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.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Alternate Routes

I'm hearing about some other good ways to avoid Route 1 to Princeton:

"If you want to avoid US 1, take the Turnpike down to Exit 8 and then head due West on the Hightstown Road. It's only a two-lane road in spots but the entire drive is no more than six miles and you completely avoid US 1."

OR

"Get off the turnpike at 8A and take 130 south to Cranbury then west on the Plainsboro Rd. then Scudders Mill (two-lane). Hits Rte 1 south of Forrestal and you can make a left off US1 at Harrison to get to the football parking. You're on US1 for a few hundred yards. It's the shortest way and is the route bus drivers etc. use."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Columbia-Princeton Keys to the Game


Time to tame the Tigers


Every year since 2002, the Princeton game has been the truest test of how good or bad the Columbia football team really is.

Last season was no exception, the Lions took on the eventual champion Tigers at Wien Stadium and were beaten in every aspect of the game. But because they never gave up and their defense remained tough, the final score was a respectable 19-6 instead of the 43-3 drubbing a much less resilient Lions team suffered at Princeton in 2005.

Last year's Lions would play most of their remaining seven games the same way; plugging away on offense with little success, while staying resolute on defense. That M.O. finally paid off in the final two games with wins over Cornell and Brown and the Lions went 5-5 on the year.

Before the Princeton game you may have mistakenly rated the 2006 Lions offense too highly. And based on the Georgetown game alone, who could have thought that the Columbia defense couldn't hold on to big leads. Neither of those assumptions were true, and the Princeton game made that clear.

Coming into this year's Princeton game, you might think the Lions defense just can't stop the run. You might also think that Jordan Davis has a shot at getting a 1,000 yard season of his own. Both may be true, both may be way off the mark. But I do expect to be a lot closer to knowing for sure after tomorrow.

Princeton is a huge favorite based mostly on their win last week over highly-rated Lafayette on the road and the fact that the Tigers are defending Ivy champs playing at home. But there are questions they have to answer too.

To beat them, Columbia MUST:


1) Stop the run... or at least contain it. I don't think the Lions needs to hold Princeton under 100 yards rushing, or even 120 for the game. The key is to simply force the Tigers to pass once in awhile and test Foran against what has been an impressive Columbia pass rush so far this season. The shuffling the coaches have been doing with the lineup is partly because they want to try new things to hold the run and partly because of some injuries, but somebody is going to have to start making plays.

My impression was that the Lions defense did much better against the run in the second half against Marist, but that's not quite true. Marist ran the ball 58 times, (I don't count sacks as running plays, even though the NCAA does for some reason these days), for 307 yards. That's 5.2 yards a carry. The first 41 carries netted 226 yards, (5.5 yard avg.), while the final 17 runs went for 81 yards (4.7 yrd avg.). That's just not enough of an improvement in my book or anybody else's.

Princeton main runners, tailback R.C. Lagomarsino and fullback Rob Toresco, aren't going to win any Bushnell Cups, but they are hard-nosed, (no pun intended R.C.), guys who don't quit or fumble very often. Neither has been tackled for a loss yet this season. Meanwhile, the speedy sophomore Kenny Gunter could see a lot of action too. And finally, Tiger QB Bill Foran can run and the Princeton coaches script a good number of option plays for him every game.

It's a huge challenge, but there are some bright spots. Despite all their runners, Princeton really isn't setting the world on fire on the ground. And I think that Columbia will defend the option better than straight ahead running anyway, so if the Tigers want to give us more time to react to running plays, let them do it.


2) Stop the Run... With the Run

One great way to stop the other team from running all over you is to do the exact same thing to them first. Columbia's offensive line and Jordan Davis had a breakout game against Marist last weekend, and now it's time to prove that they can be a credible threat against an Ivy opponent too. I don't expect Davis to run for another 177 yards, but if he can get four yards a carry, and the Lions can get some quality runs for fullback Pete Stoll and backup tailback Ray Rangel too, we could control the clock against the Tigers. Before we focus too much on stopping Princeton's run, let's see if they can stop US.


3) Test that Tiger Secondary

I don't expect to find huge weaknesses in Princeton's younger secondary, but it HAS to be less effective than the unit led by the now-graduated All-Ivy tandem of J.J. Artis and Tim Strickland last season. Austin Knowlin needs to create problems for the Tigers with crossing patterns and deep routes all day. And I sure hope the Lions coaches will abandon the little passes in the flat to Knowlin that have flirted with disaster every time.

It might also be nice to make Princeton pay for giving up on Nico Gutierez. As this article tells us, the Tigers shied away from the promising young Lion WR after his ACL injury his junior year. If Knowlin can draw a crowd in the defensive backfield as he usually does, I expect there to be plenty of opportunities for Craig Hormann to hit Tim Paulin, Taylor Joseph, Troy Evangelist, Jamal Russell, and Gutierez with key passes. He's going to have to do that to keep the Princeton defense honest.



4) Don't Get Caught in the Circle

Princeton senior wide receiver Brendan Circle has an uncanny ability to get open deep down the field. He never matches a ton of catches; just enough to kill you at a key moment. I'm not sure if Eugene Edwards or Grant Jefferson will be drawing the Circle assignment on most plays, but either way they need to make sure he doesn't win the game for the Tigers.



5) Make Something Happen on Special Teams

Princeton may be stronger on offense and defense than the Lions, but perhaps Columbia can even the playing field with a big return or two. Knowlin is always a threat to break one and we may see Gutierez get a few chances as well on punts or kickoffs.

I like our chances to finally block a kick this weekend as well.

Through His Eyes


Looks like they could use a few blockers


Lest you think the football team was totally immune from the Ahmadinejad circus this week, freshman Mike Egley spoke to his local paper about what it was like Monday. It wasn't the most extensive piece, but it's interesting.

I'm glad Monday is not a practice day, (usually), and no one got hurt. I've been told the coaches took special time to let the players know just how to stay careful during the event and not get into any silly kinds of trouble. Looks like they succeeded at that.

Route 1 Problems?


Stay on the Turnpike a little longer


I'm hearing that the final leg of the trip to Princeton on Route 1 can often be a problem. I suggest staying on 95 South until exit 7A to 195 West. Then take 195 West to 295 NORTH. Then take Exit 67 to Route 1 NORTH, and then take that to the Washington Road exit, which is a traffic circle. Go three quarters of the way around the circle and turn right (between the gas stations) toward Princeton. The campus is located approximately a mile straight ahead.

The above directions leave you on Route 1 for 3 miles instead of 16, which is a big difference.

Weekend Forecasts


Ian Wilson and the Big Green will surprise the Quakers (CREDIT: Dartmouthsports.com)


I went 4-1 in my predictions last week, leaving me at 9-3 for the season.

This week, I'm expecting to see some surprises:


Dartmouth over Penn

The Big Green offense is clearly rejuvenated, so Penn can't come into Hanover expecting to hold them to 10 points for the game. Meanwhile, Penn's offense is in disarray. Even with Sandberg's return, I don't think the Quakers score more than 21 points. Dartmouth by two.



Yale over Holy Cross

Holy Cross is very good, but don't put too much stock in the Crusaders' week one win over a rusty Harvard and a blowout of Georgetown last week. It should be an exciting game, but I think the Elis will pull this one out by three.



Rhode Island over Brown

URI really wants this one and I think Brown's offense is in trouble. URI by 5.



Lehigh over Harvard

I think the Crimson are going to have a tough time with road games this season and this game is at Lehigh. Harvard falls by 7.



Georgetown over Cornell

A shocker after that huge loss to Holy Cross... but this is a long trip for the Big Red and they have to be down after the big loss to Yale last week. Hoyas by 1.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Realigned


Coach Wilson addresses the troops (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyars)


The two-deep for the Princeton game has some significant changes that could make a big difference on the field.

But first a word of caution: You have to take these two-deeps, released 3-4 days before the game, with a big grain of salt. A lot of the people who eventually get the Lions' share of playing time may not be listed and that can be due to team injuries and a lot other factors that change as gametime rolls around.

That said, here are the big changes:


1) Jamal Russell, who was in street clothes last week, is back on the two-deep officially backing up Troy Evangelist at tight end. We may finally see some of the rumored two tight end sets we heard about all summer.


2) On defense, Eli Waltz is getting the start at nose tackle with freshman Brian England backing him up. Weeks one and two starter Mack Loughrey is not listed.


3) Freshman Matt Moretto gets his first start at the inside linebacker position and he's backed up by another freshman, Derek Lipscomb. We heard a lot about how well both of them played in training camp, so this appears to be their reward. Bayo Aregbe may be injured, but I have no confirmation on that. Freshman Marc Holloway is off the two-deep at least for now.


4) Matt Bashaw is getting the start at right end over Lou Miller for the first time this season.


5) We saw Corey Cameron on cruthces at the end of the Marist game, so it's no surprise that Justin Masorti is starting at the other inside linebacker slot.


6) Freshman Alex Gross moves from backing up Andy Shalbrack at spur to backing up Drew Quinn at middle linebacker. Shalbrack's new backup is freshman Augie Williams.


7) Grant Jefferson is getting the start at corner again over a presumably banged up JoJo Smith. Smith did get into some of the game against Marist though.


I'm not sure if this is mostly because of injuries or simply a planned reshuffling, but lots more freshmen have cracked the two-deep and appear to be making a move. Perhaps that intensity and team spirit Coach Wilson said the freshmen were lacking coming out of camp has finally taken hold.

Scouting Princeton


The Princeton defense gang tackles the QB (CREDIT: Princeton Athletics/BKS)


The Tigers will take the field Saturday as major favorites, (the line was 18 points yesterday, and down to 16 points today --- and please do not take my reporting of the spreads as an endorsement of betting), and while I understand the experts' choosing Princeton as the favorites, the size of the spread is surprising.

Princeton was the best team in the Ivies last season, emphasis on team. They played as a unit and overcame the fact that they really didn't have a dynamic star. And the 2006 Tigers also didn't blow anyone out. Their biggest margin of victory was 14 points in a 17-3 win over Brown that was actually closer than it looked. But Princeton finds a way to win, thanks to their finally comfortable head coach, Roger Hughes and overall defensive team play that often makes 7-point deficit feel like 17-point shortfalls.

This year's club is still led by a great defense, despite the loss of 2006 1st Team All-Ivy defensive backs J.J. Artis and Tim Strickland to graduation. The defense is now led by linebackers John Stem and Tim Boardman, and a number of younger starters are making their mark.

Last week's win on the road against Lafayette has the entire FCS world looking at Princeton with a bit of awe. The 20-14 victory over the Leopards was a perfect mix of offense and defense, run and pass. Lafayette was a 7 1/2 point favorite in a game that really looked like any one of Princeton's textbook wins in 2006.

One big difference is at QB. Last year's IVY MVP Jeff Terrell is gone and Bill Foran is the new man under center. Foran had a disastrous first game against Lehigh, going 7 for 23 with two interceptions. But he was nearly perfect against Lafayette with an 18 for 24 day. Foran is also a talented runner, and the Princeton coaches have put in a number of option plays for him. But so far, he hasn't been totally consistent on the ground, averaging just two yards per carry on 24 carries.

Foran's favorite target seems to be the junior Will Thanheiser, who leads the team with eight catches. But the passing game is spreading things around pretty well with four receivers with five catches or more. The deep threat is still senior Brendan Circle, who has five catches for 131 yards -- a 26.2 yards per catch average. Another receiver is Adam Berry, (twin brother of Harvard's standout defensive back Andrew Berry), and I suspect the Princeton coaches will try to get him more in the mix in the coming weeks.

Columbia's woes against the run will be tested by the 1-2 punch of R.C. Lagomarsino, who runs more like a traditional tailback, and the fullback Rob Toresco. The offensive line isn't huge, but those two Princeton backs are averaging 4.9 yards per carry and neither one has been tackled for a loss.

Getting back to the defense, the Tigers are again looking weaker against the run than the pass. But that's mostly a relative thing, as Princeton is giving up just 45 yards passing per game versus 163 yards on the ground. But unlike Columbia, Princeton's impressive pass defense numbers are not mainly the result of not being able to stop the run. Take away all the Tiger turnovers and the scores they led to for Lehigh game one, and this defense looks even better.

Princeton's kicking game is solid with Connor Louden consistently hitting his field goals and PAT's, (he's perfect on both this year), and the newcomer Ryan Cole performing nicely as the punter, winning the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week Award this week. Kenny Gunter is looking very good returning kickoffs and he could be a threat.


The big question is which Princeton team will show up on Saturday. Will it be the team that looked sharp in just about every way against Lafayette or the group that couldn't do very much right against Lehigh the week before. Given the rusty way most Ivy teams played in week one, my guess is the more solid Tiger team will be ready to play this time out.

New SideLion Report


Jordan Davis was a big week 2 star (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)


The latest edition is up at GoColumbiaLions.com and boy, is it stirring. It's a look back at last week's win and a look ahead to the Princeton game.

Kudos to Joe Case for producing these pieces and the folks in the department for making them available so quickly.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Princeton Game Notes Up


Does Cart Kelly have a bulls eye on his back? (CREDIT: Princeton Athletics)


The Princeton game notes and two-deep are now available on the Tiger website.

Some points of interest:

1) Princeton has an undersized offensive line too. But they're not as small as Marist was and the Red Foxes ran all over us.


2) Princeton had the best defense I've ever seen in the Ivies last year, and despite some key losses to graduation, the unit still looks good. But I wonder if the Lions will try to pick on Princeton's new corner, sophomore Cart Kelly. The other corner is another sophomore, Dan Kopolovich, who seems to be emerging as the better player right now.


3) Princeton's lead running back, R.C. Lagomarsino, broke his nose last week against Lehigh, but still came back into the game to score a TD. He may be wearing one of those Ladanian Tomlinson-style visors to protect his face.


And please chime in with any thoughts you might have for getting to the game Saturday. The post below talks about some added traffic we'll have to expect on the roads because of the Rutgers game against Maryland. One commenter has suggested taking I-78 instead of the Turnpike, but I think there may be some Rutgers traffic there too. Any thoughts?

Turnpike Spike?


Piscataway, we have a problem


I just checked out Rutgers schedule and it turns out the Scarlet Knights have a home game against Maryland beginning at 3:30pm this Saturday... the same exact time Columbia and the Tigers kick off at Princeton Stadium.

I'm not sure the turnpike will be a nightmare, but there's a chance traffic will be heavier and you should give yourself more time. The good news is the traffic to Princeton goes off of exit 14 on the Turnpike and the Rutgers traffic peels off at exit 9. But either way, you should probably leave yourself some extra time to make sure you get comfortably.

The Real Season Begins





Columbia prepares to visit Princeton, kicking off their 52nd Ivy League season in what will be a major challenge to this young team.

Remember that:

1) Princeton is the defending Ivy champ. 2006 starting QB Jeff Terrell is gone, and the Tigers stumbled out of the gate with a ugly loss to Lehigh, but they won a very impressive victory over Lafayette last week where they looked very much like last year's great team.


2) Columbia's road woes at Princeton are well-documented. A "Hail Mary" gave the Lions a win over the Tigers in 2003, but before that Columbia hadn't beaten Princeton at Princeton since 1945.


3) This is really the Lions first real "road" trip as the game at Fordham doesn't really count as a game with a long bus trip. Ivy League rules do not allow the Lions to stay overnight at Princeton, so they must travel and play on the same day.


4) Columbia is having serious trouble stopping the run, and Princeton uses a multi-faceted running attack with multiple running backs and a QB in Bill Foran who runs very often as well. It would appear this game plays directly into the Tigers' comfort zone.


I would be shocked if Princeton weren't favored by 10 points or more in this game, but I'm not trying to depress you. The above list was all about making it clear how big a lift for the program it would be for Columbia to take this game.

I don't know if buses will be taking fans down to the game, but there are numerous trains and buses you can take to Princeton from New York City and I urge all of you to make the trip and support the team. This is the Lions' chance to make a huge statement... be there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Marist Game Video is now Available


You can now see the video of the 31-7 win over Marist at GoColumbiaLions.com.

I've been told some of the technical problems with the video on Saturday were because of the rain, but they will all be worked out in time for the homecoming game on Oct. 13th.

But again, let's all stop and think about how great it is that we have on-demand video of Columbia games.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ranking the Ivies



Jake's Ivy Power Rankings (as of 9/23/07)


1. Yale

The Elis follow up a slight scare at Georgetown with a real mauling of the Big Red at the Bowl. Cornell started to implode at the end, but the Eli defense made things happen as opposed to just dodging bullets like they did in week one.


2. Princeton

Just when the Leopards were looking unbeatable, Princeton goes into their house and posts a pretty convincing win. Take away the big 89-yard Lafayette run for a TD and this game isn't close. Tiger QB Bill Foran showed huge improvement from game 1.


3. Harvard

The Crimson move up on the shoulders of their win over Brown and Holy Cross' total domination over Georgetown, making Harvard's close loss to the Crusaders in week one look pretty respectable. The Crimson's great run defense of 2006 returned to the field Saturday night.


4. Brown

The Bears put up a respectable showing at Harvard, but some of the final stats were ugly.



5. Columbia

The Lions have big trouble stopping the run, but some adjustments were made at the end of the game that seemed to work. Meanwhile, Columbia's run blocking on offense was better than it's been in 4 years and a 31-7 win always helps.


6. Dartmouth

Well, you can't complain too much about the Big Green offense. And the defense was torched no worse by UNH than Marshall a week before. They get the reeling Penn Quakers at home this weekend.


7. Penn

Penn's passing game is horrifically error prone. If Sandberg doesn't come back soon the Quakers are doomed.


8. Cornell

The Big Red go from first to worst in the span of just one week. Last year it was just road woes, but now they're coupled with mental mistakes. Cornell needs a big rebound against Georgetown this week.

Roll Jordan, Roll!


In his 22nd collegiate game, Jordan Davis finally broke through (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyars)


Columbia 31 Marist 7


Why Columbia Won

Columbia's rushing attack, basically absent since 2004, had a starring role as junior Jordan Davis ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns. This from a running back who in his previous 21 collegiate games had scored just one rushing touchdown and never ran for more than about 90 yards. The offense as a whole wasn't as spectacular as the running game, but it played turnover-free football.

The defense bent often but never broke, giving up huge yardage on the ground for the second week but also stuffing the passing game and stiffening in the most crucial situations.


Why Marist Lost

The Red Foxes did a great job establishing a running attack, but big mistakes prevented them from cashing in on their advantage. Meanwhile, Marist's passing attack wasn't even good enough to act as a decoy.

On defense the Red Foxes couldn't stop Jordan Davis, and as soon as Columbia realized that, the game was over.


Key Turning Points

1) Marist took the opening kickoff and ran 12 straight running plays for 51 yards until they had a 4th and 1 at the Lion 13. But a fumble on a bad handoff was jumped on by Andy Shalbrack and Columbia dodged an early bullet.


2) Trailing 7-0, Marist had a 2nd and 10 at their own 37 when Clark Koury intercepted a Steve McGrath pass at midfield and returned it all the way to the Red Fox 28. That led to a Columbia field goal a few minutes later and a 10-0 Lion lead.


3) After a third quarter Marist TD made it 17-7 CU, the Red Foxes had a chance to really make it close when they started a long drive before facing a 3rd and 9 from the Columbia 29. On third down, backup QB Matt Semrano's pass fell incomplete and when Marist went for it on 4th down, freshman Brian England broke up another pass and the Lions had the ball back.


4) With the score still 17-7 early in the 4th quarter, Marist had one more chance to get back into the game with a possession that started at their own 30. On 3rd and 8 from the 32, Justin Masorti blitzed Semerano and forced a bad pass that Koury grabbed for his second interception at the Red Fox 43. Two Jordan Davis runs later, it was 24-7 Columbia.


Columbia Positives

1) The Lions ran the ball well. In addition to Jordan Davis' big day, the team ran for 216 yards overall.

2) The defense looked ferocious on passing plays, racking up five sacks and about a dozen QB pressures and knockdowns. If the Lions can figure out how to stop the run even a little better, this strength will become even more of a factor.

3) A number of new faces got on the field and made a big impact for the first time. Fullback Pete Stoll got a few quality runs and even caught a screen pass which he turned into a 35-yard gain thanks to his blistering speed, (especially for a fullback). Freshman defensive lineman Brian England was in on a number of plays and may be one of Columbia's answers on running plays going forward.


4) Columbia avoided silly mistakes that could have let Marist back into the game. The Lions committed no turnovers and with three takeaways, their turnover ration is now +1 on the season.


5) The Lions played hard to the final whistle. Never letting up and even recording a tackle for a loss and a sack on the final two plays of the game.


6) Columbia's play calling was aggressive throughout, as QB Craig Hormann attempted several long passes deep down the middle of the field. Hormann's completion percentage suffered as a result, but he did not have an interception.


Columbia Negatives

1) The Lions are still not stopping the run. Missed tackles weren't to blame either as the undersized Marist O-line still got a tremendous push off the snap time after time.


2) Junior linebacker Corey Cameron injured himself early in the game and came back to the sidelines on crutches. Justin Masorti replaced him and had a whale of a game, but Columbia needs to stay healthy. Andy Shalbrack was injured in the waning moments of the game when he probably should have been on the sidelines. I'm not sure about the severity of either one of those injuries.


Game MVP's

Jordan Davis is an obvious choice. But I'm going with co-MVP's this time as he will have to share the honors with junior strong safety Clark Koury, who along with his two key interceptions he also had nine tackles, two of them for a loss. During several points of the game when it looked like no one was up for stopping the run, Koury stepped up.


Jake on the Mic

I felt a lot more comfortable this time and was particularly proud of the halftime interview with Don Jackson. That interview will be a tough act to follow for the next eight weeks.

Friday, September 21, 2007

All You Need to Know...


Bring some extra money! (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)


Here are some key links to click if you're coming to the game, (and why wouldn't you?)


GETTING THERE AND HAVING FUN


How to get Tickets

Getting There

Metro North Trains to Baker Field area

NYC Express Bus Service to the Baker Field area

COLUMBIA'S OFFICIAL GUIDE TO BAKER FIELD, (very informative)

NEW Parking Deal, (not mentioned in the link directly above)

Where to buy cool Columbia "gamewear," (the Lion Store takes cash and credit)



FOCUS ON THE GAME


Columbia Game Notes

Scouting Marist

Columbia Keys to the Game

Where to hear the game if you can't make it, and my pledge from the press box

Columbia-Marist: Keys to the Game


Columbia gets back to the Lions Den for the first time in 43 weeks (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Ben Shyman)


Key #1: Shaking off the Rust

Columbia can't let last week's loss, the extreme heat, (they're predicting 81 degrees and humid tomorrow), a possibly small crowd or anything else to temper their enthusiasm. The team must be fired up and ready to play; intimidating Marist with their pregame rituals alone.


Key #2: Controlling the line of scrimmage

Columbia can't get pushed around by an undersized team like Marist. The defense needs to be in the Red Foxes' backfield early and often and the offensive line must create big holes for running backs to plow through. Columbia hasn't had a running back with a 100 yard game performance in 14 games, (James Cobb '07 did it against Yale in 2005, but remember that was mostly on the heels of just one big 70+ yard run).


Key #3: Take an early lead and hold it

Any early Marist score could send some of the players and coaches heading for a virtual panic button. That means no missed tackles and no breakdowns if the Red Foxes get off a long pass or a big return.


Key #4: Sacks, Picks, and Fumbles

With Marist's light offensive line the defense needs to harass Red Fox QB Steve McGrath all day. The result needs to be lots of sacks and some interceptions. Columbia did not get a takeaway last week and takeaways were the hallmark of the 2006 season.

Ivy Game Predictions


Harvard Stadium goes under the lights for the first time tomorrow night



Last week I went a decent 5-2 in my predictions for all the non-Columbia Ivy games. I would say I'm most proud of my prediction that Holy Cross would beat Harvard by "three or four," when in fact the Crusaders did win 31-28.

Colgate's incredible comeback from 28-0 down killed my chances for a 6-1 day, and Princeton laid an egg in their opener against Lehigh when I thought they would look sharp.

Now on to this week's games:

Dartmouth at University of New Hampshire

Wow UNH is good. I can't think of anything smarter to write about them. They can really score and they will on Saturday. I'd like to see Dartmouth put up a big fight, but I don't see it. UNH by 21.



Cornell at Yale

This is a toughie. Cornell looked so good in their 38-14 rout of Bucknell and Yale got a bit of a scare against Georgetown. I think this could be one of the best Ivy games of the year, and Yale will win by two or three.



Penn at Villanova

Penn may have to play this entire game without #1 star Joe Sandberg at running back. Even if he plays, he won't be at 100%. Villanova by eight.



Princeton at Lafayette

Princeton brings some better matchups to the table vs. Lafayette than Penn did last week, but not enough. Lafayette by a touchdown.


Brown at Harvard

Harvard is heavily favored, but I'm not really sure why. The Crimson defense is unproven this year. I expect a high-scoring game. Harvard by four.

Scouting Marist


Will Marist pose a threat?


So what do the brave Red Foxes bring to the table Saturday?

This is a team willing to start its season with five straight road games against five sure-to-be-favored opponents. But as much as I admire that, I don't think Marist will give Columbia much of a run for its money this weekend.


Marist's biggest problem is its size. The Red Foxes sport a starting offensive line with an average weight of just 259 pounds per player. They have a starting tight end this week who is just 180 pounds. Despite that, the team is still averaging 114 yards rushing per game, but most of those yards have been gained after the games have been decided as Marist has been outscored 73-13 in the first half. In short, if Columbia cannot control the line of scrimmage against this undersized MAAC team, it won't be able to do it against anyone else this season.

Marist has been running the ball by committee ever since 2005 starter Obozoua (Bo) Ehikioya was injured last year. Ehikioya still gets on the field pretty regularly, but he hasn't made an impact so far this year. I'm a little more concerned with the speedy Keith Mitchell, who resembles Fordham's Xavier Martin a bit and we know what Martin did to us last week.

I also think Marist QB Steve McGrath is talented and thrives under pressure. But I expect him to be under a lot of it, especially from Phil Mitchell and Drew Quinn. And despite playing from so far behind all year, the Red Foxes are only averaging 169 yards passing per game.

Defensively, Marist does not seem to have the kind of weapons to stop Craig Hormann and Austin Knowlin from having a field day. They're allowing 237 yards passing per game, have not yet intercepted a pass, and have just 10 passes broken up after three games.

The big question is whether the Columbia running game will be able to get some traction Saturday. Marist is giving up 153 yards rushing per game, but they have faced some seriously strong running teams like Lafayette... so that's not too bad. It would be a tough blow to the offensive line's confidence if Jordan Davis doesn't at least come close to a 100-yard day.

Marist's special teams are pretty good. Their best best weapon is kickoff specialist Chris Collins, who is nailing touchback after touchback despite the new kickoff rule pushing the tee back to the 30.

Columbia is a 14 1/2 point favorite in this game, and while the Lions may indeed win by that much or more, I'm not exactly sure the team will look entirely different in the game. Last year's 24-0 win over MAAC power Iona featured a strong defense, (two defensive TD's), and a struggling offense... the same thing we saw just about every other week during the 2006 season for Columbia.

One thing I do hope Marist improves on over Iona Saturday is fan support. Iona brought virtually no one to the game last year and that was depressing considering how close their campus is to Baker Field. I don't think Yom Kippur is much of a concern for most of the Marist student body, so perhaps they will make the trip.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Halftime Interview: Don Jackson!


The Columbia Logo, Circa 1971


Last weekend I was lucky enough to get Columbia Atheltics Director Diane Murphy as my first halftime guest.

This week I dig into the great Columbia football past and I will interview Don Jackson '73, who quarterbacked the '70, '71 and '72 Lions. These were some of the most exciting times for grid action at Baker Field and throughout the Ivy League in general.

Who can forget the '71 Lions, the original "Kardiac Kids?" Who can forget the games they played against greats like Ed Marinaro and the top 10 nationally-ranked Dartmouth Indians?

Jackson will hopefully be just the first of the Columbia greats I'll speak to during the games as the season progresses.

Do you need any more reason to listen to the game on GoColumbiaLions.com?

I think not.

And while you're at it, sign up for the video package as well. Why just listen when you can see the action too?

Tad's Trial By Fire


(CREDIT: Canada.com)

Tad Crawford '07 was ejected from the B.C. Lions game against Toronto last weekend, but seems to be getting nothing but respect for it in the Canadian press. I guess it makes sense for an Ivy League grad to get some props for proving he's no creampuff egghead, but I'd rather see Tad get a few picks and sacks instead. I'm sure he will.

We Have a Two-Deep!


After sitting out in 2006, Bayo Aregbe looked sharp against Fordham (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Ben Shyman)


The secrecy that surrounded the Columbia two-deep before last week's opener is not so much in evidence this time around. The two-deep was presented in the game notes released last night.


There were just a few changes from last week, some of which may have been the result of what happened in the Fordham and some of which may be due to injury.

Starting with the offense, Nathan Walcker is getting the start over Brandon Veldman at Left Guard. I'm not sure if Veldman got the start last week because Walcker was banged up, but Walcker was the presumed starter coming into camp.

Freshman Dan Cohen is getting the job backing up Ralph DeBernardo at Right Tackle. I can't think of a more unlikely place to find a big road grader offensive lineman than the swanky Horace Mann school in Riverdale, NY... but that's where the 6"5 275 lb. Cohen is from.

Freshman Zack Kourouma is getting the backup tailback nod over Ray Rangel. There's been a lot of talk about how Kourouma was the most impressive freshman runner in camp, so now he may get a chance to show it on the field.

Notable by his absence is tight end Jamal Russell who I'm guessing must not be 100%. Coach Wilson heaped a lot of praise on Russell during camp, but he didn't get on to the field in the Fordham game. Hopefully he is okay.

On defense, JoJo Smith is not on the two-deep and again, I presume injuries are a factor there, but hopefully he'll still get into the game. Grant Jefferson gets the nod in his stead with freshman Calvin Otis backing him up. It looks like all the other starters from last week are back for this game, so that front three of Phil Mitchell, Mack Loughrey and Lou Miller will get a chance at redemption.

Justin Masorti is still not starting at inside linebacker, but I expect him to get into most of the game again as he did against Fordham. Junior Corey Cameron is starting ahead of him once again.

Parking Deal UPDATED



So now I have the full details of the parking deal for Columbia football fans at the Edison ParkFast on West 212th Street and 10th Avenue:

You drop off your car, get a parking ticket as you would in any of their enclosed lots. When you enter the stadium, get your parking ticket validated at the Customer Service table on the inner concourse of the stadium. When you return to the lot with the validated ticket, you get the special event rate of $20.

That's not a bad price for parking in Manhattan for what could be a lot of hours.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Weight Off Their Shoulders?




Coach Wilson said it himself, Columbia really got pushed around by the Fordham lines Saturday night.

Things might be different this Saturday. Check out the weight difference between Fordham's starting offensive and defensive lines and Marist's lines:


FORDHAM OFFENSIVE LINE

RT-Justin Sarabaez 301 lbs.

RG-Michael Nardone 300 lbs.

C-Mike Breznicky 295 lbs.

LG-Robby Reis 300 lbs.

LT-Andrew Tyshovnytsky 290 lbs.


Average Weight: 297 lbs.


MARIST OFFENSIVE LINE

RT-Jake Dembow 270 lbs.

RG-Danny Angelastro 270 lbs.

C-Neil Walsh 235 lbs.

LG-Jason Tillery 270 lbs.

LT-Dan Cooper 250 lbs.


Average Weight: 259 lbs.



FORDHAM DEFENSIVE LINE


END-Fonzie Culver 240 lbs.

NOSE GUARD-Darzell Wright 270 lbs.

TACKLE-Greg DeMarco 248 lbs.


Average Weight: 253 lbs.



MARIST DEFENSIVE LINE

DT-Tony Riley 225 lbs.

DT-Matt Wolfman 255 lbs.

DE-Oghogho Igbinosun 215 lbs.


Average Weight: 232 lbs.


Now, I'm certainly not saying weight is everything. If that were the case, Columbia wouldn't have won more than a game or two last year. But the heft and strength of the Rams' linemen just does not seem to be something Marist can duplicate and that's good news for a Lions team that lost the line of scrimmage battle on play after play in game one.

Parking Deal


For those of you who want to drive to the Columbia home games this year, the good news is that there are a lot more parking lots and garages sprouting up in the Inwood area near the stadium.

Columbia has a special deal with one brand new facility, the Edison ParkFast on West 212th Street and 10th Avenue. They're offering a package deal for game days, (but I think you'll have to show your game ticket first). In any event, it's a very short six-block walk from Baker Field.

There are a few other lots as well as you drive up Broadway. No one should have parking troubles this season!

Hop on the Bus


CAUTION: This bus takes WIDE turns!


There are yet more options for getting to the Columbia home games from points in Midtown Manhattan.

There are two express buses that can take you close to Baker Field.


The buses are the BxM1 and the BxM2 and you should read the schedules carefully in the links provided, (remember to look for SATURDAY schedules and also pay close attention to the fares).

The BxM1 serves the East Side, leaving from East 33rd Street and 3rd Avenue.

The BxM2 serves the West Side, leaving from West 35th Street and 6th Avenue.

On Saturday's the BxM1 stops at 207th Street and Broadway, near where the A train stops just 11 blocks south of the stadium. You just have uptown on Broadway and you'll be there in no time.


On Saturday's the BxM2 stops in Marble Hill at 230th Street, not far from where the Metro North stop. You just have to make the short walk SOUTH across the Broadway foot bridge to get to Baker Field.


Jake's Take: Taking buses in Manhattan, even on a Saturday, can be a little frustrating as they battle traffic, red lights, suicidal pedestrians, and the 30 MPH speed limit on city streets. It's nice to have the added options, but the subway or the Metro North are better choices 95% of the time.

Of course, there will be shuttle bus service from the Columbia campus to Baker Field, and more detailed info on that will provided soon.

Ridin' that Train


Say you live on Manhattan's Upper East Side or you're staying in a midtown hotel and you'd rather not take the subway to the Columbia game this Saturday for whatever reason, (like knowing FOR SURE when your train leaves and arrives).

Well, there's always the great Metro North option. Metro North trains leave from Grand Central Terminal and go straight to the Marble Hill stop every day. At Marble Hill it's a short walk to Wien Stadium over the Broadway Bridge.

This Saturday, there are no fewer than FOUR trains leaving from Grand Central that will get you to the game in plenty of time to enjoy the free beer and other festivities in the tailgate/picnic area. The FIFTH train is for people who want to just make it in time for kickoff.

The one-way fare is $3.00 IF you buy the tickets at the station or on the Web, (there is a substantial penalty for buying on the train), not bad for a guaranteed 19-20 minute trip to the game.


Here is the schedule for this Saturday:


Train #1

LEAVE GRAND CENTRAL: 9:57AM

ARRIVE MARBLE HILL: 10:16AM


Train #2

LEAVE GRAND CENTRAL: 10:20AM

ARRIVE MARBLE HILL: 10:40AM


Train #3


LEAVE GRAND CENTRAL: 10:57AM


ARRIVE MARBLE HILL: 11:16AM


Train #4

LEAVE GRAND CENTRAL: 11:20AM

ARRIVE MARBLE HILL: 11:40AM


Train #5

LEAVE GRAND CENTRAL: 11:57AM

ARRIVE MARBLE HILL: 12:16PM


And don't think I'd leave you needing to find your own way back. Here are some RETURN trains going back to Grand Central that will be leaving sometime after the expected end of the game:


Train #1

LEAVE MARBLE HILL: 3:42PM

ARRIVE GRAND CENTRAL: 4:07PM



Train #2

LEAVE MARBLE HILL: 3:59PM

ARRIVE GRAND CENTRAL: 4:26PM



Train #3

LEAVE MARBLE HILL: 4:42PM

ARRIVE GRAND CENTRAL: 5:07PM



Train #4

LEAVE MARBLE HILL: 4:59PM

ARRIVE GRAND CENTRAL: 5:26PM

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Beware the Foxes


I don't think it would be paranoid for the Columbia coaches and players to have a little bit of concern when it comes to taking on the Marist Red Foxes this Saturday at Wien Stadium. There are a number of challenges the Lions will have to overcome to win:


1) At 5"7 and 170 pounds, Keith Mitchell is just the kind of small and speedy runner Xavier Martin and Jonte Coven are... and we know what they did to the Lions last Saturday night. Mitchell also returns kicks and can be dangerous in that role too. He's not officially listed as the starting tailback, but right now he's getting more than twice the amount of carries as the #1 guy, Obozua Ehikioya, who's had some injuries.


2) I'm becoming a fan of Marist QB Steve McGrath. He's a fighter. They took his starting job away from him in the offseason, only to have him fight to get it back during the first game of the season. Playing against some very big defenders, McGrath's biggest offensive lineman is just 270 pounds, but he's put up some decent numbers anyway. In fact, on 3rd down passing McGrath is downright outstanding at 17 for 25 for 179 yards, (that's 7.16 yards per attempt), 13 1st downs, 3 TD's, no interceptions, and just one sack.


3) I get the feeling Marist is approaching this game like it's their Super Bowl. The school web site has been touting the fact that this is its first game against an Ivy League school for months. I give Marist a lot of credit for taking on a murderous schedule to start the season with five straight road games, (this will be their fourth game of the year), all against teams considered to be much stronger than they are.


4) It's probably going to be a very weak crowd as the game is being played on Yom Kippur. Of course, that's not really an excuse, as there are clearly tens of thousands of Columbia students and alumni who are not Jewish. Nevertheless, after that disappointing loss to Fordham, the team really needs to see fan support and I'm not sure they'll get it in great numbers this time. Hopefully, everyone who can go to the game will and those who can't will hand their tickets over to someone who can.

Awards



Well, we may have lost a not-so-close game to Fordham Saturday night, but the folks in the Ivy League office were still pretty impressed with some of our players.

First, freshman linebacker Alex Gross was named rookie of the week, after making three tackles and having an interception waved off due to a penalty.

Next, junior kicker Jon Rocholl was named special teams player of the week thanks to his 49-yard field goal.

And Austin Knowlin made the honor roll for his spectacular night both receiving and returning the ball. He was my MVP for game one.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Around the League


Nathan Ford and Cornell look strong so far (CREDIT: Cornell Athletics)




Brown 28 Duquesne 17

Jake's Take: Duquesne is not a strong opponent, but Brown's new starting QB and RB looked pretty good. Michael Daugherty had three TD passes and Derek Knight ran for 208 yards and a 61 yard TD. On the other hand, I don't see much that Harvard has to fear before they face the Bears at home this coming Saturday night.


Cornell 38 Bucknell 14

Jake's Take: Cornell had the best weekend of any Ivy school with this strong game and a nice crowd to boot. The Big Red have to be overjoyed by QB Nathan Ford's passing performance, a big improvement over last season. Now Cornell has to improve on its real problem last season: winning on the road. The Big Red go on the road to Yale this weekend.


Colgate 31 Dartmouth 28 (OT)

Jake's Take: The Big Green blew a 28-0 lead and in my experience, losses like these are almost impossible to forget. But if you have to suffer them... it's best for them to come in week 1. Milan Williams had a good day running the ball for 179 yards, but he also had two killer fumbles, the second coming with just 50 seconds left in regulation at the Colgate seven yard line. Now Dartmouth has to take on huge favorite New Hampshire, so good news does not seem to be just around the corner.



Holy Cross 31 Harvard 28

Jake's Take: Harvard's strong defense finished up on a sour note against Yale in 2006, and they picked up where they left off with a surprisingly weak performance against Holy Cross. The Crusaders ran by committee and got 153 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Holy Cross QB Domminic Randolph threw for 339 yards and four TD's against the Crimson's highly-regarded secondary. One good note for Harvard was the decent game put in by Cheng Ho at tailback. He finished with 116 yards and a big 49-yard TD run.



Lafayette 8 Penn 7


Jake's Take: Penn spends the whole offseason obsessing about their kicking game, and then they try a fake punt from their one yard line! But there was some bad kicking too. Andrew Samson missed a 28-yard field goal attempt right off the bat, and later missed a 43-yarder. The worst news for the Quakers is Joe Sandberg injured his hamstring and it's unclear how long he'll be out. Penn QB Robert Irvin was unimpressive, but Lafayette does have a great team.



Lehigh 32 Princeton 21


Jake's Take: A very shaky start for the Tigers, but they recovered to make the score look respectable. Bill Foran's first start at QB mirrored his team's effort; he started slow but finished stronger. Princeton's 2006 rushing woes are continuing into this season.


Yale 28 Georgetown 14

Jake's Take: Yale had a much tougher day than I expected. Mike McLeod had another very strong game, but almost everything else is still a question mark for the Elis as they get set to host the one really hot team in the Ivies right now in Cornell.

Some Things You Missed...

A few things that you missed if you weren't at the Fordham game:


1) The members of the Columbia team who didn't make the travel squad spent most of the game standing up and cheering for the Lions. It was nice to see.


2) The crowd was pretty vocal. Jack Coffey field officially holds about 7,000 people, and the official attendance was 3,721.. which doesn't seem right to me, I thought it would be closer to 5,000.


3) Craig Hormann did not have a great night, but again he showed good poise on 3rd down which bodes well for the rest of the season. On third down passing, Hormann was six of 10 for 57 yards, two 1st downs, one TD and no interceptions. It's not great to throw the ball on 3rd down 10 times and only get two first downs out of it, but other than that Hormann was sharp on those big plays.


4) Many of Austin Knowlin's catches were spectacular. It's hard to say how much he's improved from what was already a strong rookie season. It's basically worth coming to a Columbia game just to see him play.

On the Agenda: Jake's Rule of 3


Practice, Practice, Practice

What would you focus on in practice today if you were Head Coach Norries Wilson? First, I would keep it short and simple; people tend to be able to digest no more than three points at a time. And I know what my three points would be after Saturday night's disappointing loss to Fordham:



1) Take Back the Line of Scrimmage

Both lines were pushed around way too much by the Rams. Xavier Martin and Jonte Coven broke big runs, but even if they had been slow, it looked like they had a 2-3 yards of open space in front of them every time they took a handoff.

On offense, the Lion running game was again snuffed out time and again by defenders in our backfield. On one play, Earl Hudnell almost took the handoff from Craig Hormann he was back there so quickly.


One bright note was the pass blocking, as the Lions only allowed one sack despite the fact that Fordham knew we were going to pass most of the game and blitzed with great abandon. Jordan Davis made one particular block to save a sack that was a great example of a player sacrificing everything for the team. Hormann was pressured quite a bit, but I thought the adjustments that were not made to counter the Fordham run defense were made to keep Hormann from getting pushed around.


2) Finish Your Tackles

It doesn't get much more important than this.

During the broadcast I alluded to Columbia's long history of missed tackles... a history that was thankfully not a part of the 2006 season. I love traditions, but that's one I wanted to see die and stay dead.



3) It's not the End of the World

With such a young team, the danger of the players taking this first loss too hard is a real possibility. Wilson and the other coaches have to make sure they whip these kids into shape without breaking their confidence. This Saturday's game against is against a Marist team that will be the weakest opponent on the schedule and it should serve as a confidence booster, but it also could be a dangerous "let down" game.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Eating Their Dust


Fordham dominated almost every aspect of the game to reclaim the Liberty Cup (CREDIT: FordhamSports.com)

Columbia fell to Fordham last night, 27-10.

(You can hear the audio archive of the game, and my debut as color commentator by first clicking the link above and then clicking the audio icon at the top of the story).


WHY FORDHAM WON

The Rams dominated the line of scrimmage all night and ran the ball at will. Freshman Xavier Martin and senior Jonte Coven both easily eclipsed the 100-yard mark and allowed Fordham to rack up 353 total yards on the ground. The Rams only threw the ball 15 times despite lining up in the four wide receiver set all night.


WHY COLUMBIA LOST

They gave up huge holes to the Fordham runners time after time, then made it worse by failing to wrap up the runners for key missed tackles. On offense, the Lions had no running attack of their own, and they committed two costly turnovers.


KEY TURNING POINTS


Leading 7-0 late in the second quarter, Fordham faced a 2nd and 9 from their own 49 when Xavier Martin broke several tackles on his way to a 51-yard touchdown run. On the ensuing possession Hormann threw his first interception of the game, which the Rams quickly turned into 3 points on a short field goal to make it 17-0.


COLUMBIA POSITIVES

1) It may not have been the best night for Craig Hormann, but he looked totally healthy and his injured knee certainly didn't play a big role in the loss.


2) Austin Knowlin lived up to his billing as Columbia's "go-to guy," with 9 catches for 130 yards, (some of them spectacular grabs), and one touchdown. Knowlin also had some good kick returns, including one that set up Columbia's first score of the night. If Columbia can find another consistent offensive weapon, especially on the ground, this team could take off.


3) Jon Rocholl was only 1 for 3 on field goal attempts, but they were all very long attempts and he did make the 49-yarder to end the half.


COLUMBIA NEGATIVES

1) The aggressive and effective Columbia defense of 2006 was mostly M.I.A. last night. Besides the missed tackles against the Fordham runners, the Lions blew some sack opportunities as well.


2) Jordan Davis ran for 73 yards on 13 carries, but most of those yards were gained late in the game when the contest was already decided. Against the first team Fordham defense, the Lions were as inept on the ground as they were most of last season.


3) Hormann's best quality in 2006 was avoiding the interception, but last night he threw two picks when he should have eaten the ball or thrown it out of bounds.


MVP

An easy choice here: Austin Knowlin. The Columbia single season receiving yards record is an even 1,000 held by Don Lewis, (in the John Witkowski era). With 130 yards in game 1, Knowlin is well on his way to challenging that record, something I said he must do in a post I wrote more than five months ago.



Jake on the Mic

It was a lot of fun working in the booth with Jerry Recco in the first game, but I definitely need some more work. The game moved extremely quickly with no media timeouts, (plus the refs moved things along as if they were double-parked on Fordham road), and I was not ready for that fast pacing.

Hopefully, I and Columbia team will sound and look a lot better next week.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Key Links


Lost?


In case your just joining us here at "Roar Lions Roar!", here are some key links you'll need before tonight's season opener at Fordham. Enjoy!


Fans Guide to the Fordham Game


Columbia Season Preview


Where to hear the game if you can't make it, and my pledge from the press box


Scouting Fordham


Keys to tonight's game


Info on fan bus from Columbia to Fordham



Family-friendly event on Fordham's campus

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.

Get Pumped!!!


Check out the great new video preview of the 2007 football season on the SideLion Pass.

The SideLion report will be FREE on the site... but you should still sign up for the monthly SideLion Pass service, (for live video streaming of at least 7 football games this season and a lot of basketball too).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Coach on WFAN Today!




Coach Wilson will be on the Mike and the Mad Dog show on WFAN, (the #1 all-sports radio station in New York), today at 2:05pm. You can listen live by clicking here.

Game Predictions


Dartmouth's re-modeled Memorial Field is truly unveiled tomorrow



*All the predictions below are the sole opinion of Jake Novak and NOT Columbia University or any other institution.




Colgate at Dartmouth (12:30pm)

Dartmouth is starting yet another year with a murderous early schedule. The chances of getting out of the gate 0-5 is very real once again this season. But I think Colgate is overrated this year, particularly on offense. I still think Dartmouth will struggle this season, but I think the Big Green can squeeze out an upset tomorrow as they unveil the refurbished Memorial Field.


Duquesne at Brown (12:30pm)

Brown should have little trouble beating the overmatched Iron Dukes from the MAAC. But if the Bears struggle in any way with all their new starters, the rest of the Ivies should take note.


Yale at Georgetown (1pm)

Yale should win and win big. But credit Georgetown for convincing the Elis to come down their tiny stadium.


Harvard at Holy Cross (1pm)

This should be a very exciting game, but I think the Crimson will stumble out of the gates for awhile as they try to adjust to life without Clifton Dawson. Holy Cross by three or four.


Lehigh at Princeton (6pm)

Princeton is just so well-coached right now that I think they can beat anyone at home. Lehigh has a great QB in Sedale Threatt, but the Tigers have been practicing against their own QB Bill Foran all summer and Foran has a very similiar skill set. Princeton in a thriller.


Lafayette at Penn (6pm)

The Leopards are very, very good team this year and I expect them to prove it tomorrow night at Franklin Field. Penn's defense is good, but it's been a long time since the Quakers have faced a team with more than just one real rushing threat. Lafayette by 8 or 9.


Bucknell at Cornell (7pm)

Bucknell looked very good in a win over Colgate, but then not so good in a win over Duquesne last week. Cornell is just a very good team at home, and I expect a low-scoring win for the Big Red.



Another Man's Opinion


My buddy Chuck Burton over at College Sporting News is predicting Fordham to win tomorrow night in an overtime thriller: 40-37.

Spectator Back Online


The three Lion captains are featured in today's Spec (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

The Columbia Spectator is finally back online and today it features no less than 10 articles previewing the football season. Some of them are very good.

Meanwhile, Coach Wilson is keeping things very close to the vest when it comes to tomorrow night's starting lineup. I think he wants to preserve the best competitive advantage Columbia has right now, which is the mystery surrounding a team that has not played a game yet this season.

But once we see the two-deep, we'll be ready to analyze it here.

Catch the Coach on NY1!


(CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Coach Wilson will be a guest on tonight's "Sports on 1" program on NY1 at 11:30pm. You can listen to the audio and even email a question by clicking here.


(I used to be a producer at NY1 years ago and I'd like to get them to make Coach Wilson a regular on the show, so please tune in and maybe email the station with positive buzz!)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Scouting Fordham


Isiejah Allen is a threat on defense and special teams (CREDIT: Fordhamsports.com)

The 2007 Fordham Rams are clearly an improvement over the 2006 edition of the team that fell apart against Columbia in a 37-7 Lion victory at Wien Stadium.


The good news for the Lions coaches is that Fordham has exhibited a clear series of strengths and weaknesses through the first two games of this season, as opposed to the schizophrenic squad that inexplicably fell to Monmouth in the 2006 opener before shocking Albany at Albany a week later.


OFFENSE


The Rams have finally found a talented and consistent QB in sophomore John Skelton. He's showing some signs of inexperience at times, but also a lot of poise. In the Rams' run-and-shoot offense, he's throwing an average of 40 passes per game and completing a decent 53% of them. He has four TD passes and four interceptions, (all but one of his INT's have come on first down).

On third down, Skelton is not impressive, but he has avoided the big mistakes. He's 7 of 18 for 91 yards, six first downs, no TD's, no INT's, and four sacks for a total loss of 38 yards. His yards-per-attempt average on third down is 5.05 compared to his overall YPA of 6.19.

The starting receivers seem to all be talented enough, but no one is emerging as the number one threat as of now. One strong contender is freshman David Moore who, like Skelton, comes from El Paso, TX and seems to have a bright future ahead of him. Columbia's secondary and spur linebackers will probably have their hands full all Saturday night.

Skelton and his four wide receiver set are not the whole story on offense. Senior tailback Jonte Coven is having a strong season so far, with 185 yards rushing, three TD's, and a big 5.8 yards per carry.

But with these weapons, the Rams are still only averaging 23.5 points game... that's not bad, but they could have scored a lot more if it weren't for some tough turnovers in each of their first two games. Fordham's minus-4 turnover ratio is something that should be a major item of interest for the Lions, who created and thrived on many opponent turnovers last season and finished with a plus-10 turnover ratio.

And yet, the Rams are a perfect five-for-five in the red zone with five TD's. Clearly, this is a team that responds to different kinds of pressure in different ways.

The offensive line appears to be stepping up to the added pressure of all the extra passing plays. The Rams have given up just four sacks and Skelton has often had room to run when his receivers are covered. Columbia will absolutely need to put more pressure on him than Rhode Island and Albany did in the first two games.

In short, Fordham has a very young and dangerous offense that could explode for a 30-point game or cough up five turnovers, it depends on how well they prepare and how much pressure the opposing defense brings to the table.


DEFENSE

Fordham's current defensive squad reminds me a lot of some Columbia defenses of the past in that the Rams have four or five very talented players on "D," but the whole does not seem to equal the sum of its parts. Despite sporting stars like Earl Hudnell, Isiejah Allen, and Matt Loucks, the Rams are giving up an eye-popping 455 yards per game, 317 of them on the ground. And the Rams are getting absolutely smoked in time of possession, averaging just over 22 minutes per game, for a massive 15 fewer minutes than their opponents. The fact that Fordham has only given up 46 total points this season is a testament to their own ability to create key turnovers and some stellar play in the red zone. But there's also been a lot of luck, luck that could run out now that the Columbia coaches have had plenty of time to look over two games worth of tape.

It would appear the starting front three of Fonzie Culver, Darzell Wright and Greg DeMarco are the main culprits. Those starters have combined for just two tackles for a loss and no sacks. Backups Ryan Kleve and Ryan Mehra are the only defensive linemen with sacks, (Mehra has one and Kleve has half a sack). Columbia's very weak running game from last year may not need to improve very much to do some damage this weekend.

Against the pass, the Rams look much better. They've given up an average of just 138 yards per game, but when you give up so much against the run, who needs to pass? (That's VERY reminiscent of the Columbia teams of 2003-05 that generally posted nice numbers against the pass but were woeful vs. the run).

But in the red zone Fordham has been decent, giving up just four TD's and five field goals in 12 total red zone chances on defense.

Sometimes "bend but don't break" doesn't work too well for a defense, but that M.O. has been workable for the Rams so far in 2007.


SPECIAL TEAMS

Fordham has an All-America candidate in senior punter Benjamin Dato. He's averaging 43.1 yards per punt with six inside the 20 in just the first two games.

Sophomore Isiejah Allen is doing a great job on punt and kick returns, and he could be very dangerous as Columbia begins kicking off from the 30 for the first time Saturday night.

Kickoff return coverage has been average, but the Rams are giving up fewer than two yards per punt return.

The one weak link on special teams is at placekicker, where junior Adam Danko is just not nearly as good as the now-graduated Micah Clukey was for four years on Rose Hill. Danko has not attempted even one field goals so far but he's already missed two PAT's.


INTANGIBLES

Fordham always talks about how they're fired up for the Liberty Cup game, but more often than not they've shown up looking uninspired. The great 2002 Ram team that advanced in the Division IAA playoffs handed Columbia its only win of that season in a 13-11 loss in the first Liberty Cup game. The next season, Fordham almost blew a 21-point lead and barely held on to a 37-30 win. Columbia's weak 2005 team looked like winners after winning at Fordham in 2005, and last year's 30-point Lion rout spoke for itself.

Why Fordham has generally looked less prepared than Columbia even though they come into these games with two weeks of actual games under their belt is beyond me. The only guess I can make is that the Lions learn a lot more from the Fordham game films than the Rams gain by playing more than just practice games every season.

One exception was 2004, when Fordham came out inspired against what looked like a sleep-walking Columbia team and took a 17-0 halftime lead. The Lions did wake up in the second half and made it close, but the Rams held on for a 17-14 win.

Whether Fordham Head Coach Tom Massella can turn that trend around may depend a lot on his young starting QB who has shown nothing but enthusiasm so far.

More Press


The New York Post has a short, but sweet preview of the Columbia-Fordham Liberty Cup game in today's edition. There are some interesting quotes from the Fordham folks that makes it clear the Rams are fired up about the game.

The Boston Herald does a short preview of the Ivy season where they say Indianapolis Colts scouts were apparently impressed with Craig Hormann when they came to scout Clifton Dawson at the Harvard game last year. Who knew?

Perhaps more interestingly, the Herald also talks about Columbia's apparent plans to go with a two tight end set this season. That would give Columbia a little more run blocking help, and with the Lions mostly short passing game, trading a slit end for a tight end seems logical. We'll see how it all pans out soon enough.


Harvard's game notes for the Crimson's opener at Holy Cross are out. As expected, sophomore Cheng Ho gets the unenviable task of having to replace Clifton Dawson as the starting tailback. Backing Ho up is a freshman, Gino Gordon.

Sophomore Patrick Long has replace senior Matt Schindel as the starting placekicker, but Schindel is getting the start as the punter.