Columbia vs. CCSU: 5 Keys to the Game
1) Keep the Run Running
Watching the Lions grind out the yards on the ground against Fordham with Millie Olawale and Ray Rangel was a thing of beauty. I think you need to go back to 1961 to find a Columbia team that was able to vary its run attack so effectively. There are few things in football that will guarantee wins more than establishing a running attack and maintaining it throughout a game. In CCSU's win over Lehigh, it appears the Mountain Hawks abandoned the run right away and kept passing as much as possible. The Lions can't make that mistake.
That means the offensive line needs to keep up the excellent job it put in last week and then some. CCSU has actually been strong against the run overall, so this may not be as easy as it looked against Fordham.
2) Find the Passing Opportunities
At some point, CCSU will move their linebackers and safeties right up on the line to stop Olawale from running the option and Rangel from turning the corners on them. That's when Olawale needs to burn them with passes, particularly to tight end Andrew Kennedy, who slammed Fordham with catches against those anti-run formations all night.
3) Find a Way to Stop Mallory
With Fordham's Xavier Martin out of the way, it looks like CCSU's James Mallory is the best running back the Lions will face the rest of the way. If Columbia has to go without their best run stopper, Owen Fraser, the Lions will have to lean heavily on the backups. Bruce Flemming, is the #1 understudy for Fraser, and it looks like this game is stacking up as a big one for him. We can't forget Fraser's fellow starter at tackle, Chris Groth, who will also have to step it up. I expect the Blue Devils to test the Lions D-line, and Groth, Flemming, Shea Selsor, Matt Stotler and all the other defensive line backups will have to shine.
4) Burn 'em on Special Teams
Kick coverage has been an issue for CCSU the first two weeks, and that presents a nice opportunity for returners Austin Knowlin and Craig Hamilton. Knowlin's home is not far from the CCSU campus, and I look for him to want to put on a show for his neighbors in the stands tomorrow. If the Blue Devils try to kick away from Knowlin, Hamilton is more than capable of making them pay. Punter Michael Williamson needs to keep it up after his solid performance against Fordham, and Greg Guttas needs to improve his kickoffs to help the Lions hold the momentum and get a field position edge.
5) Get Some Sacks
I was surprised at how well the beat up Ram offensive line held off the Columbia pass rush Saturday night. I'm most interested in how Lion pash rushers Lou Miller and Matt Bashaw will fare against 240-pound Blue Devil left tackle Greg Grochowski. They'll need to win that battle and harass the CCSU blind side on passing plays.
Overall, the Lions are facing a team with a lot of quick and aggressive players, just like they did against Fordham. The difference is that CCSU has a better power runner, but it lacks a QB with the weapons of a John Skelton. The defense is underrated in my view, with a specialty for stopping the run.
So as usual, establishing our run and stopping theirs will be the main goal tomorrow.
Finally, the second weekly interview with CCSU Head Coach Jeff McInerney is available now.