Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Water Logged (Updated and Expanded)


Matt Castor had a career day (CREDIT: Towson Athletics)

*(This is a quick post that will be elaborated on later)

Towson 31 Columbia 24


Why Towson Won

The Tigers offense finally got a running game going, and veteran QB Sean Schaefer made enough plays in crucial moments to pull it out. Towson also never let Columbia grab too much momentum, getting big kickoff returns that led to scored after the Lions had tied it at 7 and again when they knotted it at 24.


Why Columbia Lost

The Lions made too many turnovers and didn't stop even one Towson 4th down conversion attempt. The heavy rain made turnovers inevitable, but Towson made more out of them than Columbia.


Key Turning Points

1) In the first quarter, Austin Knowlin muffed a Towson punt, giving the Tigers possession at the Lion 36. After a short gain on 1st down, there was a 40-minute rain/lightining delay and Towson came out of the break sharp. Seven straight runs by Matt Castor resulted in a Tiger TD.

2) After Columbia tied it up with a spectacular 59-yard catch and run by Zack Kourouma on a Shane Kelly screen pass, Towson returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the Lion 34. Towson got a field goal on that drive, but more importantly, took the momentum back from Columbia.

3) Leading 10-7 with 3:46 left in the half, the Tigers mounted an impressive drive but it appeared to stall on the Columbia 25 with a 2nd and 24 with under 50 seconds left. The Lions let Towson off the hook however, and two Schaefer passes resulted in a TD and a ten point deficit.

4) Columbia came out inspired in the second half and made it 17-17 with 8:15 left in the third quarter. But again, Towson would not allow the Lions to enjoy any prolonged momentum. The Tigers mounted a 75-yard drive that included two 4th down conversions and ended with a short pass for a TD and a 24-17 Towson lead.

5) Columbia would eventually tie it at 24, but not before turning the ball over twice in the Tiger red zone. First, Knowlin was stripped by a nice tackled from behind, (that was not a mistake by Knowlin, just a great strip by the tackler), and then after the Lions got the ball right back at the Tiger eight on a Schaefer fumble, Knowling dropped a sure TD pass two plays before Kelly was intercepted for another turnover. The merry go round continued after Alex Gross tipped a pass that Adam Mehrer intercepted and returned to the Tiger 30. Columbia did fumble the ball again on this possession, but the Lions recovered and later went in for the tying score on Kelly's two yard keeper. But the previous turnovers had killed much of the clock and not there was just 3:11 left in the game.

6) The ensuing kickoff was returned all the way back to the Columbia 44 and Towson was in business. They never even had to face a 3rd down as they drove for the eventual winning TD.


Did We Get Lucky?

Despite the loss, the refs may have given two very big gifts to the Lions. The first one came late in the first quarter when Towson appeared to have a false start, but there was no call and the play resulted in a fumble that Drew Quinn recovered. Two plays later, Kourouma made his 59-yard dash into the end zone.

The second gift may have been Kelly's keeper TD. Kelly fumbled the ball into the air and it was recovered by Towson. But the refs said the ball broke the plane of the end zone before the score. The replays I saw of the TD were inconclusive.


Columbia Positives

I know we're 0-2, but ladies and gentlemen, we have a quarterback. You have to be impressed by Shane Kelly and the job he's done in his two first starts.

We have a couple of new sophomore stars in Zack Kourouma and Mike Stephens.

Drew Quinn is playing like a man possessed.

Eli Waltz did not return for the second half after recording what I believe was his first sack of his career. The Lions need him back, as well as Owen Fraser who I also did not see return after the rain delay.

Jon Rocholl has looked great on field goal attempts and the PAT's were a perfect 3-3 Saturday as well. And once again, Rocholl was able to snag a punt over his head and get a decent kick off.


Austin Knowlin had a tough game, and I'm sure he knows it. I'm thinking he doesn't do that again for a long time.

Here We Go Again?


Kalasi Huggins could be this year's ROY (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Kalasi Huggins has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week, and thus becomes a candidate to become the third straight Lion to win Rookie of the Year.

With the loss of Eugene Edwards to graduation and Chad Musgrove to career-ending injury, Huggins' stepping up this year is a huge plus for Columbia.

With the Lions looking to boost their pass rush, one wonders if maybe Huggins or his hard-hitting sophomore cornerback colleague Calvin Otis will be used on a corner blitz or two as the season progresses. The way Otis has been upending people these first two games on 2008, the idea of him going after an opposing QB is exciting.

But Huggins' story is indicative of where Columbia seems to be overall right now. There has been a huge influx of talent, young talent on this team. And young talent takes a while to really gel and get all the mental mistakes out of its system. On Saturday, I interviewed George Starke '71 who was one of the few rookies on the 1972 Redskin team known as the "Over the Hill Gang." Coach George Allen traded for a bunch of grizzled veterans because he was sick of rookie mistakes. The result was an NFC championship.

It make take a little more time or even another year, but if the coaching staff can retain these talented players on the squad they will mature and make fewer turnovers and penalties, etc.

More Random Thoughts

However you tally up the tackles, (and there still is some confusion about assisted tackles), Drew Quinn still leads the league in total tackles followed by fellow Ohioan and fellow Columbian Alex Gross at #2 in the Ivies. The Columbia Buckeyes are looking good.

The Ivies now seem wide open with the losses for Harvard and Yale on Saturday. Both teams could still win the league, but Brown has to be considered a favorite now since it came in to 2008 as almost everyone's pick for third and now it's knocked off one of the top two teams itself while Yale fell at Cornell.

Penn is 0-2 again, as is Dartmouth. I'm not exactly which one of these teams is a lot better than their record indicates, but at least one of them is.

Princeton is getting good yards from tailback Jordan Culbreath and good leadershop from QB Brian Anderson. But the Tigers top weapon may be wide receiver Will Thanheiser. Princeton is still beatable. Since 2000, the overwhelming majority of Columbia-Princeton games have been fantastic. I don't think this year will be any exception.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Water Logged


Matt Castor had a career day (CREDIT: Towson Athletics)

*(This is a quick post that will be elaborated on later)

Towson 31 Columbia 24


Why Towson Won

The Tigers offense finally got a running game going, and veteran QB Sean Schaefer made enough plays in crucial moments to pull it out. Towson also never let Columbia grab too much momentum, getting big kickoff returns that led to scored after the Lions had tied it at 7 and again when they knotted it at 24.


Why Columbia Lost

The Lions made too many turnovers and didn't stop even one Towson 4th down conversion attempt. The heavy rain made turnovers inevitable, but Towson made more out of them than Columbia.


Key Turning Points

1) In the first quarter, Austin Knowlin muffed a Towson punt, giving the Tigers possession at the Lion 36. After a short gain on 1st down, there was a 40-minute rain/lightining delay and Towson came out of the break sharp. Seven straight runs by Matt Castor resulted in a Tiger TD.

2) After Columbia tied it up with a spectacular 59-yard catch and run by Zack Kourouma on a Shane Kelly emergency dump off pass, Towson returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the Lion 34. Towson got a field goal on that drive, but more importantly, took the momentum back from Columbia.

3) Leading 10-7 with 3:46 left in the half, the Tigers mounted an impressive drive but it appeared to stall on the Columbia 25 with a 2nd and 24 with under 50 seconds left. The Lions let Towson off the hook however, and two Schaefer passes resulted in a TD and a ten point deficit.

4) Columbia came out inspired in the second half and made it 17-17 with 8:15 left in the third quarter. But again, Towson would not allow the Lions to enjoy any prolonged momentum. The Tigers mounted a 75-yard drive that included two 4th down conversions and ended with a short pass for a TD and a 24-17 Towson lead.

5) Columbia would eventually tie it at 24, but not before turning the ball over twice in the Tiger red zone. First, Knowlin was stripped by a nice tackled from behind, (that was not a mistake by Knowlin, just a great strip by the tackler), and then after the Lions got the ball right back at the Tiger eight on a Schaefer fumble, Knowling dropped a sure TD pass two plays before Kelly was intercepted for another turnover. The merry go round continued after Alex Gross tipped a pass that Adam Mehrer intercepted and returned to the Tiger 30. Columbia did fumble the ball again on this possession, but the Lions recovered and later went in for the tying score on Kelly's two yard keeper. But the previous turnovers had killed much of the clock and not there was just 3:11 left in the game.

6) The ensuing kickoff was returned all the way back to the Columbia 44 and Towson was in business. They never even had to face a 3rd down as they drove for the eventual winning TD.


Did We Get Lucky?

Despite the loss, the refs may have given two very big gifts to the Lions. The first one came late in the first quarter when Towson appeared to have a false start, but there was no call and the play resulted in a fumble that Drew Quinn recovered. Two plays later, Kourouma made his 59-yard dash into the end zone.

The second gift may have been Kelly's keeper TD. Kelly fumbled the ball into the air and it was recovered by Towson. But the refs said the ball broke the plane of the end zone before the score. The replays I saw of the TD were inconclusive.


Columbia Positives

I know we're 0-2, but ladies and gentlemen, we have a quarterback. You have to be impressed by Shane Kelly and the job he's done in his two first starts.

We have a couple of new sophomore stars in Zack Kourouma and Mike Stephens.

Drew Quinn is playing like a man possessed.

Eli Waltz did not return for the second half after recording what I believe was his first sack of his career. The Lions need him back, as well as Owen Fraser who I also did not see return after the rain delay.

Jon Rocholl has looked great on field goal attempts and the PAT's were a perfect 3-3 Saturday as well. And once again, Rocholl was able to snag a punt over his head and get a decent kick off.


Austin Knowlin had a tough game, and I'm sure he knows it. I'm thinking he doesn't do that again for a long time.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's Game Day!


It's almost time for me to head down to Baltimore for today's big game against Towson.

Please make sure to tune in to the game on 970AM here in the New York area, or logon to GoColumbiaLions.com for a free audio feed.

Rain is expected today in the Baltimore area, but it's not clear if it will be constant. Towson plays on FieldTurf, (like Columbia), and I have found that surface to be not so slippery even after heavy rain.

My halftime interview will be with Lion football and basketball star George Starke '71. George went on to become the "Head Hog" with the Washington Redskins and was an integral part of the Redskins' Super Bowl XVII championship team.

Columbia-Towson Keys to the Game


Austin Knowlin looks to get more catches (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

1) Control the Line of Scrimmage

Towson's offensive and defensive linemen have been pushed around this year and this is no time for Columbia to end that streak. The Lions are stronger and more experienced on the defensive line, ditto in spades on the offensive side of the ball. If they can't take advantage of these match-ups, the Lions won't be able to do it all season.


2) Stay Focused for 60 Minutes

A definite lull crept over Columbia in the second half after a major burst in the second quarter. Despite the longish road trip, the Lions need to come out pumped and keep up the intensity.


3) Contain Schaefer

Sean Schaefer is going to try to attack Columbia with short passes and crossers all day. Occasionally, he'll probably go deep. The linebackers need to help contain these plays and the defensive line needs to put pressure on Schaefer whenever possible. Schaefer may be as good a QB as Fordham's John Skelton, but he doesn't have the Fordham offensive line in front of him or a Xavier Martin to hand the ball off to whenever he likes.


4) Run, Run, Run

This is a team that's giving up 300+ yards per game on the ground. Run the ball until they prove thay can stop you.



5) Get Austin More Touches

But running aside, Austin Knowlin needs to get the ball thrown to him enough times to really make an impact. He makes things happen, period.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Week Two Picks


So far, the crystal ball has been clear


Last Week: 7-0

Season Overall: 7-0



I had a great week to start the season, but the games were easier to pick. Throw in some very wet weather predicted across the board tomorrow, and you have some tough choices this time.


Harvard over Brown

Harvard looked a little rusty in the win over Holy Cross last week, but the Crimson still held the Crusaders to 70 yards rushing and QB Chris Pizzotti seems to have a new weapon in wide receiver Marco Iannuzzi. Brown is excited about their defense leading the way to a win over Stony Brook last week, but I would be concerned about QB Michael Dougherty's problems hooking up with his wide outs. The rainy weather should also eliminate much of Brown's home field advantage.


Yale over Cornell

Now that Yale has established a passing threat, I don't see how the Big Red hold up against that and Mike McLeod on the ground. At least Cornell's new FieldTurf will keep the players from hyrdoplaning all over the place.


UNH over Dartmouth

The really rough weather will make this a closer game than expected because the Big Green can go to trusty rusher Milan Williams in a pinch. I expect him to approach 30-35 carries tomorrow. But New Hampshire is really a BCS-level time through and through and they will pull it out in the end.


Lafayette over Penn

The Leopards are kind of underrated, and there's a lot of criticism of their weak schedule so far. But I'm not sold on Penn's recovery simply because the Quakers played a close game against Villanova.


Princeton over Lehigh

This Lehigh team looks weaker than what we're used to and Princeton has shown early season strength in recent years. I think the Tigers new QB Brian Anderson is their best weapon and the defense will perform better than it did against the Citadel.

Towson Game Two Deep


Johnny Unitas Stadium

Not too many changes in the two-deep for this coming game against Towson. Austin Knowlin is still not listed, but I have no reason to believe he won't be starting as the slot back.

OFFENSE

QB 17 Shane Kelly....................Jr., 6-4, 225
16 M.A. Olawale ................Jr., 6-1, 225

RB 36 Jordan Davis.................Sr., 5-11, 209
4 Ray Rangel.....................Jr., 5-9, 195

FB 30 Nathan Lenz................So., 5-11, 200
32 Pete Stoll........................Jr., 6-0, 220

TE 82 Andrew Kennedy...........So., 6-3, 230
80 Clif Pope.......................So., 6-4, 237

WR 1 Mike Stephens ............So. 5-10, 180
9 Josh A. Williams.............Jr., 6-0, 185

WR 29 Taylor Joseph..................Jr., 6-2, 202
21 Derek Jancisin.................Jr., 6-3, 210

LT 60 Mike Brune....................Sr., 6-4, 288
76 Jeff Adams.....................Fr., 6-7, 285

LG 62 John Seiler......................Jr., 6-3, 290
69 Brandon Veldman...........Jr., 6-3, 270

C 79 Evan Sanford..................Jr., 6-4, 286
75 Kyle Stupi.......................Fr., 6-3, 265

RG 67 Ian Quirk.......................So., 6-2, 279
78 Dan Cohen................... So., 6-4, 280

RT 73 Ralph DeBernardo..........Sr., 6-4, 286
70 Will Lipovsky..................Jr., 6-6, 274

DEFENSE

DE 91 Phil Mitchell...................Sr., 6-6, 267
93 Conor Joyce..................Sr., 6-4, 250

NT 71 Owen Fraser..................Fr., 6-1, 278
61 Chris Groth...................Fr., 6-3, 289

DT 51 Eli Waltz........................Sr., 6-3, 281
96 Bruce Fleming...............So., 6-4, 250

DE 59 Lou Miller......................Jr., 6-0, 220
50 Josh Smith....................So., 6-3, 250

LB 48 Drew Quinn...................Sr., 6-2, 240
53 Josh D. Williams............Jr., 6-0, 225

LB 40 Corey Cameron.............Sr., 6-1, 226
57 Nick Mistretta................Fr., 6-2, 225

LB 37 Alex Gross..................So., 5-11, 213
26 Clark Koury..................Sr., 6-0 , 233

CB 14 Kalasi Huggins.............Fr., 5-11, 190
42 Jared Morine...............Jr., 5-10, 170

CB 24 Calvin Otis....................So., 6-1, 190
8 Kurt Williams.................Fr., 6-0, 180

FS 47 Adam Mehrer...............So., 6-1, 200
35 Dan Myers..................So., 5-11, 195

SS 6 Andy Shalbrack.............Jr., 6-1, 210
44 Augie Williams...........So., 5-10, 192


SPECIAL TEAMS

P 11 Jon Rocholl....................Sr., 6-3, 200
23 Mike Siebold..................Sr., 5-9, 168

PK 11 Jon Rocholl....................Sr., 6-3, 200
23 Mike Siebold..................Sr., 5-9, 168

LS 29 Taylor Joseph..................Jr., 6-2, 202
94 Ben Popeck....................Fr., 6-4, 240

H 12 Jason Pyles......................Jr., 6-1, 202
1 Mike Stephens............So., 5-10, 180

KR 2 A.J. Maddox..................Fr., 5-9, 175
83 Austin Knowlin.............Jr., 5-10, 190

PR 1 Mike Stephens ...........So., 5-10, 180
83 Austin Knowlin.............Jr., 5-10, 190

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Youth Out Front


Can any of these Towson fans play offensive line? (CREDIT: Towson Athletics)

Columbia fans know all about inexperience on the offensive line. In 2005, the Lions started just ONE lineman, (Matt Barsamian), with ANY game experience going into the season.

But Towson's just-released depth chart is surprising in that three freshmen are slated to start on the Tiger O-line along with one junior and one sophomore. Two of those freshmen were red-shirted last season, and we all know that released depth charts in game notes aren't always what you see on the field, but this is clearly the greenest front five Columbia is likely to face this year and maybe a few more years to come.

It explains Towson's 40-yards rushing per game average, 1.5 yards per carry, and its 12.8 points per game tally. The lack of stamina from the young blockers may also be the biggest reason why Towson hasn't scored a single fourth quarter point this year.

But a lot of that can also be explained by the fact that the Tigers had to face BCS contender Navy in week one and CAA power Richmond in week 2. But stripping those two games away actually gives you a Towson squad averaging just 38 rushing yards a game and 1.45 yards per carry!

Towson's pass blocking is obviously doing a bit better. The Tigers have allowed 10 sacks in four games, which is not great but not terrible. Clearly, QB Sean Schaefer is doing his damage with quick-release passes and probably while running for his life. And while Fordham's speedy rusher Xavier Martin did most of the damage to Columbia's defense last week, a key play in Fordham's winning drive was a quick slant to Richard Rayborn that went for 47 yards.

If Towson is studying the game film, I suspect the Tigers will try to hit Columbia with quick slants and screens as much as possible. This will be a big challenge for the outside linebackers in particular.

As bad as Towson has been running the ball, it's been worse stopping the run. The Tigers are allowing 317 rushing yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry. To put that in perspective, that's 86 more yards per game and 2.2 more yards per carry than Columbia allowed on the ground last year and we all know how much trouble the Lions had against the run in 2007.

But again, let's strip away the Navy and Richmond games to see if the Tigers did better against more comparable competiton. Again, the answer is: "not so much." Against Morgan State and Coastal Carolina, Towson still gave up an average of 263 rushing yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry.

Last year, the Tigers gave up a much more manageable 177 rushing yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. The Towson defensive line starts one senior, one junior and one sophomore, and it would appear that graduation has also hurt what was a decent defensive front line.

It appears Columbia has an excellent chance to control the lines of scrimmage in a way they haven't done in maybe 4-5 years. What's great about line of scrimmage issues is that the questions are usually answered right away. Whether the Lions start on defense or offense in this game, we'll see immediately if they're able to push Towson's up front players right away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Towson Tidbits


Towson lost a rough one to Coastal Carolina last week (CREDIT: Towson Football)

The Towson athletic Web site has a preview story up about this weekend's game and it contains some interesting historical as well as some player information.

Towson has apparently been hit with some key injuries, some of those big players are expected to return against the Lions, some not.

Also, thanks to these notes, I have been reminded that I have been remiss in pointing out that Columbia will play its 1,000 varsity football game this year! Game 1,000 will be at home against Dartmouth in week 6, (and it's on national TV!).

Quinn Gets an Upgrade!


Roar-EE Loves the New Web Site! (CREDIT: GoColumbiaLions.com)


A computer thingy, (that's the technical term), short-changed the number of tackles for just about every Columbia defender in the Fordham game. Here are the official totals for the top 5 Lion tacklers:


1) Drew Quinn 16

2) Andy Shalbrack 9

3) Daniel Myers 8

4) Alex Gross 8

5) Lou Miller 8



This means that Drew Quinn is leading the Ivies in tackles after week one. Congratulations Drew!


Catch us on 970 AM!!

Columbia Football and Basketball will be back on 970 AM, but the station has a stronger signal now and is also known as "The Apple." If you can't make it to Baltimore this Saturday for the game vs. Towson, please tune in!



Musgrove's Status

Chad Musgrove is a student assistant according to the game program after injuring himself last spring. He will not play this season, but we know he'll be contributing in any way he can.

Matt Moretto is out for the year as well according to the game program. I saw him on crutches after the game. That's a tough loss.



More Random Thoughts:

1) Be sure to check out the new Columbia Athletics Web Site! Take some time to get used to it and enjoy.

2) Freshman corner Kalasi Huggins is tied for the Ivy lead with two pass breakups.

3) Columbia seemed to have the middle buttoned up against the run vs. Fordham, so it will be interesting to see if Towson will attack on the edges.

4) A new study shows that those "energy drinks" are really bad for you especially if mixed with alcohol. I see a lot of college kids drinking them and so this is a concern. The full report is here.

Of course, when it comes to caffeine I am a Hassid. I have never had a cup of coffee in my life! And I am financially and physically richer for it. Coffee cake, on the other hand, is pretty damn good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Random Thoughts



There are lots of added details about Columbia's opening game that are worth mentioning even three days later:


1) Sophomore Calvin Otis made some big plays, especially on special teams. For a relatively small guy weight-wise, he packs a wallop. He and fellow corner, freshman Kalasi Huggins, seemed to have the sideline and outside routes covered nicely. Just about every Fordham completion was a short pass.


2) Evan Sanford did a great job a center, starting now in place of the graduated Mike Partain. He helped make room up the middle for some good early runs by Jordan Davis and then the QB keepers for M.A. Olawale later in the game.


3) Alex Gross did leave the game for awhile with what looked like a foot injury, but he came back into the game later. He made a very acrobatic leap to recover a John Skelton fumble early in the game that was a far cry from the stumbling and bumbling you usually see on loose balls. He also plays with great enthusiasm on every down. Obviously, he's not satisfied with just winning the Rookie of the Year award last season.


4) Fordham came into the game allowing well under 100 rushing yards per game. The Lions walked away with almost 150 net yards on the ground. Now they face a team giving up well over 300 RUSHING YARDS per game. This could be fun.


5) Columbia did not get any sacks, but good pressure on Skelton forced the big INT by Drew Quinn and his resulting return for a TD. Phil Mitchell also broke through and got his hand on a pass on a 3rd down play in the second half that forced a Fordham punt. Obviously, the pass rush has to get better, but I also think Mitchell, Conor Joyce, Owen Fraser, and Lou Miller make a heck of a front four and hopefully they'll get more help from Matt Bashaw who was out for the Fordham game. Bashaw has, in the past, been a great 3rd down pass rush specialist who can be a spark plug.

6) Jon Rocholl's heads up and athletic play to snag that bad snap, break a couple of tackles and STILL get off a great punt is still hard to believe. How many times have you seen a kicker get that kind of a result after a snap that flies that far over his head?


7) Kickoff and punt coverage seemed a little shaky at first, but got better. Rocholl nailed his kickoffs nicely and even had one touchback, (remember we kick from the 30 these days). Austin Knowlin had one decent 25-yard return on a kickoff, but generally I know we want more from our own returns.

Honors


Owen Fraser made a big impressive on the Ivy voters (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Drew Quinn and Owen Fraser both made the Ivy League football honor roll today after their fine performances on defense for the Lions yesterday. Fraser is a freshman and now becomes a candidate to be the third straight Columbia player to win Ivy League Rookie of the year.

Perhaps the most impressive win for any Ivy team this week was Brown's 17-7 win over Stony Brook. No one expected much from the Bears defense this season, but it was the defense that smothered Stony Brook for the win. Junior defensive end James Davelin had a monster game for Brown which could ride this stronger-than-expected defensive line to the top of the standings. Davelin was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week.

But the big test comes at home this Saturday against Harvard. The Crimson had to come back to beat Holy Cross at Harvard Stadium Friday night, but Holy Cross is a good team. Senior QB Chris Pizzotti was 30 for 44 for 370 yards and a TD pass! He won Ivy Offensive Player of the Week.

Dartmouth's long-standing problems at placekicker since the graduation of Tyler Lavin seem to be over. Freshman kicker Foley Schmidt did a great job hitting two field goals and went 2-2 on PAT's for the Big Green. He was named Ivy Rookie of the Week.


In Case You Were Wondering...

I suspect a lot of Columbia fans will be wondering a bit about our upcoming opponent Towson and just what to expect.

Towson is 1-3 with all their losses on the road, including one against D-I bowl contender Navy and another against FCS playoff power Richmond. The most recent loss to Coastal Carolina was perhaps the toughest, as the Chanticleers, (yes that is Coastal's nickname, easily one of the weirdest in college football), held them to three points. Coastal comes from the mixed bag FCS Big South division, but they play Penn State earlier this season, (they fell 66-10).

Towson's best weapons will be QB Sean Schaefer. Going into this weekend's game, he was averaging 262 yards passing per game and had a nice 65.4% completion percentage. Junior David Newsom is his main target, usually for short plays. The long threat is junior Casey Cegles, who was averaging more than 20 yards per catch.

Towson's running attack may be the weakest Columbia will face all season. After four games, the Tigers have just 161 net yards rushing for the whole season. On the other side of the ball, Towson has allowed more than 300 yards rushing in almost every game, including another 302 last week against Coastal.

Why Towson? Well, Columbia does owe the Tigers a couple of games after hosting them at Wien Stadium in 1997 and 1999, (both Lion victories). Towson was considering joining the Patriot League back then, but decided to go to the CAA instead, which has since split into North and South divisions. Towson has not challenged the leaders in their South division as of yet.

But this is a long road trip for the Lions into unfamiliar territory. Unlike the Iona and Marist games in 2006 and 2007, this game will be much tougher.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fade Out


Knowlin's 56-yard TD catch was a real crowd pleaser (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyers)


Fordham 29 Columbia 22


Why Fordham Won

The Rams overcame a terrible second quarter, regained their poise and finally were able to take advantage of Columbia's mental errors to win. Xavier Martin had another super game, especially running to his left, and paced the Fordham attack with 155 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.


Why Columbia Lost

When they took control of the game, they made some key mental errors to let Fordham back into it. Then they couldn't stop Martin when it really counted.


Key Turning Points

1) With about two minutes left in the third quarter and Columbia leading 22-14, the Lions forced the Rams to punt from their own 21. But a quick snap and punt by the Rams caught Columbia with too many men on the field and the resulting 5-yard penalty gave Fordham a first down. The Rams then proceeded to march 74 yards for the tying touchdown.

2) After that TD, the Lions responded with a three-and-out. Columbia's defense responded by forcing the Rams to punt on their ensuing possession, but Columbia again went three-and-out when they got the ball back. Fordham didn't waste any time after that, going in quickly for the winning score.


JAKE'S GAME MVP: DREW QUINN (16 tackles, INT, TD)


General Comments

There is a lot of good news to focus and build on. First off, Fordham is a very strong team that is still the favorite to repeat as Patriot League champs. Playing them this close in the first week of the season for Columbia is a positive sign.

Shane Kelly went a bit cold in the second half, but he avoided big mistakes and looked very much like a leader even though he has to share some time with M.A. Olawale by design. When the Lions gave him time to throw, he was lethal. He also executed a few runs quite nicely, especially an option keeper in the third quarter that went for 30 yards and was the best Columbia play of the second half. The long TD bomb to Knowlin and another 51-yarder to Taylor Joseph may make the highlight reel, but I thought Kelly's roll out TD throw to Andrew Kennedy from just five yards out was his best throw of the game.

The defense was improved. Xavier Martin was unstoppable at times, but the Lions stuffed him enough times to give the offense a chance to win. For a team that allowed 237 yards rushing per game, yesterdays allowed total of 191 yards is a step in the right direction.

Austin Knowlin only had a few touches in the game, but he made them count. He basically started despite not even being listed in Friday's twp-deep. His 56-yard TD catch and run was unbelievable as he avoided 3 or 4 sure tackles.

Drew Quinn was a major force. He had nine and half tackles, an INT return for a TD, and one and a half tackles for a loss. He too was not even mentioned in the two-deep.

Lou Miller made the transition to defensive line very nicely. There were several points in the game where he made key tackles and provided a big spark.

While the too many men on the field penalty acted as a virtual turnover, Columbia did not actually turn the ball over once. Meanwhile, the Lions created three turnovers and returned one of those for a TD.

M.A. Olawale's two series at QB had mixed results. His first entrance into the game got the offense going and delivered a key field goal when Fordham looked like it was going to steamroll. His second entry into the game was a three and out. BUT, that's a pretty good overall percentage and now Columbia knows it can use a deceptive weapon to cross up opposing defenses when it needs to.

Once again, a number of freshmen had very strong performances. Owen Fraser at nose guard did a great job and showed remarkable speed for someone his size. Kalasi Huggins made some good plays at corner.

While the rushing attack wasn't lethal, the Lions did net 149 yards on the ground thanks mostly to some productive running by Kelly, Olawale at QB, and Ray Rangel at tailback.

Coach Norries Wilson took responsibility for the too many men on the field flag on the punt, admitting that he made the switch from Mike Stephens to Knowlin too late and Stephens didn't hear him. But there were also a few false starts and a delay of game flag. This is par for the course for the first game of the season, but the Lions need to work out those kinks right away.

Columbia failed to get any sustained pressure on Fordham QB John Skelton. The few times they did, good things happened for the Lions, but it just didn't happen enough. Of course, hardly anyone ever gets pressure on Skelton.

Two PAT's were botched. One on a hooked kick by Rocholl, the other on a bad snap. Taylor Joseph had some troubles with his long snapping and needed a miraculous save from Rocholl to get off the hook from a high punt snap deep in the Lions end.

The attendance was below 3,000 even on a beautiful day with a crosstown opponent. (However, the fans who were there were really into it. The roar from the crowd on Knowlin and Quinn's TD's was really strong).


What's Next?

Columbia has to figure out if it's going to be the team in the second quarter that dominated a bigger opponent on both sides of the ball, or the first quarter and second half team that seemed too rusty to be able to compete. The Lions surely have the weapons to play well against the best of opponents, but they have to execute better.

Next week Columbia heads to Baltimore to take on a Towson team with little running attack and a very weak run defense. The Tigers do have a talented QB, but this is a game the Lions can win.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Game Day!


The 308-day wait is over and the sun has finally risen on the 2008 Columbia football season.

Again, do what can to come out to the game. But if not, please tune in on the SideLion Pass and listen and watch Jerry Recco and I call the action.

My halftime interview guest is Matt Sodl '88, one of the greatest defensive players in Columbia history.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Columbia-Fordham Keys to the Game


Let's pack the place tomorrow! (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)


First off, get to the game if you can! Tickets are still available online and they will be for sale at the box offices.

If you can't get to the game, sign up for the SideLion Pass and listen and/or watch Jerry Recco and I call the game.


Here's what Columbia needs to do to win this game:


1) Contain the run


The one thing Columbia could not do last year is a special necessity tomorrow. Xavier Martin shredded the Lions in the 2007 opener and he seems like he has improved now that he is a sophomore. Martin has a very strong and veteran offensive line in front of him.

The good news is that Columbia is sporting a very "new look" defensive line with some very big boys up front. They will have to do their job and keep up their stamina on what should be a 70-degree+ day.


2) Establish the Run

Nothing will help new starting QB Shane Kelly and the defense more than a sustained running attack that makes yards and keeps opponents guessing. This is something Columbia hasn't had since 2004, (and it was spotty then too), so the potential upside of a real running game is especially high for the Lions.

Obviously this is easier said than done, especially against a Fordham team that's been super tough against the run. The flip side is that the Ram defense hasn't really been tested by a strong running attack. Columbia's deep bench at the tailback position and bigger offensive line can provide a real challenge if they're ready.


3) Win on special teams

Fordham has had some special teams problems in the Rams first two games, and the Lions need to keep that streak going. A blocked kick or two, a nice return or two, etc. could be game changers.


4) Pressure Skelton

Fordham's big QB John Skelton has been nearly flawless this season. He needs to be pressured into making some mistakes or else he'll get into a short passing rhythm that could really break the Lions early. Too many QB's just stood still in the pocket last year with no fear of harrassment. That can't happen tomorrow.


5) Bring the Enthusiasm!

Two years ago, the Lions swamped Fordham with a hyper-charged and hard-hitting effort on opening day. The Rams are coming off a long road trip loss at Dayton and Columbia needs to greet them at Wien Stadium tomorrow like a "deer in the headlights" tourist in Times Square.

And the FANS NEED TO SHOW UP AND GET LOUD!!!! This is how we can help the guys in light blue.

Week One Picks


Gaze into my crystal ball


I went 32-10 with my picks last year, BUT I didn't include point spreads... so take that for what it's worth.


Harvard over Holy Cross* GAME IS TONIGHT

Holy Cross has a great chance to win, but the Crimson are out for some revenge after falling to the Crusaders in a very close game last year in Worcester. Holy Cross' offense will test the Harvard defense, but I think the night game crowd will push the Crimson to victory.


Villanova over Penn

Villanova looks strong once again, and I have real questions about the Quakers this year. If Penn does win, it will be because sophomore tailback Bradford Blackmon broke out as a star. But I don't think Penn will win.


The Citadel over Princeton

Good for Princeton for scheduling a tough new opponent on the road. But this is going to be a huge upset if the Tigers pull it out. They won't.


Brown over Stony Brook

Stony Brook is building a great program with some super recruited players and transfers on scholarship. But I sense a little stumble right now and Brown usually starts very strong at home. Expect a real shoot out of a game either way.

Cornell over Bucknell

I'm not exactly high on the Big Red this year, but Bucknell isn't a stellar team either. This is one of those games Cornell has to win.


Yale over Georgetown

This game could get ugly. I think Georgetown is improved from last year, but not enough to beat the Elis.


Colgate over Dartmouth

A very rough road game for the Big Green against a Colgate team that needs to win to get back on track right now.

Two Deep Released


Your 2008 Columbia Lions!! (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyars)


Okay, we have a lot of new names in the announced starting lineup for tomorrow against Fordham:


OFFENSE

QB 17 Shane Kelly....................Jr., 6-4, 225
16 M.A. Olawale ...............Jr., 6-1, 225

RB 36 Jordan Davis................Sr., 5-11, 209
4 Ray Rangel....................Jr., 5-9, 195


FB 32 Pete Stoll.......................Jr., 6-0, 220
30 Nathan Lenz...............So., 5-11, 200

TE 82 Andrew Kennedy..........So., 6-3, 230
80 Clifton Pope.................So., 6-4, 237

WR 1 Mike Stephens ............So. 5-10, 180
9 Josh A. Williams............Jr., 6-0, 185

WR 29 Taylor Joseph.................Jr., 6-2, 202
21 Derek Jancisin................Jr., 6-3, 210

LT 60 Mike Brune....................Sr., 6-4, 288
76 Jeff Adams....................Fr., 6-7, 285

LG 62 John Seiler.....................Jr., 6-3, 290
69 Brandon Veldman..........Jr., 6-3, 270

C 7 Evan Sanford................Jr., 6-4, 286
75 Kyle Stupi......................Fr., 6-3, 265

RG 67 Ian Quirk......................So., 6-2, 279
66 Tim Skalak................... So., 6-2, 285

RT 73 Ralph DeBernardo.........Sr., 6-4, 286
70 Will Lipovsky or.............Jr., 6-6, 274
78 Dan Cohen...................So., 6-4, 280


DEFENSE

DE 93 Conor Joyce..................Sr., 6-4, 250
91 Phil Mitchell...................Sr., 6-6, 267

NT 71 Owen Fraser..................Fr., 6-1, 278
61 Chris Groth...................Fr., 6-3, 289

DE 51 Eli Waltz........................Sr., 6-3, 281
96 Bruce Fleming...............So., 6-4, 250

LB 53 Josh D. Williams............Jr., 6-0, 225
56 Marc Holloway............So.,5-11, 233

LB 57 Nick Mistretta................Fr., 6-2, 225
40 Corey Cameron.............Sr., 6-1, 226

LB 37 Alex Gross..................So., 5-11, 213
26 Clark Koury..................Sr., 6-0 , 233

LB 59 Lou Miller......................Jr., 6-0, 220
50 Josh Smith....................So., 6-3, 250

CB 14 Kalasi Huggins.............Fr., 5-11, 190
42 Jared Morine...............Jr., 5-10, 170

CB 24 Calvin Otis....................So., 6-1, 190
25 Craig Hamilton............So., 508, 160

FS 47 Adam Mehrer...............So., 6-1, 200
35 Dan Myers..................So., 5-11, 195

SS 6 Andy Shalbrack.............Jr., 6-1, 210
44 Augie Williams...........So., 5-10, 192

P 11 Jon Rocholl....................Sr., 6-3, 200
23 Mike Siebold.................Sr., 5-9, 168

PK 11 Jon Rocholl....................Sr., 6-3, 200
23 Mike Siebold.................Sr., 5-9, 168

LS 29 Taylor Joseph.................Jr., 6-2, 202
94 Ben Popeck...................Fr., 6-4, 240

H 12 Jason Pyles....................Jr., 6-1, 202
1 Mike Stephens............So., 5-10, 180

KR 25 Craig Hamilton...............So., 5-8, 16
39 Zack Kourouma..........So., 5-11, 190

PR 1 Mike Stephens ...........So., 5-10, 180


Conspicuous by their absence are wide receivers Austin Knowlin and Nico Gutierrez and linebacker Drew Quinn, but we'll see if this holds at game time.

Masters of the Hudson


The 1947 Columbia Lions


Game of the Day (Day 2)

October 25, 1947

Columbia 21 Army 20



1940's college football was dominated by Red Blaik and his West Point Cadets. That made sense because World War II made a decision to go to the military academies more attractive to the best high school recruits, while at the same time decimating the rosters of the civilian college sports teams. Even after the war ended in 1945, Army stayed strong. The Cadets came into Baker Field that gray October day with a record 32-game unbeaten streak. A year earlier, they trounced a good Columbia team, 48-14.

The Army-Columbia games of the 30's and 40's were always a great spectacle. When they were played at Baker Field, a large contingent of Cadets would often take a ferry down the Hudson from West Point directly down to the Stadium at Spuyten Duyvil.

Columbia's eventual victory was achieved on the greatest stage at a time when sports were retaking a place at the center of American attention. And while the Rose Bowl win is a close second, beating the world famous Army squad at this particular point in their history, (and without the help of terribly flooded field), was a greater achievement. In addition to the 32-game win streak, the Cadets were two-time defending national champs. They were the undisputed kings of football.

ESPN recently rated this game as one of the 20 greatest college football upsets of all time.


Here's a look at the game from an Army perspective. This comes from an Army program published in the late 1950's:



October 25, 1947: The fifth game of the college season. As mentioned earlier, Army, with major personnel departures to graduation, had attained a three victory and one tie record to this point. The next opponent, Columbia, had opened its season with two wins and two losses, and Coach Little’s Lions were not expected to pose much of a problem for Coach Blaik and his Cadets.

But Columbia had some fine performers in quarterback Gene Rossides (who received some expert tutoring from Sid Luckman), halfback Lou Kusserow and end Bill Swiacki.

The day of the game a crowd of 35,000 fans showed up at Columbia’s Baker Field
in New York City, and the action started early. Just five minutes into the game, on
the ninth play of a 55-yard drive, Army quarterback Galiffa scored on a two-foot
sneak. Place kicker Jack Mackmull then booted the extra point for a 7-0 Army lead

Still in the first quarter, with Army getting the ball after Bill Gustafson’s pass
interception, the Cadets drove to the Lions’ nine yard line. Then a pass thrown by
substitute back Charley Gabriel was picked off on the goal line by Columbia
defender Al Kachaduruan, thus stopping the Army drive. But in the second quarter, key runs by Army’s Jack (“Amos” according to the New York Times game recap) Gillette, Gustafson and “Rip” Rowan moved the ball 61 yards to the one, and from there Rowan went in for the second Army score. Mackmull again converted for a 14-0 lead.

Columbia’s ground game had trouble moving the ball before quarterback Rossides connected on three straight passes, the first to right end Bruce Gehrke and the next two to opposite flanker Swiacki (who would later join Gehrke with the New York Giants in 1948). The three catches were all of the sensational variety, and preceded Kusserow taking a handoff from Rossides and driving in from six yards out - these being the first points allowed by Army for the season. The point after was added by fullback Ventan Yablonski (who was to play four seasons with the Chicago Cardinals beginning in 1948), and the Army lead now stood at 14-7.

An Army turnover deep in their own end was followed by Columbia’s failure to capitalize; as Yablonski missed a field goal try to give the ball back to Army. As the end of the half approached, “Rip” Rowan of the Cadets broke loose for the day’s most sensational run - 84 yards for the final score before halftime. With Mackmull failing on the conversion, it was Army 20-7. The missed kick was to prove fateful.

The third quarter was scoreless, although Gene Rossides of the Lions completed eight passes and Kusserow one. Then early in the final period, Rossides connected twice to right half Bill Olson, before throwing to Swiacki, who made an extraordinary catch in the end zone for the touchdown, cutting Army’s lead to 20-14 when Yablonski kicked the point-after.

The fleet “Bobby Jack” Stuart returned the ensuing kickoff to Army’s 27. With Rowan gaining 18 and Stuart seven, Galiffa then threw to end John Trent to advance the ball to Columbia’s 34.

But the Lions’ defense stopped the Army drive, and with eight and a half minutes to play, Columbia faced the need to cover 66 yards to reach Army’s goal line. Rossides
was up to the challenge. Showing a lot of poise, he in turn handed off to Yablonski for 11, carried the ball himself for 22 yards to reach Army’s 33, and then gave the ball to Kusserow for four more. With the Cadets switching from a five to a six-man line, Rossides once again threw to Swiacki, who made another diving, highlight film
catch on the three. Two plays later, Kusserow went in for the touchdown and Yablonski kicked the crucial go-ahead point-after. Columbia now led, 21-20!

Still with time to come back, Army desperately went to the air. After a 30-yard catch by Rowan was wiped out by an off-side penalty, another completion was made to Trent. But then future NBC television sports producer Lou Kusserow intercepted the next Army pass, and Columbia managed to kill the clock and preserve the win that stopped the Cadets’ unbeaten streak.

Columbia’s Bill Swiacki, who served his country as an air force navigator during WW-II, was a consensus All-America for 1947, and was inducted into college football’s Hall of Fame in 1976.

Army’s Joe Steffy won the Outland Trophy, as he was voted 1947’s best interior lineman. Sadly,

Army Lt. John C. Trent tragically lost his life in 1950 during the Korean conflict.

The now-legendary 21-20 win over unbeaten Army in 1947 highlighted one of Columbia’s two best football periods under Coach Lou Little, as the Lions went 21-6-0 from 1945 to 1947. The other period of prosperity for Columbia was between 1931 and 1934, when the much admired coach Little’s teams went 29-4-2 and upset favored Stanford in the 1934 Rose Bowl.


Here's a description of the game from an L.A. Times piece written in 1999:

During World War II, a disproportionate number of high school football stars found their way to West Point, N.Y.

It was a time when most young men were destined for military service. So, better to go in as officers, many figured.

Predictably, Army ruled the roost in college football, particularly after the war ended in 1945. Between 1944 and 1947, the Cadets were unbeaten in 32 games, a streak that included victories of 83-0 over Villanova, 69-0 over Pittsburgh and 59-0 over Notre Dame.

But the streak ended 52 years ago today in New York City, at Columbia’s Baker Field. There, about 35,000 watched a stunning second-half comeback, with the Lions scoring what remains one of the century’s major football upsets, 21-20.

Columbia partisans then and now gave it higher marks than even Columbia’s 1934 upset of Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

And it didn’t seem to be in the cards–until the third quarter.

Army initially had no trouble with the Lions, cruising to a 20-7 halftime lead. Then Columbia’s quarterback, Gene Rossides, suddenly began throwing strikes to his best receiver, Bill Swiacki.

Overall, Swiacki caught eight passes, the most unforgettable a leaping, twisting catch in the end zone for Columbia’s third touchdown, with 3:32 left. The winning conversion was kicked by Ventan Yablonski.

Of Swiacki’s end-zone catch, the New York Times reported: “Nothing like it has been seen since Al Gionfriddo robbed Joe DiMaggio in the sixth game of the 1947 World Series.

Swiacki also helped set up the second touchdown, making an outstanding reception on a 26-yard play that gave Columbia the ball at Army’s three.


Here's Bill Swiacki's page at the College Football Hall of Fame

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Some Info


Fordham's two-deep and game notes have been posted on their Web site.

No real surprises, but there seem to be some minor changes on the offensive line. Also, rising star sophomore Nick Magiera is finally slated as a starter at linebacker.

Keep a keen eye on the punting situation. Cameron Dean is listed as the starter, but he's been hurt the previous couple of games and backup QB Clayton Busch has been doing some of the punting. We'll see if the two-deep is hiding something on Saturday.

Wet Roses


Barabas breaks free


Game of the Day (Day 3)

January 1, 1934

Columbia 7 Stanford 0



Winter, 1934. New York City and the entire country are still mired in the Depression. A spirit of humility rules the day so much that Mayor-elect Fiorello La Guardia wins cheers for promising to ban any more parades for sports teams paid for by the taxpayers.

But like Seabiscuit and boxer James Braddock, an underdog sports team from Morningside Heights would change his mind and provide a bit of good cheer in a very trying time.

I thought I would present the full story of the great Rose Bowl win by providing some excerpts and first person accounts.

The first one comes from the obituary for Cliff Montgomery that appeared a few years ago in Columbia College Today:

On New Year’s Day 1934, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, pitted Stanford (8–1–1), which had been scored on only four times all season, against Columbia (7–1), which had lost only to Princeton. For the three days before the game, torrential rains soaked the field. “When we arrived the day before the game [after traveling from New York by train], the Rose Bowl looked like a lake,” Cliff Montgomery, the team captain, recalled in a 1981 article in The New York Times. “The players’ benches were floating up and down the sideline like small boats.”

When the rain abated that day, a half-dozen fire departments began drying the field, pumping out 2.5 million gallons of water. But game day brought more rain, a muddy field and a general belief that Stanford, favored by 18 points in part because of a 17-pound-per-man advantage, could run the ball at will.

In the second quarter, with the game scoreless and Columbia in possession on Stanford’s 17-yard line, Montgomery decided it was time for KF-79, a trick play that Coach Lou Little had devised. From the single-wing formation, Montgomery took the snap, and the deception began.

“I thought Stanford would be expecting a play into the line, and KF-79 was designed to fool them,” Montgomery said years later. “We went into a single-wing formation to the right. I took the snap from center and spun. I slipped the ball to Al Barabas ’36, who put it on his left hip and circled out toward their left end. I now faked a handoff to Ed Brominski ’35, who headed toward Stanford’s right. I followed him, and almost the entire Stanford team clawed at Brominski and me. Barabas, by this time, was in the end zone.” Almost a half-century later, Montgomery could still picture the moment when Barabas made it to the Stanford end zone. “Seeing him there was one of the most thrilling sights of my life.”

The extra point made the score 7–0, and neither team could score the rest of the game. By winning the Rose Bowl, Columbia staged what is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletic upsets of the 20th century. Montgomery, a 6-foot, 165-lb. senior, was named MVP of the game, the only bowl appearance in Columbia football history. When the team returned home, New York City’s new mayor, Fiorello H. La Guardia, led a victory parade from Penn Station to Columbia’s campus.

After the Rose Bowl, as Montgomery recalled for USA Today in 2000, “I had a screen test with Warner Brothers. Bert Lahr was in it, and Ginger Rogers. They wanted me to stay and finish college later, but Lou Little talked me into going back and finishing school, which I’m glad he did.”



From Time Magazine:

A New Year's Day rain in southern California ruined a great deal more than the Tournament of Roses pageant at Pasadena. For 30 hours it came down in silvery sheets—eight inches of it in Los Angeles, a whole foot in Pasadena. From fire-scarred hillsides the water spilled down in yellow torrents into every gully, inundating roads, washing away bridges, flooding towns. When the storm subsided, at least 31 persons were dead, scores were missing. In La Crascenta, a 25-ft. wall of water struck a building where the Red Cross was giving first aid, milled the building and its 25 occupants into a dirty mass of debris. But despite this shocking catastrophe, 200,000 Californians turned out for the Tournament. What happened in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day when Columbia's football team defeated Stanford 7-to-0 did not raise their spirits.

The storm had made the Bowl a lake, drained just in time for the game by three fire engines pumping all night. Even with a soggy field and wet ball as equalizing factors, Stanford started a 2½-to-1 favorite. Pacific Coast fans had been loud in their contempt of Columbia, derisive of Stanford for ever inviting Columbia to play. Easterners who conceded Columbia a chance were regarded as provincials whose enthusiasm had blinded their judgment. One who was not bothered by such talk was Louis Little, the big-framed, booming-voiced coach who in four years at Columbia had built its football stature up from puniness. He worked his team hard for the Rose Bowl game, diligently guarded them from ballyhoo, banked on Stanford's overconfidence.

There was nothing in the final statistics to show why Columbia should have won. The play was in Columbia territory most of the time. Stanford outrushed Columbia 242 yd. to 70 yd., made 16 first downs to Columbia's six. But Stanford made eight fumbles and Columbia recovered four of them. The touchdown came in the second period, when Columbia's Halfback Al Barabas cut around Stanford's right end and loped across the line standing up. Center Newt Wilder kicked the extra point. From then on Columbia's job was to dig into the slime and hold against Stanford's inexhaustible reserves. Columbia not only held, but turned Stanford back from the 1-yd. line where Halfback Ed Brominski scooped up a Stanford fumble. In the last few minutes the rain again helped Columbia. Stanford tried to catch up with a furious forward-passing attack but could not handle the slick ball.

Weak with joy, Coach Little managed to sputter into a radio microphone: "If there's a happier man in this world, he must be in Heaven."



From Various Sources:


The 1934 Rose Bowl, played on January 1, 1934, was the 20th Rose Bowl Game. The Columbia Lions defeated the Stanford Indians 7-0. Cliff Montgomery, the Columbia quarterback, was named the Rose Bowl Player Of The Game when the award was created in 1953 and selections were made retroactively. At 35,000, it has the lowest attendance in the Rose Bowl game since the Rose Bowl Stadium was built in 1922. This was one of the few rainy New Year's day celebrations in Pasadena, California. Rain three days before had turned the Rose Bowl stadium into a small lake.

On Stanford

In the previous 1932 season, the "Thundering Herd" of the USC Trojans, led by Howard Jones, defeated Stanford 13-0 on the way to a second consecutive national championship and victory in the 1933 Rose Bowl. Stanford player Frankie Alustiza proclaimed “They Will never do that to our team. We will never lose to the Trojans.” A few minutes later, another member of the team proclaimed, “Let’s make that a vow.” The press reported on the vow, but it was forgotten until the next fall when facing USC, they were suddenly called upon to make good upon it. On November 11, in Los Angeles, USC (6-0-1) hosted Stanford (5-1-1). The Trojans suffered their first defeat in 27 games, losing 13-7, in a game that ultimately decided the Pacific Coast Conference championship. Thus, the Stanford class of 1936 became the "Vow Boys".

For the three days before the game, torrential rains soaked the field. “When we arrived the day before the game [after traveling from New York by train], the Rose Bowl looked like a lake,” Montgomery, the team captain, recalled in a 1981 article in The New York Times. The Pasadena fire department pumped out the stadium. But, the day was uncharacteristically rainy for Southern California, and the muddy field rendered the game scoreless going into the second quarter. At that time, and with the ball on the Stanford 17-yard line, Columbia quarterback Cliff Montgomery '34 executed a trick play called KF-79. During the play, he spun and slipped the ball to Al Barabas '36, and then faked a hand-off to Ed Brominski '35, who ran in the opposite direction. While the Indians went for Montgomery and Brominski, Barabas successfully ran around the defense to score for the Lions. Stanford "Vow Boys" Bobby Grayson (152 yards on 28 carries), end Monk Moscript, lineman Bob Reynolds and other stars cannot overcome the margin as mishaps ruin Stanford's chances. Columbia ended up winning the game, 7-0, capping one of the biggest upsets in Rose Bowl history. The win also cemented Lou Little's reputation at Columbia as the Lions' greatest coach of the 20th century.

The "Vow Boys", the Stanford class of 1936, never did lose to USC, defeating them again in 1934 16-0, and in 1935 3-0. The 1933 Michigan Wolverines team, who tied for first in the Big Ten conference with Minnesota on a 0-0 tie between the two teams, was voted the 1933 national champion. USC, who had won the previous two years, and who finished the season 10-1-1 was denied a third consecutive national championship.


Sports Illustrated recently called the Lions win over Stanford #90 on its list of 100 top moments in college football history:

#90
LIONS IN WINTER
Pasadena, Calif. | Jan.1, 1934
Columbia got the invitation for the 1934 Rose Bowl only after Army and Duke lost their season finales. Stanford's vaunted Vow Boys awaited. The Lions, aided by a muddy field, used a conservative plan and a beautiful trick play. Al Barabas scored on a 17-yard reverse in the second quarter, and the Lions defense, repelling six Indian drives within the 20, made the 7-0 lead stand.


The Lions made a grand tour of the country on their return trip home. Local papers in Denver and Pittsburgh reported on their stopovers in those towns and the crowds that came to see them.

From CSTV:

ROSE BOWL

January 1, 1934: Columbia 7, Stanford 0
The talk leading up to the game didn't give the Lions much of a chance; but it's not surprising that most thought Columbia didn't have a shot. When the Lions received Stanford's invitation to play the game, Columbia administrators believed it was simply a ruse.

Once the teams hit the field, however, the joke was on Stanford. After days of torrential rains in Southern California, the field was nearly underwater when the teams met. The horrendous conditions sunk Stanford's powerful offense, leaving Columbia with a chance to snatch the one-score victory.

In the second quarter, with the ball on the Stanford 17, the Lions ran a trick play that displayed their brains more than their brawn. Quarterback Cliff Montgomery handed the ball off to fullback Al Barabas while making it seem as though the play was going to the other side of the field. The play worked perfectly, and Barabas went nearly unnoticed into the end zone.

Former New York Evening Journal writer, Bill Corum helped put the contest into historic perspective.

"This game, more than any other in college history, convinced the country that no section, and no team, really owns the game."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Getting to the Promised Land


The Happiest Place on Earth... except for Tijuana (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)


Columbia's official guide to gameday at the Baker Athletics Complex (highly recommended reading):


Step one: DON'T PANIC

Getting around New York City, and Manhattan in particular, is all about your state of mind. If you're an overly aggressive or too passive driver, you will either drop dead of a tension-induced stroke or become the victim of a panic attack, respectively. The city is fraught with double-parkers, Kamikaze cabs with no regard for life and limb, and people who routinely make right turns from the extreme left lane.

But fear not! The road to the Baker Atheltics Complex is filled with special advantages and other options that can make the whole experience livable, decent, fun even.

The key to avoiding disappointment, dyspepsia, and dismemberment is to LEAVE YOURSELF A LOT OF TIME. Other than the Homecoming game which starts at 1:30, and the Dartmouth game which starts at 4pm, the Columbia home games will begin at 12:30 this season, (some times could change, but that's how it stands as of now). With another season's worth of pre-game activities in the works, the worst thing that could happen is that you show up an hour or so before the game and enjoy a good time in the picnic area. Is that so bad? And if you just make it in time for the game, well then you made it. Either way, going early is the way to go.

Baker or Morningside: Make Your Choice Now

Before we talk about getting to the actual game by car, ask yourself where you'd really like to keep you gas-guzzling SUV for the day. Do you want to park it up at the very tip of Manhattan, or do you want to keep it near the Columbia campus where you can spend a very pleasant morning and late afternoon/evening before and after the game? This is not exactly a rhetorical question, as there ARE things to do and see not far from Wien Stadium... but it's not exactly a culinary hotbed, in fact it's quite residential, (in the Baker Field neighborhood of Inwood there are actually a few houses... detached houses in Manhattan!).

My advice would be to park the car near the Columbia campus, which is only 100 blocks or so from Baker Field, (I will discuss how to get to the game from campus and more to do around Morningside Heights later). There is more to do, see, and definitely eat around there.



A path in Inwood Hill Park... yes, this IS Manhattan!

BUT definitely choose one game, and check out Inwood and its environs during the season. Parts of Inwood Hill Park are the only pieces of Manhattan that still look as they did in 1524 when the Dutch explorers arrived.

A few blocks South of Inwood is Washington Heights, a very resurgent neighborhood with lots of interesting Latin restaurants and shops.



The Cloisters... an excellent Marital Bargaining Unit if I say so myself

One Washington Heights highlight about 30 blocks South from the Baker Field is the lovely Cloisters. Most Columbia students get sick of the Cloisters after a few years, (some classes make you go there too many times), but it's a great place for the uninitiated. It's also not a bad date spot. So, if you have a wife or girlfriend who's none too pleased about being dragged to a football game, the Cloisters can be your olive branch. No need to thank me if your lady ends up thinking you're a romantic genius; like Billy Flynn, all I care about is love.

But How Do We Get to Neverland?

The directions to the Baker Complex provided by the athletic department are very good. You can use them with confidence... UNLESS you're coming from Queens, Long Island, or Eastern Brooklyn via the Belt Parkway. If you are one of those people, I'm about to save you anywhere from 45 minutes to 7 hours by urging you to never, never, even if you're a Penn fan, NEVER take the Cross Bronx Expressway!



The Cross Bronx Expressway... dear Lord, why us?

The Cross Bronx Expressway was designed by Robert Moses a brilliant but evil man whose disdain for ordinary people was well documented by Robert Caro in The Power Broker. If you live in New York, drive in New York, or are thinking about driving in New York, you owe it to yourself to read this book. One great section details how the Cross Bronx Expressway was poorly designed from the outset, destroyed good middle class neighborhoods like East Tremont, and virtually guarantees traffic jams at the drop of a hat. And the kicker is, a lot of other urban planners in the 40's, 50's and 60's emulated this man and his designs. Robert Moses is a big reason why driving in America sucks.

So avoid the Cross Bronx, take the Grand Central Parkway to the Triboro Bridge, follow the signs to Manhattan, (DON'T MAKE "THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES" MISTAKE AND END UP IN THE BRONX), and THEN take the Harlem River Drive North. Take the HRD to the 10th Avenue/Dyckman Street exit, (this is also the end of the Harlem River Drive, so it should not be hard to miss), go past the first light and then make a right onto 10th Avenue, (you'll be driving under an elevated subway track). 10th Avenue runs parallel to Broadway and will take you straight up to 215th Street, 218th Street, or wherever you want to go in the Baker Complex vicinity.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Harlem River Drive is officially a parkway, so if you're driving a U-Haul or a big bus of people, you can't take it. Otherwise, you and your sedan, SUV, pickup truck, etc. can enjoy it.

Parking: The Odyssey

Option 1: Donate to CU!

Now if you're going to park near Baker Field, your options are limited, but there ARE options. Your first option is to send a big fat check to the Athletic Department and grab one of the sweet spots in the Baker Complex itself reserved for generous donors. Seriously, I can think or worse ways to spend your money, and having a spot at Baker is like being a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway during "Buffettstock"... you get to enjoy your investment in a party atmosphere!

Option 2: Parking Garages Ahoy!

Another option is to use one of the several parking garages in the vicinity. There are more and more of them sprouting up along the way to the stadium these days. Last season, the Athletics Dept. worked out a discount deal for fans with football tickets on game day at one of these garages, and I will update you if that is renewed.

The newest garage, (I just noticed it last month), is the facility on 10th Avenue and West 218th Street on the east side of the street.

There are other garages on 10th Avenue and on Broadway not far from the 218th entrance street for Baker Field. These places tend to change their names frequently so instead of trying to look them up, I would strongly advise that you DRIVE slowly and carefully and keep your eyes open for the available lots.

Option 3: Street Parking, or "The Hunt"

Of course, you can try being really sneaky and try to park for free on the residential streets around the area. This is really something for early-birds, as the spots fill up fast. In fact, there aren't a lot of spots to begin with because Inwood is really residential and the local folks like to keep their spots for the weekend. BUT, the eagle-eyed among you may be able to find a nice spot and enjoy knowing that you're a winner even before kickoff by saving a few bucks with a free spot. There are a couple of important pitfalls to avoid:

a) If you aren't really good at parallel parking, don't even think about parking on the streets of Inwood. The hilly terrain makes even seasoned parkers a little nervous, and all those scratched bumpers and fenders on the parked cars are proof of the "goofs" people make from time to time.

b) Inwood is not really a high-crime area, especially during the day, but you should never tempt fate. Lock your cars. DO NOT keep any packages or valuables in plain sight in your car, and you probably should leave them out of the trunk too if you can. This is especially true if you are driving a car with out-of-state plates.

c) Make sure to check the street signs to see if you're parking in a legal spot. Saturdays are usually immune from alternate side of the street parking rules... but not always. You cannot park within six feet, either way, of a fire hydrant, and you also need to give a lot space for bus stops. You cannot block any driveways. And if there's a yellow strip painted on the curb, you can't park there either. A good M.O. is to eye every open spot with EXTREME SUSPICION, the chances are more than likely that the spot is there because it's not a legal spot.

d) You may be hampered even further in your quest for free parking if the NYPD blocks 218th Street at Broadway which often happens on game days. To be safe, just find your way to Seaman Avenue, which runs parallel to Broadway on the WEST and start looking for spots there. You might consider printing out a Google Map of Inwood, NY to learn to navigate the local streets better. Remember to look out for one-way streets and the occasional street fair which often pops up and further kills parking opportunities on the weekends.

TIME OUT! WHY IS THIS SO HARD?

Manhattan is a great and unique place. One of the things that makes it so unique is that every inch of land is super-valuable and the chances of any institution setting aside lots of space for occasional parking is not likely or even sane. Most sensible people living in all parts of Manhattan do so without a car, regardless of their economic stature. A day or two driving around here will tell you why.

That's why we have the best public transportation system in the world. And luckily, there are a number of more relaxing and reliable ways to get to Baker Field.



The #1 Train: Just about your best bet

Public Transportation Option 1: From Columbia Campus

You can ditch your car at one of the many parking garages near the Columbia campus, or try to find free street parking, (it's not much easier than Inwood, but doable), and then take public transport from there.

The easiest option is to take the #1 Uptown local subway train which you can pick up at several stations in the area, most notably the 116th Street station right outside the campus gates. If you're walking about the area, you can also find the #1 at the 103rd, 110th, and 125th Street stations. BUT before you descend the station staircases, (and in the case of the 125th Street stop, ascend), make sure you're entering the station on the UPTOWN side. A sign telling you whether you're about to enter the "uptown only" or "downtown only" side will be clearly visible at each entrance. Luckily, you can't go wrong at the 116th station, as any of the staircases will send you to both the uptown and downtown trains.

To ride the NYC subway you will need a Metrocard. I recommend the $7.50 all-day "fun pass" that will allow you a full day's use of the subways AND buses no matter how many times you choose to ride. Unless you're absolutely 100% sure you'll only be going to the game and back, this is a good value. If you are just going to the game and back, go to the booth or the automated Metrocard machines and buy a $4 card, (note: the $7 all-day pass is ONLY sold at the machines, not at the booth). The machines take cash, credit and debit cards.

When you get to the platform, again make sure that you are on the UPTOWN side awaiting the UPTOWN train. Once you get the train it will take 25-35 minutes to get to the 215th Street station and that's where you get off and walk the three blocks uptown to the Baker Field complex.

FREE BUSES!

If the subway isn't for you, for the last several years Columbia has been running free shuttle buses to and from Baker on game days. They usually run from the 116th Street and Broadway entrance, but ask the security guards at the gate to be sure. I'm not sure how long it takes for these buses to reach the stadium, but they will always be slower than the subway. (There is no faster way to get around Manhattan than the subway... none).

A number of NYC buses, (not free, you need a Metrocard), run to the Baker Field area, but I really don't recommend using them. They are extremely slow, (what do you call it when you have sex on a NYC bus? "Joining the 1-mile-an-hour club"), and erratic on the weekends. BUT if there ever is a fire on the subway or something, it's good to know they're there.

Public Transportation Option 2: Elsewhere in Manhattan

It doesn't matter where else you are coming from in Manhattan, you only have two options for getting to the stadium via the subway. Any #1 train station will take you there and so will the "A" train. The A train runs on the far West side of Manhattan, through Brooklyn, past JFK airport, and all the way to a neighborhood where I did a lot of my growing up called Far Rockaway. The uptown or Manhattan bound A takes you the 207th Street stop, which is the last stop. Exit at the 211th Street exit and then you can either walk the seven blocks along Broadway, (about 35% of a mile), to Baker or better yet, enter Isham Park on your left and enjoy a nicer trip that will take you to Seaman Avenue along the left side of the park and you will see Wien Stadium right in front of you at the end of the avenue. This is a more scenic walk and will give you a better idea of what Inwood is like.

**IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SUBWAY SERVICE ON THE WEEKENDS**

Sometimes, service on the 1 and/or A trains is disrupted for track work on the weekends. BUT you can find out beforehand about any service changes by visiting the great website Straphangers.org for all the info. The good news is that the 1 and the A will almost surely never be affected by service disruptions at the same time. In my 26+ years riding the subways I have never seen this happen.


The Marble Hill Station on Metro North


Public Transportation Option 3: The Metro North Miracle

One of the most beautiful ways to get to a Columbia game is on the Metro North commuter railroad. Take the HUDSON RIVER LINE to the Marble Hill stop and simply walk over the footbridge to Baker Field. The views of the Hudson that you will get if you're coming from the North, (if you're looking to go this way from Grand Central Terminal, it's not a terrible idea, but much more expensive than just taking the subway from another station on the West Side), are just great.

Cab Anyone?

You can always try to hail a yellow cab and tell the driver to take you to WEST 218th and Broadway, (don't say "Baker Field," there's a very good chance he won't know what you're talking about), and go that way. I expect the trip will cost about $12-$15 in cab fare not including tip... but it varies.

In NYC there are also non-yellow, so-called "gypsy," cabs that may honk their horns at you and offer you a ride. The official rules in the city say that you can't take a ride with them without arranging it in advance, but I have found they are usually reliable. The price should be about the same as Yellow cab, but they don't use a meter... so make sure you agree on the fare before you get in.

What if I'm coming from New Jersey, and I want to take Public Transportation?

New Jersey Transit trains take you to Penn Station where you can get the #1 and A trains, or a cab. I'm not sure about the reliability of NJT trains or buses on weekends, but perhaps some of my readers would like to chime in about that in the comments section.

Isn't the Subway Dangerous?

Not really. It's dirtier than it should be, but in general it's fine. Here are some subway safety tips for the very cautious. Basically, keep your wallets and valuables secure, try to ride with or near larger groups of people, and try not to telegraph the fact you're a tourist by pulling out a map every two seconds. It's okay to ask fellow riders directions; most New Yorkers like proving they know the City.

I'm Coming from JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark Airport. What should I do?

A cab from Newark directly to Baker is actually not that terribly expensive. But from the other major airports, I suggest you get into Manhattan via a cab and then take the subway, unless you have lots of bags which will make the whole day a pain. In that case, try to get to your hotel first, dump the bags and then follow the directions above.

What if I get Lost?

Go into almost any store you see and ask for help. Store owners can sometimes seem surly, but they'll probably help you. Cops on the street will be good too.

Can't I Just Come with You?

Yes. But you have to babysit my daughters during the game if you do. I'd love the company, but I don't think that will work. I am with you in spirit, I promise.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

ROSTER UPDATED!!

You can check the Athletics Web site right now and look at the updated weights for the football team.

I will let you all speculate for me, but here are the changes I can see compared to early July. Any player not listed below did not show a weight change on the posted roster:


Drew Abeyta: +7 lbs.

Jeff Adams: +15 lbs.

Matt Bashaw: +9 lbs.

Jerry Bell: +12 lbs.

David Brekke: +10 lbs.

Corey Cameron: +8 lbs.

Will Claunch: +15 lbs.

Dan Cohen: +8 lbs.

Rex Cole: +10 lbs.

Alex Cornish: -3 lbs.

Jordan Davis: +10 lbs.

Ralph DeBernardo: +9 lbs.

Tyler Duffy: +6 lbs.

Ben Evans: -6 lbs.

Bruce Fleming: +9 lbs.

Greg Fontela: +11 lbs.

Owen Fraser: -12 lbs.

Javier Garza: +3 lbs.

Alex Gross: +11 lbs.

Chris Groth: +9 lbs.

Craig Hamilton: +2 lbs.

Bob Hauschildt: +6 lbs.

Vaughn Hodges: +13 lbs.

Marc Holloway: +13 lbs.

Kalasi Huggins: +5 lbs.

Leon Ivery: +6 lbs.

Derek Jancisin: -3 lbs.

Taylor Joseph: +20 lbs.

Conor Joyce: -2 lbs.

Shane Kelly: +10 lbs.

Andrew Kennedy: -3 lbs.

Bryan Kipp: +12 lbs.

Austin Knowlin: -8 lbs.

Zack Kourouma: +8 lbs.

Clark Koury: +20 lbs.

Derek Lipscomb: +16 lbs.

Mack Loughrey: -7 lbs.

Chase McCaleb: +4 lbs.

Adam Mehrer: +7 lbs.

Philip Mitchell: -1 lb.

Matt Moretto: +14 lbs.

Jared Morine: +2 lbs.

Mike Murphy: +9 lbs.

Mark Muston: +15 lbs.

Daniel Myers: -6 lbs.

M.A. Olawale: +7 lbs.

Clavin Otis: +8 lbs.

Nico Papas: +3 lbs.

Chris Paruch: +6 lbs.

Ben Popeck: -10 lbs.

Jason Pyles: -5 lbs.

Drew Quinn: +2 lbs.

Ray Rangel: +7 lbs.

Prentis Robinson: +5 lbs.

Jon Rocholl: +14 lbs.

Evan Sanford: +4 lbs.

Neil Schuster: +10 lbs.

John Seiler: +7 lbs.

Shea Selsor: +5 lbs.

Andy Shalbrack: +5 lbs.

Michael Siebold: +7 lbs.

Tim Skalak: +14 lbs.

Josh Smith: +9 lbs.

Cody Steele: +8 lbs.

Mike Stephens: +13 lbs.

Pete Stoll: +8 lbs.

Matt Stotler: +25 lbs.

Brandon Veldman: +20 lbs.

Eli Waltz: +24 lbs.

Kirk Weller: -1 lb.

Augie Williams: +7 lbs.

Josh A. Williams: -1 lb.

Josh D. Willams: +8 lbs.



Ivery in his high school days


Local Kid Makes Good?
A Palo Alto news Web site has a new article on local athletes in Ivy football, including Leon Ivery. The piece speculates that the sophomore from the Menlo School may see more playing time this season.