The Captains' Table
Smith, Hormann, and Quinn (CREDIT: Columbia Athletic Dept.)
The news has just been released that Craig Hormann, JoJo Smith and JUNIOR Drew Quinn have been named captains of Columbia football for the 2007 season.
As a senior QB with two years as a starter under his belt already, it would have been a bit of an embarrassment had Hormann NOT been named a captain.
The other two choices are inpsirational for a lot of reasons. JoJo Smith is one of just two returning seniors on the defense, and no one would argue that he isn't the hardest working Lion. At 5"6 and 156 pounds, you expect him to be quick on the field, but last year he also showed his abilities as a hard hitter in the defensive backfield. With a guy like Smith making plays and hits, you'd hope the bigger players would be inspired to work harder.
Drew Quinn had a tremendous 2006 season and he and Phil Mitchell are the leading returning juniors on the defense. He was the second-leading tackler on the team with 82, and his late interception in the Cornell game sealed a huge win for the Lions. Quinn reminds me a lot of Chris Carey '04, who also was named a captain as a junior. And I think it's important to have an underclassman captain on team filled with so many sophomores and incoming freshmen.
Run With Me...
The captains news release says Hormann is expected to be ready for the start of the 2007 season, and he certainly looked pain-free at the spring game. But what if the worst happens and starting QB Craig Hormann can't play much or at all this coming season?
Columbia will not be without options in that case... and gloom would not be warranted.
Let's take a walk down the Lions memory lane to find out why:
Two of the most exciting Columbia teams of my lifetime were the 1971 and 1994 Lions. There were few similarities between the teams, but both squads featured quarterbacks who could pass and run. And both teams finished with winning records in heart-stopping fashion.
The 1971 squad was led by Stuyvesant High School grad Don Jackson, a 3-year starter who was a junior that season. Jackson's running and passing stats don't jump out as being very impressive now, but anyone who saw him play from 1970-72 will tell you how exciting he was.
And anyone who watched that 1971 season from wire-to-wire will tell you just how much they've had to spend on heart medication ever since. The Lions went 6-3 that year with only two games decided by more than 3 points! They also finished second in the Ivies behind the Ed Marinaro-powered Cornell Big Red, who barely beat Columbia 24-21 in a barn burner game up in Ithaca. Most people remember that game as the contest where Marinaro broke the all-time collegiate rushing record and later passed the 4,000-yard mark for his career. But it was a back-and-forth game that wasn't decided until the final moments. It was seen by the biggest crowd at Schoelkopf Field in 20 years... and I would assume the biggest since.
Here's a snippet from Time Magazine's coverage of the game:
Significant Gain. For sheer grind-it-out glory, though, the Year of the Runner belongs to Cornell's Ed Marinaro. Though he ran for more than 200 yds. in three of the season's first five games, the brawny (6 ft. 21 in., 214 Ibs.) tailback made his most significant gain against Columbia in the Big Red's sixth game. It was a routine 3-yd. plunge in the first quarter, but it bettered by 2 yds. the career rushing record of 3,867 yds. set by 1969 Heisman Trophy Winner Steve Owens at Oklahoma. Two quarters and 132 yds. later, the Big Red's machine became the first ball carrier in major-college history to top 4,000 yds. Then, with the score tied 21-21 and the ball on Cornell's 32-yd. line, Marinaro chewed out 44 more yds. on nine straight runs to set up a field-goal attempt by Place Kicker John Killian. Killian's 37-yd. boot gave unbeaten Cornell a 24-21 victory and capped a remarkable 272-yd. performance by Marinaro.
Columbia bounced back from the Cornell loss with a stunning 31-29 win over Dartmouth at Baker Field. The team's other big star, Paul Kaliades, kicked a 34-yard field goal to win it with 54 seconds left. It ended Dartmouth's 15-game winning streak and ended up costing the "Indians", (as they were called then), the outright Ivy title. The Lions won their final two games of the season over Penn and Brown, 17-3 and 24-6 respectively. Columbia wouldn't enjoy another winning season for 23 years.
That winning team was the 5-4-1 1994 Lions led by QB Mike Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh could run and pass, but he was best as a runner. Then-Head Coach Ray Tellier used a shuttle system that season; with Cavanaugh taking most of the snaps and Jamie Schwalbe coming in for the passing downs. The Lions clinched their winning season in week 9 with a thrilling 38-33 win over Cornell. Cavanaugh was the sole quarterback in 1995, and was leading the team to a potential Ivy title before he broke his leg in week 7 at Princeton and Columbia lost the rest of their games that year.
The point is, two of the three winning Columbia teams since 1970 have featured running quarterbacks. And while I'd like to see M.A. Olawale hone his passing skills, I would hope that if he is forced to start the coaches will allow him to do what he does best and simply run most of the time.
Speed Kills... So Why Not Use It?
I have always been baffled by the fact that you rarely see a pure scrambling quarterback in the Ivies anymore. The standard explanation is usually something along the lines of: "there's too many risks of injury," etc. Scrambling QB's DO take a lot of punishment, ask Mike Cavanaugh and Michael Vick. But I don't think the risks outweigh the rewards. Scrambling quarterbacks have a unique opportunity to do damage in the Ivies, where slower defenders can rarely do much to stop them. Mike Fritz proved that at Dartmouth last year, and I'm convinced the Big Green would have won more games last season if 1) they had another credible runner or 2) the coaching staff had planned well in advance to use Fritz as a scrambler and designed the offense around him.
I hate to say it, but I think a lot of Ivy coach don't use the scrambling QB strategy because most of them want to go on to the NFL. They want to boost their resumes by using pro-like passing sets, even though a more rudimentary system could work better. There are enough former Ivy assistants in the NFL today to make me suspect that proving you can draw up and coach complex passing schemes might be just as important as winning to some of these guys. And I could even understand that if you were coaching at a place like Penn or Harvard that habitually wins the Ivy title. But for everyone else, I have a little news flash: nothing will make the pros take bigger notice than winning. And at a place like Columbia, a few consecutive winning records should make the entire coaching staff a very hot item.
I am convinced a running QB set at Columbia or any Ivy would be very successful, maddeningly so for the opposing defenses. One of these days, I'd like to see us give it a try.