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?
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?