Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Replacing Mike & Cheering Up

I have to start today with a negative note, because the news is big and can’t be sugarcoated:

Mike Stephens is out, as anyone who saw him get slammed late in the game Saturday could have guessed.

So the Lions will have to lean on that deep roster of 13, (now 12), wide receivers for a little more to fill the gap.

Nico Gutierrez must keep up the good strides he made in the Fordham game and be ready to replace Stephens as the #1 receiver. Mark Muston looked good several times in week one, often catching balls in traffic and jumping up after getting nailed with big hits time after time.

Whether the Lions can risk putting Gutierrez in as the full-time punt returner now that he’s carrying a bigger load as a receiver is up to the coaches. But this could be a new opportunity for some of the other speedsters on the roster.

But the most obvious person to pick up the slack is TE Andrew Kennedy. His one reception in the Fordham game was not what the Lion faithful and new SideLion Pass color commentator Sal Licata was looking for.

I also look for Kurt Williams, Brian DeVeau and maybe one of the talented freshmen or two to get more of look now that there’s a bigger need.

Columbia is not alone in losing a team captain to injury. Princeton’s Steven Cody, a superstar linebacker, is out for the year with a broken leg.

On the Bright Side…

-Alex Gross truly didn’t miss a beat. The 2008 Ivy League tackles leader is back atop the total tackles list with 14.

-I expect All Ivy defensive tackle Owen Fraser to return this week or next. I think the Lion defense against the run was better than the stats would imply… but Fraser’s return will really help.

-Columbia’s pass defense is rated #1 in the Ivies and with good reason. Despite without being without Kalasi Huggins at one corner, the Lions covered the pass and tackled after the catch extremely well.

-The final botched snap aside, we have a gamer at QB. Sean Brackett is ready for primetime and I’m sure he will get more chances to prove that as the season rolls on.

-I liked the overall defensive performance. In addition to Gross, you had strong performances from some “new names like Neil Schuster, Matt Stotler, Josh Martin, and Ryan Murphy.

-If you have a chance, watch the replay of the game on SideLion Pass and look at that 39-yard Brackett-to-Gutierrez completion on the final drive of the game. It’s really amazing.

-For the Fans at Home: I watched the live SideLion Pass webcast for the first time since I stepped down as color commentator this year. The webcast was EXCELLENT! I saw no flaws and it was really like watching any game on regular TV.

-For the Fans at Home 2: this past week’s two-deep was the most accurate depth chart I’ve seen in many years. Perhaps we can dispense with everything but the usual disclaimers when the new game notes come out later this week?

Some Perspective

Look, I know the Fordham loss was heartbreaking.

Mike Stephens’ injury is gut wrenching.

But this is just one game… and it wasn’t even an Ivy League game.

Surely, no one is throwing in the towel so soon on the 2010 season?


At Tue Sep 21, 07:30:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really sorry to hear about Stephens. He is one heck of a player.

Hopefully we will get a look at Gerst and that 4.35 speed I hear about at running back or kick return soon.

Go Lions

At Tue Sep 21, 10:23:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you said, Jake, it's up to the coaches whether to use Nico Gutierrez as the team's principal punt returner now that Stephens has been lost. However, I do not see the sense of risking losing another top wide receiver returning punts, particularly a player who has suffered two major leg injuries. Nico looked great as wide receiver Satrurday and that's all he should be doing this season.

At Tue Sep 21, 07:18:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with second poster....put in a speedy youngster and not Nico.

We could have and should have won this game and the collective disappointment deals with that fact alone. Noone is writing off the season....frankly, all I care about is Ivy results, so we have one more game to get our cobb webs out and dial up a better offensive gameplan.

Wilson's overly conservative approach thru three quarters will not win games.

At Wed Sep 22, 06:58:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Punt returns: for those of you with short memories, we had a major disaster in the years before Knowlin because nobody could field punts. You can't just throw anybody back there. I can tell you from my high school days that it is one tough job to field punts. Not only do you have to catch the ball, but you also have to make sure that you know when not to catch it and have it bounce into the end zone.


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