Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Princeton Speed Bump

It's time to exorcise this house of horrors

Ever since they shuffled the Ivy schedule in 2000, Columbia's Ivy opener has always been in week three and it's always been against Princeton.

The results have almost always been devastating.

No fewer than five of the last nine meetings between the Lions and Tigers have resulted in gut-wrenching losses for the Light Blue. They have been the kind of losses that put a damper on the entire season going forward.

Here's a sampler of some of Columbia's Princeton horrors since 2000, (*WARNING: heart failure may occur as you try to visualize these horrofic scenarios):

-Blowing a 10 point lead with less than two minutes left thanks to a quick Tiger score and a recovered onsides kick. Eventually losing the game in overtime.

-Dominating a first half against Princeton, only to see the Tigers score on a Hail Mary TD at the end of the half and not being able to catch up in time in what ended in a three-point loss.

-Fighting to take a late three-point lead and sacking Princeton's QB on a last-minute play to seemingly end the threat... but then having a face mask penalty negate that sack leading to a FG and overtime... where Columbia had a PAT blocked and Princeton converted a 4th down play for a TD and the eventual winning extra point of their own.

-Scraping back from a 21-3 deficit to take a 24-21 third quarter lead, only to see Princeton take the lead back before another comeback brought the Lions within three only to have our QB throw a game-killing INT to end the threat.

-Taking a 24-21 lead in the 4th quarter, only to see Princeton convert on a long bomb to grab the lead back and then see a seemingly game-winning drive ended by a WR receiver fumble inside the Tiger 30.

Fletcher's Hail Mary haul, 2003

To be fair, Columbia's one win since 2000 was also in heart stopping fashion as the Lions battled back from a 20-0 deficit and finally won the game on a Hail Mary with no time left. That was in 2003 when Jeff Otis found Wade Fletcher in the end zone for the 33-27 win.

But Columbia has more than paid Princeton back for that lonely win since then. The heart-breaking losses of 2004, 2007 and last year have really taken a lot of the air out of the Lion seasons ever since.

Of course, Columbia's Princeton woes stretch far beyond just the last decade. Just about every great Lion team has had that one hiccup of the season against Princeton.

The 1961 Ivy Champion Columbia Lions' sole Ivy loss? To Princeton.

The 1934 Rose Bowl Champion Columbia Lions' sole loss of the season? To Princeton.

The one team Columbia could not beat in Ivy play from when the league was founded in 1956 all the way until 1971? Princeton.

The team Columbia could not beat on the road despite dozens of tries at Palmer Stadium/then Princeton Stadium from 1945 until 2003? Princeton.

The consolation prize?

Guess who we beat in 1988 to end the longest losing streak in college football history... Princeton!

But consolations like that are really tired now.

This Lions team certainly has more tools and depth than many, if not all, its predecessors over the past 10-12 years. Another Ivy opener loss to Princeton could hamstring these hard-working and gifted football players in blue for yet another year.

Enough is enough.

It's time to tame the Tiger and start the Ivy slate out right.

This is the year. This is the time.

Columbia vs. Princeton.

Princeton Stadium

October 3, 2009.


Show up and cheer, or listen live online on the SideLion Pass.

Jerry Recco and I begin the pregame show at 2:30pm.

New Lions

I missed this last week, but we have three new additions to the football roster. Presumably these guys are 100% freshmen walk-ons:

They are DB Malcom Carson, WR Anthony Johnson, and K Dean Perfetti.

Suffice it to say I know little about these young men, but I like see a growing roster anytime.

"8" Updates

You have some more chances coming up to see my fave Ivy Football documentary, 8: Ivy League Football and America.

Remember, "8" is narrated by two-time Tony Award-winning actor Brian Dennehy (Columbia '60)

On October 14, 2009: “8” is returning to NESN, home station of the Boston Red Sox and Bruins. There are currently 4 airings scheduled for October. They are October 14 at 2:30 PM, October 14 at 7:30 PM, October 25 at 6:30 PM, and October 30 at 7:30 PM. You can also visit NESN at NESN.Com.

Also, on October 11 “8” will receive its PBS premiere on WHYY Philadelphia at 3 p.m. This will be the first of several WHYY airings. Visit for further updates.

And you can always buy a copy of this special film by logging on to 8ivyfootball

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Spirit of '75

Ray Rangel (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyers)

Just in case anyone is wondering about where Ray Rangel stands in all-time Lion history, the last time Columbia had the Ivy League's leading rusher for a season was 1975 when Doug Jackson '76 rumbled for 914 yards in nine games. Jackson won the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy MVP that season, but '75 was an otherwise disappointing year as the Lions finished 2-7 with wins over only Cornell and Penn.

The last and only time Columbia has sported a 1,000-yard rusher was 2000 when Jonathan Reese '02 had 1,330 yards on the year. But Reese finished behind Brown's Michael Malan for the rushing title that season.

If Rangel and the great starting O-line of John Seiler, Evan Sanford, Jeff Adams, Will Lipovsky, and Ian Quirk can keep it up, their names will forever be remembered on the Hudson Shore.

Teleconference Notes

The status of Princeton tailback Jordan Culbreath was topic #1 for both Columbia Head Coach Norries Wilson and Princeton's Roger Hughes during today's teleconference.

Coach Wilson said the Lions will prep this week under the assumption that Culbreath WILL play. He said Columbia will be ready to make changes if he doesn't take the field in the end. He mentioned that he thought the Tigers' fullback Matt Zimmerman was underrated and that backup tailback/DB Meko McCray was no slouch.

Coach Hughes said Culbreath's status is "up in the air," but that he has a sprained ankle and not the more serious high ankle sprain.

Wilson was also asked about Princeton QB Tommy Wornham and he said that he is impressed with Wornham's running ability and the Lions will have to account for him. Wilson sais he thinks Wornham still needs to get his timing down in the passing game, but when he does he’ll be a bigger dual threat than he is now.

Coach Wilson also made some general comments about the Lions, saying he was still happy about the running game and that other than the blocked kicks, he’s happy overall about special teams, especially the return game.

Overall, Coach Wilson said program is better these days with a lower attrition rate and more experience on the field. But he stressed that he wants more wins and the Lions need to find a way to win more physical and close games.

When asked about M.A. Olawale, Coach Wilson said he has been doing a pretty good job. He said he was happy with the good ball security Olawale has shown so far, ( he joked that this means he’ll probably fumble 15 balls this week). But overall, he said Olawale is throwing the ball well and has grown a lot even since camp started in August.

Versus Issues

I sat down to watch the Cornell-Yale game on my DVR and it turns out Versus lost the feed from the Yale Bowl after the first half. My heart goes out to the guys working that game. I certainly hope they can get the kinks out in time for this week's broadcast of the Penn-Dartmouth game from New Hampshire.

But this leaves me without much to go on as far as scouting both teams. Cornell's defense was getting great penetration throughout the first two quarters and Yale's "D" looked strong too. Other than that, I'm not sure what happened other than to say that Yale's attempt at a two point conversion failed with no time left in a 14-12 Big Red win.

In other games...

-Penn's walking wounded made a fight of it in Easton Saturday night, finally falling to Lafayette in overtime by a 20-17 score. The Quakers moved the ball not one yard o three tries in the opening OT possession and Andrew Samson missed the ensuing 42-yard field goal try.

More importantly, it looks like Penn is dealing with a myriad of offensive injuries, starting with junior QB Keifer Garton, who sat most of the game in favor of QB/Punter Kyle Olson. Frosh running back Lyle Marsh had a spectacular debut in ace of the banged up starting RB's Michael DiMaggio and Mat Hamscher, but it wasn't enough.

So the question is: Are the Big Green facing the Quakers at just the right time with the Ivy opener for both teams just five days away in Hanover?

-Princeton chalked up an anemic six first downs in their 17-14 win over Lehigh in Bethlehem. QB Tommy Wornham was just 9 of 20 for no TD's, but he avoided throwing any picks and he had a good day running the ball with a 68 yard TD scamper. Two interceptions by Lehigh, including one that was returnedby Steven Cody for a 77-yard pick six, doomed the Mountain Hawks.

The Tigers Jordan Culbreath went down with an injury in the game and his replacements at tailback were not too impressive. If he's out for this Saturday's game against our Lions, the Columbia coaches will have to be ready for what should be a very different Princeton offensive attack.

-Dartmouth hung tough with UNH for the first half, before a 20-14 deficit turned into a 44-14 final score. As always, log on to Bruce Wood's excellent Big Green Alert Blog to get all the info from Big Green Land.

The big issue with the Big Green is apparently stopping the run. This is a big carryover from last year and has to make Columbia feel confident about their matchup in three and a half weeks. On the other hand, Dartmouth's own running attack is showing new signs of life as Nick Schweiger became the first Big Green back to run for 100+ yards since two Dartmouth backs torched the Lions in a 37-28 win in Hanover in 2007.

-Harvard seems like the best team in the Ivies right now with a solid win over Brown Friday night. Ivy Offensive Player of the Week Collier Winters played like a champ all night. But the Crimson defense and running game remain a bit suspect, and there may be some tougher challenges ahead for this team.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reflection Time & Monday Helmet Stickers

It's going to be a much tougher week for Lions fans coming off a loss compared to the highs we all enjoyed after the Fordham win in week one.

If emotions concern you, remember that the Ivy League opener, with all of its crucial importance, is now directly ahead of us. It's important to learn the on-the-field lessons from the CCSU loss without letting the disappointment linger.

As great as a win against the Blue Devils would have been, I've felt all offseason long that this upcoming game against Princeton would be the much truer test of where this Lions team is.

There will be more analysis of the Tigers in the coming days, but it appears Princeton's defense is stronger than most of us expected while the offense is struggling mightily at this point. And now the status of defending Ivy League rushing champion Jordan Culbreath is in doubt after he left Saturday's win over Lehigh with an injury.

Monday Helmet Stickers

-Speaking of Ivy League rushing champs, Ray Rangel has moved even further ahead of his nearest competition in that key race. He leads Yale's Jordan Farrell by 83 yards and earned a spot on the Ivy honor roll this week.

-Marc Holloway also made the honor roll. He had 18 tackles including two for a loss, (one of those TFL's was on a 4th down for a five yard loss and he had another tackle with Andy Shalbrack for no gain on 4th and goal).

-I'm giving a virtual helmet sticker to every Lion who got a tackle or half tackle in that great goal line stand at the end of the first quarter. In addition to Holloway and Shalbrack, that includes Corey Cameron, Alex Gross, and Matt Stotler.

-Austin Knowlin had one of his best games receiving since Craig Hormann graduated after the 2007 season. He had eight receptions for 73 yards and TD. Knowlin keeps moving up the career stat boards and is back on pace to break the receptions and career yardage marks.

-Frosh punter Michael Williamson had a punt blocked, but he still finished the game with a 42.7 yards per punt average. He's now second in the league for punting average, less than a half yard behind Princeton's Octavio Fleury. He generally looks like one part of the kicking game that is healthy right now for Columbia.

-Craig Hamilton did another great job on kickoff returns, averaging more than 20 yards per return with a long of 32 yards. Eventually, he's going to break one for a score as teams continue to kick away from Knowlin.

-M.A. Olawale has yet to throw an interception through two games and 44 pass attempts.

-A team helmet sticker goes to the Lions for comitting just four penalties after getting flagged nine times at Fordham. Meanwhile, CCSU committed 11 infractions.

-Adam Mehrer leads the Ivy League in tackles. You don't want to see a safety on your team leading in this category because is usually means you're allowing too many completed and/or runners to get into your secondary. But Mehrer is doing a great job of damage control in that regard.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monstrous Mo'

Aubrey Norris

CCSU 22 Columbia 13

Why CCSU Won

The avoided the worst when they weren't doing much right and only had a 13-0 deficit to overcome when things turned around. Most importantly, the coaches made a QB change, and reliever Aubrey Norris lit up the Lions with his amazing quickness and good decision making.

Why Columbia Lost

With everything going their way through most of the first half, they only had a 13-0 lead. The defense played mostly well, but finally wilted under the relentless varied Blue Devil running attack.

Key Turning Points

-They don't get more obvious than the Lion PAT attempt blocked and returned for a 2-point score by CCSU to make it 13-2. The Blue Devils never looked back, but the amazing Norris 28-yard TD run to make it 13-9 at the half. was the first big strike on offense.

Columbia MVP

I think Ray Rangel and Marc Holloway have to share the honor this week. Rangel had some huge runs and a TD to finish with 130 yards on just 10 carries. Holloway was seemingly in on every play and finished with 18 tackles.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's Gameday!

The 2009 Columbia Lions have already earned your support and interest, so please make every effort to be there later today when they take on Central Connecticut State in their home opener at 12:30!

If you can't make it, tune in on SideLion Pass and hear Jerry Recco and I call the game. The pregame show starts at noon!

Let's Go Lions!

Friday, September 25, 2009

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.

Week 2 Picks

Last week: 6-1

Overall: 6-1

Harvard over Brown

I think this is going to be a great game no matter what, but I admit to being in the dark, (like almost everyone else), about the status of super Bear defensive lineman David Howard. If he's held out, you have to give the Crimson a bigger edge. But I give this one to Harvard with or without Howard at this point. The Bears running game is still not impressing me and their secondary is not looking strong enough to stop Harvard's many threats.

Yale over Cornell

This is a shaky pick, because you really don't know much about this Yale team and Cornell comes in with some decent confidence. But it's tough to pick against the Elis at the Bowl with a generally weak Big Red team coming in.

Lafayette over Penn

Again I'm basically in the dark, but it appears Penn's starting runners are banged up coming into this tough road game. With these defenses, don't be surprised if the final in this game turns out to be something like 10-7. One thing that Penn has to like is the definite dropoff in effectiveness for Leopard kicker David Rodriguez. If this thing comes down to a field goal, the Quakers have to like their chances.

New Hampshire over Dartmouth

This could get ugly. Dartmouth is showing some flashes from some individual defensive players, but the Big Green's record against the run is alarming.

Lehigh over Princeton

Lehigh needs this one and Princeton's offense doesn't have all the kinks out. I don't think new QB Tommy Wornham is ready to lead his team to an out of conference win on the road.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CCSU Scouting Report from Chuck!

And now a word from the Lehigh Nation

Chuck Burton, who runs the Lehigh Football Nation blog has been kind enough to give us a great scouting report on the CCSU Blue Devils. Central Connecticut defeated Lehigh three weeks ago, 28-21 at Lehigh.

Here's Chuck's take:

"The Blue Devils are all about controlling the tempo of the game. They have big guys on the "O" and "D" lines that will attempt to control the lines of scrimmage.

On offense, they have two quarterbacks (Hunter Wanket and Aubrey Norris) and a running back (James Mallory) that give CCSU lots of options on the ground, and when they do go to the air they have speed that can kill (wideout Josue Paul). Their defense has a dangerous secondary, led by free safety Alondre Rush, that shut down Lehigh's passing attack in Week One in a way I've rarely seen.

They primarily run the ball, but where they're dangerous is when they're holding onto the ball and grinding up the clock. That's why it's so important to get out to an early lead: when the Blue Devils have the lead, they have the ability to shorten the game through long, time-consuming drives. That's another way CCSU beat Lehigh - they jumped to a lead and forced Lehigh to play catch-up all game. Ultimately, in the heat of Goodman Stadium, Lehigh's defense got worn down and the offense was unable to get back into the game.

Head coach Jeff McInerney has been called a lot of things, but the theme 'crazy' kept popping up with the folks I talked to. He's a gambler; if it's a 4th down in your territory, it's a near-certainty he'll go for it. He's a fiery, unpredictable leader, and will throw plenty of wrinkles to try to fool your defense.

But special teams could be a great equalizer for you - if Knowlin can get a return TD and you can make it into a track meet, I think you'll have the edge.

Bottom line, CCSU is a team on the rise. They are representative of what the NEC has become: a league itching to prove itself against the best teams in FCS. They have an eye on the FCS playoffs, and would love nothing better to crush Columbia and establish themselves further in Eastern FCS football."

Winners at Wien

Let's fill this place and make history Saturday!

Here's a little-discussed tidbit as the Lions prepare for their home opener against Central Connecticut Saturday:

The Lions will be hoping to match their all-time home winning streak at Wien Stadium. There were some very long winning streaks at the old Baker Field, but Columbia has never won more than three games in a row since the new stadium was built in 1984.

That three game streak took place over two seasons, 1996-97, when the Lions beat Cornell and Brown at home to close out '96, before taking down Towson in the '97 home opener.

That was also the first time Columbia had ever played Towson and of course, this Saturday will be the Lions first ever meeting with CCSU. Columbia beat Dartmouth and Cornell in its last two games at home in 2008.

I hope to have a scouting report on the Blue Devils up sometime later today.

David Howard's troubles may mean big trouble for Brown (CREDIT: Providence Journal)

Meanwhile, a potentially huge story is brewing up at Brown where 1st Team All Ivy defensive lineman David Howard has been convicted of simple assault after a melee broke out at a club where he was working at a bouncer this spring. Howard's status on the team is unknown, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say the Bears will be in deep trouble in any game that he doesn't play.

Thankfully, these kinds of stories are extremely rare in the Ivies and I don't think anyone contends that Howard did anything more than possibly getting a little carried away doing a legitimate job.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CCSU Game Notes Released

Central Connecticut's game notes and two-deep for this Saturday's game against Columbia have been released.

The Blue Devil's lineup looks good on paper, but I wonder how their 240-pound left tackle, Greg Grochowski, is doing. Perhaps he's their answer to Bill Campbell, who excelled at blocking despite being about 175 pounds, (even in the early 60's that was small).

Incidentally, my imaginary friend, Jimmy "The Ashkenazi" Schneider tells me the Lions are a slight underdog in this game.

Sign Up Already!!!

The SidelionPass now features the archived video of Columbia's fantastic 40-28 win over Fordham last Saturday night.

So what are you waiting for?

Sign up already and you'll not only enjoy our past glory, you'll also guarantee access to the video broadcasts of all the remaining Lion home games and more!

(And you can critique my call of the game... lay off Jerry Recco though, he's a true pro).

Conference Call Highlights

There weren't too many big moments during today's Ivy coaches conference call.

Here are some bullet points:

Coach Wilson

-Said the Lions were very fortunate to win at Fordham and break the two year losing streak on the road.

-Praised John Skelton as a great QB.

-We need to fix our kicking game problems.

-CCSU is a really good football team. They will try to run the football.

-Millicent Olawale did a good job. He wasn’t flawless, but he put us in a position to win the game. He helped keep the time of possession battle on our side.

-There’s a fine line between confident and being cocky. The defense has been carrying us lately, now the offense did the job last week. We’d love to score 40 again, but you can’t guarantee that.

Brown's Coach Phil Estes

-Stony Brook was really big. Improved from last year. We dominated the stats, we out-rushed and out-passed them. But we didn’t do well in the kicking game.

New QB Caballero did a tremendous job in his first start. Zach Tronti got in some good running, we need to get him some better holes.

-The team took a ferry to the game from Connecticut and are travel-fatigued now. Now they have to go to Harvard on a short week.

-Harvard QB Winters will give us trouble. He is mobile and can get out of pocket and run.

Cornell Coach Jim Knowles

-I asked Knowles if he was going to script in 30-40 passes to pick on a Yale secondary that gave up 320+ passing yards to Georgetown. He said he wasn’t going to do that because he wants balance between the run and the pass.

Harvard Coach Tim Murphy

-Praised Holy Cross, said they could win 9 or 10 games this year.

-Said players love the night games and the crowds have been biggest at Harvard Stadium for those games than any other except for Yale games.

-I asked about RB Treavor Scales, who had 7 carries despite being just a frosh. Murphy said Treavor was a great recruit and has simply moved up the depth chart.

Penn Coach Al Bagnoli

-Praised Jow Goniprow and Jake Lewko for leading the defense against Villanova. He liked Kyle Derham’s play at wide receiver.

Princeton Coach Roger Hughes

-Said the Citadel was a better team than the one the Tigers played in 2008. He singled out frosh d-lineman Caraun Reed for his strong play.

Yale Coach Tom Williams

-Emphasized that he's not concerned by how many yards they gave up, insisted his defense was really in control all game.

Dartmouth's Buddy Teevens missed the call

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CCSU Coach on Columbia

Coach Mac

You can hear CCSU Head Coach Jeff McInerney's weekly interview, including his comments on Columbia here.

Full JV Schedule Announced

The 1916 Columbia varsity sure could have used some more underclassmen!

The 1-0 JV team will play five more games this season, with four of them at home.

Sun. Oct. 4 PRINCETON 11 a.m.

Fri. Oct. 16 BRIDGTON ACADEMY 1 p.m.

Fri. Oct. 30 ARMY 1 p.m.

Fri. Nov. 13 at Cornell 4:30 p.m.

Fri. Nov. 20 BROWN 2 p.m.

You can see the full news release here.

With such a large number of players in the program these days, getting these kids some kind of real playing time is crucial.

How to Get to Baker, 2009 edition

The sign of my salvation

The following is my annual guide to getting to the game that I publish every year in the days before the football home opener. There are some updates for this year, so read through it carefully:

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 left lane.

But fear not! The road to the Baker Athletics Complex is filled with special advantages and other options that can make the whole experience livable, decent, and 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, 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 great pre-game activities in the works, (like free beverages, even some beers for those of you over 21), the best 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 your 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!). There are new choices lately. Just over the Broadway Bridge north of the stadium there's a strip mall with an Applebee's and a Starbucks!

You can also park very close to the stadium at many of the newly-opened garages within 1-6 blocks of Baker.

But 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 provided here by the athletic department are very good. You can use them with confidence... but don't ignore the key section of those directions for people coming from Queens, Long Island, Eastern Brooklyn via the Belt Parkway, and that includes JFK Airport and La Guardia. 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, (now named the "RFK Bridge," presumably to honor the old home of the Redskins), 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), make the first right at the first light that will take you onto 10th Avenue if you stay straight, (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. IF YOU'RE TAKING A CAB FROM THE QUEENS AIRPORTS... MAKE SURE YOU TELL THE CABBIE TO TAKE THE TRIBORO/RFK BRIDGE TO THE HARLEM RIVER DRIVE. DON'T LET THE DRIVER TAKE YOU INTO MANHATTAN!!!

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 Field complex itself reserved for generous donors. Seriously, I can think or worse ways to spend your money, and having a spot at Baker Field 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! See the parking link above. FYI: in the past, parking has cost fans about $15 for the whole game.

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 stripe 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 they often do 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.


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 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 two-trip card, (note: the 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.


If the subway isn't for you, for the last several years Columbia has been running free shuttle buses to and from Baker Field 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 3-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 Field 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.


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 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 28+ 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 is 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 Field 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?

I'd love the company, but I don't think that will work. I am with you in spirit, I promise.

Tuesday Conference Call!

I'll be listening in to today's weekly Ivy coaches conference call beginning at 11:15. Remember that there are two intra-league contests this week with Harvard hosting Brown on Friday night and Cornell heading to Yale on Saturday.

I'll pass along as many highlights as I can.

And in other games...

Dominic Randolph led the Crusaders

Holy Cross beat Harvard 27-20 in yet another thrilling game between these two teams.

Jake's Take

Harvard's "pass first, run second" philosophy won't work against defenses as tough as this Holy Cross team. New QB Collier Winters did fine, but he needed to be great to beat the Crusaders. The Crimson's new defensive line netted just one sack and did not stuff the run like we've seen it do in year's past. Overall, I'd say this loss is kind of a push as far as projecting the Harvard season from here. Head Coach Tim Murphy has a history of not being so strong in openers, and this Crimson team wasn't too bad on Saturday. The Brown game will tell us a lot more.

Brown fell to Stony Brook, 21-20 in a game where kicking miscues made a big difference. As expected, new Brown QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero had a stellar night but he threw a crucial INT that killed a Bear scoring drive in the second quarter. Running back Zach Tronti netted just 3.5 yards per carry on 24 rushes. On the bright side for Brown, Buddy Farnham had 12 catches for 121 yards and a TD. The Bear defense played pretty well overall, but not in the clutch.

Jake's Take

Stony Brook has been a mess on the field the last couple of years and it's surprising its defense played so well when it counted against Brown. The Bears pass defense was a question coming into this season and now it's really a question mark. Winters and all of Harvard's receivers will shred Brown's secondary alive if they don't improve. Overall, this was a bad loss for the Bears.

Colgate backup runner Jordan McCord rushed 44 times for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Raiders beat Dartmouth at home, 34-15. The Big Green kept it close in the first half, but just didn't have the offense to answer McCord's outbursts in the second half.

Jake's Take

Colgate is a really good team and it's hard to judge if Dartmouth has improved much from a game like this. It does have to be worrying that starting QB Alex Jenny only completed 11 of 28 passes despite not being intercepted. But the biggest concern is the big day McCord had considering he was a backup. Overall, this loss slightly downgrades my outlook for the Big Green this season.

Cornell had a joyous season opener at home with a 33-9 win over Bucknell. On the bright side, new starting QB Ben Ganter had a solid 17-for-25 passing performances. On the down side, the Big Red's conventional running game looked weak, with lead running back Randy Barbour netting just 27 yards on 13 carries. And here's something you don't see every day: each team had a safety!

Jake's Take

Bucknell looks like a very, very bad team this year and the Big Red always plays a lot better at home. But because Ganter avoided throwing an INT and looked good in the pocket, I'm going to say this result provides Cornell with a nice upgrade for now when it comes to their season forecast.

Villanova strangled Penn, 14-3 at Franklin Field in a game that was essentially over as soon as the Wildcats returned the opening kickoff for a TD. Penn's defense played extremely well but the offense, especially the running game went nowhere. QB Keiffer Garton passed well efficiency-wise, but he took six sacks and was picked off once.

Jake's Take

Villanova is just so good it's hard to get any idea what Penn will look like against Ivy foes. Garton's higher percentage passing is a positive, but I'm not sure this was a great game for him by any stretch. This loss is a push and we'll learn a lot more about the Quakers from the game this week at Lafayette.

Yale pulled away from Georgetown, 31-10 in a game that had been just 17-10 Yale in the fourth quarter. But the Elis were really controlling the game the entire time as the Hoyas did nothing in the running game. Eli QB Patrick Witt had some mental errors, but still went 22 of 27 for 216 yards.

Jake's Take

Georgetown is another generally weak team and there's not much you can learn about Yale from this win. But I still give the Elis a slight upgrade thanks to their great defensive performance against the run. The secondary is still in question after giving up all those passing yards.

The Citadel slammed Princeton 38-7 at Princeton Stadium. New QB Tommy Wornham threw the ball a lot, going 24-for-41 for a TD and two picks. He wasn't spectacular, but clearly Princeton has a decent enough QB to compete. Returning Ivy League rushing champ Jordan Culbreath wasn't a factor in the game with the Tigers playing from behind most of the day, but he did get a decent 67 yards on 15 carries.

Jake's Take

No one really expected Princeton to win this one, but the Tigers played the Citadel better in South Carolina last year than they did at home on Saturday. That's not a good sign and I'm giving them a bit of a downgrade after this loss.

Lafayette hung tough but lost to Liberty 19-13 at home Saturday night. Liberty's defense just never gave the Leopards offense much of a chance, and Lafayette's own "D" turned in a great effort that wasn't enough.

Jake's Take

It was interesting to see Lafayette's offense face the same kind of punishment the Leopards are used to doling out week after week. This game really doesn't tell us much except that Lafayette kicker David Rodriguez is DEFINITELY not himself as he missed another PAT and a short FG attempt. He's been lights out until this season.

Here They Come!

Central Connecticut's QB Hunter Wanket (CREDIT: Central Connecticut State)

Central Connecticut State is our home opener opponent this Saturday and the CCSU Blue Devils will have their fans in the stands.

The CCSU Alumni Office is sponsoring a bus to the game and they plan to be in our pregame BBQ and picnic area as well.

We certainly welcome them, but we need to pack the stands with OUR fans too.

Today marks the beginning of your last chance to snag full season tickets for the football season!

Monday, September 21, 2009

League Honors!

Ladies & gentlemen, your Ivy offensive player of the week

QB Millie Olawale has been named the Ivy League's Offensive Player of the Week and frosh punter Michael Williamson got the nod as Ivy Rookie of the Week.

Read the full release here.

Monday Helmet Stickers

Ray Rangel, the Ivy League's leading rusher

Columbia's coaches haven't given out those helmet stickers players get for good work in games in many years.

But I'd like to acknowledge a few players I did and did not already mention in my game write-up yesterday:

-Ray Rangel was the only Ivy rusher to gain 100 yards or more in week 1, as he gained 118 against Fordham. He leads Yale's Jordan Farrell for the league lead by 27 yards.

-Andy Shalbrack played an exhausting game against the Fordham onslaught in the secondary. And he also got his hands on the last-second field goal attempt by the Rams at the end of the first half. The kick failed thanks to that effort.

-Calvin Otis was also running all over the field at corner... he also recovered a fumble at the end of the game.

-Adam Mehrer is tied for the Ivy lead in tackles with 16.

-Erase the yards lost in sacks, and Millie Olawale actually had 93 yards rushing. Yards lost from sacks should be a separate stat in my opinion. If it's a sack, it's getting to the QB as a passer, not a runner.

-Craig Hamilton was fantastic as a kick returner. If he's going to put up those kinds of numbers when people kick away from Austin Knowlin... this is going to be a rough year for Columbia's opponents.

-Mike Stephens isn't a big guy, but he looked very strong grabbing a ball away from a defender for a key first down late in the game.

-David Brekke made a few big tackles on special teams. He is the kick off coverage specialist par excellence!

-The JV team went right back to Fordham on Sunday and beat the Rams 14-12 in another nail-biter!

And speaking of helmets...

It looks like Brown has a new helmet... at least for road games. The Bears were wearing a decal that featured a large "B" with ivy draped around it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

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.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's Gameday/Night

I'll be busy most of the day with Rosh Hashanah observances until the Lions-Rams game finally kicks off at 6pm.

Please don't forget to tune into the game and hear Jerry Recco and I call the game on the SideLion Pass at

The pregame sho starts at 5:30pm.

And if you can, try to make it to the game at Fordham's Jack Coffey Field.

Oh, and over at Chuck Burton's Lehigh Football Nation site,
he's predicting a Lion victory tonight.

Week 1 Picks

Last Year's Record: 30-12

Yale over Georgetown

I have a lot of doubts about the Elis this year, and Georgetown looked decent in week one against Holy Cross. But I just don't think the Hoyas have what it takes to win this one.

Villanova over Penn

I expect the Quakers to make this another close game, but lose again. The Wildcats look stronger this year than ever.

Holy Cross over Harvard

The Crimson have a lot of weapons, but Tim Murphy's teams have been rusty in openers over the years. Harvard gets stronger as the season gets older, and the Crusaders are facing them just at the right time.

Colgate over Dartmouth

Colgate comes into Hanover pretty banged up, but the Big Green aren't ready yet to beat a superior opponent. However, I do expect a great close game like the 2007 contest.

Brown over Stony Brook

This is year two of Stony Brook using athletic scholarships, and the team seems to be getting worse. The Sea Wolves better turn it around fast or Coach Chuck Priore is toast. Oh, that won't be happening tomorrow against Brown.

Cornell over Bucknell

The Bison have not looked strong this year at all. The Big Red don't appear to be world beaters either, but they're at home.

The Citadel over Princeton

The Tigers have just too many question marks, especially at QB.

5 Keys to the Game

Olawale takes a tumble vs. Fordham last year

1) Columbia's D-Line needs to beat Fordham's O-Line

Fordham's offensive line was questionable coming into the season, and now its best overall lineman, Robby Reis, is out. The Lions need Lou Miller, Owen Fraser and company to dominate this matchup, force Ram QB John Skelton out of the pocket, and most importantly, get some licks on running back Xavier Martin before he accelerates to the line of scrimmage.

Martin has been the key to Fordham's wins over Columbia the last two season, mostly thanks to his great speed. Luckily, he's not the biggest guy on the field, so you can slow him down if you get to him quickly.

2) Columbia's O-line must beat Fordham's D-line

Fordham's defensive line also seems weaker than it has been the last two years while the Lions offensive line has a great mix of experience and talent. I'm not sure if Columbia will be able to run the ball down the Rams' throats, (sorry Serena), or give Olawale an hour to pass every time, but the Lions have the ability to win the battle of the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense and they need to do just that.

3) Columbia's Outside Backers must contain Fordham's Receivers

The Rams throw the ball a lot, but not so much down the field. They attack the corners and the flats and look for their receivers to take off after the catch. That means guys like Alex Gross need to shut down that part of the field and harass the receivers as much as possible. This will also be a big test for projected new middle linebacker starter Marc Holloway, who needs to read Fordham's multi-faceted offense accurately to be effective.

4) Millie the Passer vs. Millie the Runner: There Can Be NO Conflict!

Millie Olawale is possibly the most talented and effective running QB Columbia has ever had, and certainly is the best running signal caller we've had since Mike Cavanaugh '96. But at some point he's going to need to pass, preferrably to the best Columbia wide receiver in a generation: Austin Knowlin. Millie doesn't need to run for 100 yards and pass for 250, but he does need to present a credible threat to do both and make Fordham's defense act accordingly.

5) Columbia's Rustiness vs. the Rams' Sloppiness

It's been 300 days since the Lions last played a game that mattered. But this senior-dominated team is going to have to come looking more ready to play than Fordham did in their opener on September 5th when the Rams fumbled and stumbled all over the field at URI.

Olawale needs to run the offense like he knows what he's doing on every play. The offensive line needs to get in sync and not jump offsides. Handoffs need to be made cleanly. The defense can't be jumping offsides or getting caught napping.

Day 1: Millie Olawale '10

Olawale's big TD over Dartmouth last season

And so my "100 players in 100 Days" profiles end with tomorrow night's starting quarterback for the Lions, Millie Olawale.

Millie burst onto the scene on a sunny day in October, 2006 when he replaced Craig Hormann '08 in the third quarter against Dartmouth and immediately brought new life to the Lions in that game.

While Columbia went on to lose that game, the frosh Olawale was able to showcase his incredible speed and athleticism.

Two years later, on the same field against the same Big Green team from Dartmouth, Olawale relieved starter Shane Kelly '10, and sparked the team to a 21-13 win, their first of the season.

Olawale has shown all the tools to be a great quarterback. He has great speed and instincts as a runner, a very powerful arm, and the confidence and easy-going manner to be a team leader.

Tomorrow night, we'll start to learn whether he's been able to put all those tools together and became an All Ivy-caliber player.

If he does, the sky's the limit for the 2009 Lions.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Game Notes Released

Leading the troops into battle

The Game Notes and Two-Deep are now available here.


-Senior Millie Olawale gets the start at QB, sophomore Jerry Bell listed as the #2.

-The offense is listed as a one-back set, with senior Ray Rangel as the sole setback. Junior Zack Kourouma is his backup.

Three starting WR's are not a surprise in seniors Austin Knowlin and Taylor Joseph and junior Mike Stephens. It's good to see Nico Gutierrez as a backup WR, leading to more hopes that he has recovered fully from his 2007 ACL tear. Coming as a big surprise in the two-deep is sophomore WR Mark Muston, who played in just one game in 2008.

-No suprises on the O-line. Seniors Will Lipovsky, John Seiler, and Evan Sanford are joined by junior Ian Quirk and sophomore Jeff Adams. This is the starting front five we've projected since late last year.

-The defensive "Front 4.0," (my nickame, all imaginary rights reserved), is also not a surprise. 2008 stars senior Lou Miller and sophomore Owen Fraser are joined by senior Matt Bashaw at end and sophomore Chris Groth at tackle. Miller and Bashaw feature super outside passing rushing speed, combining nicely with the bulk and power of Fraser and Groth in the middle. But don't be fooled by Fraser... he's super fast too.

-No big surprises at linebacker either, but it appears 5th-year senior Corey Cameron has at least for now beaten out returning junior Matt Moretto for one starting slot. Moretto missed 2008 with an injury after an encouraging frosh season in '07. Marc Holloway is at Mike and All Ivy Alex Gross is at SAM.

-Another surprise is not seeing sophomore Kalasi Huggins at the corner slot. We'll keep an eye out for him. Senior Jared Morine gets the nod after earning nothing but praise from Coach Wilson during his training camp missives the last two years.

Day 2: Archie Roberts '65

What can you say about a player who became a legend on the gridiron and then an icon in the operating room?

What can you say about someone who re-wrote his team's and his league's record book week after week?

What can you say about an athlete at a most-demanding college who starred in three sports while still doing wonders in the classroom?

What can you say about someone who, even in retirement, is giving back" to the young athletes who play the sport he loves?

You can simply say the name: "Archie Roberts," and that should be enough.

Please click on the above links to learn about this remarkable Lion's amazing story.

(And here are some other thoughts and great stories about Roberts from his teammate and #1 receiving target. Roger Dennis '66.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some Info

Who's snapping the ball now?

Lou Miller '10, defending Ivy League sacks and TFL leader, is the new star of the "splash page." Check it out when you can.

Fordham's game notes for the game this Saturday are now out.

The notes list senior center Robby Reis as the starter for the game, but several of my Fordham sources confirm Reis is out for the season with an injury. I do not expect to see him in the game and I assume his inclusion in the two-deep is a mistake. (This should also act as yet another warning about how two-deep info is not to taken as the Gospel).

Penn is also out with its game notes for their opener against Villanova. The Quakers do not list super transfer Fred Craig from Stanford anywhere in their two deep either. Something I find more than a little questionable.

That said, we love to read through the notes and the two-deeps... because they say we are football geeks.

Guilty as charged.

Fordham Tips

Fordham's Campus

Here are some things you should know about the Fordham game at Fordham's Jack Coffey Field in The Bronx Saturday night:

1) The weather is going to be very nice. It looks like clear skies and temps in the low 60's/high 50's.

2) Bring a seat cushion. The very hard aluminum bleachers at their stadium are butt-busters. It's nobody's fault, I just wanted to give fair warning.


Please understand that it's very hard for a New Yorker to admit he's been lost on the city streets... EVER.

But it's happened to me a few times going to and from Fordham games since 2003.

It won't happen again!

Why? Because I am idiot-proofing my route by taking advantage of a geographical quirk.

It turns out Jack Coffey Field and Wien Stadium are LESS THAN TWO MILES APART!

So, all I have to do is follow my favorite route to Wien and then make just a few turns here and there and I will be okay!

If you're coming uptown via Broadway to the Baker Athletics Complex, just keep going after 218th, cross the Broadway Bridge and make a RIGHT on 225th Street. (If you're coming from uptown, make a LEFT onto 225th Street).

West 225th Street then becomes West Kingsbridge Road.

After about a mile, turn RIGHT onto East Kingsbridge Road.

After less than a third of a mile turn a slight LEFT onto East Fordham Road.

And BOOM! You're right there at the campus entrance. If you get there before kickoff, you should have no problem parking in the campus lots.

As you enter campus, parking lot is on your left. Jack Coffey Field is immediately on your right.

For public transportation tips and some more tidbits on how to get to Fordham, click here, (but note, taking the Bronx River Parkway is NO LONGER my favorite route).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marty the Man

Domres as a Jet

Since we're waiting on two-deeps from both Fordham and Columbia for this weekend's Liberty Bowl game, I'm going to hold off on a complete game preview, with matchups, etc. until I have a little more information.

That said, remember that the two-deeps are not set in stone. So while we love looking at them, we have to take the information found in them with a grain of salt. Not that anyone is deliberately misleading the fans, it's just that there are a lot of moving parts involved.

Day 3: Marty Domres '69

I've written a lot about the great Marty Domres in the past.

Here are some highlights of his career:

Marty Domres
Inducted in 1995

1962-1964: Christian Brothers Academy High School in Syracuse, played quarterback senior year.

1965 -1968: Columbia University varsity quarterback, set fifteen college records; one Ivy League, three Eastern and, one National passing record.

Columbia was ranked 3rd in nation in offense with 2,404 yards and 4th in nation with passes at 2,206 yards.

Finished his college career with 4495 passing yards, third all time in the Ivy League.

1969 -1971: San Diego Chargers. Drafted in first round of 1969 college draft, 9th overall pick. 179 total attempts, 82 completions, 1,219 yards and 5 touchdowns.

1972-1975: Baltimore Colts, Moreover, the man who replaced John Unitas as quarterback of the Colts – 586 attempts, 293 completions, 3,471 yards and 21 touchdowns.

1976: Played for the San Francisco 49ers

1977: Played for the New York Jets

1978: Retired from football playing in 90 NFL games throwing 27 touchdowns.

2004: The All American Football Foundation Presidents Award

2004: Inducted into the C.B.A LaSallian Athletic Hall of Fame. Domres, who played for the Colts from 1972 to 1975, is now managing director at Deutsche Banc Alex Brown, an investment company downtown Baltimore.

Below are some of the highlights of his overall career and some of his best games:

I can't imagine it was a lot of fun to be on campus in the fall of 1968, just months after the infamous campus riots almost shut the school down forever. But Domres and his teammates plowed through a tough 1968 season with at least a potent offense to make the games interesting. In a 34-25 win over Cornell, Domres shattered several Columbia passing records and his numbers then stood for 14 years. He followed that up two weeks later with a 46-20 thrashing of Brown after convincing first-year head coach Frank Navarro to just abandon the running game early in the first quarter.

Domres became a respected QB in the NFL, at one point replacing Johnny Unitas in Baltimore and later taking over from Joe Namath with the Jets. He never quite emerged as a starter, but he made a great impression on the fans and his fellow players alike.

Baltimore took such a shine to him that he settled there permanently after his playing days were over. Domres works in the brokerage field there.

October 29, 1967

Columbia 24 Rutgers 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 2, 1968

Columbia 34 Cornell 25

After the Lions opening loss to Lafayette, the '68 season took mostly a turn for the worse as Columbia lost five more games to pull into week 7 at 0-6.

But there was one glimmer of hope as quarterback Marty Domres continued to set records with his arm. Because of his good scrambling skills, Domres was also doing a number on the total yards record books at both Columbia and the Ivy League.

But the records really came crashing down in a wild contest with Cornell at Baker Field that drew well over 14,000 fans.

To understand why so many people showed up to watch a couple of teams that had yet to win an Ivy League game, you have to understand that Domres' legend was growing throughout the area. It was obvious he was going to be drafted by an NFL or AFL team, and how well he played in these final three contests of the year would determine just how early he would go.

The people who showed up really got what they paid for. It started with both teams trading 50+ yard drives and settling for field goals, (Cornell scored first), and it was 3-3.

Then both teams started to raise the stakes. The Big Red drove 73 yards for a touchdown, ending in an 11-yard TD pass from Chris Ritter to Bill Robinson. The Lions came right back with a 78-yard drive, that also ended in an 11-yard TD pass from Domres to Bob Werner. 10-10.

After Columbia failed to capitalize on a Cornell fumble at the Lion 4, Cornell got the ball back on the ensuing punt on its 18-yard line and started a time-consuming drive. It ended with 1:16 left in the half with a 2-yard TD pass to make it 17-10.

But 76 seconds was plenty of time for Domres that day. In fact, he needed just 30 seconds to direct a 73-yard drive ending with a 32-yard scoring strike to Bill Wazevich to make it 17-17 at the half.

The Lions came out of the locker room and seemed to grab the momemtun for good after a 16-play drive ended with a one-yard TD run by Domres and a 24-17 lead. But Cornell came back with an eight-play drive and a two-point conversion to take a 25-24 lead.

Defensive plays dominated the game for the next 10 minutes. The best Columbia could do was get in range for a 35-yard field goal attempt that failed. Cornell got as far as the Lion eleven, decided to go for it from there instead of kick a field goal... and didn't make another first down.

Cornell actually lost two yards on the 4th down try, so the Lions took over from their own six with just about five minutes to play. Domres was not flustered. He drove Columbia all the way down to the Big Red 10 and kicker Rick Rose hit the short field goal for the 27-25 lead with just 2:46 to play.

After a huge sack on the ensuing Cornell possession, Columbia got the ball back one more time and Domres gambled with a long pass to Wazevich that ended in a 38-yard TD for the final points.

Domres 396 yards passing set a Columbia and Ivy League record that stood for several years. Bill Wazevich's five catches for 121 yards helped him break the Columbia career receiving yards record that had stood for 17 years.

But the fans were more excited about the Lions first victory since those terrible riots six and a half months earlier. For the first time since then, a large crowd of Columbians was gathering to celebrate something positive.


Nine years later, Domres was starting for the New York Jets at Shea Stadium against the Miami Dolphins. At one point during the game when the Jets were struggling offensively, a few of the fans were overheard yelling: "Hey Marty, make believe it's Cornell!"

Some legends die hard.

November 24, 1968

Columbia 46 Brown 20

On the same day that the '68 Harvard-Yale game grabbed all the headlines, Marty Domres was making some news of his own with a stunning performance in his final game as a Lion.

When I interviewed him at halftime of the Homecoming Game last year, Domres told me that he convinced Head Coach Frank Navarro to let him loose and throw as much as possible.

The result was a cavalcade of broken Columbia and Ivy League records and some very tired defensive backs.

Brown got it started with a 70-yard drive for a TD, but a missed extra point held it at 6-0. Columbia had to punt on the ensuing drive, but the Bears fumbled the kick and the Lions recovered leading to a 23-yard Rick Rose field goal and it was 6-3.

Late in the first, Columbia took over after blocking a Brown punt and taking over at the opponents' 28-yard line. A pair of Domres passes later it was 10-6 and the touchdown parade was on.

The Lions got the ball back quickly and a pass interference call, (by the end of the game Brown would be called for a record 125-yards worth of pass interference penalties), put them on the Bear 13. Domres took it in himself from the one a few plays later and it was 20-6. Domres scored again on a scramble before the half to make it 26-6 at intermission.

The teams were scoreless in the third quarter, but it got wild again in the fourth. Domres engineered a 67-yard drive, that ended in back-to-back completions of 21 and 39 yards to Ken Alexander before Paul Burlingame ran it in from the three. Moments later Columbia recovered a Brown fumble at the Lion 48 and Domres made them pay by forcing another pass interference penalty that put the ball on the Bear 21. Domres found Kevin Brown for the 21-yard score on the next play and it was 39-6 Lions.

After Brown put together a long drive for a touchdown, Domres led Columbia back for one more drive. But once the Lions reached the Brown 21, Domres deferred to sophomore QB Robbie Wroe, who finished the drive off with a 29-yard TD pass to Jim O'Connor.

Domres finished the game by breaking the NCAA record for most plays in a 3-year career, (a total of 1,133). His career total yardage of 5,345 yards was 5th all-time in NCAA history.

He broke the Ivy and Columbia record for career passes thrown, career passes completed, career passing yardage and total offense.

He broke the single game Ivy and Columbia record for career passes thrown, career passes completed, career passing yardage and total offense.

So while the media and the Ivy League itself was obsessed with the heroics of Frank Champi and the "greatness" of Yale's Brian Dowling, the truth is Domres was the best quarterback of his era.

He just doesn't have a Doonesbury character named after him.