Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scouting Harvard

Steve Williams has an incredible 7 interceptions! (CREDIT:

When you look at this Harvard team on paper, it appears there's a recipe for disaster in Saturday's game:

1) The Lions struggling running game and offensive line will face a Harvard defensive line that is still the toughest in the league despite giving up a few more rushing yards and racking up fewer sacks than last year. Matt Curtis and Brad Bagdis are lethal weapons that set the Crimson apart up front.

2) The mostly strong Columbia passing game goes up against a secondary with three outstanding defensive backs. Andrew Berry, John Hopkins, and Steve Williams are all having super seasons.

3) Harvard's running game is not a super threat, but against the Lions that may be irrelevant. Every one of Columbia's opponents this season has run the ball very well, bar none. Cheung Ho could have a monster game if Columbia doesn't do something about it.

4) The Crimson passing game is looking better and better as backup QB Chris Pizzotti continues to prove that he should have been named the starter in the first place. Lately, he's been doing a good job of finding top targets Corey Mazza and Matt Luft.

5) This is the same Harvard squad that mauled the Lions in a preseason scrimmage by 40 points.

Can Columbia compete? Is there any hope here? One thing to hold on to is that Harvard has not really had to play very strong competition in the Ivies this year, at least not at home.

Yes, Dartmouth is much improved this year, but I still don't think the Big Green are that great. Certainly Columbia could have easily beaten Dartmouth two weeks ago in Hanover. Meanwhile, Harvard barely escaped with a 28-21 win over the Green in Cambridge last week.

Harvard also barely escaped with a close win over Brown at home in week 2. The other home win was against Princeton, but that game was not close. The 32-15 win over Cornell in Ithaca was more impressive, but the Big Red have really fallen off since last year, especially on the road.

It may sound crazy, but Columbia may be the best Ivy team to face Harvard at home so far this year. And with games against Penn and Yale after this weekend, there's a very good chance the Crimson will get caught looking ahead.

But that might not be nearly enough to topple the Crimson. This is a team with an incredible 17 interceptions that are the result of a talented secondary and a furious pass rush that forces QB mistakes. On the other hand, Harvard hasn't faced a team with a multi-faceted passing attack like Columbia's. The closest they came to that was against Brown, and the Bears darn near won that game.

I'll address this in my "keys to the game" later this week, but if Craig Hormann can throw the ball crisper under pressure than he did against Yale, the Lions may have a chance.


At Thu Nov 01, 12:05:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger DOC said...

Keys to the game: Columbia must run the ball(even a little)--> make passing plays less predictable, slows the rush, allows Hormann time to find receivers--->sustain drives---> keep our "D" off the field.

At Thu Nov 01, 12:46:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Use a two back set with Stoll to open up running lanes and provide more pass protecction. Mix it up with MA for a few series.

At Thu Nov 01, 02:26:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was wonderful to see an authenic 4-man front on the defensive line against Yale. Bashaw, Mitchell, Waltz, and Joyce did an amazing job shutting down the run in the first half. Even in the second half, most of the running gains were outside. It is baffling, however, why it took 6 games to figure this out.

With this line-up and a little help from the offense, we can beat Harvard.

At Thu Nov 01, 02:31:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

Yeah we didn't do a good job on keeping Polhemus in the pocket when he kept the ball on play action and waggled out of the backfield. The ball has to come out of Hormanns hand quicker on the short posession passes. We can't afford to take sacks when we're trying to hit 5 to 7 yards pass plays.

At Thu Nov 01, 03:22:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pattern has to be quicker to accomplish this, i.e., slants across the middle.

Incidently, we only run these kind of patterns(short slants) in the 4th quarter, even though they are open the whole game. Can you imagine the damage we could cause with Austin or Nico loose in the middle with the ball early in the game?

At Thu Nov 01, 03:46:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It also helps with yardage gains when short passes are accurately made so that they are caught in stride. Easier said than done I know!

At Thu Nov 01, 07:07:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polhemus beat us; not McLeod. CH's lack of mobility can only be offset by running more plays with a two back set. As far as the play calling, slants over the middle are open, but we continue to press sideline patterns. CH has to learn to throw the ball away instead of taking so many sacks. I want to see Stoll run the ball inside.

At Thu Nov 01, 08:38:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polhemus beat us; not McLeod

That was because Columbia had "eight in the box" (within five yards of the line of scrimmage) and the two CBs tight on Yale's WRs. That choice opened up Polhemus' runs to the outside.

At Fri Nov 02, 01:08:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Conn said...

I'm a big Lions fan but, alas, I also went to Harvard and will have to sit on the wrong side come Saturday. But I agee with other posters that Harvard is eminently beatable, particularly if Columbia can mount a mixed ground-and-air offense with an aggessive, risk-taking defense. The spread is 20 points, which is crazy too high.

Will Harvard win? Likely. Can Harvard lose? Definitely.


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