Knowlin's 56-yard TD catch was a real crowd pleaser (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyers)
Fordham 29 Columbia 22
Why Fordham Won
The Rams overcame a terrible second quarter, regained their poise and finally were able to take advantage of Columbia's mental errors to win. Xavier Martin had another super game, especially running to his left, and paced the Fordham attack with 155 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.
Why Columbia Lost
When they took control of the game, they made some key mental errors to let Fordham back into it. Then they couldn't stop Martin when it really counted.
Key Turning Points
1) With about two minutes left in the third quarter and Columbia leading 22-14, the Lions forced the Rams to punt from their own 21. But a quick snap and punt by the Rams caught Columbia with too many men on the field and the resulting 5-yard penalty gave Fordham a first down. The Rams then proceeded to march 74 yards for the tying touchdown.
2) After that TD, the Lions responded with a three-and-out. Columbia's defense responded by forcing the Rams to punt on their ensuing possession, but Columbia again went three-and-out when they got the ball back. Fordham didn't waste any time after that, going in quickly for the winning score.
JAKE'S GAME MVP: DREW QUINN (16 tackles, INT, TD)
There is a lot of good news to focus and build on. First off, Fordham is a very strong team that is still the favorite to repeat as Patriot League champs. Playing them this close in the first week of the season for Columbia is a positive sign.
Shane Kelly went a bit cold in the second half, but he avoided big mistakes and looked very much like a leader even though he has to share some time with M.A. Olawale by design. When the Lions gave him time to throw, he was lethal. He also executed a few runs quite nicely, especially an option keeper in the third quarter that went for 30 yards and was the best Columbia play of the second half. The long TD bomb to Knowlin and another 51-yarder to Taylor Joseph may make the highlight reel, but I thought Kelly's roll out TD throw to Andrew Kennedy from just five yards out was his best throw of the game.
The defense was improved. Xavier Martin was unstoppable at times, but the Lions stuffed him enough times to give the offense a chance to win. For a team that allowed 237 yards rushing per game, yesterdays allowed total of 191 yards is a step in the right direction.
Austin Knowlin only had a few touches in the game, but he made them count. He basically started despite not even being listed in Friday's twp-deep. His 56-yard TD catch and run was unbelievable as he avoided 3 or 4 sure tackles.
Drew Quinn was a major force. He had nine and half tackles, an INT return for a TD, and one and a half tackles for a loss. He too was not even mentioned in the two-deep.
Lou Miller made the transition to defensive line very nicely. There were several points in the game where he made key tackles and provided a big spark.
While the too many men on the field penalty acted as a virtual turnover, Columbia did not actually turn the ball over once. Meanwhile, the Lions created three turnovers and returned one of those for a TD.
M.A. Olawale's two series at QB had mixed results. His first entrance into the game got the offense going and delivered a key field goal when Fordham looked like it was going to steamroll. His second entry into the game was a three and out. BUT, that's a pretty good overall percentage and now Columbia knows it can use a deceptive weapon to cross up opposing defenses when it needs to.
Once again, a number of freshmen had very strong performances. Owen Fraser at nose guard did a great job and showed remarkable speed for someone his size. Kalasi Huggins made some good plays at corner.
While the rushing attack wasn't lethal, the Lions did net 149 yards on the ground thanks mostly to some productive running by Kelly, Olawale at QB, and Ray Rangel at tailback.
Coach Norries Wilson took responsibility for the too many men on the field flag on the punt, admitting that he made the switch from Mike Stephens to Knowlin too late and Stephens didn't hear him. But there were also a few false starts and a delay of game flag. This is par for the course for the first game of the season, but the Lions need to work out those kinks right away.
Columbia failed to get any sustained pressure on Fordham QB John Skelton. The few times they did, good things happened for the Lions, but it just didn't happen enough. Of course, hardly anyone ever gets pressure on Skelton.
Two PAT's were botched. One on a hooked kick by Rocholl, the other on a bad snap. Taylor Joseph had some troubles with his long snapping and needed a miraculous save from Rocholl to get off the hook from a high punt snap deep in the Lions end.
The attendance was below 3,000 even on a beautiful day with a crosstown opponent. (However, the fans who were there were really into it. The roar from the crowd on Knowlin and Quinn's TD's was really strong).
Columbia has to figure out if it's going to be the team in the second quarter that dominated a bigger opponent on both sides of the ball, or the first quarter and second half team that seemed too rusty to be able to compete. The Lions surely have the weapons to play well against the best of opponents, but they have to execute better.
Next week Columbia heads to Baltimore to take on a Towson team with little running attack and a very weak run defense. The Tigers do have a talented QB, but this is a game the Lions can win.