Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Will this be another 1994?

Ray Tellier got another chance after a disappointing 5th season, and it paid off

Columbia football has enjoyed just two winning seasons in the last 36 years, 1994 and 1996. Both were engineered by basically the same key players, like defensive stars Rory Wilfork and Marcellus Wiley who were huge factors in 1994, but even more so in 1996. The 1994 team had more punch on offense, with shuttling QB's Jamie Schwalbe and Mike Cavanaugh along with super tight end Brian Basset.

Had it not been for Cavanaugh's injury in 1995, the Lions would have had three straight winning seasons.

I actually saw the building blocks of those strong teams as far back as 1992. That season, the Lions lost a lot of close games, as they had in every one of then Head Coach Ray Tellier's previous three seasons. But the '92 team was more resilient, and they pulled out two thrilling victories at home to finish the season. Both of those wins were almost single-handedly secured by the outstanding play of Des Werthman on both sides of the ball, but he still had help.

Alas, the 1993 team that began the year with so much promise and momentum didn't do very well. They finished 2-8, with just one Ivy win against a weak Cornell squad in Ithaca. All the naysayers came back with a vengeance. Columbia was back in the basement.

But then the 1994 season proved the doubters wrong. With a new offensive package and some breakout stars on defense, the Lions powered their way to a 5-4-1 season and stunned the Ivy League.

Here are the 5 key moments from that magical season:

5) After suffering a heartbreaking loss in week one versus Harvard and an inexplicable tie with Lafayette in week two, the Lions traveled to Fordham and played a very strong game on both sides of the ball in a 24-13 win. Even the local news media took notice after that win, especially since the Major League Baseball strike was putting a big hurt on sports page editors trying to fill space.

4) Following the Fordham game, the Lions headed to Franklin Field to face the defending an eventual repeat Ivy champs. Columbia not only played well, but the Lions didn't give up a touchdown in a 12-3 loss. Several Penn fans cornered me after that game to tell me they had never seen Columbia look so good.

3) Week seven was a gorgeous day for homecoming as the Lions took on Princeton. The defense dominated again in a 17-10 win.

2) The week after the close Penn loss, Columbia went to Yale and absolutely routed the Elis in a 30-9 win. It was the first Columbia victory by more than 20 points in 12 years, (they slammed Princeton by a 35-14 score in 1982, but that had been at home).

1) In week nine, the Lions defense had an off day, but the offense fired on all cylinders in a 38-33 win over Cornell at Baker Field that clinched the first winning season since 1971.

I'm hoping the current Lions end up looking a lot like the 1994 squad when all is said and done this season. 2006 was actually an even more encouraging season than 1992 was, as Columbia finished 5-5. But those two victories to end the season were so reminiscent of the 1992 team that I saw a lot of similarities. Unfortunately, 2007 turned out to be a lot like 1993 as the Lions disappointed last season.

A similar scenario ocurred from 2003-05. The 2003 Lions surprised everyone with a competitive 4-6 season and looked good for 2004. But Columbia finished 1-9 in '04 and 2005, (while the team was 2-8), was actually even worse. After that season, Head Coach Bob Shoop was gone.

So what's it going to be? Will 2008 be more like 1994 or 2005? Both the 1994 and 2005teams were coming off surprisingly strong seasons followed by very disappointing encores. The '94 squad made the right adjustments and flew to new heights. The 2005 team basically self-destructed.

I don't think it's overly optimistic to say this Lion team has the talent and decent experience to win 5 or 6 games next year. But it would be a surprise by anyone's standards.

I DO think it's overly pessimistic to forecast another 1-9 season or some kind of major team collapse, especially since the upperclassmen are sticking with the program in record numbers.

And so, I'm going out on a limb and saying 2007 was a "corrective" year after 2006 quick jump to .500 football. I think 2008 will be a lot like 1994.

... just without the baseball strike.


At Wed Mar 26, 03:46:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the optimism jake

At Wed Mar 26, 05:22:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

Big jump to go from 1-9 to 5 wins, let alone 6. Although last years team had legitimate chances to pull out the Princeton and Dartmouth games and came back to give Brown a good game after falling behind 21-0 really quick. Also played a good first half defensively against Yale but I think lack of any offense helped the very young defense to wear down quickly in the second half. This team has to prove it can be more physical defensively,particularly stopping the run between tackles. The lack of an experienced qb is probably going to really hurt us offensively, but who knows? Maybe someone steps up. I was a very dissappointed in the inconsistent play we got from Hormann last year. I'm sure from what I hear there will be a change in the basic scheme of the defense but I think our problem was more that the personnel was not mature enough physically than the 3-5-3 scheme itself. I really just want to see us keep the score close in all our games next year and maybe pull a few out. Getting blown out and manhandled just makes you feel like you have so far to go to catch up with the competition. Just battle hard and compete next year and then I think 09 could be the big turnaround year we all are looking for. NW's firt recruits will be srs. in 09 and the massive class they brought in last year will be jrs. That will give us the seasoned upperclassmen we need to start making a good push. Go Lions!

At Wed Mar 26, 05:23:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I endorse your analysis; I also recall a great road win against Holy Cross in '94. If Phil Miller continues to improve and can play his natural positon at DE I expect a lot of good things on defense, especially with a mature Musgrove in the secondary.

At Wed Mar 26, 06:57:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last year's preseason talk of a title was way, way premature and did nothing but set the team up for failure. If you set your sights on a two-win improvement this fall and the team ends up at .500, that's great. Teams that make dramatic improvements don't often maintain it. Remember Northwestern. Better to improve two games a year and build the foundation.

At Wed Mar 26, 09:09:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In '94 we had TWO fairly mobile quarterbacks, one of whom ran very well indeed off the option. I've long felt that one distinguishing characteristic of Ivy play in general is way too much reliance on passing from the pocket, to the point where scrambling is done only out of desperation. (But as the Princeton game showed for Princeton, can still be devastating to a defense.)

Last season, Hormann was terrible at taking rushing opportunities. He either never ran for the gap or did so very tentatively at best. If this aspect of play can be improved, yes, Jake, then I'll share your optimism more than I do right now. But this type of improv also requires a more bruising sort of QB than we seem to currently have. Where is a Jared Lorenzen type when we really need him, you know? Lafayette is an example of a team that seems to pride itself on quick, able-to-adjust-and-run QB's. More so in the days of Marko Glavic (anybody remember the total embarassment when he caught a TD pass against us thrown by one of his backs?), maybe, but still much in evidence during last year's game.


At Wed Mar 26, 10:11:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A running QB in the Ivies with a decent arm is a huge advantage. Hopefully we have a few on our roster. what about MA?

At Wed Mar 26, 11:17:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I understand, Millie plans on being in the mix for the starting job this spring

At Thu Mar 27, 12:22:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My impresssion is that Columbia has considerable talent and depth at quarterback, but very little actual college game experience. However, M.A. Olawale may have an advantage over the others because he quarterbacked a nationally ranked high school team in California that plays at a big-time level. He's used to being on the field with big tough guys.

At Thu Mar 27, 01:26:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thus far, MA has not shown that he is a good decision maker. This goes back to h.s., where in the first round of the playoffs he threw 2 or 3 ints. He has done similar things in scrimmages thus far. As physically skilled as he may be, I suspect that he's not the answer.

At Thu Mar 27, 02:36:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it decision making or passing ability? Sometimes a slight adjustment in passing technique can make the difference. M.A. is a tremendously gifted athlete so let's hope that whatever problem he's had throwing the ball in the past has been solved. Certainly the opportunity is there for him to win the starting quarterback position or share significant playing time with Shane Kelly, or one of the other returning quarterback candidates this spring. I would like to wish good luck to all of the present Lion quarterbacks.

At Thu Mar 27, 03:55:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back on Oct 15, 2007 I posted the following observations after attending the CU/Princeton JV game:

"Havas played very well. He was good in the pocket when the two deep O-line was protecting him and made plays out of nothing when the three deep wasn't protecting him at all. He had a defender bearing down on him from the get go on almost every play in the second half and he just scrambled and made things happen that shouldn't have. The other freshman QB played well but all his reps were behind the porous line at the end of the game. He didn't really get any reps with good protection. I was not all that impressed with MA. All in all Havas stood out among the QBs. Kelly played in the Penn game so he didn't participate in the JV game."

It is my understanding that when Havas ran the practice squad offense last season, He tore the first team defense up with his ability to scramble, run, throw on the run and pass out of the pocket.

I saw all of those traits displayed in the JV games. My guess is that Havas has a great shot at being the top QB.

At Thu Mar 27, 05:02:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People I know who saw Havas play at St. Paul's think he is the real deal. He is not just a QB but an excellent athlete with poise, strength and running ability.

At Thu Mar 27, 07:15:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

I have also heard many good things about the athleticism of Havas,hear he is pretty damn fast. That's all well and good but it still a ways from being a good qb. When you have a third and four you want to know he can put the ball where it needs to be. It's great that he may be able to scramble for the yds. if necessary but he's got to be a passer first. His ability to sprint out will really help hold linebackers close to the line and open up the mid range part of the field. Personally I feel like he's gonna be our guy next year as a soph. because he does have such strong run capability and I feel like his pass game will be adequate. As for Olawale I think his pass game has til now been inadequate mostly due to poor decision making. He can improve that and be legit. As far as qb at Long Beach Poly he was more athlete than qb. Poly is always loaded with tons of speed and D1 athletes, not tough to qb on that team because they have such big play capabilities from many guys that touch the ball. I think they have put more guys in the NFL than any high school in the country.

At Thu Mar 27, 08:11:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This never-ending babble among the choir about how the music may come together "in a couple of years" is so damned pathetic!
Gee, we were 1-9 last season but maybe if we could get to 4-6 this year, then in a couple or three more years we might be able to contend. Except that never happens and this same lame fantasy just keeps repeating and repeating.

At Thu Mar 27, 08:30:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

You're the pathetic one that has to go on a site for Lion fans with your cowardly babble. At least put your name to your rant Foehi.

At Thu Mar 27, 10:08:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think his pass game has til now been inadequate mostly due to poor decision making. He can improve that and be legit."

Well, again... may all of our best hopes happen for each of our favored QB prospects. In the memory of those who track this blog, our most successful QB's combined a great head with good feet and an accurate arm. Schwalbe is the prototype. Others that could be named were more athletic or had a better arm, quicker release, better instincts --- name the trait. The QB of choice is the one who gives the other 10 on the offense the best shot at making stars of the defense.


At Thu Mar 27, 11:43:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Havas is just so small. thats the thing that worries me about him the most.

At Thu Mar 27, 06:05:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Havas is 6'2", 195. Where are you coming from??

At Fri Mar 28, 02:19:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think a qb can be 5' 11" and be very successful in the Ivy League.

At Fri Mar 28, 05:37:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please note that to the deluded,
the truth is always a "rant."

At Fri Mar 28, 07:10:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely you must have something better to do then kick dirt in the face of Columbia football? Go kick your dog instead. This thing will get turned around whether it's this year or in 5 years but the fact remains that the true fans, coaches and administration are dedicated to making it happen-just watch.

At Fri Mar 28, 11:40:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

The only delusion I think I ever had was that I once thought you had half a brain Foehi. I also think you are jealous of the Columbia band wagon and don't find such good fellowship on the sinking Penn ship.

At Fri Mar 28, 09:40:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jake, can you get the IP address and Geographic location of these posters:

Wed Mar 26, 06:11:00 PM PDT
Thu Mar 27, 03:37:00 PM PDT

Please out these losers for us.

At Sat Mar 29, 03:02:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think it Jake does what you request, it will limit free exchange of ideas.

At Sat Mar 29, 04:16:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog is for people who love Columbia football, whether they are players or fans; I don't think that Jake needs to provide a forum for frustrated non-athletes like foehi who have a pathological hatred for Columbia andjust don't understand what it's like to buckle up a chin strap.

At Sat Mar 29, 04:31:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymity does not guarantee free exchange of ideas as much as it guarantees graffiti.

At Sat Mar 29, 08:10:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is reprehensible for a Columbian or any American to demand
the "outing" of a person because his or her opinion does not coincide with your own. Did you ever hear of freedom of speech?
Doesn't the site's offer of anonymity mean what it says?
It's interesting that the poster who demanded that others be outed signed his own post "Anonymous."

At Sat Mar 29, 09:48:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i really wish this was just a plain and simple blog about columbia football...

At Sat Mar 29, 02:03:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to be some confusion here about free speech. The First Amendment guarantees free speech in the sense that no government may restrict speech; it does NOT apply to situations in which a governmental entity is not involved. Furthermore, if x and I are involved in a conversation, neither the First Amendment nor anything requires x and me to tolerate y intruding into our conversation and trash talking. Jake's blog states clearly that it is for those of us who happen to be fans of Columbia football. Trash talkers clearly fall outside that category. Furthemore, there may well be some malice involved in that there may still be some present or future recruits who are on the fence, and trash talking or the nonsence about Coach W in the above thread on our own site may suggest ambivalence among our own strongest supporters, which would clearly be an inaccurate impression.

At Mon Mar 31, 04:38:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I reject Dr. V's bullying views against freedom of speech, freedom of thought and open discourse.
There's nothing wrong with dissenting from the majority so long as it's done in a civil manner--unless you like dictatorship.
And there's nothing wrong with
holding the Administration and coaching staff responsible.
All loyal Columbians want the best for our team, but that
doesn't mean we have to give up our right to our own opinions to any self-appointed censors.

At Mon Mar 31, 03:06:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One would have hoped that an Ivy education would prevent a certain kind of muddleheadedness, but I guess that abstractions, whether about free speech or whatever else, can have a tendency to seduce.

I was not the one to suggest that Jake "out" some of the anonymous posters who seemed to be provocateurs; I was responding to the knee-jerk "free speech" comment and explaining why free speech as protected by the First Amend. doesn't apply here. As regards freedom of thought, no one has suggested that anyone can or should in any way restrict what anyone thinks about anything. As regards "open discourse," there is no legal or philosophical position that demands that anyone should be able to say anything anywhere. Context is determinative. You cannot come to a service at my church or synagogou, even though the doors are open, stand up and start saying that religion is irrational, the people in attendance are idiots etc. You can, however, do that in a letter to the editor, in a classroom discussion, in a public debate etc. Some of the comments in this thread about us fans being pathetic or the comments about Coach W in an above thread seemed either those of a provocateur or of someone whose purpose is to offend. Given the nature of THIS forum, if Jake doesn't want to put up with that, he doesn't have to, and that would not have anything to do with free speech or open discourse but rather with what is perfectly allowable given the context, i.e., the nature of this forum.
Dr. V

At Tue Apr 01, 12:37:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I love your blog.

Keep up the good work.

Mr. Free Exchange of Ideas


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