Thursday, August 12, 2010

Defending their (Rarefied) Turf

Top Guns: Harvard's Murphy and Penn's Bagnoli

As some other writers have pointed out, the Ivy Media Day teleconference is annoying in some ways. The lack of one-on-one interaction means we all have to listen to platitudes like “we’re improving,” and “we have a great bunch of kids.”

For the record, I though Columbia Head Coach Norries Wilson was way above average yesterday when it comes to being candid. He said the kicking game last year was, flat out, “bad.” He said the team can’t possibly replace Lou Miller with one single player carrying the pass rushing load. He admitted that the team needs to replace the “fear factor” that Austin Knowlin brought to opposing defenses.

But some messages from the other coaches came through pretty clearly during the event and they were important... even if the coaches saying them used messages that required us to read between the lines.

Let me focus on the coaches of the two teams everyone thinks will be heads and shoulders above the rest, (except for the MANIAC who picked Yale to win the title. I don't know who that was, but I want some of what he's drinking).

Harvard’s Tim Murphy and Penn’s Al Bagnoli both expect to win the title. But they downplayed their apparent weaknesses in different ways.

Murphy admitted that he only has one returning starting offensive linemen, but insisted his new starting left tackle Kevin Murphy is the greatest thing since sliced bread, (are you listening Jeff Adams?). He also ticked off the names of a bunch of up and coming defensive stars that sounded impressive. He admitted that switching QB’s from Collier Winters to Andrew Hatch would be a challenge to team morale IF it happens, but insisted the players would rally around whoever brings the team victories.

Bagnoli admitted the Quakers will most likely not be as dominant defensively as they were in 2009. He said he hopes the offense will pick up the slack, with all the returning O-line and running backs like Lyle Marsh and Mike DiMaggio in the fold. He made a much less convincing argument for the Penn passing game, saying the reason the Quakers had no vertical attack last season was because so many different guys were playing QB at different times. (Hmm… that didn’t stop Columbia from airing it out despite the fact that the Lions had three different QB’s throwing at different times in the season, and TWO of those three were running QB’s).

Here’s what I think:

Harvard will be good. I did indeed vote in the media poll and Harvard was my pick to win the championship. My vote was mostly based on Treavor Scales, (who will have an even bigger year this season for the Crimson), and a receiving corps that’s very deep and talented.

But I don’t think the O-line will be the best in the league no matter how good this Kevin Murphy is. And that’s why we’ll probably see both Hatch and Winters at QB this season as they figure to get jostled a bit more than Winters was last year.

Either way, if and when Hatch starts a game there may be Hell to pay emotionally sometime AFTER the game is over. But Coach Murphy is correct that the price will be a lot smaller if the Crimson win that game.

Bagnoli’s kidding himself if he thinks we’re going to buy the argument that the Quakers will air the ball out a lot this year. Why bother? The O-line is great and everyone in the Penn backfield can run pretty well. But I think the dropoff for Penn’s defense will be more pronounced than Bagnoli or a lot of others think. There’s not a team in the Ivies that wouldn’t want to get into a shootout with the Quakers this year as opposed to a slow, smash mouth game that Penn can control in the trenches.

Campbell Center Update… Sort of

Today’s New York Times article on the progress for the Campbell Sports Center contains some annoying quotes, including one from a former Verizon employee who also showed up and was quoted in a New York 1 TV report about the project five months ago. Hmm...

I won’t bother to rehash the arguments I made about supposed “community opposition” to this project back in March. They still stand and I still think the “opposition” is suspect to say the least.

But I am more encouraged by the fact that it seems less and less likely that anything is going to derail this project, which is sorely needed. The Chrystie Field House just isn’t cutting it anymore on its own.

Sign up for Big Green Alert!

Here’s a pitch for my friend Bruce Wood’s excellent work covering Dartmouth and Ivy football on his Big Green Alert site. You can get some great free content on his Big Green Alert Blog, but let me make a case for paying the small fee and getting the premium package.

Bruce’s excellent previews of each Ivy team begin tonight, so don’t wait!


At Thu Aug 12, 11:40:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical of the inept and nasty New York Times to assign a reporter (Joseph Berger) who writes primarily about religion and immigration to do a hatchet job on a new, much-needed Columbia University athletic facility at Baker Field. Shame on the Times, its editors and Berger for fanning the flames of discontent rather than communicating positively to his readership how this will benefit the many thousands of student-athletes at Columbia University who will be utilizing the Campbell Athletic Center in coming years. As far as Columbia Football is concerned, should Berger care to write a really nice story about some great people, I would suggest he get to know Coach Wilson, his staff, and the Columbia players themselves.

At Thu Aug 12, 08:14:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the NY Times article is concerned, just ignore it. If anyone was taking it seriously you see more of it. If the university expansion issues weren't in the news, this article probably wouldn't have happened.

At Thu Aug 12, 10:45:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger cathar said...

Jake, I'm somewhat surprised by you. I'd personally, at least as the Norries Wilson era distinctly seems to be cresting, could never vote for any team other than Columbia to win the Ivy football title.

Yes, much of this is simply an emotional reaction. But not all of it by any means, and some of my enthusiasm is in fact based on your own coverage of this season's team vs. the rest of the Ivies. Do I have to remind you that "Hey, you gotta believe?" (I also, however, have a hard time imagining that the pre-season Ivy media poll, save for yourself, is exactly these days made up entrely from sagelike first-stringers from top dailies.)

As for the Times remark about our football fortunes, it was clearly a simple, typically Times-like cheap shot. That Berger's "quip" sailed through the copy editing process probably says even more about the Times's special form of cultural arrogance tham Berger's original verbal cheap shot.

At Fri Aug 13, 12:54:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, I am shocked and saddened that you didn't pick us. In fact, you should have picked us. You are supposed to be a supporter of this program, relied upon by players, their families and the rest of the Columbia nation. You probably will not post this, but I hope if you don't that you give some thought to what I am saying. I say this more in sorrow than in anger.

At Fri Aug 13, 02:13:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I make a motion to close all further discussion on (A) Joseph Berger, the New York Times reporter who graduated from football powerhouse C.C.N.Y. and presumably has never seen a Columbia Football Game in his life; and (b) The Ivy League Media Conference/Poll which is a totally meaningless event that should be ignored by all Columbia Football Fans. May I make a further motion for you, our beloved Jake, to give us your, and possibly Coach Wilson's valued comments on each and every one of the football players on our roster this year. That's the information Real Columbia Football Fans want and that's the favorable publicity we need to give all the Columbia players on the road to their winning the Ivy League Championship this year. Anyone want to second my motion?

At Fri Aug 13, 05:25:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the motions proposed.


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