Saturday, September 15, 2007

Columbia-Fordham: Keys to the Game

The Lions are finally going to hit the field (CREDIT: Columbia University Athletics/Ben Shyman)

Without a Columbia two-deep to work with, it's a little tougher to pinpoint the key factors in tonights opener at Fordham, but not impossible.

Key #1: Columbia's Running Game vs. Fordham's Run Defense

An improved running game isn't just the top key to the game tonight for Columbia, it's the #1 key to the entire season. Fordham's run defense has been disastrous so far in 2007, and if presumed starter Jordan Davis and backup Ray Rangel can't get decent yards the Lions may be in big trouble. The Columbia offensive line led by junior Ralph DeBernardo and senior Mike Partain have been motivated for months to improve the unit as a whole. Tonight we see if that determination paid off.

Key #2: Columbia's Pass Defense vs. Fordham's Run and Shoot

Fordham is playing a much faster style of football right now, which could be a problem for a Columbia team that may still be sweeping the cobwebs off from a 10-month offseason. It's been raining in the New York area this morning, and that might slow the field down a bit. But the Rams have FieldTurf at Jack Coffey Stadium, and it dries pretty quickly. Sophomore QB John Skelton has been doing pretty well using the four wide-receiver set, and the Lions defense must first put more pressure on him and then make sure they have things covered downfield if he does get the pass away. Another major issue is how well the Lions will play when Fordham gets into the red zone. The Rams are 5-5 with 5 TD's in the red zone this year, and that's a huge statistic.

Key #3: Who's the QB?

It looked like transfer Shane Kelly was leading the pack to replace the injured Craig Hormann at least for tonight's opener. But now it appears all bets are off as we still haven't seen a starting lineup from Coach Wilson. Somehow, I expect to be surprised by whoever ends up under center tonight. But no matter what, Columbia needs a smart and seasoned performance from the QB position against a Fordham team that has played an erratic but effective defense when it comes to giving up points. With all the yardage the Rams are coughing up, it's amazing opposing teams have scored just 46 total points against them in the first two games. The Lions need to avoid turnovers and execute in the red zone.

Key #4: Special Teams

Fordham has a booming punter in Benjamin Dato and Isiejah Allen has been strong on kick and punt returns. The Lions will need to contain Allen and give the offense some decent field position on their own returns. One advantage Columbia does have is in placekicking, where the outstanding junior John Rocholl outmatches Fordham's new starter Adam Danko.


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