Friday, February 19, 2010

That Certain Something

Murff went from Columbia to the US Air Force

Frequent readers of this blog know that the 1990's were generally an upbeat decade for the Columbia football program that was beaten down through the 80's, 70's and the late 60's.

The 90's were not perfect by any stretch, but they did boast two of the best three seasons for Columbia in my lifetime, (the third being the 1971 campaign).

Yesterday, I published an overview of the individual offensive lines for the 2000's and concluded the 2009 unit was the best of the decade.

But how did that unit do in comparison to the relatively great Lion teams of this generation?

Good question.

Again, the 2009 squad produced 1,586 rushing yards and allowed 21 sacks.

The 5-4-1 Columbia team in 1994 had an offensive line that paved the way for 1,624 yards, unfortunately "sacks allowed" is not a stat available for that year.

The 8-2 Columbia team in 1996 had no real stars at all in the backfield, but the O-line still helped the squad break the 1,000 mark with 1,077 net rushing yards. Again, no "sacks allowed" stats are available for that year either.

But any argument about which 90's offensive line was best is really not necessary because so many of the stars of the '94 offensive line were also in place in '96.

Guys like the late Randy Murff and Austin Milliken played on both of those varsities. Playing on the '94 squad and also the darn good, (before QB Mike Cavanuagh's injury), '95 team was Craig Valentine.

Then again, I guess the nod has to go to the '96 O-line simply because they truly made something out of next to nothing. This was a team that leaned on the greatest defense in modern Columbia history. But the offensive line came through when the team needed it most, especially in goal line situations. Thus, a team that scored barely more than 160 points won eight of ten games that season.

Looking to the present and the future, the point of my renewed focus on offensive lines is two-fold:

1) Just prepare yourselves now. The pundits will be all over Columbia this summer, talking about how the Lions will fall back in the pack in the Ivy race because we have three offensive line starters to replace. Those numbers are correct, but I believe there is a very deep bench at this position for us and there are top quality players ready to go right now. These are the kinds of top quality players the pundits never give Columbia credit for having, especially in reserve.

2) What Columbia has indeed been lacking lately is that "it factor" that the 1996 team used to make sure the Lions won seven of the eight close games it played that season. I think the gutty offensive line had as much to do with that as the great defense led by Marcelus Wiley and Rory Wilfork.

The fact is, Columbia has lost seven of the eleven truly close games it's played over the last two seasons. That's despite the fact that the 2008 and 2009 teams sported some of the best offensive lines in recent memory.

Again, I strongly believe Columbia's offensive line will be outstanding again in 2010. But will it have the "it factor?" And who will be next year's Randy Murff who inspires his teammates to win every important battle in the trenches?

We'll start to find out this September 18th.


At Fri Feb 19, 02:21:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, looking at some of the first and second year OLs who weren't quite ready for the varsity last year, I think that this group has the potential to be the best OL in the Ivies. We ahve a bunch of real studs, all between 6'4" and 6'7", and all legitimate 290/300 pounders who look like football players, and not just a bunch of guys who are a little over 6' who have stuffed themselves up to 270 or so.

At Fri Feb 19, 03:18:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Kevin DeMarrais said...

You touch on a critical factor. You call it "it," and that encompasses strong leadership and learning how to win. The 1971 team had two dynamic leaders, Charlie Johnson, a hard-hitting defensive back, and John Sefcik, whom Ed Marinaro (Heisman runner-up) told me John was the Ivy League player he most feared. the next year we were favored to win the Ivy championship, but lost a couple of early close games (and had a scoreless tie with Princeton in the other) and never got untracked. Tbhere were a lot of reasons, including no confidence in the head coach, but it shows that talent by itself is not enough.

At Fri Feb 19, 03:30:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happened to find myself in the company of several sets of parents of O linemen, two whom will graduate this year and one who has not. As the conversation developed, they were extraordinarily complimentary about the current O line coach, Argast, whom they described as a great teacher and motivator.


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