Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fade Out

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.


General Comments

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).

What's Next?

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.


At Sun Sep 21, 10:05:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That one penalty for too many men on the field in the 3rd qtr. which kept Fordham's tying drive alive was the key moment in the game IMO. The defense gets a key emotional stop, then has to go back on the field on defense for a long drive. We get the ball - 3 and out, and defense back on field again. The defense had to be tired. Also, we used up a lot of timeouts that could have been used late in the game to stop the clock to handle player changes/confusion. I know this is just a first game thing. Stopping the run looked better to me in the middle. Key passes made by Fordham seemed to be short quick throws to backs, screens, ect. We seemed to have problems with defending those. Hard to pressure QB when making short high percentage throws.

Kelly didnt make any bad decisions except on our last possession when he tried to run on 4th down when there wasn't much of a hole instead of throwing it toward a receiver(to be fair,the lane probably looked wide open to him on the field, however, and you could argue if he had thrown an incompletion why he didnt run it)The option play we ran with M.A. at our 5 yd line was almost a disaster.

On special teams, had 3 bad snaps/holds - the punt, leading to 2 missed extra points. Amazing heads up playby by Rocholl on punt snap over his head. One of the best I've seen by a punter!
These little details can be easily and quickly fixed.

Fordham got their teams ready to snap very fast, and on some downs, we didnt look ready. Sometimes players were looking at the sideline when the ball was snapped. I'm sure they took advantage of this being our first game and really wanted to play at a fast pace.

All in all, I am encouraged. We were in the game right to the end.
Same thing to work on as last year - sustain some offensive drives so our defense doesnt have to stay on the field so long, - I think we can do it this year.

At Mon Sep 22, 12:25:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks much for the analysis.
There is a jv game scheduled v. Fordham today. Any news would be welcome, particularly with respect to how our QBs and RBs looked.

At Mon Sep 22, 01:41:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

I don't know if you can rate the defense as being better yet when you give up nearly 500 yds of offense. We did seem to be better against most run attempts up the middle but everything else was seemingly wide open for Fordham. Offensively we don't yet seem to know our own identity. I believe we are going to have to open up more and take more shots downfield in the passing game. I'm happy we kept it close and actually had a chance with one more score to open up a good cushion but I think honestly we were still dominated a little physically and to beat teams that a more physically dominant we are going to have to open up more on offense. We can't get conservative with a lead because we just don't sustain enough time consuming drives. Too many three and outs as it is so why not try and hit a play down the field for 20 plus yards? Also we aren't yet good enough to overcome errors like having too many men on the field. That's on the coaching staff.

At Mon Sep 22, 06:42:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that we did a lot of things well for an opener against a team which had two games under its belt. I was not much impressed with Skelton, but he did have a knack for avoiding the sack. The key to me was our inability to finish at least three sacks and to bottle up the outside running lane. I liked the big NT and the first year DB. However, I thought that Mitchell should have beaten his man and brought down Skelton. I also wasn't thrilled with the play calling in the second half. Kelly has a good arm but we need to take advantage of his ability to stretch defenses by looking for Knowlin more. Our inside running game really can't work from the shotgun. If we want to run we need a two back set with Kelly over the center. I also think that we can make better use of M.A. if we line him up over center, or put him in the backfield alongside Kelly. He is probably our most powerful runner. I liked Kennedy at TE; he has good hands and should be a regular part of the mid-range passing game. As for Knowlin, what can I say? If he was injured, then he was even more remarkable than I had thought. But let's take some encouragement from this effort. We have some good young talent. I also thought that Gross ahd a good game.

At Mon Sep 22, 07:30:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

for a totally Fordham report on the JV game, with no named Lions"

At Mon Sep 22, 07:58:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fordham Athletics' Website has a detailed report on Fordham's 14-0 victory over Columbia in J.V. Football today. Our defense seems to have played well, but the running game only produced 34 yards.

At Mon Sep 22, 08:03:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur with the comments of the anonymous poster and dabull. Certainly,Columbia should have won this game, the way it was playing in the third quarter, but the penalties and injury to Columbia's best player, Alex Gross, were too much for it to overcome. Martin was unstoppable once Gross came off the field.

At Mon Sep 22, 08:42:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thoughts about the offensive backfield: 1. We desperately need some more speed at running back. Jordan Davis runs well inside tackle, but doesn't seem fast enough to turn the corner and break away for big gains. The second running back, Ray Rangel, appears to be quicker than Davis, but rarely runs the ball. 2. On Saturday, M.A. Olawale demonstrated once again that he is an outstanding runner, particularly in the open field. We have to get him out there for more than two series of downs. Why not use him in the same backfield with Shane Kelly who also showed that he can run the ball for big yardage against Fordham. An offense built around two 220 pound + quarterbacks who can both run might work well. 3. Another way of jump starting the offense would be to move the speedy freshman strong safety, A.J. Maddox, to running back or wide receiver. He looked great on punt coverage on Saturday against Fordham. My gut is that Maddox would help the team more on offense than defense. 4. I thought our offensive line played a very solid game against a strong Fordham defense that took advantage of our lack of speed at running back and ultra-conservative playcalling in the second half to overcome our halftime lead.

At Tue Sep 23, 01:10:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it sad that the Fordham AD site has a report on the JV game but not so Columbia's for a game played at Baker Field!
With this promising frosh class, attention should be paid!

At Tue Sep 23, 03:32:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

M.A. is our best running back. Period.

At Tue Sep 23, 04:16:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Maddox was very good! And because he wears #2 along with Tony Knox, Jerry Recco and I incorrectly credited Knox with two of Maddox's plays getting downfield covering punts.

At Tue Sep 23, 07:56:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked the play of the big freshman nosetackle. It's about time we got some size in the middle.

Also, i agree with the comments about Rocholl's of the best plays I've seen in a long time.


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