Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Saved the Best for Last

Anatomy of a Play of the Decade

Mehr makes the pick inside the Lion 20 as time runs out

Mehr starts his INT return with Shalbrack trailing about 7 yards behind

Mehr pitches the lateral, Shalbrack makes the grab

Shalbrack hugs the sidelines and breaks free

Shalbrack finds the end zone for the TD

Completing the list of the Top 10 Columbia football games of the 2000's

Columbia 28 Brown 14

November 21, 2009

Wien Stadium

The NUMBER ONE game of the 2000's for Columbia football was also the last game of the decade.

I make that claim because the game had a number of truly unique qualities:

-First, it was the ONLY game of the decade where Columbia beat a team that would end up in the top 3 of the Ivy standings.

-It was a victory that propelled the Lions to their one and only appearance in the "first division" of the Ivy standings.

-It was a win that featured standout performances on offense, defense and special teams.

-The game was exciting in that it featured lead changes and great individual plays... including what was really the most spectacular play of the decade.

But enough qualifiers, on to the game!

First, here's how I broke the contest down on the day after the big game:

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.

The Columbia Athletics web site summarized the game this way.

Whether the Lions can build on this win going into next season is a tough question. The 300 day offseason tends to dilute momentum in this league.

But for that one shining day in November 2009, Columbia played championship-caliber football against a championship-caliber team.

Austin Knowlin closed out his brilliant Lion career with a bang.

Sean Brackett provided a hopeful hint of what could be to come.

Lou Miller make an impact one last time.

And junior Adam Mehrer showed brilliant unselfishness by lateraling the ball to senior Andy Shalbrack who scored a TD in his last Columbia appearance.

Who could ask for anything more?


At Wed Feb 03, 02:00:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great pictures of an outstanding play!
the video of it at

At Wed Feb 03, 02:32:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The greatest play I have seen in almost 50 years of watching Columbia football.

At Wed Feb 03, 02:51:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And in my case, the greatest play I have seen in almost 55 years of watching Columbia football.

At Wed Feb 03, 02:59:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger friend12 said...

I have been attending UM games since I can remember (almost 50 years) and seen some amazing plays by amazing players many who have gone on to do the same in the NFL. That play at Columbia last year by far was most exciting play I have ever seen. There have been those last minute spectacular moments over the year, but, this play by far is best I have ever seen.

At Wed Feb 03, 08:09:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact, I think it is the greatest single play that I have ever seen on a football field, on any level. It exceeds the Immaculate Reception.


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