Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Midnight at the Oasis (Day 96)

10/15/83 may have been Carm Cozza's worst day at Yale

Today's game is the last Lion win before the epic 44-game, (46 without a win), losing streak that engulfed the mid-1980's on Morningside Heights.

The Lions began the 1983 season 0-4 after big losses at "home" to Harvard and Penn and close losses on the road to Lafayette and Princeton. Of course, all of Columbia's games were really road games that season as Baker Field's old wooden stadium had been demolished and Wien Stadium was under construction.

In week 5, the Lions went on the road for real to visit a Yale Bowl where they hadn't won since 1961. The Elis were in the midst of a stunning decline, coming in with a record of 0-4 themselves and reeling from a 42-7 loss to Boston College the week before where the Eagles had frankly taken pity on the Bulldogs by game's end.

Yale had won at least a share of the Ivy title in 1979, 1980 and 1981, but they fell below .500 in 1982 for the first since 1971 and 1983 would be a low point in Coach Carm Cozza's career.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the game was not that the Lions won, but HOW they won. Using a single-back fullback like the Washington Redskins with John Riggins, Columbia actually brought a ground attack to compliment QB John Witkowski's usual heroics. Witkowski finished the day 20 of 27 for 259 yards and two TD's, but Lion fullback Mike Goldman had the game of his life carrying the ball 30 times for 120 yards in the eventual 21-18 victory.

After that brief trip to the winning oasis, Columbia began to wander the desert. The Lions would not win again for almost 5 years, and wouldn't beat Yale at the Bowl for 11 more years. Yale finished the 1983 season a shocking 1-9, but righted its ship in 1984 to go 6-3.

But on one October day in 1983, all was right in Columbia's world.


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