Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gilmore leads the Crusaders vs. Villanova today

Outmatched Upstate

The Lions men's basketball team put on a good show in the first half against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, but then the #9 team in the nation pulled away for a 85-60 victory. There were some bright spots, especially the play of sophomore Noruwa Agho who continues to shoot well. Columbia's prospects in the Ivies seem pretty decent despite this loss.

Second Season

Today begins the FCS playoffs, once again without any Ivy participants as the league still does not allow postseason play, (insert your favorite grumble about that here). It will be interesting to see how Holy Cross fares in the playoffs. Remember that Holy Cross fell to the same Brown team that the Lions defeated one week ago.

And will it be Coach Tom Gilmore's last game with the Crusaders? Gilmore could be headed to Princeton to replace the fired Roger Hughes.

And one week after the season ended for the Ivies, Cornell Head Coach Jim Knowles still has his job. I guess he wasn't in as much trouble as some people thought.

Waiting on Recruiting News

The coming weeks should start to bring more solid and reportable football recruiting news. Right now, all I have are a few names and reports of "offers" from the standard and websites. Because I really can't verify any of that stuff, I won't republish the info here, but everyone is welcome to check those sites for themselves. On this blog, I only publish names and other info about recruits after they have publicly committed to Columbia... and even then, it's not a sure thing as we do not use binding letters of intent in the Ivies.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Quick Hits

Just some random notes and thoughts for a Friday... our first postseason Friday that is:

Hoops Challenge

It'll be a tough job tonight for the Columbia men's hoopsters as they take on #9 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. The game is televised here in the New York area live on SNY starting at 7pm. You can also catch it on

Don't They Have College Essays to Finish?

How weird is it to be watching high school football games and playoffs on TV when our college season is already over?

They Love 'em Back Home!

Junior Josh Smith's local paper in Grand Rapids, Michigan mentioned his breakout season in a brief note today. With Lou Miller and Matt Bashaw graduating, Smith made a good case for himself as heir apparent to one of those slots.

Ferrari Sighting

I forgot to mention that I saw former Columbia defensive coordinator Lou Ferrari at the Brown game. After the game he gave his successor Aaron Kelton a very big hug outside the Chrystie Fieldhouse. It was a great sight.

The Job Track is Still Alive

A number of outgoing seniors on the football team have already obtained excellent jobs on Wall Street. Reports of the death of that avenue for graduating Ivy athletes were clearly exaggerated, or maybe just completely made up. Columbia's unique proximity to and connections with the financial world make our program very attractive to ambitious high school athletes.

Bushnell Controversy?

I know some people believe that Penn's defensive power this year was truly a team effort and it may have been a stretch to give Jake Lewko MVP honors along with Brown's Buddy Farnham. But I think it made sense for a number of reasons. One of the biggest arguments in Lewko's favor is that he picked up the slack when other guys like Chris Wynn were injured. He was the steadiest leader of that unit all year long.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Thanks

I just wanted to make a quick list of what I am thankful for today:

1) First and foremost a great wife and two beautiful daughters, with whom I was able to enjoy a few Lions games this year, including Homecomin here my eldest daughter Jordan was the honorary ball kid of the game.

2) All the young men who make the committment to play football at Columbia. For me, it was hard enough just to be a student at CU. I can't really imagine how hard it would have been to juggle the kind of schedule they maintain.

3) I'm thankful for the players' families, especially the parents who week in and week out come out to the games. Some of them travel quite a distance and it's more than impressive.

4) And I am very thankful for all my readers. Earlier today, we crossed the 300,000 hits mark, (been counting since October, 2006), and readership has never been higher. Thanks for your interest and the many kind wishes and encouragement you've passed along over the years.

Now, let's EAT!!!

Belated Helmet Stickers & Hoop Kudos

With the All Ivy waiting game distracting me early this week, I neglected to hand out the final edition of this year's helmet stickers.

I was also a little distracted by the doubleheader sweep in basketball for women and men last night at Levien Gym. Both games were exciting and you have to be encouraged about the Lions chances this year on the hardwood.

Back to the Brown game...

Freshman Sean Brackett was my MVP for the Brown game, but obviously there were many other stars of that great win.

-Junior Adam Mehrer picked off two passes to clinch the Ivy League interception lead. The first pick included that great run back and heads up toss to Andy Shalbrack for the 85-yard TD to end the half. The second was remarkable as well because Mehrer had to follow a wobbly pass and almost go completely horizontal to grab it. Mehrer now goes into his senior season with nine INT's, meaning he needs seven more to tie the all-time career interception record of 16 held by both Lou Kusserow and Philip Murray. It would be a stretch, but Mehrer could tie or eclipse that record.

-Junior Mike Stephens had four catches for 65 yards, and two of them were highlight reel-worthy. In the first quarter, he snared a high pass and held on after a massive hit by Russell Leedy for a 21-yard gain on a 3rd and six. On the very next series, Stephens slipped away from a Brown tackler after a short gain and then turned it into a 27 yard advance. That was one of the key plays on Columbia's first scoring drive.

-The Columbia offensive line of John Seiler, Evan Sanford, Will Lipovsky, Ian Quirk and Jeff Adams did not give up a sack, paced the Lions to 7.2 yards per rush, and did not have one holding penalty.

-Junior Augie Williams had 12 tackles, broke up three passes, and was all over the field as he led the team with 12 tackles. He was also a part of a big tackle in punt coverage late in the game.

-Freshman Greg Guttas had some stellar punts, two of which really handcuffed Brown's Buddy Farnham.

-Sophomore Ross Morand continued his excellent work in relief of the injured starting corners. He finished with six solo tackles and a fumble recovery on punt coverage.

-Sophomore Shea Selsor showed rare resiliance, coming right back from a potentially back-breaking roughing the passer penalty and sacking Brown QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero on the very next play.

-Junior Leon Ivery ran the ball very well with 10 carries for 47 yards and no lost yardage on any one of those rushes. Ivery seems to run better on the option with Brackett than any other Lion runner.

-Sophomore QB Jerry Bell saved Columbia from disaster by finally grabbing a ball that was knocked from his hands and passing it safely incomplete before completing two short passes on the next two plays. Bell had to do this all on surprise emergency relief duty after Brackett was knocked out of the game briefly after the first Columbia series.

-Senior Taylor Joseph had two receptions, and they were both key catched for first downs and a total of 36 yards.

-Senior Austin Knowlin just would not be denied on several of his 10 rushing carries, especially his five-yard TD run into the middle of the Brown defense in the second quarter. A Bear tackler had Knowlin by the ankles but he would not go down and he alertly stretched the pigskin across the end zone stripe.

-Freshman Dean Perfetti was a perfect four-for-four in his extra point attempts.

-Senior Jared Morine had another stellar game at corner, and had a tackle for a loss.

-Freshman Will Patterson had two big tackles, again showing his ability to get into opposing backfields.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nine is Fine

Lou Miller was a unanimous 1st Team selection

The full list of All Ivy honorees is below.

Eight different Lions have been recognized, with Austin Knowlin getting selected for two slots, so that makes nine.

Some quick thoughts:

-Great recognition for Lou Miller getting a unanimous selection as a first team defensive lineman.

-It's super that Jeff Adams made first team even as a sophomore on the offensive line. I am trying to find out who was the last sophomore O-lineman to make first team.

-This is the first time three Columbia players have made the first team since 2000.

-It's great that Andy Shalbrack finally made it with some recognition, but it seems like he should have at least made the 2nd team.

-Andrew Kennedy making it all the way to the 2nd team was a nice, but deserved, surprise.

-Corey Cameron getting some recognition after investing in a 5th year is a great way to end his athletic career at CU.

-M.A. Olawale's selection to the honorable mention team was encouraging as well.

2009 All Ivy Awardees

Buddy Farnham, Brown

Jake Lewko, Penn


Treavor Scales, Harvard


OL -- Mark Callahan, Brown
OL -- Paul Jasinowki, Brown*
OL -- Jeff Adams, Columbia
OL -- Ben Sessions, Harvard
OL -- James Williams, Harvard*
OL -- Joe D'Orazio, Penn*
QB -- Kyle Newhall-Caballero, Brown
RB -- Nick Schwieger, Dartmouth
RB -- Gino Gordon, Harvard
WR -- Buddy Farnham, Brown
WR -- Bobby Sewall, Brown
WR -- Austin Knowlin, Columbia
TE -- John Sheffield, Yale


DL -- James Develin, Brown*
DL -- David Howard, Brown
DL -- Lou Miller, Columbia*
DL -- Joe Goniprow, Penn*
LB -- Kelly Cox, Brown
LB -- Jake Lewko, Penn*
LB -- Chris Costello, Cornell
LB -- Paul Rice, Yale
DB -- Chris Perkins, Brown
DB -- Derrick Barker, Harvard
DB -- Colin Zych, Harvard
DB -- Jonathan Moore, Penn
DB -- Chris Wynn, Penn
DB -- Adam Money, Yale


PK -- Andrew Samson, Penn
P -- Tom Mante, Yale*
RS -- Buddy Farnham, Brown


OL -- Tim Danser, Brown
OL -- Ben Osborne, Harvard
OL -- Alex Spisak, Harvard
OL -- Luis Ruffolo, Penn
OL -- Andrew Hauser, Princeton
OL -- Mark Paski, Princeton
QB -- Collier Winters, Harvard
RB -- Zachary Tronti, Brown
RB -- Treavor Scales, Harvard
RB -- Luke DeLuca, Penn
RB -- Lyle Marsh, Penn
WR -- Bryan Walters, Cornell
WR -- Chris Lorditch, Harvard
TE -- Andrew Kennedy, Columbia


DL -- Tom McCarthy, Yale
DL -- Carl Ehrlich, Harvard
DL -- Chucks Obi, Harvard
DL -- Josue Ortis, Harvard
DL -- Owen Thomas, Penn
LB -- Sean Hayes, Harvard
LB -- Jon Takamura, Harvard
LB -- Zach Heller, Penn
LB -- Steven Cody, Princeton
DB -- David Clement, Brown
DB -- A.J. Cruz, Brown
DB -- Adam Mehrer, Columbia
DB -- Shawn Abuhoff, Dartmouth
DB -- Pete Pidermann, Dartmouth
DB -- Kevin Gray, Penn
DB -- Dan Kopolovich, Princeton


PK -- Tom Mante, Yale
P -- Nate Lovett, Brown
RS -- Bryan Walters, Cornell

OL -- Quentin Bernhard, Cornell
OL -- Andrew Bohl, Cornell
OL -- Alex Toth, Dartmouth
OL -- Greg Van Roten, Penn
QB -- M.A. Olawale, Columbia
QB -- Kyle Olson, Penn
WR -- Tanner Scott, Dartmouth
WR -- Kyle Derham, Penn
WR -- Trey Peacock, Princeton
TE -- John Gallagher, Dartmouth
TE -- Nicolai Schwarzkopf, Harvard
TE -- Luke Nawrocki, Penn


DL -- Victor Ojukwu, Harvard
DL -- Matt Boyer, Princeton
DL -- Joel Karacozoff, Princeton
DL -- Joe Young, Yale
LB -- Corey Cameron, Columbia
LB -- Brian Levine, Penn
LB -- Erik Rask, Penn
LB -- Travis Henry, Yale
LB -- Sean Williams, Yale
DB -- Andrew Shalbrack, Columbia
DB -- Rashad Campbell, Cornell
DB -- Ryan Barnes, Harvard


PK -- Foley Schmidt, Dartmouth
PK -- Patrick Long, Harvard
P -- Drew Alston, Cornell
RS -- Austin Knowlin, Columbia

* - Unanimous Selection

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just a Couple of Time-Killers...

Yale's second-guessing will last a lifetime

... but good ones to think about as we wait the announcement of the All Ivy team:

1) Brown Head Coach Phil Estes hugged Lou Miller after the game Saturday and said: "thank you for graduating!"


2) Most of the football world, including people who never think about Ivy ball, are still talking about that incredible decision by Yale Head Coach Tom Williams to fake a punt from his own 25 with less than three minutes to go. It didn't work. Yale fans are still fuming... everyone else is still incredulous.


3) In addition to posting their best Ivy record in six years, the Lions outscored all their opponents this season for the first time in 13 years! Interestingly, Columbia outscored its opposition by five points overall and by five points in Ivy play. There was rare symmetry there.


4) Buddy Teevens will be back for another year.


5) There's a Columbia Women's and Men's basketball doubleheader starting at 5:30 this evening. Catch both games on SideLion Pass.


Wrong Again, Jake!

Brackettology: Sean wins Rookie of the Week (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

So, it appears the All Ivy list for 2009 won't be released until tomorrow.

Sorry about that folks.

BUT, we did get the Ivy players of the week news and our own Sean Brackett won the well-deserved Ivy Rookie of the Week honors for leading the Lions offense to a surprise 28-14 win over Brown.

Junior safety Adam Mehrer was one of the names on the Ivy honor roll for his two picks.

For us basketball fans, there's more good news as sophomore Noruwa Agho was named co-Ivy Player of the Week. Men's basketball has another big test tomorrow night against Bucknell at Levien Gym.

With the season, and the decade now wrapping up I will be preoccupied with compiling a lot of all-decade Columbia lists for the 2000's. This current class of 2010 will be well-represented on that list I'm sure.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Quick Update...

Hughes is out... is Knowles next?

... awaiting the big news from the league offices today on the All Ivy honorees. Usually, this comes out around 1 or 2pm Eastern.

I think Lou Miller and Austin Knowlin have great shots at first team, but here's hoping they don't forget Adam Mehrer and the offensive line. Jeff Adams, Evan Sanford, and John Seiler deserve first team or at least second team. I think M.A. Olawale deserves an honorable mention at QB.

My list goes on, but let's just wait until we get the official news.

The big news today is still that Princeton Head Coach Roger Hughes has been axed. I was surprised by that decision based on the Tigers strong finish. But recruiting missteps may have been the root of this decision. Remember that with all their resources and beautiful facilities, Princeton began last season with just one real QB!

I think everyone's money was on Jim Knowles at Cornell losing his job first, but I have no information on where he stands with that administration.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Best for Last

Safety Dance: Shalbrack's TD was indeed one for the ages

Columbia 28 Brown 14

Why Columbia Won

The Lions ran at will led by 171 yards from speedy QB Sean Brackett. The offensive line dominated against a Brown run defense that was allowing just 86 yards on the ground per game and features two potential NFL draft picks. Meanwhile, the defense pressured Bear QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero and Columbia safeties Andy Shalbrack and Adam Mehrer contained the Brown receivers. Other than an undertrown ball by Brackett that was picked off early in the game, the Lions played error-free ball.

Why Brown Lost

The pressure on Newhall-Caballero produced two interceptions, both by Mehrer, one of which was returned for spectacular 85-yard TD after a lateral to Shalbrack. Brown was a shocking two of 13 on 3rd down conversions. The defense had no answers for Brackett and while it contained all-purpose Lion WR Austin Knowlin, it could not deny him on his two TD scores.

Key Turning Points

-Leading 7-0, Brown picked off Brackett to take over at their own 19 and seemed ready to take control of the game. On 3rd and two from their 27, Newhall-Caballero lofted a deep ball to an open Farnham at the Columbia 30, but Farnham inexplicably dropped the potential TD pass. After the ensuing punt, the Lions went on an 11-play 80-yard drive that ended with an option pitch for TD to Zack Kourouma. Columbia had tied it a 7-7 and grabbed the momentum.

-Columbia's next possession looked good, but ended when a 4th and two run attempt at the Brown 25 came up a yard shy. The Lion defense came up big and forced a three-and-out. Taking over at their own 21 after the Bear punt, Columbia used a varied running attack with Brackett, Knowlin, and Leon Ivery attacking the Brown line. The 10-play drive ended with Knowlin stretching the ball across the north end zone stripe for a five-yard score and a 14-7 lead.

-After the ensuing kickoff, Brown took over at its 29 with a 1:04 to go. A series of incredible ups and downs would be jammed into those last 64 seconds.

After getting one first down to the Brown 40, Newhall-Caballero was intercepted by Augie Williams and it appeared the drive was over, but sophomore Shea Selsor was flagged for a late hit and Brown had new life. Selsor immediately made up for it on the very next play with a huge sack that put Brown back to its own 47 with 10 seconds left.

Brown decided to try to get the final 53 yards with two plays, first with a 16-yard completion to Spiro Theodosi that put the ball at the CU 37 with about four seconds left. Newhall-Caballero's final heave of the half was well short of the end zone as Mehr picked it off in the middle of the field at the 15. Mehrer was able to get some room along the east sideline but seemed bottled up at midfield when he lateralled the ball to Shalbrack who avoided going out of bounds along the west side and went in for a thrilling score. The crowd's celebration was delayed forever by a flag on the Brown side of the field, but after a long conference the penalty was called on the Bears for sideline interference. One of the most thrilling TD's in Columbia history would stand, and the Lions took a 21-7 lead into the locker room.

-Both teams were unable to do much with the ball in the 3rd quarter until the Bears took over for their third possession of the half at their own 30 with 5:15 left in the quarter. Mostly through the air, Brown started a march that included a nice scramble on 4th and three at the CU 21 to keep the drive alive. One play later, they had first and goal at the Lion four. But a holding penalty and two incomplete passes forced a 4th and goal at the Columbia nine. That 4th and goal was the first play of the fourth quarter and it ended when Newhall-Caballero was forced to try to run for it and he was stopped by Augie Williams.

-On Brown's next possession, the Bears drove to a first and goal at the CU 7, but an offensive pass interference penalty pushed them back once again and Brown was faced with another 4th and goal, this time at the eight. On that play, Newhall-Caballero threw a pass for a four yard loss. Columbia took the ball at their 12 and iced the game with a six-play drive that ended with a 37-yard TD pass on a quick slant to Knowlin.


The defense was stout. Knowlin's TD's, despite battling terrible leg cramps, were dazzling. But QB Sean Brackett made Columbia's offense go, despite getting knocked out of the game briefly by a big hit from Brown's Kelly Cox, (who had 19 tackles). Brackett made those 171 yards on just 20 carries and was never sacked or tackled for a loss all day. It was Senior Day at Wien Stadium, but the frosh Brackett was the man behind the wheel.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Last Dance

It's an absolutely gorgeous day in the New York area for Columbia's final football game of the 2009 season.

The Lions have a shot at finishing in the upper half of the Ivy standings for the first time in 13 years and of course, this is the final contest for 26 of the best seniors this program has ever seen.

Please come out and enjoy the game. If not, sign up for the SideLion Pass and listen to Jerry Recco and me call the game.

5 Keys to the Game: Brown (ONE DAY MORE)

Here's how the Lions can beat the Bears at Wien Stadium tomorrow.

First, make sure everyone on the team has their magic wands and invisibility cloaks and draw up some plays with 11 visible and 5 invisible players on defense...

Seriously, it may seem like an almost impossible task to defeat Brown. But it can be done if Columbia does the following.

1) Pressure and sack Kyle Newhall-Caballero

The best way to shut down the Brown passing attack is to stop it before the pass is thrown by pressuring Newhall-Caballero and either sacking him or forcing him to scramble. Lou Miller will have a lot to do with achieving that goal as he is not only playing in his final game, but he comes into the contest hoping to hold on to the Ivy sacks lead. Lou will need help from the rest of the line, including junior Josh Smith, who has come on as a pass rusher in recent weeks... and a host of others.

2) Play the field position game

This Brown offense is lethal enough without a short field to work in their favor. Kickoffs and punts need to be spot on and a directional kick or two looking for the favorable roll could work too. Kick coverage will have to be very strong against the dangerous Buddy Farnham.

3) Don't give up on the run

Brown's strong run defense could start the game hot, but the Lions have a strong enough offense line and a lot of different running weapons. It would be a shame to shelve them too soon before getting a chance to see if the Bears run D can really go the distance. I can see Columbia giving Brown all it can handle with conventional runs from Zack Kourouma, option runs by Leon Ivery, speeding QB runs from Sean Brackett, and power QB running from M.A. Olawale. All this behind a sterling offensive line that has not only played well in 2009, it's stayed healthy!

4) The Safety Dance

You better believe the Bears will be testing corners Ross Morand and Jared Morine about as often as Cornell did last week. They'll probably do a bang up job again, but they'll need big games from Andy Shalbrack and Adam Mehr at the safety slots, especially when it comes to defending Bobby Sewall, who bobs and weaves his through the middle of the field on his routes. Obviously, the linebackers will be key tomorrow as well; they'll have to be ready and aggressive when they drop back into pass coverage.

5) No Effort Left Behind

It's the final game ever for 26 seniors, and the last game for another 10 months for everyone else. This is the game where you dive for loose balls, run your butt off, and hit the hardest and don't worry about tomorrow. It's also the game where you try some trick plays, maybe all the trick plays in the book, and throw caution to the wind. Some tough breaks have stopped Columbia from showing all that it can do on the field this year... time for that to stop tomorrow.

And now, a bit of musical inspiration as we contemplate one last battle, one last game, one last challenge. For the class of 2010: One day more!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Week 10 Picks

Last Week: 2-1

Overall: 32-7

Dartmouth over Princeton

Dartmouth may be 2-7, but the second half of the season has been more upbeat in Hanover than it's been at any other Ivy school other than Penn. The Big Green have beaten Columbia, played Harvard respectably, beaten Cornell, and scared the daylights out of Brown. They've established Nick Schwieger and Greg Patton as legitimate future stars. And popular coach Buddy Teevens is still popular. Princeton has found a way to salvage its injury-destroyed season with wins at home over Cornell and archrival Yale. It seems like Dartmouth has all the mojo to finish the season with a win at home, Princeton may not have much left after the long trip north.

Penn over Cornell

A Cornell team that I thought would be bad this season has turned out weaker than I expected. The Big Red really hasn't established a lot of young talent to give their fans a fair amount of hope for the immediate future. And all this comes as Cornell's other sports teams, especially basketball and lacrosse, are reaching new heights. It would be a surprise if the Big Red can stay any closer than two scores away from the league champion Quakers who seem to have an easy track to an outright title. Penn's defense got better as it got healthier this season, and it should shut down Bryan Walters, Stepehen Liuzza, etc. Cornell is making the Ivy League's longest road trip today, and the trip back after the game tomorrow will probably feel even longer.

Harvard over Yale

Yale was hoping to use its tough defense to grab a winning season this year. But the Elis defense hasn't been so strong in the second half of the year and that was evident in last week's loss to Princeton. Harvard has few weaknesses, and only fell to Penn because of the Quakers great defense and some poor weather last week. This should be a Crimson beatdown, but the rivalry factor should make it close for the first three quarters at least.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Scouting the Bears

Looking for a weakness in the 2009 Brown Bears?

Let me save you some time.

Brown has shaky placekickers.

That is all.

Everyone knows Brown has a high-powered offense, but let me start with the Bears strong defense this season.

Brown is allowing just 87 yards rushing per game and 3.2 yards per carry. But strip out a slow start defending the rush early in the season, (the Bears were allowing 148 yards rushing through week 3), and you see that Brown is allowing just 55 rushing yards per game during the six games since that slow start!

The defensive line features two of the most feared players in the Ivies, David Howard and James Develin. Both are seniors, have made life miserable for opposing O-lines, and Howard is considered a legitimate NFL draft prospect.

The passing defense is a little less impressive, allowing 246 yards per game, but the secondary has picked off 14 passes which is second only to Columbia's 18 in the Ivies. The league's top rookie this year, A.J. Cruz has helped bolster that secondary that came into this season with a lot of questions.

Most importantly, this Brown defense is allowing just 18 points per game.

Now to that offense.

Coming into the season, the biggest question about the Bears was would they be able to replace super QB Matt Dougherty who graduated in May?

The answer has been, "yes." Junior Kyle Newhall-Caballero is completing 63% of his passes and is throwing for an average of 269 yards per game. He has 16 TD passes through nine games. He's had a bit too many interceptions at 12, but with 365 total attempts Newhall is just throwing one pick per 30 throws.

Brown has enjoyed a nice improvement in its running attack as Zach Tronti and Spiro Theodosi have both performed well. Tronti may be out for the rest of the year after missing last week's game, but we shall see. Theodosi had a 138-yard game on the ground versus Dartmouth last week in the rain.

Another testament to the offensive line is that the Bears have allowed just 12 sacks all year despite all the passing plays. They protect well, period.

And we haven't even started to talk about those receivers.

It all starts with Bushnell Cup favortie Buddy Farnham. The senior wide out has 65 receptions for 896 yards and 9 TD's. As a kick returner he is lethal. He averages 25.5 yards per kickoff return and he has a 92-yard return for a TD. He also averages a healthy 10.7 yards per punt return, with a long of 69 yards.

Farnham can win games on his own and make his teammates look very good week after week.

Fellow senior Bobby Sewell is a super dangerous offensive weapons with 57 catches for 516 yards and 4 TD's as a receiver and 87 yards and another 4 TD's as a rusher.

But wait, there's more. Senior WR Trevan Samp has had a break out season with 36 receptions for 430 yards and a TD as well.

The one real problem for Brown has been field goal kicking. Brown has missed its last six field goal attempts, the first four by Patrick Rooney and the last two by Drew Plichta. Three of those misses came in the Penn game that the Bears lost in OT. So there's a decent argument that Brown would be the Ivy champs this year if not for the want of a field goal or two. On the flip side, sophomore punter Nathan Lovett has done a very strong job this season, averaging 39.4 yards per boot and no blocks.

A Senior Class with Class

Knowlin making a key reception against Brown in 2006 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

26 Columbia seniors will take the field for the last time at Wien Stadium this Saturday.

It would not be hyperbole at all to call this group the most accomplished four-year contributors to the CU football program in history.

Other classes may have had more wins.

Other classes may have had better stats.

But no class contributed as much because so many of them were either starters or impact players on the field from day one.

Yes, freshmen have been allowed to play varsity football in the Ivies since 1993. But it took until 2006, when this group arrived on campus, for so many freshmen to play at Columbia at one time and at such a high level.

It starts with Austin Knowlin, who had a game-clinching 62-yard TD reception in the 2006 season opener against Fordham on his way to eventually breaking the Columbia record for receptions and receiving yards.

It continues with Lou Miller, who first saw action as an outside linebacker in his freshman year, was asked by the coaches to convert to defensive end, and has the inside track to leading the Ivies in sacks two years in a row.

Then there's Taylor Joseph, another wide receiver who played in all 10 games as a frosh, and started making key receptions by the end of the season. You can win games without superstars like Austin Knowlin, but you can't win without hard workers and team leader like Taylor Joseph.

Matt Bashaw was another early contributor. Making a key sack as a frosh defensive end against Cornell in 2006, and going on to fight injury every year and lead by example on and off the field.

Ray Rangel proved that sticking with it is always worth it, making a big impact in the 2006 training camp, scoring TD's as a sophomore, and finally breaking out with a super senior season until he was felled by injury.

Evan Sanford, John Seiler and Will Lipovsky have simply turned what was the worst offensive line in the Ivies into one of the best. Seiler was the one who got on the field first, seeing playing time in three games in 2006.

Andy Shalbrack made an impact in that first game against Fordham too, forcing a fumble and serving notice that he would be one of the game's hardest hitters for the next four years. He finished his freshman year as the Ivy leader in interceptions and has a career total of 12 going into this final game.

M.A. Olawale first got onto the field in the Dartmouth game in 2006 and darn near turned that game around for the Lions. Finally getting another solid chance at QB as junior in 2008, he did spark the team to a win against that same Dartmouth team and has turned out to be one of the toughest running QB's the league has ever seen.

And of course, there's the one man who was here in 2005: our lone 5th year senior, Corey Cameron, who has emerged as one of the top linebackers in the league.

Obviously the list goes on.

I wish these very talented, dedicated, and hard-working seniors could have seen some winning seasons, championships, and more All Ivy recognition.

But they are all still winners in a very real sense.

And I have no doubt that they will do whatever is necessary to go out as winners on the scoreboard on Saturday as well.

Many of them were key reasons for Columbia's last win over Brown which came in their freshman season.

That 22-21 win was higlighted by nine catches for 73 yards by Knowlin, one of which was crucial during the game winning drive. Shalbrack had two picks in that game, one of which killed a potentially game-icing Brown drive and the other iced the game.

Brown is the opponent again this week. It's time for the only guys on this Columbia team who know what it's like to best the Bears to do it again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What We Can Learn from the '09 Quakers

A Championship Goal Line Stand

Penn won the Ivy League title Saturday with a 17-7 win over Harvard at Harvard Stadium.

(Okay, I know it's not official and that Penn could somehow lose to Cornell at Franklin Field Saturday, but is anyone willing to take that bet? Also, there was a controversial TD call for Penn in that game that may have actually been a fumble by Quaker QB Kyle Olson. But I did not see the play and if anyone did, I'd love to hear your opinion).

I'm going to take a little time to bask in the glow that I was one of the few, if only, published writers about the Ivies to predict a Penn win in this de facto championship contest.

Okay, I'm done.

Of course, this is a Columbia blog and it's not meant to simply throw extra glory Penn's way.

But perhaps the Lions could learn a little, or maybe a lot, from what the Quakers accomplished this season.

Like Columbia, Penn had some injuries. Some of them were serious.

The Quakers did not have much of a passing game, or a 1,000 yard rusher.

But the difference was, in addition to the usual added piece of luck that every championship team needs to have, Penn found a way to win close contest after close contest with ice water in their veins like efficiency.

I don't know how you teach that to a team, especially at the college level. But whatever it takes to get that iron constitution when close games are on the line... we need that.

Columbia is not alone in this quest. Ask the folks at Brown who lost razor-thin contests to Harvard and Penn this year. Ask Cornell; the Big Red lost super close games to Columbia, Princeton, and Dartmouth. Ask Yale; the Elis found a way to squeak by the Lions, but they lost to Cornell and Princeton in games they could have won.

I don't care if it's the NFL or Pop Warner, winning a football game is really the greatest feeling in sports. The seasons are short, so the wins just mean more.

And for Lions fans, they mean more than they do for anyone else in this league.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Helmet Stickers & the Race for 4th

John Seiler made many of those big Lion runs possible (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Saturday's 30-20 win over Cornell was created by a lot more people than just my personal co-MVP's M.A. Olawale and Augie Williams.

-Jeff Adams and John Seiler did their usual splendid job creating wide holes on the left side of the CU line. Their blocking was key to both Zack Kourouma's 80-yard TD scamper on the game's opening play from scrimmage and Olawale's 19-yard TD run to ice the game in the fourth quarter. Of course the whole offensive line, which has stayed relatively healthy this season, gets a helmet sticker for helping to produce 260 net rushing yards, 5.9 yards per carry, and that magic number 44 rushing attempts I put on my wish list on Friday. The three senior starters in this remarkable unit, Seiler, Evan Sanford and Will Lipovsky deserve your loudest applause when you show up to the season finale this Saturday against Brown.

-Kourouma only had 25 yards the rest of the game, but he had a brilliant and crucial eight yard carry to help set up Olawale's go-ahead score in the third quarter. It was the kind of tough outside-inside running he'll need to do more of next year.

-Lou Miller is still your Ivy League sacks leader, adding another one to his current total of 7. It's a tight race for the title Miller won last year, so next week's game will determine whether Lou will be a rare repeat winner of that top spot.

-Speaking of sacks, the Lions racked up five of them in the game against a Cornell team that had allowed just 10 sacks all season through the first eight games. The other four sacks were by Josh Smith, who actually had one and a half sacks, Chris Groth who had one, freshman Will Patterson who got his first significant playing time and had a total of three tackles including a key sack, and Bruce Flemming had a half sack. And give the entire defensive front lots of credit for helping to force at least some of those six interceptions thrown by the Big Red on the day.

-Linebacker Nick Mistretta didn't get any sacks or TFL's, but many of his eight tackles were for no gain or very short gains. It was really his best day as a Lion so far.

-Corners Ross Morand and Jared Morine were mercilessly picked on by the Cornell QB's all day. Both of them were on the coverage every time, and Morand finished with two picks, this first one setting up Columbia's second TD of the game, (and he made the INT right in front of the Big Red bench... a team that had recruited him!). Morand also had two tackles and a separate pass break up. Morine had a crucial pass break up and seven tackles.

-The kick and punt coverage was superb against the league's mos dangerous returner. This had a lot to do with punter Greg Guttas' booming and high-hanging punts and kickoffs, and the tackling was very crisp as well. For some reason, Cornell kick returner Bryan Walters was given the Ivy special teams player of the week award. Walters did not have a bad game, but he was hardly a major positive factor for the Big Red on special teams. As a WR, yes, but not as a returner.

-Dean Perfetti stepped into his role as PAT and FG kicker very nicely. Going a perfect 3-3 on extra points and nailing an emotionally important 33-yard FG late in the first quarter.

-Sean Brackett looke great as a runner and a passer for the most part. His TD run early in the first quarters was a nice bit of bobbing and weaving. He also had some great option keepers on the drive that resulted in the Perfetti FG. Passing the ball he was an efficient eight of 13 for 59 yards. He was puled after making a brilliant 26-yard run and fumbling at the end of that gain, but he showed again that he has all the skills if not the experience to be a star in the Ivies.

-Leon Ivery had just six carries, but a nice 26 yards on those rushes. His best run was for 12 yards on that Lion field goal drive.

-Mike Stephens had only three catches, but they were all key catches, including a 19-yard reception to set up Columbia's second TD, and an 18-yard catch to nail down a first down on a 2nd and 16.

Four for Fourth

Barring a very strange outcome at Franklin Field this Saturday, Penn will be the solo Ivy champ this season with Harvard second and Brown third, (Brown and Harvard are assured of those spots win or lose if Penn is victorious).

The real drama involves four Ivy teams who are vying to get into the so-called "first division" and finish fourth. Columbia is one of those teams.

Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia all have two Ivy wins and would have the inside track to fourth place with wins this weekend.

The team that seems best placed to clinch ouright fourth place with a win is the Big Green. Dartmouth hosts Princeton while Yale has to face Harvard and Columbia has to take on Brown. But if Princeton beats the Big Green, Harvard stuffs Yale and Columbia can get by Brown, our Lions will get out of the second divison for the first time since 1996.

It wouldn't make this season the greatest achievement, but it wouldn't be terrible.

Of course, beating the excellent Bears team will be a tall order. More on that later this week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Return of the King

Olawale flipped the game on its head

Columbia 30 Cornell 20

Why Columbia Won

The Lions intercepted six Big Red passes and begining with the first play from scrimmage, Columbia used big running play after big running play to put points on the board. And co-captain M.A. Olawale returned to the field after missing two-and-a-half games due to injury to spark the Lions to victory.

Why Cornell Lost

The Big Red shot themselves in the foot with all the interceptions, and they blew a chance to get permanent control of the game late in the first half when they came up empty after a first and goal at the Lion 5, and rolled snake eyes again after starting the ensuing possession in Columbia territory. Penalties also helped neutralize most of Bryan Walters' dangerous kick return game.

Key Turning Points

-Leading 20-16 with 9:20 left in the first half, Cornell took over at their own 25 and drove all the way down to the Lion 5 for a first and goal. But a false start, a short run, and two incomplete passes forced a 27-yard field goal attempt that Brad Greenway missed wide right.

-Columbia went three-and-out on its next possesion and a short punt set the Big Red up at the Lion 46 with 1:42 left in the half. But the Lions forced a crucial three-and-out of their own and dodged yet another bullet.

-The second half began with both teams turning the ball over on multiple occasions. But after Andy Shalbrack intercepted Ben Ganter at the Lion 42 and returned it all the way back to the Big Red 21, Olawale finally came into the game and settled the Lions offense down. Olawale scored the go-ahead TD with one yard plunge one play after a brilliant seven yard scamper.

Columbia MVP

Once again, I have to go with co-MVP's for this game. Olawale gets one nod for his two TD's and his 95 yards on just 11 carries. Augie Williams, who played most of the game at outside linebacker gets the other nod as he had 10 tackles, one pass breakup, and the game-clinching interception and 26-yard return.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Early Wakeup Call

I'm heading up to Ithaca very early tomorrow morning so this is likely my last post until Sunday at the earliest.

Don't worry about me, I wake up at 4:49am Monday through Friday for my job at FOX Business. So actually I'll be sleeping in by getting to wake up at 5:15 or so!

Tomorrow's forecast is still calling for rain and temps in the 50's. Not much of a wind is expected, but we'll see.

Friday, November 13, 2009

5 Keys to the Game: Cornell

1) Run Until They Stop Us

I'd love to see the Lions run the ball as often as Cornell's opponents have in each game this year, (the average is 44 times per game). If that happens, I think it means Columbia wins the game, period. I'd also love to see M.A. Olawale recover from his injury and get into this game and shred the Big Red with his big powerful running attack. Failing that, Sean Brackett could similarly hurt Cornell with his super-quick feet. And the tailbacks Leon Ivery and Zack Kourouma could do damage too.

2) Contain Walters and Liuzza

Cornell's best chances to win are if Bryan Walters burns the Lions with big kick returns and Stephen Liuzza burns them with big runs from the QB slot. Remember, this is the final career home game for both of them and they will definitely want to go out with a bang. I get the feeling the Big Red coaches will be drawing up more plays and calling Walters' and Liuzza's numbers much more often because this is their personal finale at Schoelkof Field.

3) No Free Points

Columbia doesn't need to play a perfect game in Ithaca tomorrow, but it can't hand the Big Red a bunch of free points either. Cornell's struggling offense would like nothing better than a few botched punts or fumbles in Lion territory. So the long snaps need to be crisp, and the ball carriers need to be smart with the pigskin, period.

4) Score in the Red Zone

Every red zone visit really needs to result in points tomorrow for the Lions. The number of scoring chances Columbia has left on the table this season is starting to reach exhorbitant levels. At first, this was about the shaky field goal kicking game, but now it's become an issue with penalties and turnovers as well. This can't happen tomorrow.

5) Test the Cornell Kick Coverage

The two biggest reasons why Cornell has done so well in kick coverage this year may be beacause a. Bryan Walters is on THEIR team and b. they haven't played Austin Knowlin and the Lions yet. Let's put that to the test tomorrow and see if Knowlin can repeat the 76 yard punt return for a TD he scored last year to put the Cornell game away for Columbia. And if the Big Red kicks away from Austin on kickoffs, let's see if Craig Hamilton can continue the strong season he's had with his returns.

Week 9 Picks

Last Week: 3-0

Overall: 30-6

Brown over Dartmouth

The Bears will look back at this season and probably be disappointed that two extremly close shaves against Harvard and Penn cost them an Ivy title. But I say they have nothing to be ashamed of after losing a few key starters including their standout QB from 2008. Phil Estes has done it again in Providence and his final game of the season at home will be a victory lap. As for Dartmouth, the Big Green have made strides and guys like Charles Bay, Nick Schwieger, and Greg Patton are making 2010 look pretty good in Hanover. But the Bears will probably make Dartmouth look bad Saturday.

Yale over Princeton

Yale's offense seems to have figured something out now and that's bad news for the Tigers who should make this close, but not close enough.

Penn over Harvard

Two or three weeks ago, I would have called this the other way. But after seeing that gutty Penn win over Brown, I am ready to say that the Quakers are just hungrier for a title this year. Harvard will be pumped behind their home crowd, but I think Penn will stuff the Crimson running game and force QB Collier Winters to press with his passes. I just don't think Winters can beat the Quakers if he is forced to throw. Meanwhile, I expect Penn's offense to find a way to score just enough points to win. Obviously, this is a game that could go either way, but Penn has waited since 2003 to win a title, and for those guys, that's an eternity.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scouting Cornell

Bryan Walters is still Cornell's most dangerous weapon

Looking at Cornell this season and trying to figure out the Big Red seems easy... but it isn't.

At first glance, you see a team that has trouble running the ball and worse trouble stopping the run. That's a lethal combination at any level of football.

This is really not a surprise. I picked Cornell for last place this season months ago, and with a very young team trying to get its game legs, I don't think the Big Red have been a huge disappointment.

The high water mark was definitely the surprising two-point win over Yale at Yale Bowl in week 2. That was a surprise for a team that hadn't won a road Ivy game since 2005.

But since then, the bottom has fallen out. Cornell has lost six in a row, and none of those losses could possibly be as tough to take as last week's defeat at Dartmouth in double overtime.

What is a mystery to me is the Big Red turnover ratio. Cornell has actually forced four more turnovers than they've coughed up, a very strange stat for a 2-6 team. This is mostly due to the whopping 19 fumbles caused by the Big Red defense, 12 of which Cornell has recovered.

The other mystery is the pass protection. It's been good, very good. Cornell has allowed just 10 sacks over the first eight games for a very decent 54 yards lost. That's basically just a sack per game. And yet, Big Red QB Ben Ganter barely has a 50% completion percentage despite a short passing game that should be higher percentage with that kind of protection. Something doesn't add up, but I suspect Ganter just isn't hitting his targets with or without a heavy rush.

The much-maligned running game is anchored by veteran Randy Barbour who has struggled with a 3.3 yards per carry average and 320 total yards in eight starts this season. Of course, Cornell's best rushing weapon is QB/RB/WR Stephen Liuzza. But the senior Liuzza is only getting an average of six carries per game. That could change Saturday as this will be Liuzza's last career game at home and he may get a lot more touches. Columbia will have to be prepared for that possibility.

Another rushing wildcard is junior Marcus Hendren. Hendren is only getting about five carries per game, but he's averaging six yards a carry and has a 46-yard scamper this season.

Cornell's offensive woes remain mysterious when you consider its talented receiving corps. It's led this year by the great senior Brian Walters, who is known mostly as a kick return threat but he has 42 catches this season for 647 yards and four TD's. Horatio Blackmun is another senior receiver with great talent, but his numbers are surprisingly low; just 17 grabs for 166 yards and no TD's. Sophomore Shane Savage is picking up a lot of that slack with 36 receptions for 306 yards and two TD's. The leading tight end Ryan Houska is a bit of a factor in the passing game with 10 catches so far this year.

Of course, Cornell's greatest offensive threat remains Walters in the return game. He hasn't taken one back for a score yet this year, but the young man is due and the Lions need to be ready for his best effort in his final home game.

Now to the defense. Stopping the run has been a serious problem as the Big Red have allowed 185 rushing yards per game. Even more telling is the 44 rushing attempts opposing teams average per game against Cornell. In other words, it's been mighty inviting to just run and keep running on the Red this season. Running QB's are doing even better than tailbacks on average as well.

The pass defense is not so great either. Cornell is giving up more than 220 yards per game through the air and a hefty 6.8 yards per pass attempt, (7 YPA is considered a real gold standard for a passing offense). The good news is the completion percentage against is not so bad at 54% AND the Big Red have recorded 14 sacks and 10 INT's, not bad numbers in either category.

The leader of this team is linebacker Chris Costello, and that was as expected. He has 87 tackles including a very impressive 12 for a loss. Costello has also forced three of those 19 fumbles this season. He's a hard hitter and a great pursuer to the ball and the Lions will need to be aware of where he is at all times.

A pair of emerging stars are in the secondary. Junior safeties Anthony Ambrosi and Ben Heller are getting a lot more tackles because of the weakness up front against the run, but Ambrosi also has 7.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Heller has three interceptions. Another junior, cornerback Emani Fenton, has an incredible nine pass breakups this season. But at 5-9, I expect to see the Lion QB's try to test him early and often.

Other than the great return threat in Walters, the Big Red special teams are a mixed bag. The coverage teams are just about as good, (I guess facing Walters in practice every week makes you pretty good).

Kicker Brad Greenway is in a big slump after making his first five field goals, he has missed seven of his last ten FG attempts including three misses at Dartmouth last week that proved fatal in that game.

Punter Drew Alston is solid if not spectacular.

As of Thursday at noon, the forecast for the game is for showers but also a warmish 52 degrees. That sounds like the weather the Lions faced at Dartmouth three weeks ago for what it's worth.

Knowles on Columbia

Cornell's Chris Costello is a force on defense

Cornell Head Coach Jim Knowles speaks about this week's game against Columbia in this new interview posted on the Big Red Web site.

He has some nice words of praise for Lou Miller and all three of the Lion QB's.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Importance of Cornell

Schoelkopf Field with its new Fieldturf

Every year, I make the case that Cornell is really our truest, purest, Ivy rival.

And most every year, the game on the field proves my point even more.

Yes, Cornell and Columbia are very different campuses in very different areas.

But they are both in New York state and for the last 25 years or so, their football fortunes have been quite similar.

In fact, the previous 20 Columbia-Cornell football games have been split right down the middle. 10 Columbia wins, 10 Cornell wins. Four of those Columbia wins have been in Ithaca, four of those Cornell wins have been at Wien Stadium.

Also, Cornell has been Columbia's most played rival. This Saturday's game will be the 98th meeting. (Is it too early to book Yankee Stadium for the 100th game in 2011? That would be fun).

And as Columbia's Ivy rivalries go, the Lions 33-61-3 all-time record against the Big Red is one of the least one-sided.

Sadly, other than bragging rights to in-state Ivy supremacy, it appears this year's winner will only be able to boast about staying out of the Ivy cellar for 2009.

But consider the alternative.

Getting back to the rivalry... there have been dozens of crucial and exciting Lion-Big Red games over the years. Here are 10 of the most memorable:

1971: Cornell 24 Columbia 21

For sheer history, this game has few equals.

The 1971 Lion squad was led by Stuyvesant High School grad Don Jackson '73, a 3-year starter who was a junior that season. Jackson's running and passing stats don't jump out as being very impressive now, but anyone who saw him play from 1970-72 will tell you how exciting he was.

And anyone who watched that 1971 season from wire-to-wire will tell you just how much they've had to spend on heart medication ever since. The Lions went 6-3 that year with only two games decided by more than 3 points! They also finished second in the Ivies behind the Ed Marinaro-powered Cornell Big Red, who barely beat Columbia 24-21 in a barn burner game up in Ithaca. Most people remember that game as the contest where Marinaro broke the all-time collegiate rushing record and later passed the 4,000-yard mark for his career. But it was a back-and-forth game that wasn't decided until the final moments. It was seen by the biggest crowd at Schoelkopf Field in 20 years... and I would assume the biggest since.

Here's a snippet from Time Magazine's coverage of the game:

Significant Gain. For sheer grind-it-out glory, though, the Year of the Runner belongs to Cornell's Ed Marinaro. Though he ran for more than 200 yds. in three of the season's first five games, the brawny (6 ft. 21 in., 214 Ibs.) tailback made his most significant gain against Columbia in the Big Red's sixth game. It was a routine 3-yd. plunge in the first quarter, but it bettered by 2 yds. the career rushing record of 3,867 yds. set by 1969 Heisman Trophy Winner Steve Owens at Oklahoma. Two quarters and 132 yds. later, the Big Red's machine became the first ball carrier in major-college history to top 4,000 yds. Then, with the score tied 21-21 and the ball on Cornell's 32-yd. line, Marinaro chewed out 44 more yds. on nine straight runs to set up a field-goal attempt by Place Kicker John Killian. Killian's 37-yd. boot gave unbeaten Cornell a 24-21 victory and capped a remarkable 272-yd. performance by Marinaro.

1950 and 1951: Close Shaves

Lou Little's 1950 and 1951 Lions were a scrappy bunch that won nine of 17 games in that two year span. Two of those wins were one-point squeakers against the Big Red, 20-19 at Baker Field in 1950 and 21-20 at Schoelkopf Field in 1951.

In the 1950 game, the heavily favored Big Red took a 19-13 lead on a touchdown with 12:31 left in the 4th quarter, but the Lions blocked the extra point and then grabbed a Cornell fumble four minutes later at the opponents' 36-yard line. Seven plays later, Howard Hansen ran it in the end zone and Al Ward's extra point was good.

Cornell did drive it all the way down to the Lions 24 after the kickoff, but two straight sacks by Bill Malone, (the same guy who blocked the extra point earlier), ended the threat and the game.

The pundits of the day blamed the upset, (Cornell had been a 14-point favorite), on the heavy rain. But the 20,000 fans in the stands who were thoroughly soaked by the final gun didn't care. Among those fans were 27 members of Columbia's 1934 Rose Bowl championship team who were honored at halftime.

The Lions did it again a year later in Ithaca. This time the final score was 21-20.

Once again, an extra point that wasn't played the biggest role in Columbia's victory. Big Red kicker Bill Kirk simply missed the PAT after Cornell had stormed back from a 21-7 fourth quarter deficit to make it 21-20.

But Columbia still needed an interception by Ben Mione a few minutes later to truly ice the game in front of 21,000 very cold fans at Schoelkopf Field.

Some of the other Lion stars were Wes Bomm, who broke Bill Swiacki's career receptions record with seven grabs on the day.

The Lions won despite being outgained 383-273 from scrimmage. Columbia also lost two fumbles, but made up for it with three interceptions, including the game-clincher.

And the unsung heroes were the snow removal crews from the city of Ithaca. The entire field and most of the stands were covered in heavy snow before the game, but the snow plows quickly made the field playable.

1994: Columbia 38 Cornell 33

(from the Syracuse Herald American--note how they misspelled Marcellus Wiley's name)

Jamie Schwalbe threw for four touchdowns and Columbia guaranteed its first winning season since 1971 with a victory over Cornell.

The Lions (5-3-1, 3-3 Ivy League) last finished above .500 with a 6-3 record 23 years ago. They close the season at home next week against Brown.

Chad Levitt ran for three touchdowns for Cornell (6-3, 3-3), which lost its third straight game.

Marcellus Wyley (sic) turned in a brilliant all-around defensive performance for the Lions and scored their final touchdown on a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter - his only carry of the day. It capped a 45-yard drive that began with his recovery of a Cornell fumble.

Wyley, a junior defensive end, had four tackles, one sack, batted down three passes and had an interception in addition to his critical fumble recovery.

Schwalbe, who hit four different receivers with scoring passes, finished 17-for-25 for 278 yards.

Schwalbe's first touchdown pass, a 44-yard toss to Jim Jim Jones gave the Lions a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Big Red rallied for a 10-10 tie on Levitt's 5-yard run at 5:59 of the second quarter.

Cornell took a brief lead on Per Larson's 34-yard touchdown pass to Arron Berryman before Schwalbe hit David Ramirez with a 5-yard pass with 35 seconds left in the first half for a 17-17 tie.

With Cornell leading 27-24, the Lions scored twice in the fourth quarter on Schwalbe's 16-yard pass to tight end Brian Bassett and Wyley's run.

Terry Smith finished with 126 yards on 13 carries for Cornell, while Levitt had 107 on 28 carries.

1945: Columbia 34 Cornell 26

The '45 Lions finished 8-1, led by QB Eugene Rossides who scored a still-Columbia record five TD's in this back and forth game. This was the only Columbia win that year that was not decided by at least 10 points.

1989: Columbia 25 Cornell 19

This was another great back-and-forth game that became former Head Coach Ray Tellier's first ever win at Columbia. It was also the Lions first road win in more than six years.

1962: Columbia 25 Cornell 21

Two of the best-ever QB's in Ivy history locked horns in this game at a snowy Baker Field. Cornell's Gary Wood almost beat the Lions Archie Roberts, but Roberts passed to Al Butts for a 24-yard TD with 19 seconds left. That gave Columbia the lead for the first time that afternoon. Wood ran and passed for 183 yards, one more than Roberts. Wood rushed for 62 yards, Roberts for minus 6.

1992: Columbia 35 Cornell 30

A game that will forever be known as "The Des Werthman Game." And here's why:

Des helped shock the 7-1 Big Red with 16 tackles, two fumble recoveries, two rushing touchdowns, a 2-point conversion, two extra points, just missed a field goal attempt, and even threw a pass, which went incomplete. (There are also unconfirmed reports that at halftime, Des sold game programs in the stands). The loss eliminated Cornell from the Ivy title race.

2006: Columbia 21 Cornell 14

This is still one of the best wins of the Norries Wilson era at Columbia. It snapped a 16-game Ivy losing streak and it was a great display of offense and defense. A number of great seniors like Tad Crawford and Adam Brekke had big days on their final afternoon at Wien Stadium.

1933: Columbia 9 Cornell 6

This was one of Columbia's toughest, if not the toughest, wins during its Rose Bowl winning season of 1933.

I recently found a very long summary of the game from a Cornell alumni magazine:

A fighting and seemingly tired Cornell eleven failed in an heroic effort to halt the powerful Columbia Team on Schoellkopf Field the afternoon of the 4th, and was forced to accept a 9-6 defeat. Wilder's field goal in the last few minutes of play, coming after three fast and effective Columbia passes, deprived the Red and White of the tie that up to then seemed sure. Except for the nature of the scoring play, the final Columbia offensive was almost identical to that of Syracuse two weeks ago, and in the same manner brought sudden dismay to the Cornell followers.

It was easily the best football Cornell has played this season, but it was not quite good enough. The Red and White line once more displayed a masterful game of defensive football and amazing stamina. The ends were superb in their diagnoses of Columbia laterals and their hounding of the elusive Montgomery, who never once got loose for a substantial gain. And the line was ably backed, by Goldbas and Ferraro in particular. Yet despite Switzer's good work, the pass defense was far from impregnable, and that, as usual, was what told the tale.

As in the Syracuse game, Cornell surprised by scoring early. Montgomery's fumble after about eight minutes of play was recovered by Frederick on the Lion eight-yard line. On the second play, Switzer took the ball from Frederick, and skirted left end for a touchdown, eluding half a dozen Columbia tacklers. These six points were enough to keep Cornell ahead until well into the third quarter, when Montgomery's pass to McDowell on fourth down was good for 10 yards and a score. There were but four minutes to play in the last period when Wilder booted his perfect and deciding placement kick between the bars from the 15-yard line.

In offensive play, Columbia held a superiority more marked than the score indicates. The Lions made thirteen first downs to Cornell's four, 91 yards from scrimmage to Cornell's 42, and 199 yards from passes to Cornell's 33. In punting, however, Ferraro had a considerable edge over Montgomery. Ferraro averaged 50 yards apiece, his best try sailing some 82. yards, with the wind. One 45-yard wellplaced kick went out of bounds on the Columbia two-yard line. Moreover the Red and White ends got down fast under Ferraro's excellent punts, holding Captain Montgomery to an average of four yards on run-backs.

Fourteen men got into the Cornell line-up in the course of the game, but the starting eleven played without a substitution well into the third period. Coach Little used eight men in the backfield, shifting them about frequently, against Dobie's five. The result was that the Columbia team never for a moment lost its drive, whereas the Red and White, as against Syracuse, appeared to have used up the best part of its power in the first half.

The First Quarter

Heavy penalties for holding and offside unquestionably had much to do with Columbia's being unable to get started in the first quarter, and with Cornell's
getting in a position to score. In the early part of the period the play was all in
Columbia territory. Ferraro kicked off to Matal, who ran back to his own 3-yard line, but the Red and White forwards were not to be budged, and Montgomery was forced to kick to midfield. The Red and White at once swung into action, reeling off two first downs, once taking a chance on fourth down, when Goldbas smacked center for the necessary distance, the other time on a l0-yard pass and a line-buck by Ferraro. But at this point two passes failed, and Ferraro kicked to Montgomery on the five-yard line. An exchange of penalties resulted in a net loss of five yards for Columbia, and, still unable to shake the Cornell defense, Montgomery punted to his own 45-yard line.

On the second play, Frederick took a pretty pass from Ferraro over the center of the Columbia line, and advanced 21 yards to the 26-yard mark. The next pass, however, Ferraro to Goldbas, went over the goal for a touchback. Taking the ball on its own 20-yard mark, Columbia was caught holding on one of Montgomery's end runs, and was forced to begin the play in the shadow of the goal-posts.

Montgomery fumbled on the first play, Frederick recovering for Cornell, and this was followed by Switzer's end run for touchdown. Ferraro's place kick missed by inches.

Following the kick-off, Columbia worked the ball into Cornell territory, despite 20 yards in penalties. The major item in this offensive was a 25-yard pass, Montgomery to McDowell, which gave Columbia a first down on Cornell's 23 yard line yard mark. A lateral to Brominski was good for nine yards, and Montgomery got away to the i4-yard stripe, but Columbia was holding. A pass to Matal was missed by inches, and Montgomery had to kick over the goal. Thus ended the first Columbia threat.

The next few minutes saw Ferraro at his best in the punting game. After two plays at the line had lost five yards, Ferraro booted a beautiful quick kick far over Montgomery's head, which sailed and rolled 82. yards over the Columbia goal line. Montgomery kicked back to the 48-yard line, and Ferraro, realizing that the period was nearly over, took advantage of the wind for one more punt, this time getting the ball out of bounds on the Lion three-yard line. Montgomery's next effort carried only to the 25-yard line, so that Cornell had picked up 55 yards on three punts. The quarter ended with Cornell in possession of the ball on the enemy's 25-yard line.

Second Quarter

Cornell came close to a score on the fourth play of the second period, when Ferraro's pass found Wallace in the open, but the Cornell end could not quite get
his hands on the ball. This was Cornell's last threat until toward the end of the
half. After the unsuccessful pass, Montgomery picked up a first down on an end sweep, and then tossed a pass to Matal which was good for 37 yards, bringing the pigskin into Cornell mid-territory. Matal almost got loose on the play but stumbled, and Goldbas came down on him from behind. Here the Red team braced. Montgomery failed at right end; a triple pass, Montgomery to Barabas to Matal, was incomplete; and then Switzer intercepted Montgomery's pass on his own 17-yard line, and ran it back to the 32-yardmark.

An exchange of kicks saw Cornell forced back to its seven-yard mark, and after the next punt against the wind, Columbia had first down on Cornell's 39-yard line. The Red and White held, however, and on the next exchange got out of danger when Ferraro's punt hit Matal's foot in midfield. Kossack fell on the ball for a Cornell first down on the 50-yard line. Once again the offense did not function, and Ferraro's kick was downed by Brock on Columbia's 19-yard line. Frederick knocked down Montgomery's pass to McDowell, and Montgomery kicked to Switzer, who took the ball on the dead run and advanced to Columbia's 34-yard line.

Frederick got around left end for nine yards. Here Ferraro called for the shoestring play which fooled Syracuse, but Columbia was not fooled at all. In fact Ferraro tossed more or less wildly, and the ball bounced off the shoulders of an ineligible receiver, giving the Lions the ball on their own 20-yard line. A pass,Tomb to Maniaci, was good for 13 yards as the half ended, with Cornell enjoying a precarious 6-0 lead.

Third Quarter

The third period was distinguished by the brilliant but eventually futile defensive
play of the Cornell line and supporting backs, and the Columbia touchdown that tied the score. Ferraro kicked off to start the period, McDowell taking the ball to his own 38-yard line. The Lions could not get under way, and Montgomery kicked over the goal. Ferraro replied with a splendid boot against the wind to Columbia's 43-yard mark.

Switzer knocked down a pass headed for Matal after an unsuccessful line play, and
Montgomery's poor punt went out of bounds on Cornell's 25-yard line. Switzer and Goldbas together picked up eight yards, but Ferraro had to kick, this time getting the pigskin back to Columbia's 40-yard mark. Here the Lions started out in earnest. Brominski reeled off nine yards at left end, and Montgomery passed to Brominski for a first down. After Nunn got in and hurried his first try, Montgomery shot another aerial to Matal, who raced to Cornell's 7-yard line for a first down.

On the second play, Barabas barely got away from Brock on a wide sweep at left end, and was finally downed on the Red and White two-yard mark. At this point Cornell defense rose to great heights.

Starting with first down on this two yard line, at fourth down Columbia was back 14 yards from the goal. Brock threw Montgomery for a three yard loss at right end on the first play; Barabas was stopped dead at center on the second; and Goldbas pulled down Barabas four yards behind the line on the third. A five-yard penalty brought the total loss for the three plays to 12 yards. But on fourth down Montgomery dropped back and with absurd ease passed to McDowell over the center of the line for a touchdown, the big Blue end going over the line unmolested. Wilder missed the goal, and the score was 6-6.

Fourth Quarter

Neither team was able to threaten for the first half of the final period. After
Ferraro had passed over Wilson's head, he kicked to Montgomery on the latter's 36-yard mark. Tomb and Montgomery together picked up a first down, despite a fumble, but a second fumble was recovered by Kossack, giving the Red and White a first down on the Columbia's 45-yard line. Ferraro passed on the first play, and McDowell intercepted for Columbia on his 39-yard line.

Switzer spoiled a pass headed for Matal, and Montgomery kicked to Switzer, who
ran back to his own 45-yard mark. After two short gains through the line, Ferraro passed to Irving, but it was an inch too high, and eluded the fingers of the Cornell end. This was Cornell's last threat.

Starting on their own 22-yard line after Ferraro's kick, Columbia marched steadily up the field to the winning score. Two penalties against Cornell gave the Lions their first down, and then Montgomery passed to Tomb for 35 yards, making first down on Cornell's 30-yard line. Barabas made three yards at tackle, and McDowell four on a short pass from Montgomery. Montgomery tossed again, this time to Tomb, for a first down on the five-yard mark. Once again, however, the Cornell line was impregnable. Three times Barabas hit center with all his force, and three times he hit a stone wall.

On fourth down, Wilder dropped back to the 15-yard line, and booted a perfect placement kick between the bars. Score, 9-6.

In the last few minutes, Ferraro's pass from deep in his own territory was intercepted by McDowell, and Columbia was in possession of the ball on the Cornell
12-yard line as the game ended.

Gut Check Helmet Stickers: Harvard Edition

So what does this Columbia football team have left in its emotional tank for the final two games of the season?

It's a fair question to ask after a series of losses, one more gut wrenching than the next.

Needless to say I believe in these kids, and if you're reading this, you're most likely a strong or longtime Lion fan who has endured far worse and you haven't stopped following the team and never will.

Anyway, our Lions have some company as this week's opponents, the Cornell Big Red must be on emotional pain meds right now after some of their rough losses. Saturday's double-overtime loss at Dartmouth has to still be producing nightmares on Ithaca's Elm Street. More on that below.

But let's look at the bright sides of our 34-14 loss to Harvard with some helmet stickers for a few of the unsung heroes:

-Starting QB Sean Brackett broke off some great runs, including a TD scamper that was unfortunately called back on a silly penalty that did not aid that run. He was taken out of the game in the first half, but he still showed some of the talent that makes his future at Columbia look bright indeed.

-QB Jerry Bell played most of the game and earned his keep with 42 passes thrown for 226 yards in just two quarters and change. His TD pass to Andrew Kennedy was a thing of beauty; perfectly timed placed in the end zone. He made some good throws on the run. Again, not a perfect performance, but a gutty one.

-Austin Knowlin made a nice impact on the game, breaking the all-time Columbia receiving yardage record in the first quarter and making the adjustments from Brackett to Bell nicely. Can anyone else believe that "AK" only has two games left to play?

-Speaking of wide receivers, Mike Stephens made a great play to avoid a tackle and almost squirm into the end zone early in the second quarter. He finished with six total receptions. Senior Taylor Joseph finished with five catches, including the first three in a row from Bell, and Mike Muston, Nico Gutierrez, and Nico Papas all grabbed their first catches of the season.

-Sophomore linebacker Chris Paruch led the team with nine tackles and one-and-a-half sacks.

-Greg Guttas made both of his PAT attempts and kicked two onsides kicks beautifully, the second of which the Lions recovered.

Around the League

You can get more detailed summaries and all the box scores here.

The big story is that Penn easily dispatched of Princeton, setting up a potential winner take all matchup at Harvard Stadium next week. It was another great performance by the Quaker defense, but this time much-maligned backup QB Kyle Olson also did very well. The question is whether he'll split time with Keiffer Garton under center now that the Penn offense seems to be getting used to Olson?

After seeing both the Quakers and the Crimson, I have to lean to the Crimson here as far as predictions go. But it's a lot closer than I thought it would be. I'm still not sure Harvard QB Collier Winters can pass his team to win if he needs to, and with the Penn defense, he may need to. But I'm also not convinced that the Penn offense will be able to run the ball at all against Harvard, UNLESS Garton is healthy enough and he's willing to run all day.

If you like drama, the Dartmouth win over Cornell was the game for you. But the Big Red have to feel snakebitten after:

1) losing a 10-0 4th quarter lead

2) allowing a QB to scamper for a long OT TD to score on a 3rd and very long

3) Missing a FG that could have pushed it into a 3rd OT.

Oh, and Nick Schwieger's 242 yard school rushing record set against Columbia lasted all of two weeks, (less than that actually), as frosh QB Greg Patton ran all over Cornell all day. It was Patton's first varsity game.

Brown won what I called the "bronze medal game" as it appears the Bears have clinched the third place position in the Ivies with their 35-21 win over Yale. Columbia faces Brown at home to close out the season on the 21st.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Harvard LB Jon Takamura terrorized the Lions all day

Harvard 34 Columbia 14

Why Harvard Won

The Crimson never missed an opportunity. A short opening kickoff was turned into an efficient quick TD drive. A bad CU punt snap on the ensuing Lion possession was pounced on and turned into a second quick TD. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Columbia sideline was turned into a field goal as time expired in the first half. The list goes on.

Why Columbia Lost

The Lions needed to play an almost perfect game, especially in the early going, to defeat Harvard. Instead, they looked confused in the first quarter and were down 21-0 early. Too many trips to the red zone resulted in no points and the defense could not contain Crimson QB Collier Winters when it mattered most.

Key Turning Point

-Already down 7-0, Columbia went three and out on its first possession of the game and a high snap on the punt was eventually recovered by Harvard at the CU 12. One play later, it was 13-0 Crimson.

Columbia MVP

There's not a lot to choose from here as far as finding one standout player, but I liked the game put in by both of Columbia's corners who were playing in injury relief. Sophomore Ross Morand had a pick and seven total tackles while senior Jared Morine had his third INT of the year and another pass breakup.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Harvard on the Horizon

Prosper was the hero the last time the Lions tamed the H

It's a beautiful day in New York City with temps in the 50's and barely a cloud in the sky. If you love autumn in the Northeast, this is the game to attend today.

If you can't make it, sign up for the SideLion Pass and listen to Jerry Recco and me call the game.

Columbia hasn't defeated Harvard since 2003, when the Lions edged the Crimson 16-13 with a late TD after a key interception by Prosper Nwokocha '06. That win helped get Columbia going again after it had started the season well, and then slumped.

This 2009 version of the Lions has a lot of similarities with the 2003 squad. Both teams posted historic wins at Princeton but then went on to lose the next four contests.

Friday, November 06, 2009

5 Keys to the Game: Harvard

1) Hit hard and make the Crimson work

No one like to do homework, and having to play Columbia in New York City the week before the championship showdown with Penn must seem like homework to Harvard. So this chore has to become a painful chore if the Lions want to take full advantage. The tackling and blocking needs to be hard. The receivers and cover teams need to speed burn it up and down the field. Lots of blitzing and other kinds of harassment would help too.

2) Keep the Crimson runners in check

I know, I know. Tall order. But the Lions still have the horses to get into that Harvard backfield, close off the edges and generally make Harvard's Gino Gordon and Treavor Scales miserable. A big part of this will actually be on the offense, as Columbia will probably need to score and score early to take the ball out of the running backs' hands somewhat. That's what Lafayette did in the Leopards' impressive win at Harvard Stadium a few weeks ago.

3) Keep running the ball

The Lion offensive line remains the most effective and uninjured unit on the team. With Brackett, Ivery and Kourouma ready to go, Columbia should be able to control the line of scrimmage and the clock behind the front five.

4) Try something new... week 2

The razzle dazzle plays Columbia used last week for spectacular TD's against Yale were just the kind of thing we'll need to see tomorrow. Not the same exact trick plays like the flea flicker of course, but you get my drift.

5) Expect Victory

So Harvard is the best team in the league on paper. Big deal. Lions fans know the team has had the tools to win every game it's played this season. Injuries or not, that still should be the case tomorrow.

Week 8 Picks

Last Week: 2-1

Overall: 27-6

Brown over Yale

I look for Brown to get revenge for last year's loss to the Elis and get back on track after last week's loss to Penn. One wildcard is Bulldog Patrick Witt. If he continues the groove he got into at the end the game against the Lions last week, Yale's offense may come on strong.

Penn over Princeton

I'm not sure about Keiffer Garton's health, but either way the Quakers should be strong enough to hold off Princeton at Franklin Field. Penn does need to watch out for looking ahead to next week at Harvard.

Dartmouth over Cornell

Dartmouth's offense is questionable now without Schwieger, but Cornell on the road is usually just a disaster. The Big Green in a squeaker.