, as the Rams were able to bring the whole roster, as this was not really a "road" game for them. And pound for pound we also looked smaller than Fordham, but that was to prove to be a very deceiving thing once the game began.

Defense Picks up the Slack Early

The Lions lost the toss but got the ball first when the Rams chose to defer to the second half. In contrast to the information on the two-deep, it was Chad Musgrove and freshman Josh A. Williams back deep to return the kicks. This was to be the first of a few minor discrepancies between the two-deep and what actually occurred on the field, as it seems Coach Wilson did make some last minute changes as he had promised. Williams took the kick at his two and ran it back to the 23. QB Craig Hormann ended up running the ball for a one-yard gain when he had to run to avoid a sack on first down. On second down, Jordan Davis rushed for no gain setting up a 3rd and nine from the CU 24. Here, Columbia would make one of its few mistakes on the day as Hormann floated a pass to Adrian Demko that Demko bobbled and it ended up being intercepted by Fordham standout Earl Hudnell at the CU 45. Hormann faced heavy Fordham pressure on this first series and pretty much all afternoon. He would get better at reacting to it as the game wore on, but the fierce Ram rush did nothing to calm what seemed like opening day jitters for the Lion signal caller.

But in what would turn out to be the first key turning point in the game, the Columbia defense did not let the Rams take advantage of the Lion mistake. Fordham star James Prydatko rushed twice for a total of three yards before Ram QB Derric Daniels threw an incomplete pass that would have been short of a first down anyway. Fordham had to punt it right back to the Lions.

Columbia had to start its second series at its own seven yard line after a wonderful punt by Fordham's Ben Dato. The Lions looked a little better on this series, as they converted a first down on a 15-yard pass from Hormann to James Besselman on 3rd and six from the eleven, but the drive died after that and a good return on Jon Rocholl's 39-yard punt put Fordham in good position again at the Lion 49.

This time, the Rams were obviously determined to test Columbia against the run. It was a test Columbia failed week in and week out last season, and on this series they briefly showed some weakness. Six Fordham rushes produced 32 yards and two first downs before the Rams brief ray of sunshine suddenly turned to gloom. Adam Brekke and Drew Quinn combined on a four-yard sack on 3rd and three from the CU 17, forcing a Micah Clukey field goal attempt from 38 yards out. But Clukey's kick was resoundingly blocked by junior cornerback Eugene Edwards who came around the side and made a clean block. Columbia recovered on its 22-yard line and Head Coach Norries Wilson stormed the field to congratulate his troops in the first of his many displays of exuberance during the game.

The Lions quickly started moving the ball on this possession as Jordan Davis rushed for 15 yards on first down and Hormann hooked up with Davis for a 13-yard screen play on the next down. But the drive fizzled after that as Hormann threw an incomplete pass on 3rd and nine from the Fordham 49 and Jon Rocholl had to punt. His punt was brilliant however, and Columbia pinned the Rams at their eleven yard line.

And this is where the game would take on true definition. T.J. Jordan replaced Daniels at quarterback and after two runs for a total of four yards, the first quarter ended and the second frame began with a 3rd and 6 for Fordham at their own 15 yard line. Jordan attempted an option and was absolutely pounded by freshman defensive back Andy Shalbrack who knocked the ball, and Jordan's helmet free. Senior nose tackle Todd Abrams fell on the loose ball and Columbia was in business with a 1st down at the Ram 19. T.J. Jordan was not to return after that play.

Marching toward the south end zone, the drive had a promising beginning as Hormann completed short passes to Jamal Russell and Jordan Davis to set the Lions up with a 1st and goal at the six. Fordham's defense re-asserted itself after that, sacking Hormann on 1st down, tackling Davis for a three-yard loss on an emergency pass on 2nd down, and forcing an incomplete pass on third down to set up a 27-yard field goal which Jon Rocholl hit perfectly to give the Lions a 3-0 lead. Columbia had made Fordham pay for its turnover, not in full, but at least there was something on the scoreboard to show for it.

I did hear some grumbling in the stands over Columbia's inability to score a TD, and the play calling had some fans wondering why the Lions didn't try a slant, but it was clear CU's offense just wasn't in sync until later in the game.

(Rocholl has clearly picked up where he left off last season and he would later be awarded Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week honors. In this game he was perfect).

On the ensuing kickoff it was Rocholl doing the kicking and not kickoff specialist Patrick Huston. Huston would get in some kicks at the end of the game, but it's not clear why Wilson made the switch. He ended up sending this kick to Fordham goal line, where Jonte Coven took it for a 25-yard return. But a Ram personal foul pushed them back to their 13 yard line to start the drive.

Columbia's defense started to turn the screws at this point. With Daniels back at QB for the Rams, they went back to the straight-ahead run. On first down, Quinn broke through the line and nailed Prydatko for a two-yard loss. The next running attempt went for no gain. And on 3rd and 12 from the eleven, the long snap back to Daniels in the shotgun formation sailed over his head just into the end zone where Todd Abrams fell on it for his second fumble recovery of the game and a Lion touchdown. Rocholl's PAT was perfect and with about 11:15 left in the first half, Columbia had a 10-0 lead.

Abrams is workhorse for Columbia and has been for four years. He moved from linebacker to nose tackle in the off season to help mold defensive coordinator Lou Ferrari's new 3-5-3 defense and also did some serious work in the weight room to change his body shape. His first collegiate touchdown is one I'm sure he'll always remember.

But on Fordham's next possession, the Rams finally showed some signs of life. Coven got a nice return to start the Fordham drive at their own 37. A pair of three-yard runs set up 3rd and four from the 43, and Daniels made the most of it by squeezing out of what looked like a sure Columbia sack for a seven-yard scramble to the 50. But that was just a hint of what was to come. Two running plays netted negative one yard and the Rams now faced a 3rd and eleven from their 49. This time, Daniels scrambled along the east sideline for a big 23-yard gain and a first down at the Columbia 28. Then on 3rd and two from the CU 20, Daniels threw his only really good pass of the day, timing his toss perfectly to wideout Tommy Martin for a touchdown in the western corner of the north end zone. Clukey's extra point was good and Columbia's lead was down to 10-7 with just under seven minutes in the half.

Musgrove got his hands on the ball for the first time in the season on the kickoff, getting a decent 23-yard return to put Columbia on its own 28. Hormann got things rolling nicely with a 14-yard toss to Demko and then Davis rushed for a respectable five yards on the next play. But the Lion drive bogged down there as Davis lost four yards on a 3rd and one play at the Fordham 47. Rocholl came on to punt and placed it nicely at the Ram 12, but Adam Brekke and Tad Crawford teamed up to force Ram returner Isiejah Allen into a seven-yard loss and Fordham had to start the drive at its own five yard line with 3:56 to go in the half. Two rushes netted no gain and on 3rd and ten the Rams got a nine-yard Daniels-to-Bo Marchand completion to the 14 and a fourth and one situation with about three minutes left. I think it's safe to say most college coaches would have punted in that situation, but Fordham coach Tom Massella elected to go for it, and that led to the second major turning point of the game. Drew Quinn ended up stuffing Prydatko for a two-yard loss and it was now Columbia's ball at the Fordham 12.

Fordham got away without having to suffer the worst for the questionable call, as their pass rush forced an intentional grounding call against Hormann on first down, and the Lions never really went anywhere after that. They ended up settling for a 37-yard field goal from Rocholl and a 13-7 lead with about 1:45 left in the half.

Fordham didn't just sit on the ball when they took over after the kickoff at their own 29, but they didn't move anywhere as they ended up moving nowhere and Daniels was sacked by, you guessed it, Drew Quinn, for a one-yard-loss on the last play of the half.

The halftime buzz in the stands was all about the hard-hitting defense. Most impressive was their play against the run, but it was also nice to see the incredible amount of movement the Lion defenders were making before each Fordham snap. This wasn't just a little stunting, but full-out sprints by the linebackers and defensive backs that seemed to be confusing the Rams.

As for fan support, the crowd seemed to have grown a bit since the start of the game. Meanwhile, the temperature was getting hotter and the sun was getting stronger as the game progressed.

Fordham got the ball first to start the second half and decided to see if their big offensive line could begin to wear down the Lions. It couldn't. Three straight handoffs to Prydatko netted just seven yards and Fordham had to punt.

Dato's punt was a thing of beauty that went about 65 yards in the air for touchback. Columbia decided to go with the run and two Jordan Davis scampers netted nine yards and gave CU a 3rd and one at their own 29. On this play, we would see the main turning point of the game. Hormann faced heavy pressure and his screen pass was intercepted by Hudnell and returned for an apparent TD. But the Ram rush turned out to be a little too fierce and Fordham ended up getting flagged for a roughing the passer penalty and six Ram points were taken off the board. Given a second chance, Hormann and the offense started to click. On 3rd and 14 from their own 40, Hormann hooked up with Demko for a 21-yard pass to the Ram 39. On the next play, Davis ran for 14 yards to the 25. The drive stopped there, but Rocholl nailed a 42-yarder to make the score 16-7. The CU field goal and the negated Ram TD amounted to a huge ten-point swing in Columbia's favor.

With about nine minutes left in the third, Columbia shocked everyone by going for an on-sides kick that Fordham just barely grabbed at its own 49. On one level I liked the aggressiveness by the Lion coaches, but I didn't think it was exactly the time go for that kind of play. Of course, the Columbia defense was to take care of business in the end. Fordham came out throwing, as Daniels hit Prydatko for a nine-yard gain. But on the next play, we would see yet another turning point. Daniels completed a pass to a wide open Sylvester Clarke in the middle of the field, only to have Columbia's 5-7 junior corner Jo Jo Smith hunt him down and strip the ball at the one stopping a sure Fordham touchdown. Smith didn't just tackle Clarke and get lucky with the fumble; he was going for the strip all the way and he got it. Tad Crawford scooped it up and returned it to the CU 15.

Now with the ball deep in its own end, Columbia's offense was able to do what it hadn't been able to do all game, even when it got the ball deep in Fordham's end. A Davis run for five yards, a Hormann scramble for 13, a six-yard toss to Nick DeGasperis, and another five-yarder from Davis gave CU a first down at its own 44. Hormann was sacked for a six-yard loss on the next play, but on 2nd and 16, he threw his best pass of the day. Timing his throw along the west sideline perfectly, he got the Fordham defender to go for the ball and miss. The pigskin ended up in the hands of a suddenly wide-open freshman receiver Austin Knowlin who sped down the sidelines and into the south end zone for a 62-yard touchdown and a 23-7 Columbia lead. The strip at the Columbia one and the ensuing Columbia touchdown accounted for another huge 14-point swing and it was now a 16-point Lion lead.

Fordham still didn't want to give up on the run, but they should have. They tried Prydatko three straight times but for only eight yards, and after another good Dato punt into the end zone, the Lions started again on their own 20. On 2nd and 9 from their 21, Hormann made his biggest mistake of the game, badly underthrowing a pass that was intercepted by Michael Shackelford and returned to the Columbia 31.

But the Lions defense stayed tough, setting up the final important turning point in the game. Fordham attempted a 42-yard field goal after failing to get a first down and it was again blocked by Eugene Edwards! Columbia would not turn the ball over again, so while Fordham was eventually made to pay for each of its turnovers, the Rams could not even get one point out of either Lion turnover.

The Lions took over at their own 23 with just seconds left in the third quarter, and the chance for Columbia to record a genuine blowout was getting obvious to everyone in the stands. But the Lions were unable to get more than one first down, and they had to punt it back to the Rams with 12:00 left in the game.

The Rams just didn't want to give up on Prydatko. On third and two from the Fordham 38 he fumbled again when he was hit by freshman linebacker Mack Loughrey, Tad Crawford recovered at the 39.

The Lions then gave the ball to senior backup tailback James Cobb. Cobb was ready to make something happen as he carried the ball for two yards on his first carry, but then broke off a nice 15-yard scamper for a first down at the Ram 22. After a failed trick running play to Knowlin, the Lions went back to Cobb, who made a nice change-of-direction run for a 22-yard TD and the first rushing score of the season for Columbia, (they only had one rushing touchdown all season last year). That made the score 30-7 and the game was essentially over.

But Drew Quinn and the Lion defense weren't done yet. Fordham started its next possession on its own 24 and Massella put in freshman QB John Skelton. Skelton looked pretty good at first, zipping two nice passes in a row for a total of 48 yards. But his next pass was incomplete and on 2nd and ten, he was flushed out of the pocket and threw an ill-advised pass that Drew Quinn picked off at the 41 and returned for a 41-yard touchdown and the final score of the day. While Skelton threw a bad pass, Quinn had to make an athletic move to grab the ball as he was coming off a block.

Something comically funny took place after that TD as the Fordham squad lined up on the wrong side of the field to receive the kickoff! In 30 years of watching football I have never seen anything like that.

Patrick Huston got into the game at this point and he kicked it to the Fordham eight before Coven ran it back to the 29. The Lion defensive starters were pretty much out of the game by now, but the rest of the squad didn't want to let up. Skelton stayed in the game for Fordham and he got the Rams one first down. But he was later sacked by Darren Schmidt and threw a pass one play later that freshman Justin Masorti should have grabbed, but dropped. Masorti hit the turf and did his best heart attack routine to the delight of his teammates who came over to console him.

After a Fordham punt, Columbia took over at their 27 and Wilson put in the second and third teams, led by sophomore QB Chris Allison. Allison and junior fullback Austin Stevenson made the most of "garbage time" with a number of runs that brought them all the way down to the Fordham 27. Wilson then put in freshman QB M.A. Olawale to take a knee, but he actually fumbled on the first play and thankfully recovered his own fumble. He got it right on the next play and the game was over.

Liberty Cup Stays in Manhattan!

After the game a decent amount of fans stayed to see CU Athletic Director Dr. M. Dianne Murphy hand the Liberty Cup trophy to the team's tri-captains, Usche Osadebe, Matt Barsamian and Adam Brekke. The team then started jumping up and down and chanting "CU!"

Osadebe did get into the game at the end, but it was still shocking to see a player of his stature get passed over for the start. Osadebe must be having more trouble adjusting to the offensive line after his All-Ivy junior season as a defensive lineman. I can't believe he's being benched for lack of a good attitude.

MVP of the Game: Drew Quinn

There were a lot of standout performances in this game. Tri-captain senior middle linebacker Adam Brekke did not force any fumbles or make any recoveries, but he was the defensive field general and anchored a rushing defense that gave up just 91 net yards rushing on 37 attempts for a stingy 3.5 yards a carry.

There was also Todd Abrams, making his debut at nose tackle after two seasons as a linebacker and looking like a veteran with two fumble recoveries and plenty of good work plugging up the middle.

And on special teams you had the perfect leg of Jon Rocholl and the electrifying two blocked field goal attempts by Eugene Edwards.

But Quinn, the sophomore from Maineville, Ohio, made all of his big plays at big moments in the game. He gets the nod as the Most Valuable Lion in a great Columbia win.

Special kudos go to the coaching staff, although offensive coordinator Vinny Marino will need to work hard to match the job Lou Ferrari and the defensive staff have put together so far. Norries Wilson is bringing some healthy enthusiasm to the sidelines that looked pretty sullen at times last season.

The offensive line did not win this game by any stretch of the imagination for the Lions. But they were certainly much improved over last season and the flashes of brilliance from Davis and Cobb are almost as encouraging as anything else you can take away from this game. No matter how strong the defense remains throughout the season, the Lions will have to run the ball with some efficiency to win.

In addition to Quinn, the Lion freshmen and sophomores made their presence known Saturday, and that's going to have to remain the case as Columbia is bereft of a decent number of upperclassmen. Sophomore Jordan Davis picked up 61 rushing yards in a good start towards getting the 600+ yards I think he needs this season. Frosh Austin Knowlin made the most of his first game with the big TD catch and a tough grab in traffic later in the game. Freshman Andy Shalbrack and Lou Miller made a lot of plays on defense. If this young talent can improve from here on out, this is going to be a fun few years at Baker Field.

Areas of Concern

The combination of a relentless Fordham pass rush and the excitement of a home opener seemed to make QB Craig Hormann a little jittery. A number of his throws were a little high, including one or two that the receivers went up and caught, but in so doing they lost their shot at gaining any yards after the catch. He will have to play better than he did Saturday for the Lions to compete in the Ivy League, but he showed some signs of brilliance. Any call for Allison to replace him after making a good scramble or two in garbage time is really premature. Hormann should face another strong rush from Georgetown next week as the Hoyas have recorded seven sacks in three previous games.

The offensive line did much better with its run blocking, but the pass protection was inconsistent. That's a bit of a switch from last year when the O-line did slightly better with its pass blocking.

Other than Hormann and the pass protection, I'd have to say the only negative was the crowd size. Perhaps if Columbia wins this Saturday against Georgetown, we'll have a jam-packed crowd for Homecoming against Princeton on 9/30.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"D" is for Dominant

Columbia 37 Fordham 7

The Norries Wilson era got off to a great start today as the Columbia Lions took advantage of a slew of Fordham mistakes, and created some of their own in a 37-7 crushing of the Rams.

I'll have much more on this game in the coming days, but here are the headlines:

The Defense was Superb

Columbia's "D" played fired up ball for 60 minutes, forcing turnovers, confusing the quarterback, and most importantly, STOPPING THE RUN. Fordham's star runner James Prydatko had just 47 yards on 20 carries with a long run of just eight yards.

There were too many great individual efforts to mention in this quick piece, but sophomore Drew Quinn and senior tri-captain Adam Brekke seemed like they made big plays on every series.

The Lions also produced two defensive touchdowns, doing what the offense couldn't do until well into the second half; put the ball in the end zone.

The 3-5-3 looks like a winner, as the Columbia defenders not only shifted a lot before each snap, but they shifted fast and aggressively. Kudos to defensive coordinator Lou Ferrari for getting these guys ready to play and seeing to it that they dominated the line of scrimmage despite giving up a lot in size to the Fordham offensive line.

The Offense has Some Work to Do

QB Craig Hormann and the offensive troops looked a little sluggish for the first two and a half quarters, but they finished strong enough to preserve the blowout.

The running game was not spectacular, but it made a difference when it counted. Starting tailback Jordan Davisrushed 18 times for a respectable 61 yards, and backup James Cobb made his short time on the field count with 39 yards on three carries, including a nice 22-yard scamper for a touchdown.

Another star was freshman Austin Knowlin, who caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Hormann and made another tough clutch catch later in the game.

Rocholl was no Fluke, and these Special Teams Really are Special

Fordham could have avoided paying the price for its many early mistakes if it had not been for the sure leg of Columbia sophomore John Rocholl. When the Lion's offense had trouble moving the ball after Ram turnovers, Rocholl made sure Columbia got at least three points out of it every time. Rocholl made all three of his field goal attempts, the longest of them was 42 yards.

Meanwhile, Columbia blocked both of Fordham's field goal attempts with fantastic rushes from the outside. We'll have to wait for the official game notes to find out who got the blocks, but the Lions were impressively aggressive.


BOTH Columbia blocks were made by cornerback Eugene Edwards,
a junior. Congrats to him!

Wilson Wins the First

Norries Wilson becomes the first Columbia football head coach to win his opening game since Aldo "Buff" Donelli did it in 1957 with a 23-20 win over Brown. Now Wilson will try to match the legendary Lou Little by trying to become the first CU coach since the hall-of-famer to go 2-0 his first time out. Incidentally, Little started his career at 3-0 in his first season, 1930... each victory was by shutout!

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

Thursday, September 14, 2006



I've decided to introduce the "chic" of roman numerals to add hype to Columbia's annual opener against Fordham. But first, I do want to make sure everyone remembers the circumstances surrounding the decision to make this game a special one for both the schools and the people of New York City.

In 2000, the Ivy League executed its once-in-every-25-years schedule change and had every team start its season against a non-Ivy opponent. For Columbia, that would be Fordham, its neighbor just to the north in the Rose Hill section of the Bronx. The first game, played under the lights at Wien Stadium, was an exciting contest for Lion fans as Columbia erased a small halftime deficit and ran away with a nice win in the first of many huge games that season for running back Jonathan Reese.

A year later, the game was scheduled for September 15th at Fordham in a daytime contest. I know I don't have to tell anyone what happened four days earlier. Interestingly, both teams very much wanted to play the game as scheduled as a way to show that homicidal maniacs don't get to have a say in when we play sports in this city. But after Major League Baseball and the NFL decided to postpone games, most of the college football world simply canceled their contests. But since Columbia and Fordham are so close to each other and it technically wasn't a "road" game for either team, the Lion-Ram contest was rescheduled for Thanksgiving Day. Fordham won that game with ease in what would be a sad ending to Reese's brilliant Columbia career.

In the early months of 2002, both schools decided to commemorate the spirit of the teams' reaction to 9/11 by setting up a special fund for survivors of the attacks from the city, with an emphasis on families of fallen firefighters and cops. The Liberty CUP, with a nice huge trophy to go the winner every year, was created.


Columbia and Fordham played a thrilling contest under the lights at Wien Stadium in a game televised by the YES Network. Leading most of the game, Columbia suddenly found itself trailing 11-10 with less than three minutes remaining. But a remarkable defensive stand and a clutch pass completion on 4th and long set the Lions up with a chance to win with a last second field goal. Sophomore place kicker Nick Rudd, who had had a kick blocked just minutes earlier, delivered with a perfect boot to give Columbia a 13-11 victory.

In a strange twist of fate, that would be the last game Columbia would win that season and the final victory of head coach Ray Tellier's career. Meanwhile, Fordham would shake off the loss and go on to win the Patriot League title and a 1st round Division IAA playoff game before falling in the next round. Columbia remains the only Ivy team to defeat a Patriot League squad that went on to win a playoff game.


Fordham held off a strong Columbia rally in the Bronx to give new Lion head coach Bob Shoop a loss in his first game at the helm. Kirwan Watson did most of the damage for the Rams as he rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Travis Chmelka's 90+ yard punt return for a TD brought Columbia close, but the Lions could not move the ball on their next possession and they fell 37-30.


The game returned to Baker Field and the YES Network for another night contest. Without injured star tight end Wade Fletcher, the Lions offense struggled and Columbia found itself down 17-0 at the half. But a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovery returned for another score brought Columbia within a field goal. That's as close as they would get however, as the Rams held on for the 17-14 win.


In the first night game on Jack Coffey Field in decades, the Lions overcame a slow first half and held off Fordham 23-17. Prosper Nwokocha's kickoff return for a TD provided the big spark. Both teams went on to awful seasons however, and Columbia's Bob Shoop and Fordham's Ed Foley found themselves out of a job at season's end.


Columbia leads 10-4 in a series that began in 1890. The Lions and Rams played one game at the Polo Grounds back when both teams had huge followings and routinely needed bigger venues for games. (Columbia won that Polo Grounds contest versus Fordham by the way). The two schools rarely met after the 20's, and an attempt to renew the series in the early 70's was scrapped when the Lions routed the Rams 44-0. But things got on better footing when Fordham joined the Patriot League in the early 1990's. Fordham overcame a 16-7 deficit with two late TD's to beat Columbia at Wien Stadium in 1991, 20-16. Then the Lions put together wins over the Rams in 1992, 1993, and 1996. The series became an annual event in 2000.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Who's Getting the Ball?

3 Days Until Kickoff!

We still haven't seen a two-deep for Columbia's opener against Fordham Saturday, and since the athletics office has been keeping us more updated this season than any time I can remember, I don't think this is due to laziness on anyone's part. It looks like Coach Wilson really meant it when he said that starting lineups will not be posted until game day. I realize this could change, but this only serves to stoke the anticipatory fires for fans who have been waiting 42 weeks for the new season to finally start.

I still think Craig Hormann will be the starting QB and Jordan Davis will get the nod at tailback. A lot of the other starters probably won't surprise anyone, but there are some parts of the team that really are a mystery. The Wide Receivers are a big question mark. Will Wilson go with veterans like Adrian Demko, Nick DeGasperis, and Jim Besselman? Or will he give Tim Paulin and Austin Knowlin the nod? Obviously questions like these can occupy one's time forever, and while I'd love for Columbia to get any advantage it can by being secretive, I guess I'm hoping to see a two-deep on the CU Web site sometime before Friday.

Wilson and History

This Saturday Norries Wilson will attempt to become the first Columbia football head coach to win his first game since Aldo "Buff" Donelli did it in 1957. Donelli was also the last CU coach to lead a squad to a championship season as he was at the helm in the 1961 Ivy title year. Donelli had a tough job taking over for the legendary Lou Little, and he ended up becoming one of the beloved figures in Columbia football history.

The last two Columbia coaches suffered close losses in their opening games. In 1989, Ray Tellier led an injury-depleted Lion squad to a 10-9 halftime lead over Harvard at Wien Stadium, before two late touchdowns brought the Crimson at 26-10 victory. Tellier wouldn't record his first win until the next-to-last week of the season when the Lions edged Cornell in Ithaca by six points.

Bob Shoop's opening game in the 2003 season at Fordham featured a strong Columbia rally that fell a TD short in a 37-30 loss to the Rams. He got his first win a week later at home in a close one against Bucknell.

For Wilson to win in his debut would be a huge accomplishment for a program that's usually had to break in its new coaches for awhile before there's any success.

Blast From the Past

3 Days Until Kickoff!

As we all wait for the start of the 2006 season, I thought it might be fun to take a look at this picture of Dwight Eisenhower speaking with the Columbia football team.
Ike and the Lions

I suppose this was taken when Ike was the President of Columbia University, (1950-52). He was not only a former football star himself, (his grid career at West Point was cut short by a knee injury that plagued him until he died), but a huge fan who wanted to see great things happen for CU football. In one of his many elegant biographies of Eisenhower, the late Stephen Ambrose wrote that Ike was alarmed when he learned that Coach Lou Little had accepted an offer to take the top job at Yale. Ambrose writes that Eisenhower immediately went to Little and explained that one of the reasons he came to Columbia was to meet and work with him. Presented with that kind of respect from the great general, Little decided to stay at Columbia where he remained until retiring at the end of the 1956 season.

The picture itself is interesting, especially for youngsters like me who don't remember the old configuration at Baker Field. The Lion statue is off in the back to the left at the top of a hill. I think the statue is still in that spot, but the Chrystie Field House which houses the locker rooms, is now directly behind that statue. The team is standing at the bottom of a steep hill, which is still there, although it looks like it was cut into a bit to make the paved road that winds its way to the baseball field today.

All the trees off to the right are interesting. Some of them are still there, but it looks positively like a forest in this old picture. All in all, Baker Field must have seemed like a very rural spot compared to the rest of the neighborhood and Manhattan overall back at that time.