Saturday, October 31, 2009


It's a cloudy, but freakishly warm day here in New York as the Lions get set to take on the Yale Bulldogs at 1pm today.

For you history buffs, remember that this is the latest edition in the Ivies oldest rivalry. Columbia first played Yale in 1872.

Catch the game on the YES Network, (and maybe hear our audio on SideLion Pass as you turn down the TV?).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Week 7 Picks

Last Week: 3-0

Overall: 25-5

Brown over Penn

This is the big game of the week in the Ivies and it could be a classic. It's Penn's great defense against Brown's great offense. But the game is in Providence and the Bears have been playing like a team possessed since they lost to Harvard in week two.

Harvard over Dartmouth

The Big Green's win over Columbia last week should serve as a big boost... but not this week. Harvard could be caught napping a little bit, but that's not likely.

Princeton over Cornell

It will be close. It may be ugly. But the Tigers must recognize this is their best chance to grab a league win this season.

5 Keys to the Game: Yale

A quick glance at the game notes for the Yale game confirms that we can expect a very different-looking Columbia team on the field tomorrow.

Ray Rangel is injured and the new starter will be, (according to the notes), junior Zack Kourouma. We already know that Alex Gross and Owen Fraser remain out on defense. Nick Mistretta and Chris Paruch have been moved up to the top of the depth charts at their linebacker positions. Andy Shalbrack has been moved from his safety position to a starting corner spot. The list goes on...

In short, make sure you grab your FREE program when you get to Wien Stadium so you know who's who... you'll thank me later.

With these personnel issues in mind, and the emotional challenges facing the team after these last three games, I want to emphasize that the biggest key to the game may be the one I don't list below: heart.

How much heart will this team show tomorrow and through the rest of the season? They've taken some stomach punches lately with one tough loss after another and now a raft of injuries to so many key players.

The 26 seniors on this squad, healthy or not, need to step it up and make sure despair does not creep into the lockeroom or the sideline.

Yale is a beatable team, and I like the idea of the players visualizing how good it will feel to defeat the Elis against all this adversity.

And winning would mean a nice victory on national TV.

Okay, back to the field:

1) Harass the Yale O-line

Nick Schwieger was already a very talented running back before last week's game vs. the Lions, but Columbia's inability to adjust to his runs made him an absolute hero. The weak offensive line at Yale has made their offense stall week after week, and Columbia cannot let this unit suddenly shine tomorrow. QB's need to be rushed and blitzed, running backs need to be harrassed, etc.

2) Establish the Pass

I think Yale's defensive strength, which is considerable, centers on their front seven. The secondary has yet to be really tested, except by Lafayette and the Leopards had the most successful day against the Elis that anyone has had all year. Connecticut native Austin Knowlin needs to give the Yale pass defenders fits tomorrow, 'nuff said.

3) Protect the Sidelines

Yale will be looking to test starting corners Shalbrack and Ross Morand along with new outside linebacker starter Chris Paruch. To me, this means lots of running and pass plays to the sidelines, which is something Yale actually tried against the Lions a lot last year with mostly good results. If Patrick Witt starts and plays most of the game at QB, look for him to take off for the sidelines on runs early and often. H-back John Sheffield will probably try to make something of his height advantage outside the numbers as well.

4) First, Do No Harm

The Lions kicking game has been a decided weakness, but there's degrees of weakness and degrees of disaster. Sure, Columbia hasn't been getting crucial field goals and even PAT's, but eliminate the bad snaps and blocks on the punts and you take points off the board from the other team. A missed kick or a short punt is one thing, but blocks and snaps over the kicker's head are worse. Take your pick, but I think the choice is clear.

5) Do Something Really Different... All the Time

The Lions are already going to show Yale some new players, but I think a key to the game will be trying some plays the Elis haven't seen as well. Yale has a good enough defense to react to surprises well, but no one's perfect.

Robert Hutchins, Hero of the Sloth

Weekend Reading Material

Check out this piece today in the Wall Street Journal about who the powers in college football were 100 years ago. Much of the article focuses on the University of Chicago, but the Ivies are also mentioned.

My favorite exerpt is the famous quote by the University of Chicago president who killed that school's once-storied football program:

"When I am minded to take exercise, I sit down and wait until the mood has passed."

-Robert Hutchins

Sounds like the perfect recipe for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. All the things that are exploding across the country right now. Thanks, Bob!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Scouting Yale

Coach Siedlecki looks better in retrospect

Ivy teams with first-year head coaches often struggle in those initial seasons.

Oh wait, they DON'T!

Every current coach other than Tom Williams at Yale can say he improved his team noticeably in his first season at the helm.

Here's how all the current Ivy Coaches did in their first years:

BROWN, Phil Estes 1998: 7-3, 5-2 Ivy (previous season, Brown was also 7-3, but 4-3 Ivy)

CORNELL, Jim Knowles 2004: 4-6, 4-3 Ivy (previous season, 1-9, 0-7 Ivy)

COLUMBIA, Norries Wilson 2006: 5-5, 2-5 Ivy (previous season, 2-8, 0-7 Ivy)

DARTMOUTH, Buddy Teevens 2005: 2-8, 1-6 Ivy (previous season, 1-9, 1-6 Ivy)

HARVARD, Tim Murphy 1994: 4-6, 2-5 Ivy (previous season, 3-7, 1-6 Ivy)

PENN, Al Bagnoli 1992: 7-3, 5-2 Ivy (previous season, 2-8, 2-5 Ivy)

PRINCETON, Roger Hughes 2000: 3-7, 3-4 Ivy (previous season, 3-7, 1-6 Ivy)

Williams may prove to be the exception to that rule. It's hard to believe the Elis will improve on last year's 6-4, 4-3 Ivy record.

I'm not suggesting Williams is doing a bad job. In fact, I think he needs a lot more time to be fairly judged. But he does have a challenge ahead of him.

Williams does have the Elis playing fantastic defense, even after losing All World linebacker Bobby Abare to graduation. But the offense, with the exception of one game against Dartmouth, has sputtered to almost a complete stop.

How much of a stop? Yale's offense is rushing for just 86 yard per game and 2.5 yards per carry. The Bulldogs offense has gone scoreless for the last two games.

All of this is not totally unexpected. We knew going into this season that Yale's offensive line was not particularly experienced or talented, and that's the biggest reason for those terrible rushing numbers and the 21 sacks allowed so far this year. We also knew that it would be extremely tough to replace super running back Mike McLeod. Right now, the lead rusher seems to be senior Rodney Reynolds, who has not impressed.

The one suprising aspect of this offense has been the disappointing play at the QB position from Nebraska Patrick Witt. Many of us expected Witt to jumpstart the Yale offense, but he was benched earlier this season after Brook Hart had his monster game against the Big Green. But Hart was benched towards the end of last week's 9-0 loss to Penn and Witt took over. Who will start this Saturday is very much in question.

As far as the receivers go, H-Back John Sheffield has the most catches at 36, but none for more than 22 yards.

Now for the other side of the fence...

Yale's defense has been superb, even without Bobby Abare, and a brilliant decision to move Paul Rice from the secondary to the linebacker spot seems like the biggest reason why.

Yale is allowing just 11.8 points per game, less than SIX points per second half, and 3.2 yards per rush. Opposing teams are converting just 27% of their third downs against them. The list goes on.

Williams brought in Ikaika Malloe as his defensive coordinator, but he retained Rick Flanders as associate head coach and it was Flanders who largely crafted this defense from the ground up as the coordinator for the previous 13 years. It seems like that was a very good move indeed.

On special teams, Yale is mostly strong. Tom Mante is the best deep placekicking threat in the Ivies with two 50+ FG's so far this year. He's also a great punter. Chris Smith is doing well as a kickoff returner, but he hasn't had much success yet returning punts.

But Yale is about defense in 2009, period. If a team can score on them and do it relatively early, they have a great chance to win.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Great Ivy Injury Epidemic of 2009

Forget H1N1, the raft of significant injuries hitting just about every Ivy team this year is the worst I've ever seen.

This isn't just the usual case of banged up players hitting that midseason bump, we're talking about a very high number of All Ivy and All Ivy caliber players out for the season or darn close to it.

The simple fact is every team in the Ivies, again except maybe for Harvard, is going out on the field this Saturday without more than a handful of the players they expected to be starters.

We have lost 1st Team All Ivy linebacker Alex Gross. Penn has been without its heralded top QB for most of the season. Yale has lost Larry Abare. Alex Jenny is out at Dartmouth. Princeton has lost Stephen Cody and Scott Britton, the list goes on.

I would elaborate more on this topic, but injury reports are frowned on in our league for many reasons. Most of those reasons are legitimate and you can't get into the dicey area of rumors, etc.

The funny thing is that this unexpected explosion of injuries hasn't really disrupted the balance of power in the league that I, and many others, predicted at the start of the season.

Harvard, Penn and Brown still look like the cream of the Ivies at this point. Harvard seems like it's in the driver's seat with no losses and the homefield advantage over the only other undefeated Ivy, Penn.

But before we feel too sorry for ourselves, we should remember that this all pales in comparison to the Jordan Culbreath situation and that's where we should direct our best wishes and prayers first.

Culbreath Update

I am sorry to report that Princeton running back Jordan Culbreath's condition has not significantly improved.

In short, this very admirable young man needs a bone marrow transplant and relatively soon.

You can get daily updates on Jordan's condition here, and it's also the Internet site where you can show your support for him in several ways.

This is a time for the entire Ivy family to rally around someone who needs help and support.

Tuesday Helmet Stickers

Well, the 28-6 loss to previously 0-5 Dartmouth didn't produce as many kudos to individual players as we'd all like to see for obvious reasons.

But aside from Columbia game MVP Adam Mehrer, I do have some congratulations to hand out.

-Ray Rangel made the most of his carries again, putting up 81 yards rushing on just 15 attempts.

-Kalasi Huggins made a nice interception, turning aroung just at the right time while breaking off super-tight coverage.

-I know Greg Guttas is having his problems with placekicking, but he punted very well, including running down that high snap on his first punt of the day. It didn't end well as that punt was still blocked, but he saved a TD on that particular play.

-Mike Stephens had a nifty kickoff return into Dartmouth territory to help set up CU's only score of the day.

-The entire Columbia offensive line did a good job.

-Kickoff and punt coverage was improved.

Moving On...

I know the loss on Saturday still hurts, but a win this coming Saturday against Yale on national TV, (YES Network), would be... nice. We have not beaten the Elis since 2001 and you know the national press will make a big deal out of this game because it is the first-ever meeting of two Ivy football teams with African-American head coaches.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hurtin' in Hanover

By halftime, the Memorial Field stands resembled this Hanover waterfall

Dartmouth 28 Columbia 6

Why Dartmouth Won

The Big Green immediately established a running attack and passed the ball just well enough to score points when they needed them. Nick Schwieger broke a school record with 242 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the defense gave up a lot of yards but forced Columbia mistakes time after time.

Why Columbia Lost

They could not stop the Dartmouth run and the offense lost all momentum every time in entered the red zone. Turnovers sealed their fate.

Key Turning Points

-Dartmouth took the opening kickoff and drove 67 yards for a TD mostly on great short runs by Schwieger. Connor Kempe's best pass of the day went for the score and the Lions never seemed to recover.

-Forced to punt on their first possession, Columbia snapped the ball over punter Greg Guttas' head and a partial block led to the Big Green getting the ball at the Lions' 36. It was 14-0 Dartmouth not long after that.

-Columbia put together a good drive to start the second half, and looked like they would make it 14-7, but a holding penalty and missed FG left them with nothing.

Columbia MVP

You have to give the award to Adam Mehrer, who had 16 tackles and a lot of TD-saving stops.

The highlight of the weekend was meeting with Coach Mac, more on that later

Friday, October 23, 2009

5 Keys to the Game: Dartmouth

1) Run Until They Stop Us

A: The Big Green has had terrible problems against the run this season.

B: The Lions have the league's top rusher, a dangerous running QB, and their best offensive line in many years.

C: Columbia should and must run the ball often and effectively tomorrow. Any failure to do so puts the Lions in a very tough spot and will boost Dartmouth's confidence exponentially throughout the day.

2) Pressure Conner Kempe

The young sophomore backup-turned-starting QB put up some impressive numbers against Holy Cross last week. But the Lions, especially pass rushers Lou Miller and Matt Bashaw, need to dare him to do that again under much heavier pressure. Columbia needs sacks and pressure-caused turnovers.

3) Contain Nick Schwieger

The Big Green running back can make great cuts and bounce off tacklers. The first guy to Schwieger needs to bring him down. I expect Dartmouth to try to attack the center of the defensive line with Schwieger a little more, especially if the field is as wet as the forecasters are saying it's going to be tomorrow. That means Chris Groth and Bruce Flemming will have to be on their games, with help from MLB Marc Holloway.

4) Keep Looking for Kennedy

With a safety and a linebacker or two always sticking near the line of scrimmage to guard against runs by M.A. Olawale, Lion tight end Andrew Kennedy has been finding it easier to get open. In rainy conditions tomorrow, Kennedy could be an even more deadly weapon.

5) Don't Get Burned on Kick Returns

Big Green kick and punt returning star Shawn Abuhoff is going to break one for a score very soon, but the Lions need to make sure it doesn't happen tomorrow.

As for Columbia's kick returning, the Lions need to get back to what they were doing most of the early part of the season. That includes finding a way to get Austin Knowlin's hands on more punts and seeing Craig Hamilton burn opposing teams that were kicking off away from Knowlin.

Lineup Notes

Otis made a TD saving play at Memorial Field in '07

The game notes and the two-deep information are now posted on the Columbia Athletics Web site here.

As it was last week, Owen Fraser is again not on the two deep, and it appears Calvin Otis will back up Ross Morand at one corner position. It was at Dartmouth in 2007 when the freshman Otis really made his first big statement as a key player on this Lions team. Hopefully, he'll at least get back on the field at some point in this game.

I will be hitting the road for New Hampshire in the mid-afternoon, so I will post my usual "5 Keys" article a little later today and that may be it Online for me until Sunday.

Don't forget to sign up for the SideLion Pass to catch Jerry Recco and ME calling the game live from Hanover tomorrow. The pregame show will begin at 1pm.

Week 6 Picks

Last Week: 4-1

Overall: 22-5

Harvard over Princeton

The Crimson need to bounce back after a surprisingly bad performance against Lafayette. Princeton needs to find some way to win without Culbreath and now Scott Britton. This could get ugly early.

Brown over Cornell

Cornell is finally setting senior Stephen Liuzza loose as it tries to get something going on offense. But Brown on the cozy field turf of Schoelkopf Field will outscore anybody.

Penn over Yale

We could see a 10-3 final score here with a lot of top players out. But the Elis are about as banged up as the Quakers are right now. I still like Penn, but this one looks like it could be a possible upset.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scouting Dartmouth

The old Memorial Field, when it held more than 20,000

It's another year, another 0-5 start for the Big Green who have the most murderous first half schedule known to man in the Ivy League.

Three times since 2004, both Columbia and Dartmouth have been winless going into their meeting in week 6. But not this time.

This time the Lions are 2-3, more importantly 1-1 in the Ivies, with legitimate dreams of finishing the season in the top three or better. This is the best Columbia team Dartmouth has faced since the Big Green's program decline that began after the 1997 season.

So where does this Dartmouth team stack up? There is some evidence the Big Green are improved over last year, especially when it comes to their running attack. In other words, they now have a running attack thanks to a wonderful cutback runner in sophomore Nick Schwieger who trails only Columbia's Ray Rangel in the Ivy rushing race. This may be the first time in years that the current #1 and #2 Ivy rushers are facing off in the same game.

Schwieger is one of many sophomores who have become the most visible leaders on the field for the Green, either due to their talent or the loss of older players due to injury.

Yes, the great 2009 Ivy League injury epidemic has hit Hanover about as hard as any other Ancient Eight hometown. QB Alex Jenny is out for the season, putting soph Conor Kempe in the starting slot. Kempe has the talent, but he hasn't quite proven he can make the reads and execute the plays as well as he should at this point in his career. He put up nice numbers against Holy Cross last week, but the game was not close it's not clear just how much he was truly tested. I expect Columbia to pressure him mercilessly all day.

Another sophomore leader is the very talented Shawn Abuhoff. He can really hurt you as a kick returner, but he's also a good cornerback who will probably be asked to contain Austin Knowlin Saturday. Abuhoff's fellow starting corner is yet another sophomore, J.B. Andreassi.

Dartmouth's biggest problem this year is the same shortcoming that killed them last year: stopping the run. Remember the Lions ran all over the Big Green in last year's 21-13 Lion win in New York. Again, there is some improvement here, mostly thanks to the standout play of junior Charles Bay on the defensive line, but I expect Columbia to give Rangel and Olawale a healthy amount of carries as pure runners to test this Dartmouth defense.

New Memorial Field, capacity 13,000

The numbers don't lie, against Holy Cross last week the Big Green gave up 5.7 yards per carry, and the Crusaders are not really a super running team. Two weeks ago against Yale, Dartmouth allowed about 4.2 yards per carry, and Yale is not a strong running team either. Penn rushed for 6.3 yards per carry for a total of 288 yards on the ground against the Green in Hanover in week 3. That was on a wet field and by the same team that Columbia held to 118 total rushing yards and just 2.4 yards per carry in dry conditions. Dartmouth gave up 269 rushing yards to UNH, and 292 against Colgate.

Penn, Colgate, and even UNH are great running teams this year, but the Big Green's only decent day on rush defense came against a Yale team that beat them 38-7. The Lions have to feel confident with their strong offensive line coming into this game.

Dartmouth's pass defense seems much better, but the numbers are at least a bit deceiving because teams have been able to run at will against the Big Green and they simply don't NEED to pass that much, (Sound familiar? It should because our Lions posted decent pass defense numbers in 2005 and 2006, mostly because the rush defense was so pourous).

Dartmouth's offense has struggled mightily this season despite the emergence of Schwieger. Star wide receiver Tim McManus has been out all year and it doesn't appear that he will play Saturday. In his place, junior Tanner Scott has started to make some noise and he may be Kempe's favorite target. Tight end John Gallagher seems like he could be used more as a weapon but I don't think he has the same rhythm with Kempe that he did with Jenny.

But I think the Green's biggest issue on offense is their offensive line. It's young, with four sophomore starters, and it's small, with an average weight of 269 pounds and no starters heavier than senior right tackle Alexander Toth at 280. The front five are actually very tall, and clearly they're playing better than their weights would indicate, but that's a lethal combination: smallish, young O-line and an inexperienced, raw starting QB.

Shawn Abuhoff is the Green's best weapon (CREDIT:

Special teams are generally an area of strength for Dartmouth, with Abuhoff returning kickoffs at 30.3 yards a clip and punts at a lofty 12.3 yards apiece. Matthew Kelly punts well and Foley Schmidt is a reliable 9-9 on PAT's, (wouldn't we love that stat?), and a decent 3-4 on his field goal attempts, although his longest FG is 29 yards this year.

There are a number of intangibles to discuss here, especially the feeling in Hanover that this may be the Big Green's best chance to get a win and end their current losing streak at 17.

In reality, it isn't. The upcoming home games against Cornell and Princeton will provide better opportunities for Dartmouth to grab a victory, especially because the Lions can run the ball a lot better than either of those teams. But it's also homecoming at Memorial Field, and that should keep the fans fired up unless Columbia can score first and hold the lead early.

Another factor could be the weather. The forecast is still calling for rain, but now they say the temp will be a positively balmy 56 degrees around gametime. If the field gets super wet, there's no telling if Columbia's offense will be able to run as well as it has every week with the exception of the last game against Penn. But the Lions have more weapons on offense and the Green have to play on the same field regardless.

Of course, the biggest intangible of all is the pressure on Head Coach Buddy Teevens. No matter how fairly or unfairly, a loss to Columbia on homecoming won't help. Yes, Columbia is a better team right now but the alums at Dartmouth remember the old Columbia and they will expect a win. Losing means the Big Green streak hits 18 games.

As always, for all the latest and best news on Dartmouth you must head over to Bruce Wood's Big Green Alert Blog.

Bulletin Board Material

A writer for the local paper in the Hanover, NH area has laid it all on the line against our Lions.

To be fair, columnist Don Mahler is mostly trying to fire up the locals to get out there and support the Big Green. But he takes some rough shots that include:

"The Lions are here for only one reason on Saturday: To act out their role as sacrificial lambs. Historically, Columbia has been the doormat of the Ivy League."

(Perhaps, but the Lions have won six of the last 11 games against the Big Green).

Anyway, I'd like this to serve as an added motivation to our players. They can disappoint those who are expecting a Dartmouth win and also show them how much more improved Columbia really is.

The diner in winter

Looking in on Larry

As I did two years ago, I'm looking forward to visiting with former Columbia Head Coach Larry MacElreavy at the diner he co-owns with his wife Fran. Miss Bellows Falls Diner is just minutes away from the Dartmouth campus on the Vermont side of the border. I had a great time talking about Columbia football in the 80's the last time I visited with Coach Mac, but I think I remembered Fran's buttermilk pancakes just a bit more.

If you have the time on gameday, or any day this weekend, I highly recommend getting over and eating there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At the Crossroads

Not only are the Columbia Lions at an important crossroads right now, but so is the rest of the league.

Only Harvard and Penn are undefeated in Ivy action and neither has looked quite dominant enough to feel like they can beat anyone on any given Saturday in the league.

Brown is starting to look better and better every week, but the Bears have that early loss to Harvard around their necks already.

The other 1-1 teams are Columbia, Yale, and Cornell with the struggling Dartmouth and Princeton at 0-2.

If you look at the schedule for this weekend, just about every Ivy team has an important question to answer Saturday.

For Columbia, it needs to decide whether it's going to remain a real contender to finish the season in the top tier or whether it's going to slide down with the cellar dwellers. A loss to Dartmouth would be a huge detour on the road to respectability the Lions began when the season began. A win would help rejuvenate a team that's had the wind knocked out of them with two tough losses in a row.

Columbia's long history at Dartmouth has taken a different look since 1998. That was the year the Lions finally beat the Big Green in Hanover for the first time since 1946. The next meeting at Memorial Field was 2001, also a Columbia victory, with the 2003, 2005 and 2007 games all being nail-biter wins for Dartmouth. Before that '98 game, just about every game against the Big Green in Hanover had ended in a bad blowout loss for Columbia.

The 262 mile trek to Hanover for Columbia is one of the longest road trips in the Ivies, and the longest for Columbia. But this Lions team is too talented to let road trips trip them up.

Speaking of road trips, have you ever wondered which are the longest or shortest in the intra-Ivy football rivalry? How about wondering which team has the longest and shortest average trips in the league?

See below and now you will know!

Columbia-Dartmouth: 262 miles

Columbia-Cornell: 228 miles

Columbia-Harvard: 208 miles

Columbia-Brown: 175 miles

Columbia-Penn: 102 miles

Columbia-Yale: 75 miles

Columbia-Princeton: 56 miles


Brown-Cornell: 327 miles

Brown-Penn: 276 miles

Brown-Princeton: 230 miles

Brown-Dartmouth: 186 miles

Brown-Columbia: 175 miles

Brown-Yale: 103 miles

Brown-Harvard: 56 miles


Cornell-Harvard: 329 miles

Cornell-Brown: 327 miles

Cornell-Dartmouth: 299 miles

Cornell-Yale: 259 miles

Cornell-Penn: 230 miles

Cornell-Columbia: 228 miles

Cornell-Princeton: 222 miles


Dartmouth-Penn: 364 miles* LONGEST ROAD TRIP IN THE IVIES

Dartmouth-Princeton: 318 miles

Dartmouth-Cornell: 299 miles

Dartmouth-Columbia: 262 miles

Dartmouth-Yale: 189 miles

Dartmouth-Brown: 186 miles

Dartmouth-Harvard: 126 miles


Harvard-Cornell: 329 miles

Harvard-Penn: 308 miles

Harvard-Princeton: 262 miles

Harvard-Columbia: 208 miles

Harvard-Yale: 134 miles

Harvard-Dartmouth: 126 miles

Harvard-Brown: 56 miles


Penn-Dartmouth: 364 miles* LONGEST ROAD TRIP IN THE IVIES

Penn-Harvard: 308 miles

Penn-Brown: 276 miles

Penn-Cornell: 230 miles

Penn-Yale: 176 miles

Penn-Columbia: 102 miles

Penn-Princeton: 46 miles* SHORTEST ROAD TRIP IN THE IVIES


Princeton-Dartmouth: 318 miles

Princeton-Harvard: 262 miles

Princeton-Brown: 230 miles

Princeton-Cornell: 222 miles

Princeton-Yale: 130 miles

Princeton-Columbia: 56 miles

Princeton-Penn: 46 miles


Yale-Cornell: 259 miles

Yale-Dartmouth: 189 miles

Yale-Penn: 176 miles

Yale-Harvard: 134 miles

Yale-Princeton: 130 miles

Yale-Brown: 103 miles

Yale-Columbia: 75 miles


Interesting that Penn is part of the longest road trip in the league with Dartmouth, but also enjoys the shortest hop in Ivy play with that 46 mile march to Princeton.

Columbia finishes pretty well just ahead of Yale to barely miss out on the shortest average road trip distance in the league. Being in the central location of New York City has its advantages, BUT sometimes the bulk of time for the Lions road trips is spent just trying to get out of Manhattan traffic.

I head up to Hanover this Friday night and I know that the first 25 miles will take as long as the next 100... at least! Ugh.

More Crossroads for the Others

Brown faces Cornell in Ithaca this weekend, and the Bears need to prove that the long road trip won't phase their recent boost in on-the-field quality. Cornell can make a lot of believers out of the current doubters and make a serious case for ending in the first division if the Big Red can pull off a win.

Yale comes in to Franklin Field and will try to make Penn prove how well it can play against an Ivy team that doesn't make tons of turnovers in a game. Yale's defense will get a chance to answer the question of whether it's really as strong as it has looked the last two weeks or the unit that gave up a ton of points to Lafayette.

Harvard seemingly has an easy mark against a wounded Princeton team at Harvard Stadium Saturday... but Princeton put up a good fight at Brown and has nothing to lose while the pressure will be on the Crimson.

Teleconference Highlights

The coaches on the weekly Ivy League media teleconference seem to be getting less and less informative with their answers, but you can listen to the whole thing here.

Coach Wilson had some nice words of praise for Lou Miller, his brother Evan, and Austin Knowlin that you'll want to hear.

As far as Dartmouth Head Coach Buddy Teevens, I have never witnessed him being more tight-lipped than I have in recent weeks. Without seeing him in person, I can't be sure, but he also sounds somewhat upset. I guess losing 17 in a row will do that to anyone, but Buddy Teevens is one of the warmest personalities in this league and in all of college football and I hate to see that spark go out.

One piece of info that I did get from the teleconference that I was not completely aware of was the fact that the Big Green are apparently running the wildcat formation direct snapping to star RB Nick Schwieger a few times per game. I thought the Lions defense generally contained the Penn wildcat with Matt Hamscher, but it is an element Columbia will have to account for.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday Helmet Stickers: Diamonds in the Rough Edition

Another Buckeye gets a sticker... Evan Miller

It was an ugly game on Saturday with all the Lion turnovers and the general disappointment of dropping yet another Homecoming contest, but there were some good performances that should be acknowledged.

I already mentioned the good jobs turned in by Lou Miller and Austin Knowlin, here are some others of note:

-Evan Miller continues to play well in place of the injured Alex Gross. The younger Mr. Miller had 10 tackles, some of them very crucial.

-Adam Mehrer had another interception and 10 tackles of his own, as he continues to show a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

-Andrew Kennedy continues to show a knack for getting open. He had 3 catches for 51 yards including a 28-yard TD.

-Matt Moretto made a very nice play to turn around just in time to intecept a pass.

-Greg Guttas handled the punting duties exclusively and did a solid job, averaging almost 40 yards a punt with four inside the 20.

-Ray Rangel is still the Ivy League's leading rusher despite his roughest game of the year. But he did not fumble and that was a blessing in a turnover-plagued day.

Here is the current list of the top 5 rushers in the Ivies:

1. Ray Rangel, Columbia 420 yards 5.8 YPC
2. Nick Schwieger, Dartmouth 366 yards 3.7 YPC
3. Zach Tronti, Brown 339 yards 3.8 YPC
4. Lyle Marsh Penn 292 yards 4.5 YPC
5. Gino Gordon, Harvard 268 yards 4.3 YPC

Monday, October 19, 2009

Losing a Friend

Pat and Ralph DeBernardo

A very good friend of Columbia football, and a person who gave me a tremendous amount of encouragement and friendship as well, has passed away.

I learned yesterday that Pat DeBernardo, mother of Ralph DeBernardo '09, passed away late last week. She had put up a tremendous multi-year battle with colon cancer, but finally succumbed.

Pat was one of the very first people to email me out of the blue to thank me for this blog and to encourage me to keep it up. I soon learned that her son Ralph, her husband Joseph and younger son Robert were all just as warm and friendly as she was.

Pat was a great Columbia fan, and if you went to any Lions games from 2005-08, you probably saw her chearing the team on. Perhaps you spotted the great banner she made to celebrate the team's win against Cornell at the end of last season.

Pat was a great OB nurse, and she offered great advice to me and my wife Adar when she was pregnant with our younger daughter Yael during the 2007 season. I can tell that any young couple on her ward was very lucky to go through the birth process with her in charge, (it's always that OB nurse who helps you through it more than the doctors!).

I will always remember Pat's joy and enthusiasm, but today I am overcome with sadness. I know we all send out our prayers and best wishes to Ralph, Joseph, Robert and all of Pat's family.


You can email me at as the family has asked me to provide the address, but not Online.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Homecoming Giveaway

Lou Miller had 2.5 sacks

Penn 27 Columbia 13

Why Penn Won

After a jittery start, the Quakers settled down and overcame 13-7 second quarter deficit to dominate the rest of the way. QB Keiffer Garton played perfectly for the final 40 minutes of the game and Penn capitalized on several Columbia mistakes. But to be fair, this is a Penn team that is very tough to beat when Garton is healthy and making good decisions. He did that most of the day Saturday.

Why Columbia Lost

The team with a +8 turnover ratio coming into Saturday made an incredible eight turnovers on the afternoon. The Lions appeared to settle down in the second quarter to take the lead at 13-7, but a blocked PAT opened the floodgates for more sloppy play and Columbia did not recover.

Key Turning Points

-Trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter, Adam Mehrer intercepted a Garton pass and returned to the Penn 30. The Lions quickly drove inside te Quaker five, only to have M.A. Olawale throw a deflected pass that was picked off by Kameron Jones at the 4.

-On the ensuing possession, Matt Moretto intercepted a Garton pass and returned it to the Penn 38. But the Lions went 11 yards backwards and had to punt it right back.

-After taking a 13-7 lead on a beautiful Olawale-to-Austin Knowlin TD pass that covered 68 yards, the extra point was blocked and the Lions were flagged for a personal foul as Penn attempted a run-back off the block. The ensuing kickoff from the Columbia 15 set up the Quakers with great field position at their 48 and they marched the 52 yards for the go-ahead TD in just over five minutes.

-On the ensuing drive, Olawale fumbled the ball on an option keeper, giving the Quakers the ball at the CU 14. Penn scored another TD for plays later.

Columbia MVP

Lou Miller had a standout game, getting two and a half sacks, five tackles for a loss and 10 total tackles.

Knowlin had his best game as a pure receiver since Craig Hormann graduated after the 2007 season. He finished with five catches for 109 yards and a TD.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weather Reprieve?

I'm probably being too optimistic about the weather, but here it is almost 7:30 on Long Island and I even see breaks in the clouds!

I doubt it'll be the most perfect day, but I think we may avoid the worst weather predictions for this Homecoming day.

That's us! (CREDIT:Columbia Athletics/Gene Boyers)

Please make every effort to come out to this crucial game against the Penn Quakers, but if you can't do it sign up for the SideLion Pass and listen to Jerry Recco and ME call the game. (okay, now I have time to copyedit).

The pregame show begins at 1pm.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Amazin' Austin

Check out the new tribute video too all-time Columbia receiver Austin Knowlin in the latest SideLion Report.

It's Good stuff.

... and Austin still has six games to go!

Columbia-Penn: 5 Keys

1) Stop the Penn Run

Columbia made amazing strides at stopping the run in 2008 compared to a pourous 2007 season. We're not back to 2007 levels, but the Lions are giving up way too many yards on the ground so far this year. I attribute most of that dropoff to the absence of Owen Fraser, who is again not listed on the two-deep for tomorrow's game. But the rest of the team must step up.

I expect Penn to use its many running weapons all over the place tomorrow. After M.A. Olawale, Penn's Keiffer Garton is the best running QB in the Ivies. Freshman RB Lyle Marsh has lived up to his advanced hype, and incumbent starter Michael DiMaggio is dangerous when he's healthy. Junior Bradford Blackmon is a better weapon coming out of the backfield as a pass receiver, but he always seems close to breaking runs to the outside.

Bruce Flemming and Chris Groth will have to play even better trying to plug up the middle in Fraser's absence. In normal weather conditions, I'd say the Quakers would try to pound it outside to test sophomore Evan Miller who will play in place of the injured Alex Gross, (Coach Wilson made the announcement that Gross has undergone season-ending surgery this week). But with a wet field making cutbacks difficult, look for more straight-ahead running all day. Philadelphia native Marc Holloway will play a big role in stopping that avenue as well.

The key to stopping the Penn run is getting into their backfield and disrupting things before the backs can get a head of steam. With the Quaker passing game not that strong, the Lions may be able to send more blitzers to do just that.

2) Bring all the Offensive Weapons

I don't care about the rain and wind, this Columbia team can pass and run and do that with a myriad of players. Olawale's arm is strong enough to deliver bullets in the wind and the Columbia receivers can get open even on a wet field. Meanwhile, the Lion offensive line should still be able to make room for M.A. and Ray Rangel to run, and the Quakers may not be prepared for the more well-executed option plays Columbia has been running this season.

Yes, Penn's defense is strong and maybe the strongest Columbia has seen all year. But is it really that much stronger than the Lafayette defense? Actually, the Quaker "D" is a lot like the Leopards defense with a great front seven that hits hard. The Lions had their way with that defense during long stretches of that game last weekend.

3) Watch for Penn's Tricks

I think the Quakers may try to mix things up with a few long passes early in the game. Columbia's corners Calvin Otis and Kalasi Huggins can't be caught napping, or creeping up too far to stop the run when they do.

4) Don't Get Hurt on Special Teams

Penn's super safety and kick returner Chris Wynn is expected to play tomorrow, and he needs to be contained. Columbia's improved protection for its place kicks and punts needs to continue. All Lion PAT's and short field goals HAVE to be made.

5) Finish Every Tackle and Don't Stop Pushing Until the Whistle Blows

Wet and rainy games have a way of producing missed tackles and other sloppy plays. The antidote to all that is pure determination. The Lions need to embrace the elements and look like a bunch of crazed animals out there for 60 minutes.


The Sports Network's Brett Kahn is predicting a 21-17 Columbia win.

Homecoming Help

I know the weather forecast for this weekend is daunting. But remember that the Homecoming festivities take place mostly under beautiful heated tents and you will enjoy them.

As far as the game goes, most of you know that I'm happy to watch a Columbia game in a monsoon, blizzard, or whatever else Mother Nature can throw at me. For those of you more on the fence, try to remember that this is a darn good Lions team that needs your support against a Penn team that also is darn good.

If you are making the committment to get here, I am republishing my 2009 Guide to Getting to the Game's at Wien Stadium below. Remember that this game begins at 1:30pm but the festivities under the tents start at 10:30am.


The MTA is reporting that A train service going uptown towards Wien Stadium will be disrupted this Saturday. So follow the #1 train directions below if you are taking the Subway.

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.

Week 5 Picks

Last Week: 4-1

Overall: 18-4

It looks like we're going to see rough weather at every game venue tomorrow and funny things can happen on windy and rainy days in college football.

Lafayette over Harvard

The Crimson have a great running attack, but their defense hasn't been challenged in a while. The Leopards have great team speed.

Brown over Princeton

Any chances of a Bear let down after the big win over Holy Cross is diminished by the fact that Brown desperately needs this Ivy League game.

Fordham over Cornell

Cornell is really hanging its hat on its defense, but the Fordham offense has the weapons to beat whatever the Big Red throws at them.

Lehigh over Yale

Yale is primed for a let down on the road after the big win over Dartmouth. Lehigh needs wins right now, and badly.

Holy Cross over Dartmouth

The Crusaders offense may be slowed a bit by the weather, but not much. Dartmouth needs to find some answers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Halftime Heroes

Make that field look spiffy!

Columbia is doing something special at halftime of this Saturday's Homecoming game.

The school will be honoring the All-Ivy players from the Lions football teams of the 1980's.

They will be welcomed onto the field for all to see and cheer.

You can check the archives over at to see the names of some of the big-time stars who made that list of honorees over the years.

Some of these guys were also All-America candidates and a lot of them still have solid places in the all-time Columbia record books.

So there is reason #1,425 to show up at Homecoming Saturday!

The Latest from Philadelphia...

There's still no definitive word on Penn's Garton... but this year he is wearing #14

... the Penn game notes have an excellent little "expect to see" feature every week that usually blows through the potentially confusing smoke screens out there.

Here's what that section says this week:

-QB Keiffer Garton will attempt to play. If they let him dress this week, he’ll see some snaps.

-QB Kyle Olson will attempt to play. He’ll warm up and be a game-time decision.

-Time in the pocket: Columbia is last in the FCS in tackles for loss and 98th in the nation in sacks.

-A plethora of running backs. Penn has many options and will use all of them.

-Bradford Blackmon may go at wideout, running back, taking direct snaps and returning kicks.

-LB Jake Lewko will make a play. He’s had 10 or more tackles in three of the fi rst four games.

-Owen Thomas has a great chance to get a sack. It’ll be tough to bring down Olawale, but he has one in every game thus far.

I have found that it's impossible in the Ivy League to make predictions about which injured players will play, which ones will sit out, and which ones are already done for the year and won't even travel with the team. So I'm not going to lay any odds on which QB will be under center for the Quakers Saturday.

But I do know that Penn is not passing the ball very much or really that effectively this year no matter who's the QB. Columbia's run defense may be able to take advantage of that knowledge.

I also know that no matter who is playing, the Quaker defense has been stellar this season and seems to be gleefully taking on the job of bailing out the offense. The Lions will need all their offensive weapons humming to beat this unit.

Decker's Columbia Inspiration

Eric Decker

One of the nation's top collegiate wide receivers is the University of Minnesota's Eric Decker, and it turns out he has a neat Columbia connection.

His older sister is Sarah Decker, a standout track star at Columbia who graduated recently.

Eric speaks here about how his older sister's career as a student athlete inspired him.

Decker and the Golden Gophers have a tough challenge this weekend, taking on Penn State for the Nittany Lions Homecoming game at Beaver Stadium.

That actually gets me thinking... I wonder how often the Columbia Lions and the Penn State Nittany Lions have hosted Homecoming games on the same day?

For the record, Columbia has played Penn State twice. CU won both games, 33-0 in 1933 and 14-7 in 1934.

Bad Weather... No Problem!

I know I've been talking a lot about history this week, maybe too much, but I have to mention one more thing. This time it'll be about the weather.

I know the weather forecast is not great for this Saturday's Homecoming game... but remember that's just a forecast. New York City weather can change on a dime, especially in the fall. And also, with numerous tents set up for Homecoming festivities at the Baker Athletics Complex, there will be ample shelter available.

In other words, get out to Homecoming no matter what!

And if you are as concerned about the actual game as you should be, take heart... the last time weather really was a factor at Homecoming, the Lions were victorious.

In fact two of the best Columbia teams of the last generation, the '95 and '96 Lions, won their Homecoming games in terrible weather. 1995 and 1996 were also the last two years that Columbia defeated Penn.

Thoughts for Culbreath

Princeton running back Jordan Culbreath is still in the hospital and has reportedly been diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

I know everyone reading this blog wishes Culbreath the best and I ask you all to keep the young man in your thoughts and prayers.

He really deserves a full recovery.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Finishing the '95 Season

In 1995, the Columbia Lions were an exciting team with an explosive running QB and tons of potential.

Sound familiar?

They were without their best defensive lineman, as Marcellus Wiley '97 was taking a year off. Thus, the Lions defense allowed too many yards and points and Columbia had trouble in its non-Ivy games.

Sound familiar?

Columbia began the year with its first win over Harvard since 1979, then the Lions suffered a home loss to an unfamiliar opponent in St. Mary's before a heartbreaking tie at Lafayette a week later.

Sound familiar?

Columbia's next game was a history-making triumph at home against a Penn team that had squeaked by Bucknell at Franklin Field the week before.

Let's hope this sounds familiar a week from today.

But while there were a lot of happy moments in the 1995 season, it remains a year that I and most Columbia fans consider incomplete, unfinished, and unfair.

Mike Cavanaugh '96 was that running QB in '95 and he was tearing up the league through week 6. he was on a pace to throw for nearly 2,000 yards and rush for about 850. He was making the key plays when the Lions needed them.

Despite those two losses and a tie to non-league opponents, Columbia was 3-0 in the Ivies with wins over Harvard, Penn, and Yale going into a showdown for first place at Princeton's Palmer Stadium.

Early in the game Cavanaugh's leg was broken, and so was Columbia's most promising season in a generation.

Now Columbia comes into a crucial battle with Penn for at least a tie for the top spot in the Ivies. The Lions sport a super running and passing QB in M.A. Olawale, and a defense that has been allowing too many yards and time of possession to out of league opponents.

Just like 1995.

But unlike 1995, there are some good differences. Olawale has a lot more weapons to throw to like Austin Knowlin, Mike Stephens, Taylor Joseph, and Andrew Kennedy. He has an Ivy League leading tailback in Ray Rangel. And as good as the Columbia offensive line was in 1995, this current front five may be better.

Our best run-stopper Ownen Fraser has been out since early in the Fordham game, but unlike Wiley who was out all of '95, Fraser may be back this week. We will await the release of the two-deep for more info on that.

And unlike 1995, we all pray Olawale remains healthy. The horrific injuries that have already hit the Ivies this season are sobering already. Jordan Culbreath is now out for the year for sure, and Dartmouth QB Alex Jenny is probably gone for at least another few weeks. We await news on our 1st Team All Ivy linebacker Alex Gross, but as Coach Wilson said in the postgame news conference, the prognosis is not good.

As saddening as the Gross injury is, the Lions remain relatively healthy compared to Penn and Dartmouth and a few others. If Olawale remains as durable as he has been so far this season, Columbia's chances will be strong in the stretch run.

But first we have to beat Penn.

The national pundits and list-makers are taking notice.

Here is how Columbia ranks in some of the key polls and computer models:


(just the Ivies and Columbia's other opponents this year... this idea comes from Bruce Wood of Big Green Alert)

26 Lafayette
28 Harvard
33 Columbia
46 Brown
49 Yale
51 Penn
58 Central Connecticut
61 Cornell
68 Fordham
98 Dartmouth
102. Princeton

Sagarin Ratings

138. Harvard
147. Lafayette
150. Central Connecticut State
160. Brown
161. Columbia
172. Penn
182. Cornell
188. Yale
199. Fordham
214. Princeton
216. Dartmouth

Both of these polls place Columbia ahead of Penn. It's up to the Lions to make those rankings stick.

Time to get your tickets now for Homecoming vs. Penn NOW!! You can also call 1-888-Lions-11 and GET IT DONE!!!

History Changing Opportunity

A brief history of our time... with Penn

It's time to really start beating the drum about Homecoming and this very crucial game against Penn.

Let me lay out some of the facts about this series and why winning on Saturday would be a truly uplifting event for the football program, the alumni, the university, and New York City.

-Columbia has not defeated Penn since 1996. This is their longest dry spell against any Ivy team.

-In that 13 year span, Penn has won four Ivy titles, Columbia has not had even one winning season.

-Penn fans seem to rub victories over the Lions in our faces much more than the folks from other schools. I have no idea why, but there it is. Perhaps it's the NYC-Philly rivalry.

-Speaking of which, what a great day for New York City sports it would be for Columbia to win over Penn in the afternoon while the crowd builds at the new Yankee Stadium, (just a couple of miles away), for Game 2 of the ALCS vs. the Angels!

-The last time Columbia beat Penn on Homecoming was 1991. I was a senior at Columbia that year. The score was 20-14. Penn's coach Gary Steele was fired after the season, but he was clearly gone after that game.

-Key wins over Penn, and the most exciting ones in the series, came in 1995 and 1996. Columbia's 1995 win over the Quakers ended what was then the nation's longest active winning streak. A very banged up Lions team came into Franklin Field a year later and pulled off a stunner in OT in the high point of that 8-2 season.

-The Lions have not won a Homecoming game since 2000. Since then, four of those Homecoming games have been against Penn and the average score has been 42-14, Quakers.

-That is not to say that every game since 1996 has been a blowout. Last year's game was especially close and Columbia appeared like the more talented team in a 15-10 loss at Franklin Field.

-This rivalry has a seminal year to examine: 1982. Coming into that season, Penn had only won one Ivy title. But the Quakers emerged as a powerhouse that year, tying for the title and never really looking back from there. Penn has been a contender almost every year ever since. On the other hand, 1982 launched a tougher era for Columbia football that the previous 26 seasons of league history. It seems Penn's jump to the top of the league somehow came at the Lions expense.

Some would argue that this is the most wide open year for Ivy football since 1982. It was so open that three teams tied for the title in Harvard, Dartmouth and Penn. If ever there was a year that Columbia could hurdle some of its longstanding rivals, it seems like 2009 is it. Hurdling Penn on Saturday would be a huge step, perhaps just as huge as Penn's miraculous last second win over Harvard at Franklin Field in 1982.

-Beating Penn by any score would send a message to the league much louder than the 38-0 shutout of Princeton two weeks ago. The Quakers are a tough team and it will not be easy, but the Lions are strong enough to win. If Columbia fans and players were tired of losing to Princeton, then we're EXHAUSTED from losing to Penn.

This must end now.

Buy your tickets now and get ready to scream your head off. Call your friends and family and get them to join you. Contact that old classmate of yours who is a cynic about Columbia football and convince them that this team is different.

Because it is different.

The 2009 Columbia Lions deserve to see you pack Wien Stadium and they deserve to hear you on every play.

Conference Call Highlights

Keiffer Garton is a go for this Saturday

The Ivy League Football weekly media teleconference is now available for your listening pleasure at

Coach Wilson was asked to talk a little more about Ray Rangel and he had lots of great things to say about our Ivy League leading rusher.

Penn Coach Al Bagnoli talked about the challenges of covering Austin Knowlin on special teams.

Bagnoli also said that QB Keiffer Garton will be ready to play this week. No one asked him about All America candidate Chris Wynn and he did not mention him.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hold the Phone!

I missed the Ivy teleconference this morning and will have to wait for them to post it on

Sorry about that, but I will alert everyone when the file is available on their site.

Around the League...

Walter Mitty, AKA Patrick Rooney

First, a mea culpa:

Yale drubbed Dartmouth in a game I thought the Big Green would win. The final score was 38-7. Big Green QB Alex Jenny may be out for the year and the bench is not deep in Hanover. There is some chatter at Yale about how new Head Coach Tom Williams kept his first-teamers in the whole game, but I have no confirmation of that. It's not clear if this game is splash for Yale or confirmation that things are a lot worse than we thought for Dartmouth. The Big Green losing streak is 16 and counting.

Okay, so I got that one wrong. But I was one of the ONLY people who picked Brown over Holy Cross and the Bears did win it in a 34-31 thriller. Brown QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero passed for about a million yards and snagged the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week Award. Junior Patrick Rooney booted the 34-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to win the game. Rooney wasn't even listed on the Brown depth chart Saturday!

The Bears had great passing numbers of course, and the defense has nothing to be ashamed of after going up against the great Crusader attack. BUT still no signs of a credible running attack from Brown and that may come back to haunt them down the road.

Harvard still looks like the #1 team in the Ivies after pulling away from Cornell in Ithaca, 28-10. The Crimson running attack looks better than ever with another hero whenever they need to have one. This time it was TWO runners in Gino Gordon and Treavor Scales. Harvard may be moving away from the passing attack more and more each week.

Penn used its defense to do just about all the work in a 21-3 win over Bucknell at Franklin Field. A lot of key Penn starters sat out the entire game or significant portions of it, so it's hard to get a handle on where the Quakers are as they head into the big battle with Columbia this coming Saturday. Oh and another thing, Bucknell is really not very good.