Sunday, September 30, 2007

Crazy Cats

Bill Foran got away one too many times (CREDIT: Princeton Athletics)

Princeton 42 Columbia 32

Why Princeton Won

They played to their strengths and didn't roll over when it looked like they had lost all momentum. Bill Foran had about 15 minutes of Hellish play in the middle of game, but he bookended that with excellent running and throwing in the clutch. And the defense bent but didn't break on a number of occassions, as Kevin Kelleher played the role of hero with two huge interceptions.

Why Columbia Lost

The Lions put the Tigers on the ropes twice in the third quarter and let them slip away both times. Then they blew a chance to tie or take the lead late in the fourth with Craig Hormann's second interception to a player he clearly didn't see. The defense gave up way too many yards on the run again, but could have won despite that if the offense had made fewer errors.

Key Turning Points

1) The Lions drove the ball all the way to the Princeton 3 on their opening drive, but couldn't punch it in and had to settle for a Jon Rocholl field goal. This would be in marked contrast to the Tigers, who scored TD's every time they got into the red zone.

2) After trailing 21-3, Columbia stormed back to take a 24-21 lead after opening the third quarter with a long touchdown drive. Then Bill Foran made two turnovers, one on a fumble, the next on an interception, that gave Columbia the ball in Tiger territory and excellent chances to pad their lead. Instead, the Lions went three and out both times.

3) Trailing 28-24 after a Princeton touchdown, the Lions looked to respond with their next possession starting their own 29. Instead, sophomore fullback Pete Stoll fumbled the ball away on first down and the Tigers would score another TD 7 plays later.

4) After pulling to within 35-32 with a spectacular option pass for a TD and a well-executed two-point conversion, Columbia forced yet another Bill Foran fumble to take over at their 45. But two plays later, Hormann threw the interception to Kelleher in the middle of the field. Princeton scored on the ensuing drive and the game was finally over.

Columbia Positives

1) More than any individual performances, the team's refusal to quit even after falling behind 21-3 and then 35-24 was inspiring. One constant in the Norries Wilson era has been the "no quit" attitdue in the team. It's a noticeable change; the Princeton play-by-play man Ed Benkin came into our booth after the game and pronounced: "These ain't your daddy's Lions... two years ago you guys are starting the buses when you're down 21-3."

2) Jordan Davis and the offensive line had the running game going for the second straight week. After not getting a 100 yard game for his first 22 collegiate games, Davis now has two in a row. Davis remains the second-leading rusher in the Ivy League.

3) Austin Knowlin is a human highlight reel, giving Columbia a scoring threat from anywhere on the field. He had six catches for 146 yards and two TD's and his second TD was an excellent example of how he can find the holes and making big yards after a catch.

Columbia Negatives

1) You can't give a team like Princeton three or four extra chances to beat you, but that's what the Lions did yesterday. The two Princeton turnovers in the third quarter should have left Columbia up by at least 10, instead their razor-thin three point lead was all that remained and it didn't stand up.

2) Craig Hormann had many brilliant moments, but his two INT's were a huge difference in the game. He must return to old form, or Columbia will squander many of their new-found offensive firepower.

3) The Lions still aren't stopping the run and this time, they allowed some big pass plays in what looked like a soft zone. The defense has yet to truly draw its line in the sand this season and they must do it soon.

Game MVP

I thought there were a lot of standout performances. Andy Shalbrack finally got his first collegiate TD on his INT return and he had a fumble recovery to boot.

Eugene Edwards made a nice catch on his INT and also recovered a fumble.

But in a game where we gave up 42 points, it's hard to award the MVP to a defender. So it comes down to Jordan Davis and Austin Knowlin. Davis had another 100 yard game and threw a TD pass on the halfback option. Knowlin had two sensational TD's and some other key catches. I say they share the honor as co-MVP's.


At Mon Oct 01, 01:31:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were some inspiring moments in the game. And some downers. The inspiring moments will gradually assume greater importance. These Lions are rapidly improving.

It should also be obvious that Princeton isn't quite THAT good a team. Foran rushes well (and Columbia should have trapped both him and Mroz more often in the backfield than they did) but he's no passer. Were some of his little flips while "in the grasp" intended as shovel passes? Or were they "squirt-outs," lucky little tosses indeed?

Either way, Columbia should look forward to Lafayette. There was nothing to be greatly abashed about yesterday. It's just too bad it's an away game.


At Mon Oct 01, 03:59:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NW's letter seems to be a real eye opener; I love his attitude. He thinks we still have a way to go -- especially in tackling. He will turn our program around. I love the guy.

At Mon Oct 01, 04:56:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need to learn how to close out games otherwise we'll never compete with perennial ivy powers...also Hormann clearly isn't ready with his knee and has 2nd worse qb rating in the league-maybe last now after yesterday. Shane Kelly has to be better option right now.

At Mon Oct 01, 06:55:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

Whoa! I thought Hormann performed bravely under a lot of pressure at times. He was hit many times while releasing the ball but continued to stand strong in the pocket as long as he needed to. Hard to believe he didn't see the defender on the last pick though. I think he got overanxious trying to win there. That failure should help him be better in the same situations down the road. The troubling concern continues to be the defense that gives up way to much.

At Mon Oct 01, 07:06:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hormann was playing poorly at this time last year. He didn't turn things around until the last few games of the year. NW expected to win this game. It seems as if the rea problem is lousy tackling. Hard to believe that we can't tackle. Why Hormann forced a pass at the end instead of riding Davis is a mystery. I agree that the difference between ordinary and good teams is being able to close out a team. I really think we have better talent than Princeton and should have put them away.

At Mon Oct 01, 07:07:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great overview of the game. It is a team effort to win!

At Mon Oct 01, 07:56:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Blue Balls said...

The way our team is playing offense and the way Coach Wilson has them on the prowl only bodes well for the future of our program---- provided the administration keeps its dirty paws away.

A winning program brings good pub and that brings winning recruits.


At Mon Oct 01, 08:45:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tough game for the Lions! Still need a stop on defense. Mostly now related to making a tackle and taking advantage of the situaton when the play breaks down, instead of giving up big yards when the play breaks down. We were better on the edges and Shalbrack is headed back to form. Bashaw is making the most of his reps the last couple of weeks. A couple of defensive penalites and unbelievable good breaks really opened it up for the Tigers

On offense, you gotta give some credit to Jordan Davis and his O-line. Jordan goes for his second hundred yard game in as many weeks and doesn't have any runs for negative yards. For the O-line, not only did they help Jordan to his 100 yard mark, they didn't give up any sacks this week. This group is way ahead of where the group was against Princeton last year. Partain has shown nice leadership for the group but Seiler, Veldman, Brune and DeBernardo are all physically handling their opposition. Technique maybe could use some work but physically we're there for our league play. VM has to be pleased to be able to run the ball effectively. Ultimately, that takes pressure off of 14 and will give him more time to make decisions in the pocket. Of some note, he made a couple of nice plays rolling the pocket and showing some mobility. Still, he's been a little slow getting the ball out which was his problem last year as well. Look for him to continue to progress! Our TE play is also improving. If 14 gets that lob to one of our guys he had about 20 yards to run without a defender in sight! Well designed just a tough execution. We had a chance to win this year in the 4th quarter; we'll start to convert those chances as the season goes along. GO LIONS!

At Mon Oct 01, 08:54:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still don't understand the fall-off in defensive production. Granted we lost some fine players but the general talent level on defense is much higher. Jake, or others, any explanation?

At Mon Oct 01, 09:05:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NW had some positive things to say about the O line in the post-game clip.
I wonder who called the ill-fated pass, as opposed to "riding Davis."

At Mon Oct 01, 09:26:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting thought. That third adn 2 might have been better served with a little zone stretch or a trap play which had worked well most of the day. I assume the thought process was that they were calling run and we were going to trying to sting them. It would have been great to keep the offense on the field and had another chance to score. Might have changed the outcome. A score in that series would have been a back breaker for the Tigers!

At Mon Oct 01, 10:32:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We seem to have a number of injured players on defense who are playing their heart out although they are not 100%. Guys like Masorti and Quinn are really giving it their all. I'd like to give them credit as they are both terrific ballplayers. Bayo Aregbe didn't play against Princeton presumably due to injury. What is his status? We could use him as he was our leading tackler against Fordham and Marist. I was impressed with the play of the freshman linebackers, Alex Gross and Mark Moretto. They are both very quick and smart and fit perfectly into Columbia's defensive scheme. Andy Shalbrack made a great interception TD run. Lou Miller also made some nice plays. We're almost there. If three or four more players come on strong in the next few weeks, we could have a very good defense.

At Mon Oct 01, 10:57:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're also getting there on offense. Austin Knowlin and Jordan Davis are looking great, and scoring points, but we certainly could use another speedy wide receiver and breakaway runner on offense. What about this kid Gross? He looked lightning quick on defense Saturday? How about using Andy Shalbrack occasionally on offense? What is Leon Ivery's status?

At Mon Oct 01, 08:34:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tackling well -- wrapping up and not letting go or hanging on until help arrives -- should be our number one defensive priority. As for stretching the field, I am looking for Nico to start making some plays.


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