Saturday, January 16, 2010

QB's of the 2000's: Jeff Otis

Jeff Otis

When Steve Hunsberger went down with his ACL injury well before the 2003 season, junior Jeff Otis was thrust into the starting job.

Columbia fans would soon find out that Otis was more than ready.

Jeff Otis came from a great football family. His father Jim was an All America running back for Woody Hayes at Ohio State in the late 1960's. Jim went on to star in the NFL for the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs.

Jeff's older brother also went to Ohio State and walked on to the football team as a QB.

Luckily for the Lions, Jeff set his sights east of Columbus and enrolled at Columbia.

In his debut as a starter, Otis was a spectacular 26 of 47 for 300 yards, one TD and no interceptions. The Lions lost that game, a 37-30 thriller at Fordham, but it was a very good start for the former backup passer.

Also in that game, Otis would connect with junior tight end Wade Fletcher for their first TD pass and establish one of the most lethal combinations in Columbia football history. By the time they were done, Otis and Fletcher would hook up for 11 total TD passes in the two seasons they played together, 2003 and 2004.

After the Fordham loss, Otis began to show his abilities in the clutch. First, he marched the Lions 73 yards down the field for a game winning TD pass to Travis Chmelka with just 22 seconds left in a 19-16 victory over Bucknell under the lights at Wien Stadium. Otis finished that game 25-45 for 236 yards, two TD passes and one INT.

Then came the big one.

Otis was under center for every offensive play in one of the greatest Columbia games of all time, the 33-27 win over Princeton that ended with a Hail Mary TD pass to Fletcher with no time remaining. Otis rallied the Lions back from a 20-0 deficit to win that game at Princeton, the first Columbia win over the Tigers on the road since 1945. Otis finished that game 22 of 38 for 326 yards, one TD and one INT.

Another big game for Otis in 2003 was the 16-13 win over Harvard where he kept coming back after sustaining brutal hit after brutal hit from the strong Crimson defense.

By the time the 2003 season was over, Otis had put in the best season for a Columbia QB since John Witkowski. He was 217 for 372 passes for a .583 completion percentage, with 17 TD passes to 13 interceptions.

Then the injury bug bit again. Not for Otis, but for Fletcher. The big tight end pulled his hamstring just days before the 2004 season and the Lions were just not the same in 2004.

Week after week, Columbia lost close game after close game. Fletcher did eventually return, but never really at full strength.

The Lions went from an encouraging 4-6, 3-4 Ivy season in '03 to a 1-9, 1-6 Ivy season in '04.

For his career, Otis finished with 429 completions on 737 attempts for 4,666 yards, 25 TD's and 24 INT's.

After Columbia, Otis ended up on a number of practice squads and even made the regular roster for a time with the Oakland Raiders.


At Sat Jan 16, 04:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, wasn't Otis also injured his senior year? I know that Fletcher's injuries were devastating to our passing game, but I seem to recall that Otis was also hurt. I also remember Otis having a great game at Lafayette, in which he made some great throws but there were some terrible calls against Fletcher for offensive pass interference as Irecall.

At Sat Jan 16, 07:24:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this thread, meant to comment on Steve Hunsberger, who I thought was a really good player - kind of in the Doug Flutie mold. Jeff Otis really impressed me as well - he had quite a football pedigree. Although I enjoyed our thrashing of the Jersey Tigers this year - somehow the win we had over them with Jeff was truly emotional...


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