Shaking off the Cobwebs
Mike Stephens had a great night: 109 yards receiving and he was named co-captain
Even before last night's spring game began, it was a victory for the Columbia football program.
What had to be the biggest crowd ever for a spring game showed up, and that was even though the athletic department was providing a live blog and internet broadcast of the game.
I have a lot of theories about why the crowd was so large and boisterous, but I think the number one reason has to be that the program is seeing a near record number of upperclassmen and more and more players and their families and friends have a real long-term investment in this team.
Oh, and also... the weather was nearly perfect.
As for the game, the old adage about how it takes offenses a little more time to get into rhythm than defenses in football rang true last night. The defenses for both the blue and the white teams looked pretty sharp and ahead of their counterparts on the other side of the ball.
The offenses had a little trouble getting things going with their passing attacks. But the white team was assured victory when QB Sean Brackett and WR Mike Stephens got into sync in the second half. Stephens made some sparkling catches and set up the lone TD of the game, eventually scored by Brian Deveau on a WR end around play.
Stephens finished with 4 catches for 109 yards and he was my MVP of the game.
Obviously, the special rules for QB's running, (one-hand touches counted for tackles and sacks), quashed the offensive powerhouse that is Sean Brackett when he decides to run. At least four big runs were cut short by that rule last night.
And that's okay... no more injuries please!
I was also very impressed with Kurt Williams, who started at WR for the blue team after playing CB his first two years. He has blistering speed and I see him as a factor in 2010. The first play from scrimmage featured a great throw from Jerry Bell that Williams timed perfectly even as he burned his cover man and got great separation.
Owen Fraser looked great most of the night in his first action since getting injured in the 2009 opener at Fordham.
I liked Will Patterson's play as he registered three "sacks" for the white team. Also looking good for the white was Seyi Adebayo.
After the game, defensive lineman Josh Smith and WR Mark Muston were named most improved players for the spring. With Smith, Patterson, Adebayo and Josh Martin emerging on the DL last night, I like our chances to recover from losing two-time 1st Team All Ivy Lou Miller and great outside pass rusher Matt Bashaw to graduation. Chris Groth and Bruce Flemming will also make a difference up front.
David Chao probably had the best night of any of the running backs, making some good cuts and doing a good job of switching the ball from his left to his right hand when the situation called for it. Leon Ivery ran hard, but didn't have much room most of the night.
Nick Gerst had one of the biggest highlights of the night with an exciting and speedy 35-yard catch-and-run from Paul Havas on a screen. You have to think Gerst will be a great weapon on that kind of a play over his next three years. If he bulks up a bit like Ray Rangel did last offseason, look out!
Also looking good from where I was sitting were Ross Morand, Craig Hamilton and Kalasi Huggins in the secondary.
I was also happy to hear the naming of the captains for 2010: Stephens, Matt Moretto, Andrew Kennedy, (who was injued and did not play last night... we really need him to be ready for the fall), and now two-time captain Alex Gross, (also injured since last season and not playing last night).
Some of the other walking wounded were Shea Selsor, Calvin Otis and Ian Quirk
I know I'm leaving a lot of other players' names out, but please check the archive of last night's live blog for those names and some other key details.