The return of Alex Gross means bad news for enemy running backs (CREDIT: Columbi Athletics)
If there’s one single stat, (other than the obvious net points scored), that Columbia needs to improve on this fall it’s rushing yards allowed.
After giving up a pretty stingy 104 yards per game on the ground in 2008, the Lions yielded a hefty 169 rushing yards per game in 2009.
Injuries were the biggest reason for that as Columbia’s best inside run-stopper, Owen Fraser, and best outside run stopper, Alex Gross, were both out for most of the season.
But the good news is rising junior Chris Groth and rising senior Bruce Fleming both got a lot more playing time because of the Fraser injury and they both performed well. In fact if you strip out the Dartmouth game where Groth was also out, the Lions rushing yards allowed per game average falls from the 169 mark to 141. That’s a 16.5% difference just from Groth’s one missed game.
On the linebacking side, I thought Evan Miller did a good job of filling in for Gross, but those were big shoes for an untested sophomore like Miller to fill.
There were some games where the Columbia ground defense was still dominant. The Lions allowed just 78 net yards rushing against Yale, and just 83 yards against Brown.
But those success stories were the exception to the rule. Central Connecticut torched Columbia for 325 rushing yards, the aforementioned Dartmouth game saw the Big Green grind out 279 net rushing yards, and even when losing to the Lions 38-0, Princeton put up 209 running yards.
Fraser and Gross should help plug the hole in the rush defense that sprung up all too often in 2009.
Week 2 opponent Towson has been ranked dead last in the Colonial Athletic Association’s preseason poll.
The CAA, which will welcome my beloved Old Dominion Monarchs to the conference next season, held it’s media day at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore yesterday, (that’s where the Ravens play, FYI).
Not surprisingly, Villanova came in first in the poll and William and Mary second.
Other than Towson, two other CAA teams will face Ivy squads this season. ‘Nova takes on Penn as usual in the Quakers season opener and Rhode Island takes on Brown in their annual intrastate tilt. UNH and Dartmouth have discontinued their long-running series at least for now.
The CAA media day also unveiled the conference’s preseason All Offensive and All Defensive teams, and at first I thought Towson also failed to place even one player on either list. But on closer inspection, I see senior defensive lineman Yaky Ibia made the first team. Sorry for missing that.
I wonder how the 10th place prediction is going to sit with the cast members of my favorite online reality show, “The Real Wives of Towson Football?”
Sadly, there hasn’t been a new posting on that site since April. That’s too bad because I liked them a lot better than those idiots on “Jersey Shore.”
Once again, the Ivy League media day and preseason poll release is 12 days away on August 10th. The Patriot League media day event is this Tuesday, August 3rd. Columbia’s Patriot League opponents this season are Fordham and Lafayette, both at Wien Stadium.