Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bell's Night

The all-star game left Bell unscathed, but not his teammate

Sorry for the delay, but I was horrifically tied up yesterday in my company's sexual harassment seminar, (no pun intended), and was unable to relay some of what I found out about incoming freshman QB Jerry Bell's night at the Texas High School Coaches Association all-star game.

Most importantly, Bell was not injured in the game. His fellow QB on the South team can't same the same unfortunately, as he tore his ACL! So again, remember to always be thankful for health overall.

Despite some incorrect reports, Bell passed for about 85 yards, (don't pay attention to the incorrect box score), and did not have a TD pass. He had two picks, but one was on a busted play-deflection.

Nothing spectacular, but the fact that he was starting in such a prestigious game was a victory in and of itself.


Please note the new disclaimer, (the facts are old, the actual publishing of them in that spot is new), in the title page of the blog above. It's important to remember that this site is not an official, or even unofficial voice of CU and should not be mistaked for that. While I do work as an outside contractor broadcasting the football games, I am not on the official payroll.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Burn Baby Burn!

Get Back to Class!

Game of the Day (Day 52)

September 28, 1968

Lafayette 36 Columbia 14

I can't even imagine what it must have been like to play for the 1968 Columbia football team. Just four months after the terrible riots that almost destroyed the school, the football team suited up for a home opener against Lafayette.

Perhaps the team won just by showing up after all that turmoil. Of course, the athletes were in the thick of the riots, as many of them opposed the protesters and worked to protect the school from being burned down.

Columbia was also without newly-retired Head Coach Aldo "Buff" Donelli and was being guided by new coach Frank Navarro.

Leading the team on the field was the great Marty Domres '69, who will be inducted into the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame this fall. But Domres had a rough first half, completing just one of 10 passes.

The teams were scoreless in the 1st quarter, but Lafayette quickly got on the board in the 2nd with a 34-yard TD pass. The Leopards made it 14-0 when Bob Donofrio returned a Lion punt 94 yards for another score.

The halftime intermission was the scene for one of the most bizarre moments in Baker Field history. The Leopards came out of the lockeroom early and began an impromptu workout drill on the field. By contrast, the Lions were late getting back on the field and were assessed a 15-yard delay of game penalty.

When play did resume, Lafayette tailback Bob Zimmers picked up where he left off. He scored on a one-yard run to make it 20-0. Zimmers would finish the day with 162 yards on 29 carries.

Then Domres woke up and led the Lions on a 70-yard drive that he capped off himself with a 13-yard TD run. He even tossed the football into the stands to celebrate.

But it wasn't a game-changer as the Leopards finished off the win and sent the crowd of 7,441 home unhappy.

But perhaps they were happy enough to be at a Columbia event that didn't require the police to come break it up.

Inexplicably, 40 years after the riots the ringleaders of that immature spate of adolescent angst have been honored by the University. Meanwhile, the athletes who tried to protect the institution have been mostly forgotten.

But not here...

Anchors Away

Navy's Thompson Field, as it appeared in the 1940's

Game of the Day (Day 53)

October 4, 1947

Columbia 13 Navy 6

The year 1947 is most famous in Columbia history for the shocking win over Army in the middle of the season. But the Lions also defeated Navy earlier in the year for a rare service academy sweep.

It wasn't easy. While Army came in to Baker Field later that year with a record streak without a loss, Navy hosted Columbia at Thompson Field while the Midshipmen were in the midst of a victory draught as they hadn't won since the 1946 season opener.

The Lions broke out of the gate looking like they would make it a rout. They sustained drives to the Midshipmen 20, 7 and 13-yard lines to start the game, but could not score each time. The third drive ended when Navy recovered a Columbia turnover at the one-foot line.

That's when the Lions finally got burned. Navy put together a drive of its own after that turnover and capped it off with a 55-yard TD run by "Wild Bill" Hawkins and a 6-0 lead.

Columbia woke up after that as they took the ensuing kickoff and then put together a 65-yard TD drive highlighted by a 38-yard pass to Bill Swiacki from Lou Kuserow before Kuserow took it in himself from the three.

Columbia missed the extra point as well, so it was 6-6 at the half. The sports reporters at the game guessed Lions coach Lou Little really chewed out his team during halftime, because they came out looking much sharper in the third quarter.

A perfect punt by Lion kicker Bob Russell pinned the Midshipmen at their own six, and they immediately punted it back to the Lions who took over at the Navy 42. Then Kuserow took matters into his own hands. He took a pitchout to the left and then pulled up and threw to Bruce Gehrke streaking into the end zone for the score. This time the PAT was good and Columbia had the 13-6 win.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Midshipmen threatened with a drive that got them as close as the Columbia three. But on 4th and goal, the Lions defense pushed the Navy runner back to the five and the threat was over.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bell on TV

Jerry Bell gets the start tonight (CREDIT: Caller-Times Newspaper)

Highly-touted incoming freshman QB Jerry Bell is expected to start for the South team in the Texas High School Coaches Association all-star game at the Alamodome in San Antonio tonight.

The game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Southwest, beginning at 7:30PM local time. I do know you can see it in the Los Angeles area on FSSC on Friday August 8th at 7:30AM (yes AM).

Bell's local paper provides a short preview and the revelation that he had to get the Columbia coaches' approval to play in the game, (it is just three weeks until training camp after all).

This game is just about the premiere All-Star game in Texas high school football, and you know what a religion that is. Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Santana Dotson, Drew Brees and Vince Young are among the big names who've played in the coaches All-Star Game, which began in 1935.

I think there's a good chance Bell is the first Ivy-bound QB to start in this game.

Just take a look at the rosters for both teams, and you'll see why it's a big deal. I count no less than five players going to pre-season BCS Top 25 teams who will be playing tonight. And most of the college-bound kids are going to big BCS programs ranked or not. No other Ivy-bound players are on either team.

Hopefully, I'll be able to grab some stats tomorrow.

Turning Point

Glockner is now a college basketball writer for ESPN

Game of the Day (Day 54)

October 16, 1994

Penn 12 Columbia 3

Columbia's brief but glorious strong period from 1994-96 truly began when the Lions marched into Franklin Field in week 5 and put a real scare into the dominant Penn Quakers before falling 12-3.

Penn came into the game scoring an average of 33 points a game. But the Lions were starting to gel defensively with end Marcellus Wiley up front, safety Jim Hudnall in the defensive backfield, and sophomore linebacker Rory Wilfork in the middle.

They combined to put together a "bend, but not break" defense against future Chicago Cubs star Mark DeRosa, who went 22 for 34 passing, but also threw two big interceptions, (the first to Hudnall).

Columbia jumped in front on an opening drive that ended in a 43-yard Joe Aldrich field goal that I still can't believe cleared the cross bar.

Then Penn tailback Terence Stokes took over, finishing the day with 206 yard on 37 carries. But every time Stokes got the Quakers inside the red zone, they faltered.

That put the game on he kicking toe of Andy Glockner, (who is now a gret college basketball writer for ESPN.COM), who made four of five attempts to provide the winning margin.

But after the game everyone in the stadium knew Columbia had turned it around. In fact, several Penn fans came over to me after the game when they noticed my Lions sweatshirt and made a point of commenting on how this was the best Columbia team they had ever seen.

Columbia would get over the hump the next two years, beating the Quakers in '95 and '96. But it all started in 1994.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Out to Lunch...

Jake was out to lunch

... not quite, but I was out of town when a flurry of interesting news concerning Columbia football broke.

First, we have the fashionably late additions to the roster with the headline name being Billy Reggio from Long Island's Friends Academy, (sorry for the original error). Yes, he is the son of THAT Bill Reggio, who made a huge mark on Columbia's receiving record book, (he holds the career receiving yardage record at 2,384), as he caught many a bullet from legendary QB John Witkowski. With Austin Knowlin on track to break his dad's quarter century-old record, how great is it that Reggio Jr. could be lining up right beside Knowlin when he breaks that record?

Tucker Cain

From Connecticut's Simsbury High School, we have Tucker Cain on the list as well. Cain was a North All-Conference wide receiver his senior year.

I was briefly a resident, (14 months), of Mayfield Heights, so seeing Karson Bodnovich's from Mayfield, OH on the roster was interesting. He's listed as a defensive lineman at Columbia, but played O-line in high school as well. As one reader posted below, Bodnovich was an Ohio First Team Division II defensive lineman last year with 27 tackles for a loss, 21 quarterback pressures and four blocked kicks. We welcome any help we can get on the line of scrimmage!

Sing Low, Sweet Fullback

There's a detailed, if not excitingly-written, article about incoming freshman fullback Peter Holst-Grubbe. You gotta a love a paper that lists a person's exact home address in the lead! And you gotta love a fullback who can sing! Holst-Grubbe was the baritone for the Northern Connecticut Chorale, All-State Chorale and All-Eastern United States Chorale. (Take that, Noah Van Niel!)

Yes is Back!

I don't have a specific schedule yet, but the Yes Network is continuing its coverage of a handful of Ivy football games this year. That's in addition to the games on Versus. I can't remember a time when the Ivies had coverage on more than one national network, so I think this is very good news.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Seat at the Table

A Nice Appointment for Dr. Murphy (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Columbia Athletic Director Dianne Murphy has been chosen to serve on the Executive Committe for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision Athletics Directors Association. She is the only Ivy AD on the committee, although frequent Columbia opponent Lafayette sends its AD Bruce McCutcheon to the panel as well. Congratulations Dianne!

If you get a chance today, check out Bruce Woods' new look Big Green Alert Blog. It even has a new poll on the left side of the homepage. Actually, you should always check Bruce's blog every day.

I will be taking a little trip this weekend, actually beginning tomorrow, so I will have to just post some quick links for my games of the day. But I will add a few comments as well.

Game of the Day (Day 58)

September 23, 1995

St. Mary's 34 Columbia 14

A week after Columbia finally broke through with a win at Harvard, the Lions came back to Earth a bit with this loss at home to the Gaels, who travelled all the way from California. Sadly, St. Mary's doesn't even play varsity football anymore.

Game of the Day (Day 57)

October 14, 1995

Lehigh 37 Columbia 35

A week after Columbia dramatically ended Penn's nation's longest winning streak, the defense wasn't able to keep up against Lehigh. A two-play 93-yard drive for Columbia with 1:28 left in the game actually wasn't enough as Lehigh scored once more to win it.

Game of the Day (Day 56)

November 16, 1996

Columbia 24 Cornell 10

Coming after the devastating losses to Princeton and Dartmouth that sent the high flying Lions from 6-0 to 6-2, the team regrouped beautifully to win this game at home against the Big Red. I specifically remember Roy Hanks' great 49-yard interception return for a TD to seal the win.

Game of the Day (Day 55)

October 11, 2003

Lafayette 41 Columbia 27

A week after Columbia's Hail Mary win over Princeton, the Lions lost focus down the stretch at Lafayette and lost by two TD's. Ayo Oluwole did rush for 166 yards for the Lions.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

SME'S Picks

The SME Network is out with its predictions for the Ivy League race this season.

Here's how they saw it:

1 – Yale
2 – Harvard
3 – Princeton
4 – Brown
5 – Penn
6 – Dartmouth
7 – Cornell
8 – Columbia

They think the race will again come down to the Harvard-Yale game, this time going to the Elis in a reversal of last year's result. That's a solid prediction for the most part.

Of course they pick Columbia last, (everyone else will too, let's not take it personally), but there are some surprises in the rest of their draw.

They seem to really like Princeton to improve, which runs contrary to just about everyone else's take on the Tigers who will be starting a new QB and still don't seem to have much of a running game. I'm not on board with them on this, although I am still a converted fan of Princeton coach Roger Hughes.

They make Brown an outside short contender, which makes sense, but push Penn all the way down to 5th. There's plenty of evidence to support those choices, but seeing Penn picked 5th is just jarring. One could argue that coach Al Bagnoli's team has gone from being hit with bad luck to simply being shorthanded on talent at the key skill positions.

Of course this comes from a person who picked Yale to win the title last year and thought the actual 2007 champion Harvard would finish 5th!

Game of the Day (Day 59)

November 19, 1994

Brown 59 Columbia 27

After Des Werthman's incredible heroics at the end of the 1992 season, Columbia's next big significant win came in 1994 when the Lions clinched their first winning season in 23 years with a thrilling 38-33 win over Cornell.

A week later, the Lions faced the equally resurgent 6-3 Brown Bears at Baker Field in what seemed like it would be another even matchup. It would end up becoming one of the most disappointing losses in Columbia history.

The Lions looked very strong early. After intercepting a Brown pass in the end zone, Columbia went on an 80-yard drive that ended with Marcellus Wiley pushing his way in for a 4-yard TD run.

The Lions scored three more times in the half. First on a 19-yard run by Justin Fossbender, then on an 8-yard pass from quarterback Jamie Schwalbe to tight end Brian Bassett and finally a 27-yard field goal by Joe Aldrich.

Columbia's first half success hinged on the fact that the Lions did not make even on turnover.

A nice drive ending in short Aldrich field goal made it 27-3 midway through the third quarter and I distinctly remember seeing fans high-fiving each other in the stands and talking about an Ivy title in '95.

Then came Hurricane Turnover. Aided by seven Columbia turnovers, Brown would score eight unanswered touchdowns to turn a 24-point deficit into a 32 point lead. The 56 point turnaround making it the biggest turnaround ever seen in Ivy football history.

Describing each of Brown's eight TD's, only one of which came on a drive, is just too tedious. But one sequence was particularly painful:

Schwalbe had a pass deflected, intercepted, and returned for a 34-yard TD. Columbia fumbled the ensuing kickoff and two plays later Brown's sophomore QB James McCullough completed a 25-yard TD pass. That took the air out of Columbia's tires pretty quickly.

Columbia managed to avoid the effects of the bad memories of that game by starting the 1995 season on a strong note. But no one who saw that 1994 finale will ever forget it no matter how much they want to.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Game After (1992)

Des Werthman was Mr. Everything two weeks in a row (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Game of the Day (Day 60)

November 21, 1992

Columbia 34 Brown 28

A week after Des Werthman put together one of the most incredible single-game performances in Ivy League history, the senior linebacker somehow did it again against Brown.

Against Cornell the week before, Werthman seemed to single-handedly defeat the 7-1 Big Red with 16 tackles, two fumble recoveries, two rushing touchdowns, a 2-point conversion, two extra points, just missed a field goal attempt, and even threw a pass, (which went incomplete).

Not many people could have expected Werthman to produce similar numbers again. But this was his last game as a collegian, and Des held nothing back.

The Lions trailed 7-6 at the half because of a missed extra point, but then the offense got going. Werthman scored on a 21-yard run to make it 12-7 and then QB Chad Andrzejewski hit Mike Sardo for a 35-yard TD and it was 19-7.

Then the two teams started scoring back and forth in wild succession. Brown scored on a 75-yard TD pass that was deflected by a Lion defensive back but landed luckily in the hands of Bear receiver Nate Taylor.

Werthman opened the fourth quarter with a one-yard TD run, only to be matched by a 13-yard TD pass by the Bears. Columbia's final score was an 11-yard dash by Werthman that was quickly matched again by Brown with a one-yard TD pass.

With the score now 34-28, the Lions marched into field goal range and looked to finish the game off. The final few plays of the game were described to me in an interview I did with Des last year:

"Brown was a really memorable game. My fondest memory combines two plays; the first was when we were trying to ice the game and they sent me in for a field goal. You have to understand that I just hated kicking these things. I would sit there cursing myself for ever having sent a film that had footage of me kicking in it. Needless to say that I missed the field goal, no surprise here right? The next play I pretty much knew the play they were going to run. Call it intuition or whatever, but they had been trying the whole game to run a shallow cross with a deep cross and for most of the day I had played the shallow cross. This time I just knew the QB was going deep and that was exactly what he did. We picked the ball off and the game was over."

Des finished with 114 yards rushing, scored 19 points - three rushing touchdowns and an extra point - and had 15 tackles.

All in a day's work.

The Front Four

Phil Mitchell is one of the best linemen in the Ivies (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

If Columbia shifts to the 4-3 defense, I expect the competition to be fierce for the starting positions up front. But just like Drew Quinn is a shoo-in at linebacker, Phil Mitchell is the man at defensive end and he carries a tremendous amount of the team's hopes on his shoulders.

Mitchell also battled brutal injuries last season, but somehow managed to play in all 10 games and earn honorable mention All-Ivy honors. He has the ability to dominate games as a pass rusher and defending the outside running lanes, but the Lions' troubles defending up the middle last year forced him to play nose guard for about half the season.

A healthy Mitchell going out of the 4-3 could be a tall order for opposing offensive units. In a league where most teams don't even have one dominant defensive lineman, Mitchell can make a big impact in every game.

After Mitchell, the question marks abound. The returning players with the most playing experience at the line are junior Matt Bashaw, senior Conor Joyce, senior Eli Waltz, and sophomore Brian England.

England had a very good year for a freshman, getting into all 10 games and helping to shore up the middle of the defense late in the season. He also has pretty decent size at 261 pounds, (and I expect that number to be bigger this season).

Bashaw seems like a better pass rusher than run stopper, and he may excel as a pass rush specialist but I don't want to pigeonhole him too quickly.

Coach Wilson was quoted as saying he expected big things from Conor Joyce last season, and I don't think his 30 tackles were what he had in mind.

Waltz was another Lion battling injuries last season, but he stepped up and played anyway. I'm not sure his nose tackle position will exist this coming season, but I expect him to be in the mix for playing time up front.

Lou Miller is the veteran wildcard in this equation. Miller moves up from the linebacker spot and if he can as effective as a linemen, he has a great shot at starting.

Four very compelling freshmen join the defensive linemen ranks this fall, and I thnk there's a good chance one of them will beat the long odds against freshmen linemen getting real playing time.

First the big boys: Chris Groth and Owen Fraser. Groth comes in at 280 pounds, only to be bested by Fraser at 290. But it's Groth who won a huge number of accolades as a high school star in Michigan. Groth could be ready to play right now at the college level. Fraser did a postgrad year so he is older than most freshmen, and that should help his chances.

A pair of smaller freshmen also look impressive, especially if they bulk up before September. First is J.D. Tyree who at 6"5 and 225 pounds could be a force at 255 or 260. The other lighter prospect is Shea Selsor, who was impressive in a high-quality high school conference in Ohio. Selsor is listed at 230 pounds right now.

It's hard to overstate just how much a strong defensive line could help the Lions this coming season. Mitchell is the anchor, but he needs help. If even one other lineman can step up to Mitchell's level or close to it, Columbia could have a special year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Game After (1988)

The flags were flying in the Bowl that day

Game of the Day (Day 61)

October 15, 1988

Yale 24 Columbia 10

People who think sports enthusiasm died on Ivy campuses sometime in the 1960's do not know about what happened at Columbia in 1988. But I know, because I was there. I was a freshman at Columbia in 1988 and I wish every student on Morningside Heights could enjoy some measure of the joy that covered the student body that fall.

Football talk was everywhere as everyone was paying attention to the record losing streak the team was suffering under for going on five years. There were definitely a few students actually enjoying the streak, but they were actually trying to be funny. I have a sinking feeling that today, students in favor of the losing streak would be the angry type that also protests the Columbia expansion, capitalism, and decent oral hygiene.

When the team finally won in week 4 against Princeton, the campus exploded in genuine joy. Anyone who says otherwise, just wasn't there... or isn't all there. The administration gave out free pizza and beer, (and I don't remember Dean Pollack asking for my ID either), people were hanging out of windows, and there were lots of newspaper and TV reporters milling about.

I kept wondering how the football team was keeping its focus. Beating Princeton, the preseason favorite to win the league that year, meant that Columbia was at least a possible contender. The next opponent was an 0-3-1 Yale team that seemed to be reeling. (As it turned out that was a false impression. Yale was actually just having a slight off year on its way to another Ivy title in 1989. And the '88 Elis still whipped the Crimson at Harvard Stadium to finish strong).

Columbia had the full week of campus partying as an excuse for looking like they were hung over, but Yale wasn't exactly crisp either. The Elis did cash in on CU quarterback Bruce Mayhew's opening series fumble. Five plays after recovering it they had a 7-0 lead.

But Yale couldn't add to that lead and at halftime it was 10-3 Elis and still a game. Then Columbia WR/kick returner Terry Brown returned the 2nd half kickoff 84 yards for a TD and it was tied at 10-10. Brown was an unsung hero in his years at Columbia, as he often put together super returns just when the Lions needed them. He's still the Ivy League's all-time leader in single game and career kickoff return yardage. But this time, Columbia couldn't capitalize further.

With the score still tied at 10 in the third quarter Mayhew fumbled it away again, this time at the Yale 8. Columbia never threatened again as Yale senior Buddy Zachery got TD runs of 32 yards and 35 yards to put the game away.

Another factor was penalties. I can't remember a game where there were so many penalties called against either team. The Lions were flagged for holding on what seemed like every other offensive play, especially in the second half.

After the game, Columbia Head Coach Larry McElreavy said he felt like refunding everyone's money.

Sometimes you can party too hard.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This is Why You Come to Columbia

Bill Campbell is held in the highest regard on both coasts

An absolutely incredible Fortune Magazine article about the enormous influence of Bill Campbell in the tech world is now available online.

The piece catalogues how Campbell has played a positive role in the growth and survival of some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley and actually, the entire business world. The man we thought we knew as simply a successful, "post-football", CEO of Intuit is credited with making Google, Apple and many other companies what they are today.

The fact that he was one of the most over-achieving football players in Columbia history makes every assertion in the article ring true. And the fact that he endured six very tough years as Columbia's head coach makes it also obvious that Bill Campbell can truly laugh in the face of adversity.

If you are a player or a coach involved in the Columbia football program, or are considering becoming one, people like Bill Campbell and his story is the reason why you come here. Sure... Harvard, Yale and Princeton offer great connections too. But, as I've written here many times before, the Columbia football fraternity is much smaller and closer knit.

The leader of that fraternity is Bill Campbell and everyone connected to Columbia football is richer for it.

Bill Campbell,just to the left of the ball carrier, was a fearsome blocker (CREDIT: Columbia College Today)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend Games

Derek Bok was Harvard's president for 20 years

The Game After (1971)

Game of the Day (Day 63)

October 9, 1971

Harvard 21 Columbia 19

Columbia exhiliarating 22-20 victory over Princeton in week 2 of 1971 ended an incredible 19-game losing streak to the Tigers. It also raised high hopes on Morningside Heights for a possible Ivy title run.

A huge test loomed the following week at Harvard. The Crimson were feeling pretty fresh and new themselves. They had a new coach in Joe Restic and new University president in Derek Bok. Restic came from the Canadian Football League and was expected to bring a wide-open passing attack to Harvard.

The Crimson did end flying to a 21-7 lead, but they did it the old fashioned way. Harvard halfback Ted DeMars was the biggest star of the game with 132 yards on 23 carries, (Columbia's entire offense only rushed for 131), and two TD's. His first score came just over three minutes into the game to cap a 71-yard, run dominated Crimson drive after Columbia's opening kickoff.

Columbia's linebacker/kicker Paul Kaliades helped get the Liopns even early in the second quarter when he picked off a Crimson pass at the Columbia 45and returned it all the way to the Harvard 4. On the next play, Lion QB Don Jackson hit Tom Hurley for the score and it was 7-7. Kaliades made another interception to help keep the score tied at the intermission.

Two big Harvard runs marked a dominant third quarter for the Crimson. DeMars ripped off a 28-yard TD run midway in the quarter for a 14-7 lead, and six minutes later it was Harvard's Vic Gatto going for 29 yards and the score was now 21-7.

Meanwhile, the Lions QB Jackson was getting nailed for sack after sack and Head Coach Frank Navarro finally yanked him in favor of sophomore Glenn Erickson. Erickson made an immediate impact, dashing for runs of 30, 16, and 15 yards before Jackson came back in to throw a 12-yard TD pass to John Sefcik. But for some reason, Navarro elected to go for the two-point conversion and it fell incomplete.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Lions started marching again as Navarro was now shuttling Jackson and Erickson liberally. Jackson finished off the 88-yard TD drive with a nine yard scoring pass to Sefcik. This time the Lions had to go for two, but the pass to Sefcik fell incomplete.

Harvard's defense woke up after that, getting a key interception off Erickson intended for Sefcik with just over three minutes left.

Columbia did bounce back the following week with a big win over Yale, but it was a tough pill to swallow just one week after the historic win over Princeton.

Game of the Day (Day 62)

November 14, 1971

Columbia 17 Penn 3

After Columbia's shocking win over Dartmouth at Baker Field, the Lions stayed home the following week to take on Penn. The Quakers were not having a strong season, but Columbia had lost four in a row to Penn and seemed to have a mental block against them.

Not much archival material remains from this game, (at least that I could find), but the defense dominated led by Paul Kaliades. It was an extremely good sign that Columbia did not "let down" after the Dartmouth win and the 14-point margin was a blessing after the Lions four previous wins had been only by two or one points, (22-20 over Princeton, 15-14 over Yale, 17-16 over Rutgers, and 31-29 over Dartmouth).

Columbia did even better a week later at Brown with an 18-point victory to cap off one of the best Lion seasons ever.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Game After (1961)

Rutgers very Alabama-esque helmets, circa 1961 (CREDT: The Helmet Project)

Game of the Day (Day 64)

Nov. 25, 1961

Rutgers 32 Columbia 19

Columbia's Ivy League championship-clinching win over Penn at home sent the crowd into a frenzy. But there was still one more game to play in 1961, a big match against their oldest rival Rutgers in New Brunswick.

The Scarlet Knights had embarrassed the Lions 43-2 the year before at Baker Field, so there was a revenge factor in play. More importantly, Rutgers came into the game undefeated and was looking to avenge a 40-28 loss to Columbia in 1947 which ended up being the Scarlet's only loss of that year.

25,500 fans jammed Rutgers Stadium and even overflowed to the grassy areas behind the endzones. The rain didn't discourage anyone from seeing the area's two best teams go at it.

Columbia scored first after Ed Little deflected a pass into the waiting arms of teammate Lee Black at the Rutgers 21. Tom O'Connor kicked a field goal after the drive fizzled for a 3-0 Lion lead.

Rutgers answered back with a 79-yard drive capped by a three-yard run and took a 7-3 halftime lead.

Columbia ten dominated most of the third quarter. A 58-yard TD drive ended with a 12-yard TD pass when Tom Vassell's pass bounced off Little's hands and into the arms of Walt Congram for the score. Columbia went for the two-point conversion and made it to make it 11-7 Lions.

On the ensuing Rutgers possession, Mike Hassam picked off a pass at the Scarlet 32 and ran it all the way back for a touchdown. The Lions made yet another two-point conversion to grab what looked like a commanding 19-7 lead.

Then the sleepy Knights woke up. They returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to start at the Lion 26. It took seven plays, but Rutgers did get a 10-yard TD pass to get within 19-13.

A Rutgers interception at the CU 28 followed and another Scarlet TD came moments later to tie the score at 19, (Rutgers missed two PAT's in a row).

The Knights then forced Columbia to punt and took over at their 40 before marching triumphantly to the lead on 10 plays ending with another 3-yard TD run. This time the PAT was good and Rutgers had quickly gone ahead at 26-19.

Columbia's attempt to rally back failed when Vassell was intercepted on the Lions next play from scrimmage and Rutgers returned the pick 30 yards for the final score.

It was a tough way to end such a magical season for the Lions, but no one was less impressed with Columbia after it fought so hard against the favored Scarlet Knights.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Ohio 3?

Columbia is reaping Ohio's bumper crop of linebackers

Strong defensive lines are a rare commodity in the Ivy League. Right now, only Harvard seems like a team with a front four or front three that you can call fearsome. That means the linebackers at just about every other Ivy school need to pick up the slack.

If Columbia uses the same 4-3 defense it featured in the Spring Game, the competition should be fierce for those three starting spots.

One slot is definitely taken as Drew Quinn will hopefullY be 100% healthy after playing through the pain most of last year. He still played in all 10 games and make his mark as the team's second leading tackler. Quinn is uniquely dangerous against the run and the pass, and I expect him to make a big dent against the mostly short-passing attack you see in the Ivies these days.

After Quinn, the picture is not as clear. Surely Ivy League Rookie of the Year Alex Gross has an inside track to one of the two remaining slots, but nothing is certain on Norries Wilson's team. My main concern about Gross is his 202-pound frame, but he will likely bulk up a bit by training camp.

Clark Koury was having a great junior year in 2007 before he went down with an injury. He too was showing a great ability to defend the run and the pass, especially in the win over Marist where he picked off two passes and had two key tackles for a loss.

Quinn, Gross and Koury are all from Ohio, meaning we could see an all Buckeye state starting linebacking corps. Fellow Ohioan Lou Miller is being moved to the defensive line, otherwise he'd be in the running at linebacker as well. But his younger brother Evan Miller, might make an impact as a freshman this season. The younger Miller was the top linebacker on high school powerhouse Saint Xavier's 15-0 state championship team.

One more Ohioan with a shot to see decent playing time is sophomore Derek Lipscomb, who impressed everyone after basically walking on to the team last year.

But a couple of New York guys could break up the Buckeye party. Sophomore Matt Moretto made a great impression last season with 45 tackles and an interception. His weight is also a question at 196-pounds, so we'll be looking closely at his new numbers when camp starts.

Also from New York is incoming freshman Nick Mistretta who already has a huge amount of positive buzz surrounding him. Mistretta played just over the border at New Jersey power Don Bosco Prep where he was named a first-team all-state linebacker. At 6"2 and 225 pounds, he should be ready to make an impact.

Last year, I thought sophomore Marc Holloway was the best bet to make an impact as a freshman. He did get into some games, but he was overshadowed big-time by guys like Gross and Moretto. I still think he has a lot of the tools to succeed in this league and he could surprise this year.

Another guy not to forget is senior Corey Cameron who started two games last year and could lend some needed veteran experience on the field.

With what looks like the demise of the 3-5-3, (again, that's an educated guess, not an official announcement), the sheer number of linebackers on the roster is a lot smaller. Andy Shalbrack and Augie Williams are now listed as safeties, which was really where they played last year anyway.

But this all means that the three linebackers on the field will have to shoulder more responsibility. Columbia needs to make this a strength if it wants to succeed in 2008.

The Game After (1947)

Schoelkopf Field circa 1947

Game of the Day (Day 65)

November 1, 1947

Columbia 22 Cornell 0

Columbia's miraculous 21-20 win over Army in 1947 put Lou Little's Lions on the front pages for the first time since the Rose Bowl win. But the remainder of the season threatened to be a let down if Columbia didn't focus on the present challenges and not past glory.

The first test came on a sunny day in Ithaca where 25,000 fans gathered to see if the Big Red could catch the Lions resting on their laurels.

No such luck.

Bill Olson took Cornell's opening kickoff back to the Columbia 40, and then Lou Kusserow and Venton Yablonski took over. The tandem alternated run after run until the Lions had a first down on the Big Red 18. QB Eugene Rossides ran it three times in a row after that, the third going for 11 yards and the TD.

Later in the period, the Lions pounched on a Cornell fumble at the Big Red 26. John Nork scored from the five a few plays later.

Late in the first half the Big Red mounted an impressive drive and even had a first and goal at the one... but four plays failed to produce a score, the last one an incomplete pass.

Yablonski was the star of the game for Columbia after that. He booted a short field goal for the 16-0 lead and later scored on a short run for the 22-0 final tally.

Cornell's last best chance came in fourth quarter when the Big Red had a first and goal at the five. But the Lions tackled the Big Red ball carrier for an incredible 11-yard loss on the first down play and Cornell got no closer.

Columbia's win over Cornell proved the team was still hungry after the win over Army. They won the next three games as well, all by wide margins, to finish the season 7-2.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Game After

New Haven Hospital, where one Columbian ended up after the game

Game of the Day (Day 66)

October 6, 1934

Columbia 12 Yale 6

When you read accounts of championship seasons, or even just one great game, the writers usually leave out those "what happened next" details that tend to dilute the enormity of the big game or season they were focusing on.

For Columbia, there are a handful of historic wins that in some cases were followed up with more great victories, but sometimes not.

The former was the case in October, 1934 when the Lions took the field for the first time since their 7-0 win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl in January of that year. Columbia was matched up against the Bulldogs at the Yale Bowl; the first meeting of the two teams since 1905.

22,000 fans packed the Bowl to see if Columbia was still for real. It didn't look good at first as the Lions fumbled away their first play from scrimmage and gave the Elis the ball at CU 29. But Columbia got the ball back on downs at the 18 and then they went to work.

Four running plays put the ball at the Lion 30, setting the stage for a dramatic 70-yard run by Rose Bowl hero Al Barabas. 6-0 Columbia.

The game went back and forth with no scoring until the third quarter when the Lions went on a 75-yard march capped off by a 3-yard TD run by Barabas on 4th and goal.

But Yale would not give up. Coach Ducky Pond called for an incredible, (for the time), 12 forward passing plays and that got Yale moving. Jack Roscoe hit the great Larry Kelly for an actual touchdown pass making the score 12-6 with about five minutes to go.

Barabas tried to ice the game after that, getting a 46-yard gainer on the first play from scrimmage after the Yale kickoff that put the Lions on the Eli 18. But Yale held the Lions in a great goal line stand and took over inside their own one with just over two minutes to go.

Coach Pond refused to give up on the pass even in the shadow of his on end zone, and two tosses barely missed their targets.

At the time, the game was seen as one of the greatest Columbia triumphs ever, despite the fact that it was played in a steady rain and left star Lion right tackle Paul Jackel with a fractured ankle at New Haven hospital.

The Lions finished the season at 7-1, losing only to Navy. Yale ended up 5-3, with losses only to Columbia, Army and Georgia.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One Day in the Sun

October days at Wien Stadium can be gorgeous

Game of the Day (Day 67)

October 10, 1999

Columbia 10 Bucknell 7

Mike Glynn '00 never really made it to the big time as a QB at Columbia. But he got one great day in the sun in what was ultimately a defensive struggle for the Lions and the visiting Bucknell Bison.

The Lions came into the game at 1-2 after getting badly beaten by Lehigh in Pennsylvania by a 63-13 score. After that massacre, Head Coach Ray Tellier decided to give Glynn a shot.

Bucknell opened the game and made it look like it was going to be a rout. A 1-yard touchdown run by Jason Marrow capped a 73-yard drive on nine plays. But Columbia answered with an 84-yard drive as Glynn went 6-for-6 passing before Jonathan Reese carried it in from the 2.

It remained 7-7 until the fourth quarter when Glynn led them on a 51-yard drive to set up an impressive 46-yard field goal by Neil Kravitz. Columbia's defense bent, but didn't break the rest of the way and defensive back Jason Stream picked off a Bucknell pass in the Columbia end zone in the final minutes to seal the win.

Glynn never did lead the Lions to victory again, and later in the season Tellier handed the starting duties to sophomore Jeff McCall.

But for one day, the Lions were Mike Glynn's team.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

5 Easy Pieces

I want you to hold the chicken, hold the mayonnaise, and hold that line!

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out why the Lions struggled in 2007. Failure to stop the run was the biggest problem, failure to sustain their own running game was the other main issue, and an unusual amount of injuries kept everything an uphill battle for the entire season.

There were five moments during the season... leitmotifs really... that frozen in time, give the observor the best understanding of what 2007 was all about. And they stood out so clearly, it was easy to pick them out at season's end.

Here they are in order of importance:

5) Austin's Late Score

September 15, 2007

Jack Coffey Field, Fordham University

Austin Knowlin had one of the most impressive seasons in Columbia history. The stats tell some of the story; he finished with 74 catches for 988 yards and 10 touchdowns. This on a team that scored just 18.4 points a game. His yardage total was just 12 yards shy of the Lions single-season record... and Knowlin was just a sophomore. In a league that was loaded with receiving stars last season, most of them upperclassmen, Knowlin was still named a 1st Team All-Ivy wide receiver.

Unfortunately, too many of Knowlin's scores came when the games were already decided in favor of Columbia's opponents. And that trend began in week one.

Trailing 27-3 against Fordham with 4:21 left to go in the game, the Lions took over at their own 6-yard line with time for one last drive. A 15-yard run by Jordan Davis got things going, and then five straight pass completions by QB Craig Hormann, the biggest a 25-yarder to Knowlin, put Columbia at the Fordham seven. Three plays later, even though everyone in the stadium knew the pass was going to him, Knowlin finally got open at the edge of the end zone and hauled in his first TD catch of the season. It was thrilling play, but it only made the final score look a little better at 27-10.

It was a scenario that would repeat itself several times throughout the season:

In week five, with Columbia trailing Penn 52-21, Knowlin made a nice move to get into the endzone for 19-yard TD catch.

In week seven, the Lions trailed Yale 28-0 with about four minutes left in the game when Hormann found Knowlin for an eight yard TD pass.

In week eight, and Columbia behind Harvard 27-6, Knowlin grabbed a nine yard TD pass from Hormann with just over five minutes left in the game.

In week nine, and the Lions behind Cornell 34-7, Knowlin went up high to make a great catch in traffic for an eight yard touchdown catch with just four seconds left on the clock.

Thus, five of Knowlin's 10 TD catches last season made little difference in the big picture. Hopefully, more of his scores will create a serious impact in 2008.

4) Craig Comes Back

September 15, 2007

Jack Coffey Field, Fordham University

Columbia may have finished 1-9, but an inspiring storyline that ran throughout 2007 was quarterback Craig Hormann's recovery from an ACL tear that happened in December of 2006. Craig worked very hard to get back in playing shape and "big moment #4" was when he made a dramatic and unannounced, (he was only listed as "probable" the night of the game), start in week one against Fordham. He ran onto the field excitedly after Columbia received the opening kickoff. On third down of the opening series, he threw his first pass of the season and it was good for 34 yards to Austin Knowlin.

It's impossible to know how much Hormann's injury affected him throughout the year. He made a number of dazzling throws throughout the season and became only the second Columbia QB to pass for 400+ yards in a game when he tallied 417 in the 59-28 thrashing by Penn.

But his already questionable mobility was hampered even further, taking an important weapon away from the offense. And unlike 2006 when he threw stunningly few interceptions, Hormann was picked off 15 times in 2007, something that played a key role in the losses against Princeton and Dartmouth.

3) The Defense Taketh... 2) The Offense Giveth Away

September 22, 2007

Lawrence A. Wien Stadium, Columbia University

For a team that went 1-9, here's a stunning statistic: Columbia's turnover ratio was only minus-four. They intercepted 11 passes, (opponents only attempted 260 passes all season, meaning the Lions picked off a healthy 4.2% of opposing throws), and grabbed nine of the 21 fumbles forced.

Columbia's 31-7 win over Marist was the only Lion victory of 2007. But a positive aspect of that win was noticeable throughout the season. The defense created key turnovers that gave Columbia numerous chances to win in several games.

The first key takeaway for the Lions came early in the Marist game after the Red Foxes had driven all the way from their 26 to the Columbia 22 on 11 straight rushing plays. Eight of those rushes were by Marist's Bo Ehikioya who gained 54 yards on those carries. Then Marist switched gears, giving the ball to Adam Hansen a couple of times before QB Steve Mcgrath tried to scramble on 3rd and 10. McGrath lost the handle on the ball and Andy Shalbrack was the Johnny on the Spot for Columbia, pouncing on the pigskin at the 13-yard line. Marist's opening threat was over, and the game was saved... BUT the offense failed to capitalize on this first Red Fox turnover, getting just one first down and then punting it away.

It started against Marist, but the defense's propensity to create turnovers that the offense did not make the most of was even more on display the following week against Princeton.

The defense did take matters into its own hands at first. Trailing 21-10 late in the first half, Shalbrack intercepted a Bill Foran pass at the CU 44 and took it all the way back for a touchdown. Unfortunately, the Lions would not notch another defensive touchdown until the final week of the season.

After Columbia took a 24-21 lead over the Tigers early in the third quarter, Lou Miller sacked Foran and forced a fumble that Shalbrack recovered at the Princeton 43. But the Lions offense went three-and-out and had to punt.

On the ensuing possession, Eugene Edwards intercepted Foran at the Columbia 48... again the Columbia offense went three-and-out after that.

The Lions inability to capitalize on those last two turnovers came back to haunt them. Princeton scored two quick TD's on the next two possessions and forced Columbia to come back.

And thanks to the defense, they had a chance. The Lions closed the score to 35-32 after a Jordan Davis option pass for a TD to Jamal Russell to cap a 68-yard drive.

Conor Joyce forced new Tiger QB Bill Foran to fumble on the ensuing possession at the Columbia 45 and it was Eugene Edwards who came up with the fumble again. But after Hormann hit Knowlin with a 17 yard pass, he threw an interception on the very next play and Princeton scored a TD on that possession to put the game away. This was a scenario that played out in similar forms in the losses to Dartmouth and Brown as well.

So while Columbia only had four more giveaways than takeaways, Lion opponents scored an eye-popping 98 points off of their 24 takeaways while Columbia scored just 33 points of its 20 takeaways. That's a killer margin and it killed the Lions week after week.

1) Xavier's Off to the Races

September 15, 2007

Jack Coffey Field, Fordham University

Columbia gave up a ridiculous 231 rushing yards per game. And the weakness was right up the middle, where so many Lion opponents had little trouble finding daylight. It all started in week one when Columbia gave up 323 yards on the ground.

The play that signified it all came in the middle of the second quarter with the Rams up just 7-0 and the game was still very much a game. Fordham got the ball at its own 38 after Jon Rocholl missed a 55-yard field goal. Three plays later, Ram freshman Xavier Martin took it right up the middle for a 51-yard TD run. Martin finished with 157 yards and three touchdowns, while fellow Ram tailback
Jonte Coven had 139 yards rushing. Columbia was basically abused by opposing rushing in similar fashion the rest of the year.

To be fair, things did get generally better as the season hit its close. In the final week of the season, Columbia gave up a much more manageable 119 yards on the ground against Brown. But the weakness was still glaring.

Columbia needs to hold that line in 2008 to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.

Angry in Piscataway

Your New Jersey tax dollars at work

Game of the Day (Day 68)

October 29, 1967

Columbia 24 Rutgers 13

I saw this letter this morning from a concerned Rutgers alum who's angry that the school once known for its connections to Ivies like Columbia and Princeton is now spending a huge amount to compete in big-time football and women's basketball.

Indeed, Columbia and Rutgers once had a grand football rivalry until the late 70's when the Scarlet Knights decided to go "big time." For the record, it took more than 25 years for Rutgers to get there, but get there they did and I think it's been a very good thing for New York-area sports fans who have been deprived of a personal connection to top-ranked college football for so long.

Rutgers' slow climb to upper echelon football made most of the last games against Columbia one-sided affairs, (the last meeting was in 1978 at Giants Stadium where the Lions fell by a 69-0 score, convincing then-Head Coach Bill Campbell to quit coaching, though he did spend one more year at the helm in Morningside Heights). But most of the games in the 1960's were pretty exciting. One of Columbia's best wins came in 1967, with junior QB sensation Marty Domres leading the way at Baker Field.

In what was to be legendary Coach Buff Donelli's last season, the Lions opened 1967 with an encouraging 17-14 win over Colgate. But then three mostly lopsided losses to Princeton, Harvard, and Yale followed. Domres was stellar in those losses, and he came into the Rutgers game with the best completion percentage in the nation at .606. But the Scarlet Knights were still favored by two scores.

Domres went deep early, hitting receiver Don Brophy on the first play from scrimmage for a 66-yard bomb to the Rutgers 10. Jim O'Connor took it in from the two three plays later for the 7-0 lead. The Domres led the team on an 11-play 83-yard drive before taking it in himself from the five, (Domres was also a fine runner), to make it 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Domres struck again after Rutgers had narrowed it to 14-7. He found captain Don Hubert for an 11-yard TD pass to make it 21-7 at the half.

Domres only attempted two passes in the second half, as he showcased his running skills along with the regular Lion ball carriers. Columbia finished the game with 244 yards rushing.

Another hero of the game was sophomore defensive back Jeff Blake who had two interceptions, both in the fourth quarter and both inside the Columbia 10-yard line to snuff out Rutgers' drives.

Columbia would not win again that season, but there was little doubt about how good Domres was after that day. He would eventually play several seasons in the NFL, and is now in the brokerage business in the Baltimore area.

The Columbia-Rutgers rivalry, the second oldest in college football, (the two teams first played in 1870), has been moribund for 30 years now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rained Out

Don Jackson, center, still looks pretty young today

Game of the Day (Day 69)

October 7, 1972

Columbia 0 Princeton 0

Between Columbia's 32-7 win over the Tigers at Palmer Stadium in 1945 and the Lions win over Princeton at the new Princeton Stadium in 2003, Columbia was winless at Princeton. Most of the games weren't even close, but there was one tie.

It happened in 1972 after a huge rainstorm left the field a sloppy mess. The Lions were riding high after an exhiliarating 1971 season that had many picking Columbia to win the Ivy title behind QB Don Jackson, defensive superstar Paul Kaliades, and many others.

In week one, the Lions seemed to be able to live up to the hype with a 44-0 thrashing of Fordham, (then basically a Division III team), at Baker Field. But Princeton was looking good too, having defeated Rutgers 7-6.

Both teams threatened to score in the first half, but the best chance either team had to get on the board came in the third quarter when the Lions had a 2nd and goal at the Princeton 1. Two plunges, one by George Georges and another by Steve Howland failed and Jackson's 4th down pass was intercepted by Princeton's Jim Stephens who seemed to have a clear path to the end zone before Howland somehow caught up with him to make the tackle at the Columbia 26.

Jackson and the Lions got one more chance in the last minutes when the QB completed five straight passes to get Columbia from its own 31 to the Tiger 5. But a penalty pushed them back to the 16 and Kaliades field goal went wide.

The loss sent the Lions into a tailspin they couldn't get out of until they shut out Cornell 14-0 at home in week 6. When I interviewed Don Jackson last season I asked him about the 1972 season, and he told me he thought the team just couldn't handle the high expectations. He said he guessed, "the air up there was a little too thin."

I suppose there is something to be said for the element of surprise.

Daniel's Catch Online

Celebration time for the North team

Check out Christian Daniels game-winning TD grab. When you get to the site, scroll down a bit to the "Top Plays" montage and click on "The Play, North-South All-Star." I think the best part is how he stays in bounds.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

An All-Star is Born

Christian Daniel's Stock is Rising (CREDIT:

Incoming freshman receiver Christian Daniel had a monster performance in the Orange County high school all-star game last night. Daniel caught the winning TD, (holding on even after getting slammed hard by the defender), and then made the game-icing interception a few moments later. He finished with five receptions, one TD and the INT.

You can read about his exploits in the game here. But what the article fails to tell you is that including Daniel, five Ivy-bound players were in the game, including Penn-bound QB Chad Miller, who's pass Daniel picked off to seal the game.

At 6"3 and 190 pounds, (some reports have him at 6"4), Daniel was already a highly-touted frosh, but now his stock his risen for sure. Remember when I first wrote about him in late January, I talked about how he had been hoping to walk on at UCLA and was recruited by Northwestern, Stanford, Harvard and Penn.

Camp Columbia, 2008 Version

The CU Athletics website has some nice pictures up showing day one of the Norries Wilson football camp for high school-aged kids. I wish I knew who thought of doing this at Columbia, I assume a number of people pushed for it, but it is a great way to to get a jump on recruiting and get more use out of our facilities.

Game of the Day (Day 70)

October 5, 2003

Columbia 33 Princeton 27

The Jersey Score

Fletcher comes down with the incredible grab (CREDIT: Daily Princetonian)

One of the Lions most improbable victories of all time took place on a drizzly night at Princeton Stadium.

New Head Coach Bob Shoop and the young Lions came into the game upbeat after nearly defeating a strong Fordham team at Fordham in week one, and then following that up with a last minute win over Bucknell in week two.

Columbia hadn't beaten the Tigers in Princeton since 1945, and this game started very much on the wrong foot as the Princeton rushed out to a 20-0 lead on three quick TD's in the first quarter.

The Lions settled down a bit with two field goals to make it 20-6, and it looked like that would be the halftime score when Travis Chmelka picked up a punt on a bounce at the Columbia 41 and raced all the way to the Tiger two before he was brought down. Ayo Oluwole then scored the TD from the 2 to make it 20-13 and Columbia was in business.

Columbia's defense then took over, causing multiple turnovers and stopping everything Princeton could throw or run at it. After the Lions tied it at 20, they would score the go-ahead TD with about nine minutes left in the game when QB Jeff Otis missed the handoff to Oluwole, but composed himself anyway and spun it for the score.

But the Tigers came back to life after that, executing a eight minute and 23 second drive to tie at 27-27 with just 26 seconds left.

No problem. After a decent kickoff return, Otis completed a short pass to get the Lions just beyond midfield. Then came one of the most dramatic single plays in Columbia history.

With no time left and Otis still dancing around looking for a receiver, he got an incredible block from his fullback and used the extra time to heave a classic "Hail Mary" into the Princeton end zone. Standing among a huge crowd of Tigers, including Princeton's 6"5 wide receiver B.J. Syzmanski who had been brought in especially to defend the final pass, was Columbia's star tight end Wade Fletcher. Fletcher somehow came down with the undeflected pass and the stunning game was over.

Sid Says Goodbye

Sid Luckman at Chicago's Soldier Field

Game of the Day (Day 71)

November 25, 1938

Brown 37 Columbia 26

After Columbia's 1938 wins over Yale and Army, the Lions were 2-0 and raring for more. But it was not to be. Injuries started to affect the team, and Sid Luckman was not immune. Columbia went on a four-game losing streak before finally regrouping to rout Virginia 39-0 at Baker Field, (even though Luckman could not play in that game).

Two freak losses to Navy and Syracuse followed, leaving Luckman hoping to finish his college career in Providence on a high note against Brown.

The effort began well, as the Lions got an early turnover at the Brown 16 and Luckman ran it in a few plays later for the 7-0 lead. The Bears grabbed control of the game after that and ran off 37 unanswered points in what looked like it was going to be a total rout.

But Sid wasn't going to finish his collegiate career without a fight. First, launched a 65 yard TD pass to Jack Naylor for a one-play TD drive and a 37-14 score. Brown fumbled the ensuing kickoff away and two Luckman passes to John Siegal later, the second one for 10 yards and a TD, it was 37-20.

Naylor then intercepted a Brown pass and returned it to the 50 and Sid went to work for the final time. One running play was followed by a 26-yard pass from Luckman to Bob Stoltz and then he hit Siegal again for a 10-yard TD.

The frustrations of the 1938 season seemed to hit Luckman hard, as two weeks after his loss he announced his "retirement" from football. But George Halas and the Chicago Bears had different ideas. Halas successfully convinced Sid to change his mind, and by the time Luckman retired from pro football history he was hands down the greatest QB in NFL history.

And it all started at Columbia.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Camp Columbia on Display

Camp Columbia Main Building (CREDIT: Columbia University News)

The era of FieldTurf and fancy on-campus practice fields rendered the whole era of off-site football training camps obsolete many years ago.

But in days of yore, Columbia used to head north every summer to Morris, CT to a site called "Camp Columbia." The campus was mostly used by the school of engineering when that curriculum required a significant amount of work out in nature.

The Lions stopped using Camp Columbia in the 1970s and the site officially closed in 1983. Columbia sold the site in 2000.

But for those who want to take a nature walk down memory lane, you can head to the Morris Historical Society for a look at a new Camp Columbia exhibit.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sid vs. the Cadets, Part III

Yankee Stadium was busy hosting Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 9

Game of the Day (Day 72)

October 9, 1938

Columbia 20 Army 18

Sid Luckman made the most of his final chance to defeat the mighty Cadets with a stunning come-from-behind performance in front of 25,000 fans at West Point. It wasn't only the fact that Columbia came back, it was the way Luckman and the Lions did it.

Why were the Lions on the road again? With the Yankees back in the World Series, (this time against the Cubs), the October matchup between the Lions and the Cadets was once again slated for relatively tiny Michie Stadium. Baker Field actually held about 32,000 to 35,000 back in those days, but for some reason they agreed to head up the Hudson yet again. The Yanks actually were in the midst of the World Series in 1936 and 1937 as well, and in those years the games were against the New York Giants, making the Polo Grounds unavailable as well. Getting the game in at the Stadium in 1936 just five days after the Yanks had wrapped up the series against the Giants in six games must have been a challenge to the grounds crew.

Less than three minutes into the game, good ol' Woodrow Wilson had done it again for Army. He faked a pass and then scored on a 48-yard run for a 6-0 lead. Minutes later it was 12-0 after Columbia fumbled the ball away on its own 10 and the Cadets quickly converted for another touchdown.

The Lions showed some life early in the second quarter, when they capped off a 65-yard drive with a Luckman TD pass to John Siegal and the score was now 12-6. But Army stormed back with a 67-yard drive and another TD for the 18-6 lead. The only downside, it seemed, was that like Columbia had a year before, the Cadets had missed all three of their PAT attempts. Just as it did in 1937, that would be a key to the game.

But Columbia had to come back first, and that didn't seem likely when Army stormed out of the gates and drove the ball down to the Lions 38 before Luckman intercepted a pass to end the threat.

Another interception in the fourth quarter gave Columbia the ball at the Cadet 42 and then Sid went to work. He marched the Lions straight down the field and hit the extra point after a one-yard TD run by Gerhard Seidel to make it 18-13.

Army responded with a 55-yard drive all the way to the Lion nine before the Cadets were forced to try a field goal that missed.

Columbia took over at the 20, but chances still seemed pretty slim for the Lions. In those days offenses were too one dimensional for teams to pull off long drives. Marches of 70 yards of more were extremely rare. But Sid Luckman was a multifaceted offense all on his own.

First, Luckman nailed Art Radvilas for a 27-yard pass before getting sacked for a 10-yard loss back to his 37. Luckman found Siegal for 18 yards and two plays later, he hit Radvilas for a 23 yard strike that ended up putting his receiver in the hospital after the Army defenders crashed in to him at their 19. Luckman then rushed the ball twice for a gain of four and then a loss of six before hitting Siegal again for 18 yards and a first down at the three. Seidel took it in from there and with five minutes left, the Lions had their first lead of the day.

After losing two straight heartbreakers in 1936 and 1937, the Lions would not be denied in 1938 and the 20-18 lead held up.

For Sid Luckman, it was to be his greatest victory in a Columbia uniform.

When people talk about Columbia-Army, they usually focus on the miracle Lion win in 1947 at Baker Field that ended the Cadets record unbeaten streak. But the 1938 game was no less impressive, especially since it came at West Point.

Brown Outlook

Bear fans hope QB Michael Dougherty is more accurate than the Brown statistician (CREDIT: Brown Athletics)

Brown has released its 2008 football season preview on its website. It includes in the usual "puffing," but I think the overall excitement about the Bears offense is warranted... with the possible exception of the hoopla about the return of tailback Dereck Knight. Knight is talented, but he is not really battle-tested and if Brown is successful this season it will be because of its short, medium and long passing game.

There is an admirable amount of honest caution in the way the article assesses the Bear defense. Brown gave up a ton of points in a lot of games last season, and a lot of the most talented members of that already challenged defense have graduated. Clearly, Head Coach Phil Estes is excited about his linebacker corps but that may not be enough. Next to 1,000-yard tailbacks, the rarest commodity in the Ivies today are strong defensive linemen. Brown has experience on the DL, and an impressive leader in James Develin, but perhaps not enough total talent to really stuff the opposition.

Finally, the article touches on the tough task of replacing punter/kicker Steve Morgan who has graduated. Morgan was a big part of the Brown offense and no matter how well the running and passing game do, total points scored may fall this season because of his absence.

One more thing... there's a freaky error on the football page that lists the final score of last year's Brown-Columbia game as 36-22 Brown, instead of the correct 30-22. The Brown site credits quarterback Michael Dougherty with a 34-yard touchdown run supposedly scored as the final gun sounded for the difference. This has to be the weirdest "error" I've ever seen in a box score, as I was of course at the game and saw no such TD, and no other record of the game includes this score, includin the official league website. I've heard of running up the score on the field... but in the BOX SCORE?!?! Weird.

Sid vs. the Cadets, Part II

Michie Stadium, like Baker Field, is nestled on the Hudson

Game of the Day (Day 73)

October 10, 1937

Army 21 Columbia 18

After the tough loss to the Cadets at Yankee Stadium in 1936, Sid Luckman and the Lions were looking for revenge when they travelled up the Hudson to take on Army at relatively tiny Michie Stadium before 20,000 fans.

And while they gave Coach Gar Davidson's Army squad all they could handle, the victory went to the Cadets as a final desperate Columbia drive fell short.

Luckman threw the ball an incredible, (for that time), 34 times, completing 18 of them for 202 yards. The first big completion was a 26-yard TD toss to John Siegal to make it 6-0. Columbia's Art Waldo missed the extra point and then Army went on an impressive march on the ground and a 66-yard TD drive to take a 7-6 lead.

The Lions answered with a 56-yard drive that ended with another TD pass from Luckman to Siegal, this time for 19 yards. Waldo missed the extra point and it was 12-7 Lions at the half.

The Cadets answered with another ground-intensive 66-yard drive, capped off by an 11 yard TD run by a Cadet actually named Woodrow Wilson.

Then Luckman tried to win the game on his own. He returned the ensuing kickoff for 80 yards and a touchdown and an 18-14 lead.

An impressive Columbia drive was foiled when Sid threw an interception at the Army 2 that was returned all the way back to the Lions 4. From there. Army scored the winning TD late in third quarter.

But Luckman wasn't giving up. He led the Lions to one more drive, fighting the Cadet defenders and the clock until he finally was picked off again at the Army one yard line.

New York Times reporter called Luckman's performance "simply astounding," and described the fans filing out of Michie Stadium as "utterly limp and exhausted."

Who could have known that the 1938 matchup between these two teams would be even more thrilling?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fresh Facemasks

Johnathan Reese was the greatest Columbia freshman (CREDIT: Columbia College Today)

1993 marked a huge change in Ivy football as freshman were finally allowed to play in varsity games, (nitpickers will point out, however, that during World War II and the 3-4 years following freshman were also allowed to suit up in varsity games).

Since '93, Columbia has probably played the most freshmen of any Ivy team. Most of the time this was due to necessity, but a number of these pure freshmen have made a nice impact right off the bat.

Not including the WW II era, here now are the top five freshmen players in Columbia history:

5) Travis Chmelka 2000

The Fremont, Nebraska native burst into training camp and immediately became the fastest man on the squad. Chmelka saw action in the very first game of his freshman season as a kick returner and played a nice role in a 43-26 win over Fordham. He wasn't much a part of the regular offense until 2002, when he became a speedy pass target over the middle. But he just got better and better as a punt returner, and by his senior season of 2003 his returns were making the difference in game after game.

4) Alex Gross 2007

The Ivy League Rookie of the Year burst onto the scene in week against Princeton by leading the team in tackles in an tough, but exciting 42-32 loss to the Tigers. Gross ended up getting the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award four times, the most in league history. As the season wore on, Gross became more of key part of the Lions defense as they desperately tried to plug up a weakness up the middle. By season's end, that weakness had improved decidedly thanks in great part to Gross.

3) Andy Shalbrack 2006

You really could argue that Shalbrack should have been named the 2006 Ivy Rookie of the Year. His stunning freshman campaign that included leading the league in interceptions and putting up 55 tackles, five of them for a loss. Shalbrack made an impact right away by forcing a fumble against Fordham in the first game of the season, then he followed that up in week 2 with 11 tackles versus Georgetown. Won the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award twice.

2) Austin Knowlin 2006

Edged teammate Andy Shalbrack for the 2006 Ivy Leagye Rookie of the Year Award by bursting on to the scene as a key receiving threat. Scored on a catch-and-run 62-yard TD in the opener versus Fordham and finished the season with 44 receptions for 553 yards and four touchdowns. Knowlin upped the ante in his sophomore campaign, with 74 catches for 988 yards and 11 TD's. He has an inside track to shattering just about every receiving mark in the Columbia record book.

1) Johnathan Reese 1998

The exciting 1998 season was the launching pad for Reese's extraordinary Columbia career. He won the Rookie of the Year award despite fighting injuries for much of the season. But he made a strong showing in the opener, with 72 yards rushing in a 24-0 shutout of Harvard. By the final game of the season, Reese was the go-to guy, getting carry after carry in a valiant drive against Brown in the final moments that came up just short. Reese now owns just about every rushing record in the Columbia books.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Roy Hanks 1994, Hashim Dalton 1995, Ryan Kiernan 1997, Philip Murray 1999, Adam Brekke 2003, Tad Crawford 2003, Jon Rocholl 2005, Matt Bashaw 2006, Taylor Joseph 2006, Justin Masorti 2006, Lou Miller 2006, Brian England 2007, Nico Gutierrez 2007, Calvin Otis 2007

Bombs in the Bowl

Sid Rocked the Bowl in 1938

Game of the Day (Day 74)

October 2, 1938

Columbia 27 Yale 14

Lou Little didn't have time to wait for his team to develop in 1938. The season began in murderous style with two road games against perennial powers Yale and Army. For Sid Luckman, 1938 was to be his senior season and he still had work to do.

Yale was coming off a brilliant 7-1-1 1937 campaign under the legendary coach Ducky Pond.

But it was Luckman who started the season in grand style with a stunning performance at Yale that left fans and newspaper reporters alike looking for new adjectives to describe just how great Luckman was. He did so well that even the Yale fans among the 35,000 spectators rose to applaud Luckman when he finally left the field a few minutes before the final gun. On offense, defense, and special teams, Luckman had dominated the Elis for 60 minutes.

It started with a 19-yard punt return by Luckman to the Yale 40 in the first quarter. Luckman accounted for 27 of those 40 yards himself, including the short run for the first TD of the game. Luckman did show he was human after all by missing the extra point and Yale scored a freak TD to take a 7-6 lead, but it was all Columbia after that.

Another 19-yard punt return by Luckman put the ball on the Eli 26. He hit John Siegal for a key nine yard gain and the Lion rushers took it from there for a TD. This time Sid nailed the PAT for the 13-7 lead.

But Luckman was just getting warmed up. Just before the half he hit Frank Stulgaitis for a 50-yard TD and the Lions were in control at 20-7.

In the fourth quarter, Luckman helped cap the scoring with a 40-yard bomb to the Yale 10 that set up a TD two plays later and the 27-14 win.

Luckman finished the day 10-of-17 passing for 146 yards and no interceptions. Remember, Luckman was always officially a halfback so his passes were all option passes executed without the kind of pass blocking a pocket QB gets nowadays.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Get your tickets now!

I'm sure many of you received the special football season ticket order form or re-order form in the mail last week.

The mailing also came with a nice color pamphlet featuring Jordan Davis carrying the ball.

The prices remain the same: premium chairback season tickets are $90 each for all five home games and you can get those reserved bench seat season tickets for $45 each.

And you can also get the TRUE BLUE deal, which gets you season tickets for football, basketball, and women's basketball for just $265 per seat, (you could spend that much for parking alone at a Yankees game).

Another bonus this year is that if you renew by August 1st, you'll receive an invitation to a dinner with the football coaching staff on August 18th!

If you didn't get a mailing, or if you prefer to do this online, you can click here or call 1-888-LIONS-11.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sid Shreds the Quakers

Sid was a great kicker too

Game of the Day (Day 75)

October 17, 1937

Columbia 26 Penn 6

The Lions finished the 1936 campaign at 5-3 and optimism was high on Morningside Heights heading into the '37 season. But the year turned out to be a big disappointment due to injuries and other snafus.

For Penn, 1937 was an in-between year. The Quakers were an impressive 7-1 in 1936, with wins over Michigan, Penn State and Navy. But the true glory years for Penn under the great Head Coach George Munger were a year away as he would not take over the team until 1938. The Quakers came in to the game 1-1 after a close win over Maryland and a big loss to Yale.

Everything was clicking the right way for the Lions in this week three win in front of 28,000 fans at Baker Field. And for Sid Luckman, it would be one of his best days ever in a Columbia uniform.

Luckman struck early and often. He hit Bob Taylor for a 58-yard TD pass to start things off and then found Art Radvilas for a 20-yard score minutes later to give Columbia the 13-0 lead.

The score stayed that way until late in the third, when Luckman went over from the one to make it 20-0.

Early in the fourth quarter, Luckman returned a Penn punt to the Quaker 28 and a few plays later the Lions had their final score of the day and a 26-0 lead. Penn scored a meaningless TD against the Columbia reserves.

Luckman finished the day 5-for-7 in passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 66 yards and touchdown and he returned punts for a total of 78 yards on the day.

But for the Lions, this was to be the last win in a 2-5-2 season. And Columbia would not defeat Penn again until 1960.

Stranger in Our Midst

Dan Whalen is getting stronger by hanging with the Lions

A QB from the UAA champion Case Western Reserve Spartans is interning at Sports Illustrated here in New York City and staying in shape by working out with the Columbia football team.

For those of you who don't know, the UAA is the University Athletic Association, also known as the "Nerdy Nine." (Johns Hopkins dropped out the conference, so now it's actually eight teams). Some say the Ivy presidents are hoping to remake our league in the UAA's image. I'm not so sure, but there are certainly people who would like to see that happen.

Good luck to young Mr. Whalen in the coming season.