Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Greatest Show on Turf

Schoelkopf Field 1919, the last year Columbia and Cornell did not play each other

You can keep Harvard-Yale, Yale-Princeton, and heck, even Ohio State-Michigan... because over the last 60 years or so, the rivalry that has produced the most exciting games is none other than Columbia-Cornell.

As Casey Stengal used to say, "you can look it up."

First, there's tradition. The Columbia-Cornell rivalry has been renewed EVERY YEAR since 1920! Not even Harvard-Yale can say that.

Let's take the last 20 years as a quick example. Since Columbia ended its 44-game losing streak in the middle of the 1988 season, the Lions and Big Red have met 19 times. Cornell has 10 wins, Columbia has 9. It doesn't get any closer than that. The average margin of victory in those 19 games is 12 points, (which is very close for such a large sample), with an amazing 11 of those games decided by a touchdown or less.

And there have been many memorable last-minute wins, comebacks, collapses and record-setting performances.

In the last 10 years, we had the 2004 contest where Columbia blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead and lost 32-26. In 2001, Columbia's Jonathan Reese broke free for a long game-winning TD on a 4th and short in the fourth quarter. In 2002, Cornell squeaked through with an improbable 4th down and long pass play that led to a late TD to win 17-14. In 2000, the Lions fell 35-31 when the clock ran out on them at the Big Red 2-yard line.

Going a little further back in history, it was against Columbia in 1971 that Ed Marinaro broke the NCAA career rushing record in a 24-21 nail-biter that ended up deciding the Ivy championship.

It was against Cornell in 1968 that Lion QB Marty Domres helped Columbia to a 34-25 win as he shredded several records including a mark of 396 yards passing that lasted atop the Lion record book until 1982.

It was against Cornell in 1989 that the Lions picked up the first victory for Head Coach Ray Tellier, (and their only win that year).

What's very strange and exciting about this rivalry, is that no matter how well or poorly one or both of the teams is playing coming into the game, it usually is a very exciting contest. The 1992 game was one special example, as the Big Red came into Baker Field with a legitimate shot to win the Ivy title the following week. Instead, Des Werthman did everything but sell tickets and game programs, as he had 16 tackles, two fumble recoveries, two rushing touchdowns, a 2-point conversion, two extra points, just missed a field goal attempt, and even threw a pass, which went incomplete. Columbia won 35-30.

The list goes on and on.

Last year's game was no exception. The 21-14 Lion win at Wien Stadium went down to the wire, and was only sealed by a late interception by Drew Quinn. The game also featured highlight reel worthy plays from Justin Masorti who had a huge sack on the Cornell series before the Quinn interception, Jamal Russell, who broke free for a TD catch along the west sideline, Tad Crawford, who went unbelievably high in the air for a key interception, and Adam Brekke, who made an interception and returned it for a score.

I know Harvard, Yale, Princeton and all the others trade a lot on their traditional rivalries, but Ivy fans would be foolish to overlook the excitement, star quality, and record-breaking nature of the annual Columbia-Cornell game.

With both teams pretty much at their low points for the season coming into this contest, I still expect an excellent contest. So should you.


At Thu Nov 08, 04:40:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This should be a good game. I remember an exciting win a few years ago when Ayo broke loose for a long TD and had an overall excellent game. Jake, what do you see as the keys to the game? Last year I was underwhelmed by the Cornell no -huddle, which seemed to exhaust only the Cornell OL. How do we match up? I for one would like to see Stoll move to the running back position on some one back sets and get some touches. What is the status of our TE corps? Is first year Kennedy now the go to guy at TE? And can we expect to see more four down defensive sets with England and Mitchell palying inside with Bashaw and Joyce at DE? Is Lou Miller going back to LB? And will we see a healthy Mastoris?

At Thu Nov 08, 05:15:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake: You can go back more than 60 years. This was an exciting series in the 1920's and 1930's also with a number of close games and victories by both teams.

So our series with Cornell is one of the longest in college football, since Wikipedia says:

"Of note, Cornell's football series against both the University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College are tied for the second-longest uninterrupted college football matchup, both dating back to 1919. They are only surpassed by the Lehigh-Lafayette series, which is uninterrupted since 1897."


At Thu Nov 08, 06:58:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

Aren't they jumping one of the inside backers into a down lineman position when they go to a four down set? I'm not sure but that's the way they did it last year and I thought I saw Quinn in the down position a few times.

At Thu Nov 08, 07:50:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They have used an insde linebacker as a fourth down lineman at times last year and this year except in the Yale game.

Against Yale, a fourth defensive lineman, usually Waltz, was substituted for the inside linebacker. It worked well against Yale but haven't seen it much since.

At Thu Nov 08, 08:47:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake: A great post in a tough season. Two games left, and next year ...


At Thu Nov 08, 09:52:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

Yeah, it was kind of a tough season but I didn't see them playing so many really young players initially. This may bode well for the future, we'll see. Also we only have what, 12 or l3 seniors on the roster. It's kind of hard to have the senior presence you need when the class is down to such a small percentage of the team. But hey, I'm still for Columbia all the way and nothing will be sweeter than to see the boys in blue become better and better.

At Thu Nov 08, 11:58:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a parent of a freshman recruit, I know this is the time most high school teams are done with playoffs, and the recruiting gets hot...the best thing for Columbia football is to get a win or two, and for all supporters to trust in the optimism of the underclassmen--they believe in NW and that his recruiting will pay off in the next 1-2 years. Word travels through the recruting world, and recruits and their parents are looking for consistency and optimism. The spirit of where Columbia football is going in the next few years may be all it takes to get a more talented class.

At Fri Nov 09, 12:41:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be at the game this weekend, pulling for the Big Red but hoping for an exciting all-around game. Schoelkopf Field has had improved attendance this year, and Cornell has a beautiful campus in general, so if you're considering making the trip to Ithaca from NYC (as I am) - do it!

Good luck Columbia.

At Fri Nov 09, 03:23:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snow in the forecast Sat in Ithaca. That could make it interesting re our passing game...

At Fri Nov 09, 07:28:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody have any suggestions for the best route to Ithaca from the NYC/Northern NJ area? I've never driven to the stadium proper. I have a Nav system and a fast car. Are there any well known speed traps, or will the state troopers leave you alone on the highways if you keep under 85?

At Fri Nov 09, 09:56:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From NYC, I basically make my way to I-280 through Newark NJ to I-80, into Pennsylvania, to I-380 up past Scranton, to I-81 into NY
and past Binghamton, to Rt 79 West into Ithaca. I know some people north of NYC who take Rt 17 all the way to I-81, though I don't know that route myself. Speed traps: I don't know any regular speed traps, but I would not mess around in PA. Keep it to within 10 mph of the speed limit at least in PA!

At Fri Nov 09, 06:34:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I've also heard that some of the towns surrounding Ithaca, like Dryden are notorious speed traps. Take it easy on the local roads into Cornell.


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