Friday, June 13, 2008

100 Games in 100 Days

Witkowski's best days at CU didn't always end with losses

I always like to note the 100 day mark before the new season begins. Today is that day, but I'd like to do more than just a countdown.

For the next 100 days, in addition to the usual updates on the team and league news, I'll highlight 100 different games in Columbia football history. Some will be games I attended, others ones I misses, and a lot will be contests that took place before I was born.

Today's game in focus was a bright spot in the great career of Columbia quarterback John Witkowski. The Lions beat Princeton on homecoming 35-14 as Witkowski threw for four touchdown passes.

Princeton was actually a decent team that year. The Tigers went 3-4 in the Ivies with wins over Cornell, Brown, and the eventual league champion Penn.

It was the last game Columbia would win in the old Baker Field.

Here's how the New York Times covered the game 26 years ago:

Columbia Topples Princeton
Columbia ended a 10-game losing streak spanning two seasons with a 35-14 homecoming victory over Princeton at Baker Field yesterday. The game featured four third-quarter touchdowns by the Lions, among them the longest scoring pass of John Witkowski's career and the team's first touchdown of the season on the ground. Columbia improved its record to 1-3 and Princeton dropped to 2-2.

Witkowski's 52-yard pass to Bill Reggio came early in the quarter with Princeton leading, 14-7. Two and a half minutes later, the Lions scored again, on a 1-yard plunge by Jim McHale, his first touchdown of the season.

Columbia's 21-14 lead swelled before the period ended. Witkowski, a junior, connected two more times, on a 12-yarder to Don Lewis that was followed by Miro Lovric's first missed extra point in 16 attempts, and a 20-yarder Reggio that was followed by a 2-point conversion. Passes for 4 Scores

In all, Witkowski passed for four touchdowns, including three to Reggio, who tied a school game record with 12 receptions. The game was the 52d in the rivalry, which began in 1874. The Tigers have been dominant. Heavy clouds parted by late morning to spill sunshine on those enjoying tailgate picnics in the parking lots, greeting old friends in the blue and white tents adjacent to the football field or watching the Columbia soccer team beat Princton, 2-1.

The spectators, limited to those sections of the crumbling Baker Field stands that have not been deemed dangerous, arrived expecting a high-scoring contest. In its first three games Columbia allowed 131 points and scored 70; Princeton allowed 94 and scored 86.

Most of the action for both teams had been in the air. Witkowski, who last week moved ahead of Paul Governali and Sid Luckman on the Lions' career passing list, had thrown for 783 yards. Brent Woods, the Princeton quarterback, had 869. Both Try to Run

In the first quarter, though, both teams tried to establish a running game. Neither was successful. After Columbia had taken the lead for the first time this season, the teams went to the air. The Lions went in front with 1 minute 30 seconds remaining in the first period when Witkowski completed his 10th touchdown pass of the season and fourth to Bill Reggio. The 9-yarder capped an 80-yard drive.

The touchdown was set up by McHale's 4-yard run from the 17-yard line on fourth down, when Columbia eschewed a field-goal attempt. Lovric kicked the extra point.

Princeton retaliated early in the second quarter, when Woods threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Guthrie. Chris Price's kick tied the score at 7-7.

Princeton next scored on the ground, however. Woods muscled through the line midway in the period for a first down, and then went over from the 1.

Columbia lost an opportunity to tie the score before halftime. James Witherspoon intercepted a pass at the Lion 17. Columbia, on the strength of three passes, marched to the Princeton 22. But a holding penalty and two sacks forced a punt, and the score remained 14-7.

Then Columbia broke out in the third quarter, and also throttled a Princeton scoring threat. Withowski, asked wht the team had done right in recording its first victory in more that a year, replied ''Almost everything''.


At Fri Jun 13, 07:22:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who was the left tackle who protected Witkowski? He was about 6'2" and maybe 250 pounds but a terrific pass protector. I remember him absolutely destroying a great defensive end from Yale in a game in which we wound up losing but Witkowski was incredible.

At Fri Jun 13, 07:41:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I want to say that LT was Chris Jenkins or James Witherspoon. Anyone?

At Fri Jun 13, 09:48:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neither; he was all Ivy; not that tall or big. The NYTimes actually did a feature on him when he was a senior, that's how good he was. PS, Witkowski had a great game at Michie Stadium in which we played a much stronger Army team. We kept it close for a while. Witkowski wasn't that tall but had a great, great arm and tremendous poise/field vision.

At Fri Jun 13, 10:29:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Chris Jenkins and James Witherspoon were both all-Ivy.

At Sat Jun 14, 01:39:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless I'm not reading this correctly, we still don't have the name of that left tackle??

At Sat Jun 14, 08:59:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Len Genova perhaps???...

At Wed Jun 18, 03:00:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spoony was a small defensive back. That LT was Tom Samuleson


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