Friday, October 31, 2008

Columbia-Yale Keys to the Game

A packed Yale Bowl in 1983

Tomorrow's game features a Yale team picked by half the pundits to win the Ivy title versus a Columbia squad just about everyone chose for last.

But the team on an emotional high right now is Columbia, while Yale is still searching for answers after two straight losses and serious dry spell for their offense.

I expect the Lions to come into the Yale Bowl as fired up as they can be, while Yale will either be equally fired up and hungry to get back on track or just flat and dejected.

Either way, this game provides a unique opportunity for Columbia to keep the Elis down in front of a Yale crowd that may spend as much time jeering their head coach as rooting for their own team.

1) Don't Beat Yourselves

A quick look at Yale's three wins this season reveals a myriad of Eli defensive touchdowns and short-field drives after takeaways. Without the agressive defense, Yale would be 1-5. But it's not just the Eli aggression, it's the other teams' bonehead mistakes and snafus that are gift wrapping points for Yale game after game. Dartmouth was especially guilty of this.

For a team like Columbia, who has fumbled the ball eight times in the last two weeks and comitted seven turnovers in that period, this has to be a big concern. But if the Lions can overcome this problem, it would shut down a crucial part of the Yale attack and put more pressure on its questionable offensive unit to get the job done on its own. If Shane Kelly starts and plays most of the game, he needs to hold on to the ball better and avoid hanging up his passes. If M.A. Olawale plays most of the game, he needs to make sure he continues to protect the ball when he runs and throw safe passes like he did against the Big Green.

2) Be the Better Offensive Line

There are tons of questions about the Yale offensive line right now as the Elis are giving up clusters of sacks and Mike McLeod has been swamped in the backfield time after time. Add in the fact that both Yale QB's are new starters, and you have a potential perfect storm for the Bulldogs.

For Columbia, the offensive line continues to get better. Straight-ahead runs are producing more yardage, sacks are almost non-existent, and when Olawale and Kelly have chosen to run, the blocking has been there. Yale's aggressive defense will test Columbia's front five just as much the Lions will test the Eli O-line, and the team that does the best at pass and run blocking will probably win.

3) Score First

If Yale comes in dejected, then an early score could bring them to the brink of giving up. If Yale comes in pumped, then an early Lions score deflates them and puts some questions in their head. Also, Yale hasn't done all that well this year when playing from behind.

4) Get Some Interceptions

Columbia went three straight weeks without grabbing an INT before getting two against Dartmouth. Interceptions are usually a by-product of good pressure on the QB and the Lions need to make sure they do that. Andy Shalbrack almost made 4 picks last week and had to settle for the game-icing INT only. He and the other Lions need to make sure they take advantage of every errant throw that comes their way. Both Ryan Fodor and Brook Hart have thrown just one interception each this season, and it would take Yale out of their rhythm big-time if they suddenly got picked off in this game. Fumble recoveries are great, but INT's seem to fire up this Columbia team much more this season.

5) Get Mad and Stay Mad

Despite finally getting over the hump against Dartmouth, the Lions did let down a bit after each of their scores. That seems to again reveal a potential lack of "killer instinct" they need to keep winning. Columbia needs to not only think about how great it would be celebrate again after a win at Yale, but also focus on getting some payback for two straight tough losses to a school that does not consider the Lions a serious threat even now.


At Sat Nov 01, 05:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What do your contacts at Penn have to say about tomorrow's game, having narrowly beaten both us and Yale in two successive weeks? Asia's views would be valuable.


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