Breathless in The Bronx
Morine's "Pick Six" put the game away (CREDIT: Columbia Atheltics)
Columbia 40 Fordham 28
Why Columbia Won
The Lions offense ran mostly at will all night, while the defense rose to several challenges and created just enough turnovers and stops against the Fordham passing juggernaut to win. Liberty Cup '09 MVP QB Millie Olawale brought an extremely gutsy passing attack to go along with his running, and most importantly, acted like a true leader all night. His leadership helped Columbia overcome several potential letdowns* and hold on.
Why Fordham Lost
The Rams made too many mistakes, committing lots of turnovers and getting penalzed an incredible 14 times for 160+ yards. QB John Skelton and co. grounded out 533 yards of offense, but held the ball for just 23 minutes. Meanwhile, their defensive line couldn't stop the Lion run.
Key Turning Points
1) After Fordham scored on their third play from scrimmage with a 70-yard TD bomb, the Lions responded well. They had to punt on the ensuing possession, but frosh punter Michael Williamson pinned the Rams at their eight and "D" forced a three-and-out. Olawale hit tight end Andrew Kennedy with a strike for 38-yards on the first play and then took it in himself from the three on the next play to tie the score.
*Letdown threat #1 avoided
2) On Fordham's next possession, the Lion defense held on a 4th and 1 at midfield thanks to a great tackle by Alex Gross and Marc Holloway. Then the Lions ran the ball nine times in the following 10 plays before Ray Rangel squeezed in from the one to give the Lions the 13-7 lead.
3) Now it was Fordham's turn to answer after the Lions botched the PAT snap. Skelton drove the team 74 yards down the field with relative ease to give the Rams a 14-13 lead and seemingly grab the momentum. Instead, Columbia got a great kickoff return from Craig Hamilton plus a face mask penalty to start the ensuing drive at the Fordham 42. Rangel and Olawale combined for all the yards in the resulting TD march in just three plays. 20-14 Columbia.
*Letdown threat #2 avoided
4) A stunning interception right at the line of scrimmage by Gross set up Columbia's next score and it was 27-14 Lions when Skelton went to work again. It took him less than a minute and a half to strike again and make it 27-21. After the Lions turned the ball over on downs, Fordham got the ball back at their ow 39 and 55 seconds to go. Skelton got his team all the way down to the Columbia 12, but frosh kicker Kevi Heinowitz missed a 30-yard FG and the Lions dodged a bullet.
5) Columbia forced a three and out on the Rams' first possession of the second half, got a 42-yard punt return from Austin Knowlin and then needed just three plays to score another TD as Olawale hit a streaking and wide open Kennedy for a 32 yard TD pass.
6)Later in the 3rd, Skelton drove the Rams 93 yards for a TD to make it 34-28 and Columbia had a three and out on their next possession. Skelton had the Rams driving again early in the 4th when Gross came up with a huge sack on 4th and 10 at the Lions 29. It was another bullet dodged.
7) On Columbia's ensuing possesion, the Lions drove to the Fordham 40 when Kennedy dropped a sure TD pass from Olawale and then Millie fumbled the ball away on the next play. But the Lions defense came up huge when it counted, forcing a three and out. After the Lions punted the ball yet again, Jared Morine timed a sideline pass from Skelton perfectly and picked it off at the Ram 36 before scampering into the end zone for the score.
*Letdown threat #3 avoided
Stars of the Game
1) Millie Olawale threw the ball extremely well and looked comfortable in the pocket all night. He took a few sacks he shouldn't have, and threw the ball once or twice at the wrong time. But he finished with no interceptions, which was huge. Most importantly, he played and acted like a leader, jumping up from crushing hit after crushing hit and pushing his teammates to keep up their intensity. This was the game he needed to play.
2) Ray Rangel proved his offseason weight training really paid off. He looked stronger and faster, running like a power back at times and speed burner on other carries. His 118 yards rushing on 26 carries make him the first Lion tailback to gain 100 yards in a game since 2005.
3) Alex Gross made a number of key plays, and I'm still trying to figure out how he held on to what must have been a 100 mph fastball from Skelton at the line of scrimmage for that big INT.
4) Adam Mehrer had a monster game in the secondary with 16 tackles. With a Qb like Skelton and the four WR packages Fordham used all night, safeties like Mehrer have to come up big, and he did.
5) The defensive line subs, led by Bruce Flemming did a great job after Owen Fraser left early in the game. This defense is as deep as I can remember.