Top 10 Countdown: Reese's Best Pieces
A few more notes about my point yesterday on how the Ivies are putting a new emphasis on the run, and using more running backs in their attacks:
-2009 was the first time since 1987 that there was no 1,000-yard rusher in the Ivy League. 22 years is a long time.
-In 2008 only ONE team, Princeton, averaged 4.0 yards per carry or better. This year, four Ivies achieved or exceeded that mark.
-For the second straight year, the longest run from scrimmage for anyone in the Ivies was turned in by a Columbia player. Zack Kourouma's 80-yard TD run vs. Cornell was the topper, (no other team had a player even break 70-yards on a single run. Leon Ivery of the Lions had the second-longest run at 75 yards). In 2008, M.A. Olawale's 70-yard TD scamper at Brown was the top run.
And now back to...
Top 10 Games of the 2000's
November 10, 2001
Columbia 35 Cornell 28
The last time Columbia had the kind of runner that is becoming extinct in the Ivies, (a guy you can hand the ball off to 30 times a game and just let him go), was also pretty much the ONLY time the Lions had such a player in the team's history.
His name was Johnathan Reese, and he remains Columbia's single season and all-time rushing leader. He's the only Lion to ever run for 1,000 or more in a season, (1,330 in 2000), and he graduated as the #6 all-time leading rusher in Ivy history.
He was a leading star for the Lions all four of his years beginning in 1998. In his debut game in '98, he burned the Crimson for 78 yards on just 11 carries, leaving Harvard Head Coach asking, "who the Hell was that?" at the postgame news conference after Columbia's 24-0 win.
And while he turned in many other super performances, Reese never made more of a personal difference in a Columbia victory than he did in one game in Ithaca in late 2001.
By week nine of the 2001 season, the optimism that ran rampant at the start of the year was all but gone. Reese had broken every significant rushing record at Columbia the previous season, and hopes ran high that he would soar to new heights in 2001. But as it turned out, Reese was hampered by some injuries that year and he also suffered running behind a relatively green offensive line. He finished the year with 967 yards rushing, still the second best single season effort for a Lions runner behind his own top mark from the year before.
Columbia lost a close one to Bucknell in OT to start the year, got blown out at Princeton and Lafayette, and then fell badly to Penn on Homecoming.
Then, things picked up. Exciting back-to-back wins over Dartmouth and Yale gave the Lions hope for a decent finish in the standings. An unsurprising loss to eventual undefeated league champ Harvard the following week didn't change those hopes too much.
Thankfully for Lion fans, the team was ready for what turned out to be a barnburner of a game on a cold Ithaca day and it provided the highlight of the season.
Cornell scored first after Jeff McCall threw an interception that the Big Red's Kevin Rooney returned for a 22-yard TD about midway through the first quarter. McCall was a very talented QB, and is definitely in the running for the title of best Columbia QB of the decade, but his knack for throwing "pick sixes" was maddening at times.
McCall gathered himself and got the Lions back into the game right away. He threw a nice 42-yard touchdown pass to Jarel Cockburn, to tie it at 7.
Then Reese led the way on a 12-play 83-yard drive that chewed up big chunks of time and ended when option QB Steve Hunsberger ran it in for a four yard TD. The extra point was blocked however, and the Lions had to settle for a 13-7 lead with 7:39 left in the half.
Cornell struck back quickly, first with a quick drive capped off by a one-yard run by Evan Simmons to make it 14-13 at the half. Then Simmons struck again early in the third quarter with a 69-yard TD run to make it 21-13 Big Red.
On Columbia's first drive in the second half, McCall found senior receiver Doug Peck for a 46-yard TD pass on 2nd and 15. The two point conversion pass from McCall to Cockburn was good and it was 21-21 with 10:18 left in the third.
The fourth quarter, and fourth downs in the fourth quarter, belonged to Reese.
The Big Red started the quarter with an impressive drive, but Simmons lost the handle on a handoff and Columbia's Chris Nugent recovered at the Lion 31. Columbia started to march after the turnover but the drive stalled at the Cornell 33 where the Lions faced a 4th and one.
Columbia simply asked Reese to get them that one yard, but he got 32 more, going in for a spectacular 33-yard TD and giving the Lions the 28-21 lead with 13:36 left.
The Lions faced another 4th and one on their next possession, this time at the Big Red 14. Again, Reese got the first down and the touchdown on the play, putting Columbia up 35-21 with 7:46 to play.
But the game was not over.
Cornell needed just 1:51 to go 69 yards for a leading slashing TD, and then the Big Red forced a Lion punt that gave the ball at their own 23 with 2:22 left and two timeouts.
Cornell quickly got back into Columbia territory, but then Nugent struck again by forcing QB, (and current Big Red head coaching candidate), Rick Rahne to fumble. Sloane Joseph, (older brother of Taylor Joseph), fell on the ball to seal the Lion victory.
Reese finished with 140 yards on 29 carries, and this was the most clutch performance of his career.