This is the Game (One year later)
Brian Evans slayed the Cornell secondary on Saturday, is it Austin Knowlin's turn next? (CREDIT: Dartmouth Athletics)
A year ago today, the 2006 Columbia football team had pretty much reached its low point of the season. After starting the season with a strong 3-1 record through four games, the Lions lost four in a row and were 3-5 heading into the Cornell game.
Despite the streak, and Cornell's superior record, I called for the team and the fans to recognize the huge chance the Cornell game afforded the Lions to get back in the saddle.
And Columbia's resulting 21-14 victory against the Big Red did just that. The team got its "mojo" back and took that into the Brown game the following week and pulled off another win in Providence.
Could the same thing happen again this year? Well, the Lions are now 1-7 instead of 3-5, so unfortunately there's much more to salvage than there was last season and there just isn't enough in the Cornell and Brown bag to do that.
Also, while the fourth loss of the four-game losing streak in 2006 against Harvard was not exactly a close game, (the Crimson won 24-7), Columbia moved the ball much better in that game than they had in previous weeks and there was reason for hope. This week's 27-12 loss to Harvard was not a total embarrassment, but the same problems the Lions have been having all season, especially not stopping the run, reared their ugly head again and again.
On the other hand, Cornell and Brown again seem to be the most "winnable" games on the Ivy schedule, (even if they do happen to be at the extreme tail end of the season). And there is something about finishing the season strong that gives fans lots of hope and smiles for the very long off season.
But as weak as Cornell seems after losing by 28 points at Dartmouth Saturday, the same Dartmouth team that squeaked out a win over our Lions three weeks ago, the Big Red may match up better against Columbia than you'd expect. Here's why:
1) Cornell was forced to use current WR and former QB Stephen Liuzza as its signal-caller after starter Nathan Ford went down with an ankle injury on Cornell's first possession. Liuzza is an extremely dangerous runner, and a scrambling QB can absolutely slay this Lion defense.
2) Cornell plays us at home this year, and while the Big Red are not as dominant in Ithaca as they were last year, they are playing much better there than on the road.
3) Cornell's Randy Barbour seems like a serious threat on the ground if he stays healthy. He may be as talented as any running back the Lions have faced all year, and our track record against even mediocre backs has been awful this season.
BUT... Columbia can still win. The Big Red are mistake-prone this year and the Lions are hungry enough for a win right now that they should be able to capitalize. Plus the Cornell pass defense was just shredded by the Big Green on Saturday, and one can only imagine what Austin Knowlin and co. could do to them.
Things often change radically from year to year in the Ivies, but just like 2006, THIS IS THE GAME.