Friday, November 30, 2007

Dinner Plans?

2007 Football Team Dinner


In the rotunda of Low Library on the Columbia University Campus


Program will Start at 6:00pm

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nice Work

Taylor Harwin's column today in the Columbia Spectator is an excellent survey of the Ivy head football coaches and their personalities.

Let me give more credit where credit is due. Harwin and the Spectator writers did a lot of the tough work I was unable to do this season as they covered the team. After each game, as I rushed out to save my job and my wife from having to juggle the home situation on her own, Harwin and his compadres braved the postgame press conferences and interviews. So in other words, his insights on the demeanors of the Ivy coaches are going to be better than mine.

And, let's be clear: the commenters on this blog and I have bashed the Spec on a number of occasions. It didn't come from malice; I was a Spec columnist myself my senior year. So I think it's important to say that I think they did a much better job this year, even as we still wish they had more football content.

One major issue for the Spec and WKCR sports is the fact that fewer and fewer current Columbia students that I talk to have any interest in going into journalism after graduation. I think the $45k annual college costs at places like Columbia and the resulting student loan debts have a lot to do with that. Starting salaries for employees at newspapers and TV/Radio stations are laughable. So, I don't blame these kids one bit. We should keep that in mind when we demand more from them. To them, this is their hobby, not a profession.

Monday, November 26, 2007


King High School Coach Jim Reynolds (CREDIT: Detroit Free Press)

Inspiration can come from a lot of different places, but high school and college coaches have a special grip on a lot of young athletes.

One of those guys is Jim Reynolds, who has been the head football coach at King High School in Detroit for 32 years.

This past weekend, the King High School Crusaders became the first city school to win the Michigan state championship.

But Reynolds is even more successful in the way that he's inspired dozens of young men beyond the football field. One of those men is former Columbia QB Jeff McCall. It was Reynolds who first suggested the Ivy League could be a possibility for McCall, who at the time had never even heard of Columbia.

Now McCall is about to get his MBA.

It's all discussed in this article. (Note, the piece was written just before King won the state championship game. The article about that game is here).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hoops Time

Patrick Foley returns to his native Long Island today (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

I'm going to get my first live look at the CU men's basketball team this afternoon at Stony Brook. While I miss football already, the last ten weeks of not being able to enjoy games with my daughter have been pretty hard to take. So I'm really looking forward to heading to the game and enjoying the action as a "civilian."

The game starts at 2pm.

It's been a pretty inconsistent start for the hoops guys so far, but there's plenty of time to hone their game before the Ivy schedule kicks in.

I'll try to post some insightful stuff about basketball here from time to time.

Anyway if you're at the game, I'll be the guy with the curly-haired 4 1/2 year old!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday Shopping

Hurry up and grab that 350-pound lineman!

If there were a "doorbuster" sale for Columbia football, these are the things I would wake up at 3am to grab:

1) A Real Running Game

There were some positive signs this year with a couple of big games from Jordan Davis and some nice flashes from Ray Rangel, but the team actually averaged just about 63 yards rushing per game, DOWN from last year's already very low 67 yards a game. You could argue that it was a miracle that a team with rushing stats that weak challenged in any game let alone the 2-3 Ivy games Columbia took down to the wire.

We may already have our future in the bag, as Nico Papas is expected to join the team next year. And one would also hope that all the youngsters who got offensive line playing experience this past season will become more effective in 2008.

2) A Good New QB

Love him or hate him, (and I think most of us at least very much appreciated Craig Hormann), our senior QB is graduating and someone needs to step up and take the starting job.

Shane Kelly seemed to play pretty well in limited duty this year, and we keep hearing good things about Paul Havas, but the job seems like it will be wide open even after spring practice.

3) Defensive Linemen who Can Stop the Run

Not much to explain here. The Lions gave up a whopping 231 yards per game this season on the ground; about 170 fewer yards per game than they ran for on offense. Yikes!

4) More Fans

Columbia may have gone 1-9, but they played a lot of exciting games this past year. I'd love to see some more people show up next year and get into the spirit of things.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Make Your Pitch

I think our coaches come off better than this guy

Okay, the heavy recruiting period and "closing time" in salesmen's terms is upon us when it comes to recruiting.

How would you pitch Columbia after this 1-9, 0-7 season?

How good a salesman, (without being a sleazy liar), are you?

I ask you to make your pitch in the comments section.

Pretend I'm a highly sought after recruit and his parents.

What would you have to offer?

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Trend is Our Friend

Cornell's Derrick Harmon was the 1st Ivy Rookie of the Year in 1981, in 1983 he was player of the year (CREDIT:

One school winning back-to-back Ivy League Rookie of the Year awards is not unprecedented. In fact, it's happened four other times ever since the award was established in 1981:

1984: Rich Comizio (RB, Penn)

1985: Chris Flynn (RB, Penn)

1990: Matt Brzica (QB, Dartmouth)

1991: Jay Fiedler (QB, Dartmouth)

1992: Pat Goodwillie (LB, Penn)

1993: Miles Macik (WR, Penn)

2001: Steve Jensen (DB, Dartmouth)

2002: Josh Dooley (LB, Dartmouth)

2006: Austin Knowlin (WR, Columbia)

2007: Alex Gross (LB, Columbia)

Three of the four previous schools who won the award back-to-back had championship seasons the following year. The 2003 Dartmouth Big Green was the only one not to win the title after getting two straight rookies of the year, but Dartmouth did finish in a four-way tie for second that year.

The 1986 Penn Quakers, coming off the rookie awards for Comizio and Flynn, was one of the best Ivy teams in recent memory. The same was true of the 1994 undefeated Penn team coming off the rookie awards for Goodwillie and Macik.

The key is to get more talented players in the trenches who can help our many young stars shine more often. Phil Mitchell needs more help on that defensive line. Ralph DeBernardo needs more supporting players on the offensive line, etc.

I don't know if the Lions will seriously contend for the Ivy title next year after going 0-7 this time around, but the track record for teams with consecutive rookie award winners makes things look good for a very strong turnaround in 2008 or 2009.

Some Solace

The news has just come out that Alex Gross has won Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors and Austin Knowlin made 1st team All-Ivy at wide receiver.

Alex Gross (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Ben Shyman)

Gross becomes the fourth Lion to win the Rookie of the Year award and the second in a row. Last year's winner was of course, Austin Knowlin. It can't be too optimistic to say that a team with two consecutive rookie of the year award winners has a bright future.

But Columbia's 0-7 Ivy season this year showed in the All-Ivy voting. Jon Rocholl was the second team punter, but nobody else could do better than honorable mention.

Again, the key is to retain these talented youngsters and also make sure they improve year over year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Coming Up Short

Sophomore Austin Knowlin finished as the top receiver in the Ivies (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyars)

Brown 30 Columbia 22

Why Brown Won

They jumped out to a big early lead and didn't completely lose their nerve when the Lions almost came all the way back. Big interceptions late in the game by Brown's resilient secondary were a big key.

Why Columbia Lost

They squandered scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity and then couldn't close the deal on a remarkable second half comeback. Hormann's three late interceptions were daggers to the Lions' hearts.

Key Turning Points

1) Trailing 21-0 early in the second quarter, freshman Adam Meher forced and recovered a Brown fumble at the Bear 23. But the Lions failed to even get a first down and Brown came away unscathed.

2) After cutting Brown's lead to 21-3, Columbia appeared to be gaining momentum. But the Lions allowed the Bears to drive all the way to the Columbia 26 and Steve Morgan was able to boot a long field goal to give Brown their 21-point advantage once again.

3) After cutting the lead to 24-10 and getting another defensive stop, the Lions drove all the way from their 20 to get a 1st and goal at the Brown 6. But they couldn't get any closer than the 3 and had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Jon Rocholl. Columbia's next possession followed a similar pattern as the Lions failed to get a TD after driving all the way to the Brown 9. Another field goal made it 24-16 when it could have been 24-24 by that point.

4) After the Eugene Edwards 69-yard fumble return for a TD cut the Brown lead to 24-22, Columbia forced another three-and-out and got the ball back. But Hormann promptly threw a crucial interception that killed the momentum. Columbia would not score again.

Columbia Positives

1) Against an excellent offense, the young Lion defense adjusted beautifully and gave the team more than enough chances to win. The excellent play of freshmen Alex Gross, Adam Mehrer, Augie Williams, and Calvin Otis stood out. Obviously the sophomores and juniors contributed brilliantly as well. If these kids stay with it, the future is indeed bright.

2) The Ivy leader for 2007 in receiving yards, Austin Knowlin, fell 12 yards shy of the all-time Columbia single season record for passing yards, but he still had another 100+ yard game and made a lot of great plays. He also finally broke a good long kickoff return in what we hope will be a hint of things to come for the next two years.

Game MVP: Eugene Edwards had a great game with nine tackles and his all-out sprint for a TD on the fumble recovery was impressive.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Columbia-Brown Keys to the Game

This could be a record-setting day for Austin Knowlin (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyers)

1) Slow down the Brown Juggernaut

It's a serious challenge for the much-maligned Columbia defense today, but the one bright spot is that the Brown Bears move the ball mostly through the air. That plays a little more to the Lions relative strength in pass defense. The Columbia secondary needs to pick off some passes, probably at least two, to have a chance here. And I also think the Lions will need a few sacks and lots of pressures and hurries on Brown QB Michael Dougherty as well.

2) Run the ball successfully

One way to keep the Brown offense off the field is to use the running game well. I;m not sure if Jordan Davis or Ray Rangel is the best man to get the job done today, but I'd like to see the Lions try to get something going out of the I formation or another two-back set other than the shotgun.

3) Get Knowlin his 1,000 yards

Running game or no running game, Austin Knowlin will need to put up big numbers for Columbia to win. He needs 130 receiving yards to tie Don Lewis' team record of 1,000 for a single season. Jerry Recco and I will be watching very closely during the game to track his progress.

The Seniors Speak!

On the new SideLion Report. Check it out!!.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't Forget the Kids!!!!


I interviewed the team chaplain, Father Thomas Valenti, two weeks about this wonderful program. Here is some info:

Columbia Football sponsors its annual TOYS FOR TOTS drive for the 2007 holiday season. All fans attending the Columbia/Brown football game on Saturday, November 17 at 12:30 pm are encouraged to bring unwrapped toys, or a monetary donation to benefit this special program.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Week 10 Predictions

Jake's record last week: 3-0

Jake's record overall: 31-8

Yale over Harvard

Yale's strong season has not been a surprise to me. I chose them to win the title several months ago. But Harvard has really been impressive, especially when you remember they are coming off the graduation of all-time Ivy rusher Clifton Dawson. The keys for Harvard have been the outstanding play of the Crimson offensive line, the cool leadership of QB Chris Pizzotti, and the defense's continuing dominance against the run.

One thing to remember about Harvard-Yale games is that previous records tend not to play as big a role. It usually comes down to who wants it more that day. Yale may be coming into this game 9-0, but the last few weeks the Elis have looked a little weaker. Harvard, on the other hand, is playing it's best ball at the perfect time.

But that's still water under the bridge. Yale should get a huge charge out of what will be a jam-packed Yale Bowl on Saturday... but so will Harvard.

Ultimately, this will come down to defense. And while Harvard's defense is still very good, it's dropped off a bit from last season. Yale's "D" is much improved, and that will make the difference.

YALE by 7

Dartmouth over Princeton

Dartmouth has had a pretty good year. With the exception of the Yale game, the Big Green have played up to their competition in every Ivy game. Princeton has been a disappointment, and I see no inkling that the Tigers will pull it together for this long road trip.


Penn over Cornell

The Quakers just couldn't get their offense going this year, but Cornell's defense will be much more accommodating Saturday. Look for Joe Sandberg to end his career with a bang.


700 yards... in a one game? (Scouting Brown)

Bobby Sewell, Brown's new "Mr. Everything" (CREDIT: Brown Athletics)

In last week's 59-35 win over Dartmouth, Brown gained 619 total yards on offense. You read that right: 619 YARDS!!! Put that up against a Columbia team that's the most generous in the Ivies this season and you have a possible recipe for some serious gains.

Bear Head Coach Phil Estes is back to his old tricks again, running a pass-happy offense and grinding out the points in big chunks. Remember it was Estes who took former coach Mark Whipple's passing philosophy and ran with it in the late 1990's. That got derailed a bit when Nick Hartigan came around and made running the ball a lot more attractive.

After suffering through four years of the erratic Joe DiGiacomo at QB, Estes must be kicking himself for not starting current signal-caller Michael Dougherty sooner. Dougherty is a junior now and he's having a fine season, with a .581 completion percentage and 18 TD passes. He does have 10 interceptions, but he's still making a case to be the 1st team All Ivy QB this season.

It helps to have the kind of receiving corps Doughtery has to throw to. Sophomore Buddy Farnham has the most catches with 73 for 830 yards and nine TD's. But I think senior Paul Raymond, (49 catches for 899 yards and 4 TD's), is more dangerous, and I expect him to be especially motivated for his final game.

And then there's Bobby Sewell. The sophomore has been impressive all season, but last week against the Big Green he absolutley played like he was from another galaxy. He ran for four TD's and THREW for another one in that Bear win. He's mostly a receiver, but he has 32 carries this season for 224 yards and six touchdowns.

The offensive line has had a great year. Without a really strong running back, Brown is still gaining over 100 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, they've only given up 10 sacks. Bear fans must be drooling over their team's future provided something can be done about the defense.

The "D" is giving up close to 200 yards per game on the ground and almost 270 yards per game through the air. The lowest points allowed total in a game they've had this season is 17, (even Columbia can boast better than that... they only gave up 7 points against Marist). And a lot of their defensive stats were deceivingly skewed by the horrible weather at Yale Bowl two weeks ago when the Bears walked away with a respectable-looking 17-7 loss.

Another issue is Brown's ability to win on the road. So far this season, they haven't, going 0-3.

All signs point to a high-scoring game this Saturday, as the weather looks like it will cooperate. (Forecast as of now is 46 degrees and partly sunny).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bang the Drum Loudly

Craig Hormann, back in 2005

A number of posters have made the point already, but it should be restated here: SHOW UP AT WIEN STADIUM THIS SATURDAY!!!

It's been a disappointing season, no question about that. But one thing I haven't really noticed in this team is a lack of effort. Yes, they've been out-played. Yes, they've made some mental errors. But I've looked at the eyes of these players in fourth quarters week after week, and I see the fire every time.

Of course, Saturday will be all about the 12 seniors playing their final games at Columbia, and probably forever. This is a group of players that if you count some of their initial contacts with the Columbia program, became somewhat familiar with three separate coaching staffs under Ray Tellier, Bob Shoop, and finally Norries Wilson.

On the field they've experienced the lows of 2004, 2005, and now the 2007 season. But they also shared in the highs of the 2006 campaign that ended so well.

Here are some of my personal memories of some of the individual players:

Craig Hormann

I'll never forgert how Craig showed the strength of his arm in his very first game action against Cornell during his freshman year. He led the Lions on a long TD drive his very first time on the field in that game. Of course, Columbia ending up losing that game in a classic choke, but one positive was the fact that we new we had a great young passer ready to play for the next three years.

Craig was then thrown into a tough situation as the "co-starter" with senior Joe Winters during the 2005 season. Neither QB really thrived in that crazy arrangement, but Hormann did show a great ability to hook up with deep threat wide receiver Brandon Bowser from time to time.

In his junior year, Hormann led the Lions to their best record in a decade. He also showed an uncanny ability to avoid throwing the interception. His performance at key points in the wins over Cornell and Brown were very impressive and led to his being named 2nd team All-Ivy.

This season, Craig has struggled. He's thrown twice as many interceptions, and had less succes on third downs. But the courage and determination he showed to come back into decent playing form after tearing his ACL in the off season has been inspiring. Who knows what he could have done with a better running attack and a more veteran offensive line?

JoJo Smith

My best memory of JoJo Smith came in the Fordham game last year, when he slapped the ball away from a Fordham receiver to force a fumble just before he would have gone in for a touchdown. The effort he puts out on the field every day is more than impressive.

Eugene Edwards

Who could forget the TWO field goals Edwards blocked in the Fordham game last year. Injuries have marred too much of his senior season, but he seems healthy again now. Eugene is the epitome of the humble, hard-working ball player.

Bayo Aregbe

Bayo actually first hit the field way back in 2003. Injuries have also played too much of a role in his career, which is too bad because just looking at him, you can tell he could be a dominant force. He really personifies perserverance.

Tim Paulin

My best memory of Tim was his great run for a TD on a reverse against Georgetown last season. It's fun just to see this speedster go up and down the field.

Mike Partain

Mike was thrown into the mix as a sophomore in 2005 and was immediately seen as being a real talent on the offensive line. He and Craig Hormann have worked well as a team together.

Jamal Russell

Jamal's breakaway for a TD against Cornell last year was one of the most exciting moments in Columbia football over the past three years. Jamal was another player who was dealt an unfair hand when it comes to injuries.

Brandon Buckley

Brandon's contributions this year were a pleasant surprise from a player who was relatively quiet his first three seasons. His injury in the Yale game will probably keep him out of the lineup Saturday, but we are hopeful.

Josh Webster

Josh has been an extremely reliable long snapper. He came on the scene after Columbia suffered a great many seasons with problems in that area. Josh has been a godsend.

Stefan Savic, Austin Stevenson, and Thomas Weldon haven't had much playing time, but I know we all appreciate their efforts.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Snafu Saturday

Bryan Walters' punt return for a TD made it 21-0 (CREDIT: Cornell Athletics)

Cornell 34 Columbia 14

Why Cornell Won

The opening kickoff returned for a TD by Cornell's Shane Kilcoyne set the tone. Columbia was actually doing a decent job on kick coverage this year, but the Big Red also got a punt return for a TD later in the 1st quarter. QB Stephen Liuzza performed as billed, running brilliantly and even passing well overall. The Cornell defense did a great job stiffening up when the Lions got deep into Big Red territory.

Why Columbia Lost

The special teams breakdowns, albeit against super Cornell return men, were killers. As were the offense's general inability to finish drives with points. The defense created no turnovers and could not stop Liuzza when it counted.

Key Turning Point

After the opening kickoff return for a TD, the Lions drove to the Cornell 44 before the drive stalled. Then after forcing the Big Red to punt, the Lions drove to the Cornell 16 but had a field goal attempt blocked.

Columbia Positives

-Austin Knowlin made two impressive grabs for Columbia TD's, giving him 10 touchdown receptions on the season and 11 overall.

-I was generally pleased with backup QB Shane Kelly's play after he took over late in the third quarter. He seemed to throw the ball well and he is more mobile than Craig Hormann.

-Hormann still had a decent game overall. He did not throw an interception and avoided a few sacks by taking hits and not going down. I expect to see him end his collegiate career in strong fashion next week against Brown.

-Alex Gross made a number of great tackles, many of them really hard hits.

Personal Frustrations

Technical difficulties wrecked havoc with our broadcast all day. I want to apologize to all the fans who missed parts of the game or our commentary. But my special thanks to the staff at Schoelkopf Field who did everything to help us.

It was a tough day all around.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Columbia-Cornell Keys to the Game

Just add snow

With some snow in the forecast now, there's a chance this game won't become another shootout like the Dartmouth and Princeton games were for the Lions.

But I'm betting most of the game will be played in decent conditions, and we know the Schoelkopf AstroTurf will not get ripped up by rain, snow, or an industrial thresher.

1) Don't let Liuzza run wild

Stephen Liuzza will get the start tomorrow and that could spell doom for the Lions who have had serious trouble containing rushers, especially quarterbacks who can run. But in the Princeton game, Columbia made Tiger QB's Bill Foran and Greg Mroz pay from time to time by forcing fumbles and making hard hits. The Lions must do the same tomorrow, and with the shotgun spread Liuzza likes to run out of, there's certainly a possibility that guys like Phil Mitchell and Justin Masorti can get to him.

2) Establish the passing game

Columbia needs to get Knowlin going early and then mix in the run as something more than just a obvious breather from the passing attack. On the fast AstroTurf, I think Ray Rangel might be able to get some good gains and make what I expect to be an all-out Cornell pass rush pay.

3) Don't get caught up in the hype

"Senior Day" at Cornell has the feel of a Homecoming game some years. There should be some decent hometown fan support at the game tomorrow, but the Lions need to tune that out.

Week 9 Predictions

Jake's record last week: 3-0

Jake's record overall: 28-8

Yale over Princeton

I think this one will turn out to be much closer than one might expect when you look at these two teams on paper. But, McLeod should simply have a field day against the Princeton rush defense. Bulldogs by 10

Brown over Dartmouth

No disrespect here for an improved Big Green, but I think the Brown passing game will have a field day. Dartmouth will keep it close. Brown by 4.

Harvard over Penn

Penn is in the midst of another disappointing season, but they could catch Harvard looking ahead to Yale just a little bit. In the end however, I expect the Crimson offensive line to preserve a victory. Harvard by 7.

Sun, Snow, Rain, Tornado? (Scouting Cornell)

Don't be fooled, he might be getting ready to pass (CREDIT: Cornell Athletics)

November in Ithaca can be funny. Days that begin feeling like spring or even summer can become downright freezing by late afternoon.

As of now, the forecast is calling for some snow Friday night into early Saturday morning and then temps in the 40's and partly sunny around gametime. To me, that means we'll probably see a little of everything on Schoelkopf Field's old-school AstroTurf. It could be rain-soaked and slippery, or icy hard... or there could be no real difference at all.

And that's the same kind of uncertainty you face when you try to size up the Big Red.

First Question: Who will be their quarterback Saturday? The pass-happy senior Nathan Ford? The enormously talented running sophomore QB Stephen Liuzza? Or the generally unimpressive sophomore Ben Ganter?

Second Question: Which defense is going to show up? Will it be the unit that's given up tons of points to Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard? Or will it be the guys who stuffed Colgate, Bucknell, and Georgetown?

Final Question: Is sophomore running back Randy Barbour the real deal? He seems dangerous, but running out of Cornell's shotgun could be less productive against a Columbia team that's very used to practicing against a spread offense.

Obviously there are many other questions, but it's probably better to split this Big Red team into two best and worst case scenarios relating to how they match up against the Lions.


Whoever starts at QB focuses on the pass and ultimately gets torched by the Columbia secondary. The defense makes the same mistakes covering the pass that it did against Dartmouth, and turnovers and penalties rule the day for the Big Red.


Liuzza starts at QB and throws and runs for more than 200 yards. The defense shuts down the pass better than ever and the bad weather also kills the running game.

Something in between the best and worst case scenarios is most likely the outcome, but you never know.

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.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Honors for a Young Lion

The Pride of Yorktown (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Columbia freshman defensive end Matt Stotler has been named a National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL SCHOLAR- ATHLETE.

Here's some info on the program:
DALLAS, Nov. 5 2007 - The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) announced today the selection of five exceptional individuals as the best and the brightest in the country for their accomplishments as athletes, scholars and citizens, naming them as the NFF National High School Scholar-Athletes for 2007.

2007 NFF National High School Scholar- Athlete Honorees
(Currently freshmen in college - full bios included below.)

*Ryan Coffey - Northeast Region - Rhode Island Chapter - Burrillville High School - Harrisville, Rhode Island

*Barton Dear - South Region - Touchdown Club of Houston Chapter - Klein Oak High School - Spring, Texas

*Kellen Kiilsgaard - West Region - King County (Seattle, Wash.) Chapter - Auburn High School - Auburn, Washington

*Blake Lawrence - Midwest Region - Sunflower (Topeka, Kan.) Chapter - Shawnee Mission West High School - Overland Park, Kansas

*Matthew Stotler - East Region - National Capital (Washington, D.C .) Chapter - Yorktown High School - Arlington, Virginia

The five scholar-athletes will be honored during the NFF's Annual Awards Luncheon, presented by Sprinturf, on Tuesday, December 4, 2007, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. First bestowed in 1991, the NFF National High School Scholar-Athlete Award has become one of the most competitive and sought after high school honors in the country. Criteria for the award include but are not limited to academic achievement, athletic accolades and community involvement.

"With the National High School Scholar-Athlete Awards, the NFF annually strives to honor the absolute finest from the gridiron at the high school level," said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell . "The accomplishments of this year's five nominees make us all proud, and their contributions both on and off the field set the standard for their peers to follow, and I thank Sprinturf for joining us in our efforts to promote what these individuals represent."

With more than one million student-athletes playing high school football each year, the NFF chapter network, comprised of 120 chapters with 12,000 members, annually reviews the credentials of players from more than 4,800 high schools Each chapter analyzes countless local candidates for their academic achievement, athletic performance and exemplary leadership, and collectively the chapters annually award 2,500 deserving student-athletes with more than $800,000 in annual scholarships. From this group of 2,500, a national committee selects five individuals for the recognition as NFF National High School Scholar-Athletes.

Here's the specific info on Matt:

Matthew Stotler
East Region
Yorktown High School - Arlington, Virginia
National Capital Region Chapter

Yorktown High School's Matt Stotler displayed a passion for excellence that has allowed him to succeed on the highest level in academics, athletics and as a leader in the community.

Valedictorian of a class of 355 students, Stotler maintained a 4.16 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. A member of the National Honor Society, he won his school's Academic Excellence Award and claimed the Yorktown's Sportsmanship and Excellence Award, a highly prestigious award and the highest honor that a Yorktown High School student can achieve. Sponsored by the school principal, the honor is based on nine character traits, all of which Stotler more than embodied.

A captain on the football team, Stotler played both tight end and defensive end, earning All-League, All- District, All-County honors in 2005 and 2006. His senior year, he amassed 12 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss. The 6-foot-5 and 215-pound Stotler also received the Virginia High School League Academic Excellence Award.

Stotler also earned three letters in wresting; eight in track and one in rifle. Captain of the wrestling team, he was the National District Champion at the 215- pound weight class, posting a 34-4 record with 30 pins in 2007. As a member of the Yorktown track team, Stotler was a Northern Region qualifier in the 110m hurdles, high jump and discus.

Extracurricular activities and community involvement also kept Stotler extremely busy. He participated as a member of the Madrigal singers, served on the school newspaper staff and volunteered 12-16 hours a month with Crosslink International assisting in maintaining inventory, stocks, and preparing medical supply donations for shipment to third world countries. An accomplished pianist, Stotler performed recitals at the Sunrise Retirement Home as well as running bingo night for the residents.

"Matt Stotler is a top student, a top athlete and a top human being," said Yorktown High School Counselor Margaret Brennan. "He is intelligent, he works very hard, he's highly disciplined and he possesses self awareness and self confidence. It is no exaggeration to say that Matt is respected by everyone, including peers and adults, in the Yorktown community."

Stotler currently attends Columbia University and playing defensive end for the Lions.

Congratulations to Matt and thanks to Chuck Burton of Lehigh Football Nation for alerting me to this wonderful story.

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.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pushed Out

The Lions just didn't do this enough today (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyars)

Harvard 27 Columbia 12

Why Harvard Won

They dominated both lines of scrimmage, harassing Craig Hormann on every play while on defense, while giving their own QB, Chris Pizzoti eons of time while on offense. When you win the battle in the trenches in football, you will win.

Why Columbia Lost

They couldn't protect Hormann with any consistency and they never even came close to getting a sack of their own. Some of their more promising drives in the first half ended with no points.

Key Turning Points

1) Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, the Lions drove the ball all the way to the Harvard 11 and had a first down, but they got no closer than the 7 and had to settle for a field goal.

2) On their next possession, Columbia drove to a first down at the Harvard 16, but could get no closer than that and had to settle for yet another field goal to make 7-6.

3) After Columbia made it 7-6, Harvard took over at their own 33 and easily drove down the field for another TD, only a missed extra point kept it from becoming a total momentum killer.

4) On their first drive of the 4th quarter and now trailing 20-6, the Lions had a first down at the Harvard 29, but Craig Hormann fumbled the ball while trying to fight through a sack a play later and the Crimson recovered. 11 plays later, it was 27-6.

Columbia Positives

It was another terrific game for Austin Knowlin who finished with 10 catches for 123 yards and a TD. He also ran a couple of reverses, one for 8 yards. He now has 797 yards receiving this season, just 203 yards shy of Don Lewis' Columbia season record.

MVP of the Game: Austin Knowlin

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Columbia-Harvard Keys to the Game

It would be nice to keep that drum silent today

1. Score First

Yale's first score last week really took the air out of Columbia's sails. That doesn't mean the Lions would have won if they had gone up 7-0 or 3-0, but they certainly would have held on to the momentum much longer.

2. Run Away from the Middle

Harvard's big d-linemen will shut down running plays up the gut every time, so the Lions must use Ray Rangel on the edges more without committing holding penalties. If Columbia can execute more sweeps and traps, they could get a serious running attack going.

3. Use the Wind

The windy conditions need to favor CU and not the road team. The Lions need to take a "this is our house, no matter what" attitude.

4. Don't be Afraid to Challenge the Secondary

Despite the Crimson's 17 interceptions and extreme talent in the defensive backfield, Harvard has given up chunks of passing yards to teams like Brown and Holy Cross. Craig Hormann needs to throw the ball more accurately and provide the Crimson with a true test.

5. Bottle up the Middle

Cheng Ho will simply try to take it up the gut all day. Phil Mitchell can't let him get away with that.

New SideLion Report

(CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Nice new edition of the SideLione Report featuring some great comments from Phil Mitchell and Andy Shalbrack.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sudden Shift

Mother Nature has changed her mind about Saturday, and what was forecast all week as a sunny beautiful day is now expected to be somewhat rainy and very windy as the remnants of Hurricane Noel come north.

This situation may present the Lions with a rare chance to right some of the wrongs of last week in quick fashion. Whatever advantages and disadvantages the Lions dealt with in the rain storms last weekend should serve as ample practice for what could be a more winnable game vs. Harvard tomorrow.

The Crimson's Cheng Ho is a big runner who greatly resembles Yale's Jordan Farrell, who hurt the Lions as much, if not more than, leading Ivy rusher Mike McLeod last Saturday. Of course, Farrell gained his yardage after the rains had stopped and Justin Masorti left the game. If Masorti is back tomorrow and the rains and winds come back as well, the results may be different.

Craig Hormann, who seemed to have a little trouble throwing the wet ball cleanly, has a chance to prove that he's learned from his mistakes.

And overall, the team has a chance to take advantage of the opportunities the bad weather will almost surely give them. Obviously, Harvard will get those opportunities as well. But the Lions must be motivated to prove to Coach Wilson that they can be taught successfully.

Austin & Nico: Don and Bill Redux?

Sophomore Austin Knowlin and Freshman Nico Gutierrez seem like they could make up the best wide receiver tandem at Columbia since Don Lewis and Bill Reggio in 1982. The one difference is that Knowlin and Gutierrez may be more talented. Lewis and Reggio were great players, but they played for QB John Witkowski who was one of the best passers in Ivy history. Craig Hormann is a very good passer, but not anywhere near as good as Witkowski was.

Knowlin still has a chance to beat Lewis' Columbia record of 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. And both Knowlin and Gutierrez have a shot at breaking Reggio's career receiving mark of 2,384 yards.

Week 8 Predictions

Jake's record last week: 2-1

Jake's record overall: 25-8

Dartmouth over Cornell

The Big Green are getting into stride right now, playing good teams tough and worse teams even tougher. Cornell is still having road woes, but this year the Big Red defense is a lot weaker on the road and at home. It doesn't help that this game is on the road.

Yale over Brown

This game could be the highlight reel for the season as Brown's passing game will surely test the Elis. But Yale's defensive line is strong enough to force enough mistakes out of the Bears to seal a win.

Penn over Princeton

Penn is playing so much better at home and the Quakers will eke out a win over a Princeton team that seems to have forgotten how to play defense.