Sunday, October 26, 2008

On With The Wind

Lou Miller harassed the Green offense all game (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyers)

Columbia 21 Dartmouth 13

Why Columbia Won

Most importantly, the Lions truly controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and defense, but Columbia also overcame whatever mental blocks had been stopping them from grabbing victories after so many close defeats. The defense was dominant, and was a bad ref's call away from holding the Big Green to without a touchdown. And the coaching staff also made some brilliant moves, not only inserting M.A. Olawale late in the third quarter, but also calling the right plays for him to take advantage of his excellent running talent and improving passing skills.

Why Dartmouth Lost

The Big Green's weak offensive and defensive lines just couldn't get the job done. Columbia had only three official sacks, but Lou Miller and his teammates harassed and knocked down both Dartmouth QB's all game. And when the Lions offense sputtered in the third quarter with turnovers, the Big Green could only get two field goals out of excellent field position.

Olawale's entrance was just the right call at the right time (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyers)

Key Turning Points

1) After an Adam Mehrer interception, the Dartmouth bench committed a personal foul penalty after Mehrer slid to their sideline. That gave the Lions the ball at the 50 with the strong wind in their face. Columbia then began an efficient time-consuming drive, highlighted by a number of short Shane Kelly runs and passes. The drive was so well managed that the quarter ended just as the Lions were knocking on the door. That allowed Ray Rangel to score the TD on the first play of the second quarter and more importantly, allowed Jon Rocholl to hit the PAT with the wind at his back.

2) After Dartmouth scored the tying TD, (thanks to a clear fumble that was ruled an incomplete pass), in the second quarter, Columbia immediately fumbled the ball back to the Big Green at the CU 35. Instead of surrendering the lead and giving up a huge chunk of momentum, the Lions defense forced a three-and-out, (while Dartmouth committed another personal foul penalty), and got the ball right back on the ensuing punt. Then Columbia went on a 10-play TD drive, getting the lead and the momentum solidly back before the half.

3) With the score 14-10 late in the third quarter, Kelly simply let the ball fall out of his hands and Dartmouth recovered at the Lions 14. But instead of taking the lead, the Big Green actually lost a yard on three plays and had to settle for a short field goal.

4) After that field goal, Columbia put Olawale into the game and he made an immediate impact. On 3rd and 4 from the Lions 25, he broke off an 18-yard run and Dartmouth couldn't stop him after that. Six plays later, Olawale strolled easily into the end zone for the final score of the game.

It's hard to say too much about the play of Lou Miller. Miller basically lived in the Green backfield, finishing with two and a half sacks, three and a half tackles for a loss and seven tackles overall. He was robbed of 2-3 more sacks when he appeared to have Dartmouth QB's in the grasp. Miller's play, along with standout freshman nose tackle Owen Fraser and the continued menacing presence of Phillip Mitchell, is giving Columbia it's first dominant defensive line since the days of Marcellus Wiley. Ivy teams with dominant DL's win games... lots of them.

For the second straight week, Columbia held an opponent under 100 yards net rushing. You'd have to go back many, many years to find the last time the Lions did that. And this week, they also held the opponent to under 100 yards passing. Yes the weather was a big factor, but Columbia still managed about 400 yards of total offense, so Dartmouth doesn't have as much of an excuse.

Shane Kelly went flat in the third quarter, but he had an excellent first half running and throwing the ball. The Lions coaches may want to come up with new schemes to utilize Kelly and Olawale perhaps more evenly in games like they did yesterday. When both of them are hot, opposing defenses really don't have a chance.

The wind pretty much guaranteed that Austin Knowlin wasn't going to have a huge day catching the ball. But he made a couple of key plays, and was more open than I've ever seen him on his TD reception.

Ray Rangel is starting to find his role. Inside the five, his cut back ability is hard to stop and it led to the first Columbia TD yesterday. He's also finally starting to click on screen passes, as he had two big gainers off screens. If Rangel can run for 50-70 yards each week along with 50-70 yards receiving, he will be lethal. Having to stop running QB's who can also pass downfield like Olawale and Kelly is one thing, but throw in Rangel and Knowlin as screen pass threats and it's almost impossible to do anything about it.

Jordan Davis had two of the best runs of his career on the Lions second scoring drive. If he continues to recover from the injury that basically kept him out of the previous two games, he will also be a key weapon down the stretch.

Mike Stephens had another fine game, as two of his four catches were shoe-string grabs. The biggest one came in the fourth quarter as he went horizontal to grab a low pass from Olawale at the Dartmouth 10.

Jon Rocholl had a field goal attempt totally pushed no good by the wind, but he won't forget last night's game because of two booming kick offs with the wind. One sailed completely out of the end zone and probably made its first bounce somewhere in Washington Heights. The second actually hit the right upright in the South end zone!

The wind was as treacherous as I've ever seen it at the Baker Athletic Complex, and that is saying something. At certain points of the game, I was actually worried that the north goal posts might tip over, and white caps were visible on the water a number of times during the evening. Kudos go to the fans who showed up and stayed in the game the entire time.

One of those fans was my daughter Jordan, who helped bring the Lions luck as the honorary ball kid of the game! Sign your kid up to the Lions Cubs Club and they can get the same honor at a football or basketball game to come!


At Sun Oct 26, 10:23:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger DOC said...

Many heroes yesterday Jake as you point out but none of it happens without dominant play from both of
our lines. Really dominated on both sides of the ball for the first time all season. Hats of to the coaching staff who inserted M.A. into the game at a juncture when we were beginning to lose our momentum due to the fumbles. Play calling was spot on all day. I disagreed with the field goal attempt on the first drive on 4th and 1.5 deep in their territory since we were making positive yardage on every play at that point. The best part of the day was seeing the Columbia bench rallying their brethren on the field, seeing our players smile and raise their helmets in victory. They learned how to persevere under the most awful conditions, and after some bad calls. They learned how to win.

At Sun Oct 26, 10:32:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

It appeared to me that Columbia simply had much better talent on the field. I think the way the league is looking right now there really are no dominant teams this year and the Lions have a legit shot to win on any Saturday. Biggest thing right now is to eliminate drive stopping mistakes, especially some of the bad turnovers we've had lately.

At Sun Oct 26, 11:24:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger cathar said...

So few of us were there yesterday in the first place. Far fewer for the second half than the first, too.

At Sun Oct 26, 11:49:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Versus replay from the end zone camera seemed to show the Dart receiver of the second half kick-off had his knee touch the ground before making a good run back. Anyone notice that?

At Mon Oct 27, 01:01:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was one of the faithful who was there for the entire game. I thought that MA was just tremendous. He made a few great throws, and he is basically the strongest and quickest running back I have seen all year. I think that he and Kelly have to platoon at this point. A few observations on the offensive play calling: we made three very poor calls; on the two missed FGs and on a third and 1 deep in our territory in the second half, when Kelly faded back and then threw an off balance pass which was incomplete. I also think, based upon our play against Princeton, Penn and Lafayette, that we have the talent to win all of our remaining games. I am not saying that we will; only that we can.

At Mon Oct 27, 04:21:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a difference a week makes! Finally the Lions break through on offense and defense.

Offense gets an A for getting it done when it needed to get it done. Our maturing O-line was strong up front and outplayed the Big Green all game. Big tight end set had em guessing. Shane Kelly had a great first half and MA Olawale was lights out in the second on a crucial run.

Defense also gets an A for basically shutting out the Dartmouth run game, the only facet of their offensive attack worth metntioning. D-line had it going on all day, it was sweet to cap if off with an interception to seal the game.

Special teams gets a C. Too much kick return and we just can't make a FG for a variety of reasons.


At Mon Oct 27, 08:35:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to see the Lions get one in the W column! Realistically this could be the only win all glad they got one. Believe me, like all of you, i would like to see more Ws...but just don't see it happening this season.

This was the 1st game i caught all year (on Versus...even though it cut my 4th qtr due to weather)...some observations:

Very methodical on offense...took a lot of time off the clock. Ball security was an issue...may be weather to blame.

Why is it the starting line ups and who was on the field for offense (for 1st play) did not match? The announcers called wrong names...why the games with the 2 deep all the time? Coaches KNOW who is going to play anyway.

Our starting QB seems to be very tentative when running the ball...he better watch out or some defender is going to get a good pop on him one of these times.

98 on D seemed to be hustling the whole time he was in...great job!

On paper a 6 foot 6 270 pound d-end should be dominating in the Ivys...what is up here?

Seemed to be some holes up the middle on the D...on some of the dive fakes to the fullback...that guy could have run to the Bronx zoon untouched if he had the ball. Dartmouth did not take advantage of it thankfully.

Tackling on the D was spotty at is not just Columbia, but a whole college football thing. I realize the weather was bad and thus footing shaky...but what happened to tackling and running through the man and WRAPPING YOUR ARMS! Tackling is the most fun thing you can do on the through the man! and wrap!

I thought the Versus announcers did a great job of hardly mentioning either team was winless. They could have beaten it into the ground...but did not.

I thought the Versus cameramen did a great job of making it look like people were in the stand...when it really looked like no one was there...sad, we need more fan support.

At Mon Oct 27, 11:33:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I certainly agree with the "A" grade for the defense which once again played extremely well. However, the offense made too many mistakes and scored too few points in the Dartmouth game to earn an "A" grade. I am going to save my "A" grade for a game when the Lions score 30 or more points in a winning effort (hopefully against Yale). As far as the kicking game is concerned, there have been far too many miscues on punts and point after touchtown attempts. Whatever the problem is, hopefully it can be corrected before next Saturday.

At Mon Oct 27, 06:21:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watching one game on TV does not give the adequate insight to this team.

Realistically, they have a good chance to win all the remaining games. The defense is doing very well and getting better each game. Offense has begun to use all its offensive weapons. Don't see room to criticize here or with the tackling thing if you look at stats.

Fan support has been unbelievable this year - I was impressed with the numbers in the weather conditions we had and the emotion of the fans and team. Huge numbers at away games this year.

Hard to appreciate all this when at home watching the game on TV for the first time.

At Mon Oct 27, 07:46:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was one of the faihful on Saturday and would like to answer some of the criticism. The conditions were just awful; the fact that we had any offense was a tribute to the determination of those kids. But one point that should be mentioned is the importance of learning how to win. The determination that I saw in the face of adversity tells me that this program is on the way up and will win some more games this year. Nobody who we play in unbeatable. Compare what we have done in the Lafayette, Princeton, Penn and Fordham games with the records those teams have against teh teams that we still have to play. Fordham and Penn both have beaten Yale, for example.

At Mon Oct 27, 08:32:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent article in the Columbia Daily Spectator today by Matt Velazquez. Solid reporting, good quotes from Coach Wilson and M.A. Olawale and very interesting observations on a couple of missed calls in Dartmouth's favor by the refs. The margin of victory would have been greater if the refs hadn't blown the two calls.

At Tue Oct 28, 12:00:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger cathar said...

I don't know about the other away games we've already played, but there were clearly more Columbia fans on our side of the field than there were folks on the Penn side. So perhaps the buses and the alumni association reception both played a real part there. (And should be continued as possible.)

Yale is feasible for most of us from the general NY area, but I don't think Harvard and Brown really are unless one is making a weekend of it. So I hope for a HUGE home turnout for Cornell, where another league win is very possible.

Haven't seen the attendance figures for Saturday, but the crowd in the home stands was so sparse that a friend watching the game on TV in Florida was not only actually able to pick out me, but also to note that my umbrella had cartoon characters on it. That could never happen at, say, a Big Ten contest.

As for the officiating, I think in general at Ivy games it's never at a terribly high level. But that works both ways, since I've often thought that as Shane Kelly moves UP to pass, more than once he's been right on or over the line of scrimmage. I didn't see Olawale do that Saturday. He also never seemed to throw directly into double coverage, again unlike Kelly. He looked steady and confident, not what I remember of his appearances last season.

At Tue Oct 28, 08:53:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Brendan said...

I have been a fan since 1978, so I have gone through the angry years of the long losing streak. What I like about this year's team (despite the record) is that they are contesting every game on both sides of the ball. In year's past, they would luck out and get a freak win, but were not really competitive. This year, they have the talent not to be pushed around by anyone.

I hope for two more strong wins, I think against Cornell and Yale...and the other two will be close.

The only thing I can see which reminds me of the old days are the big play mistakes (e.g. which cost us the Princeton game and to be fair the Penn game). Without these, we are 3-0 in the Ivies.

At Wed Oct 29, 06:51:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MA and the rest of the team were most impressive when they started on their 2. They committed no silly delay or other infractions, didn't fumble, kept the passes uninterceptible (!).


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