The Basic Problem
The Lions need to draw a line in the sand
For three straight games, the Columbia defense has been getting blown off the line of scrimmage by opposing offenses.
For two straight games, the Columbia offense has had trouble protecting the QB and opening consistent holes for the runners.
Not too much good can change for the Lions until they fix this problem.
The genesis of this line issue is hard to find. For the first three games, Columbia mostly dominated the lines of scrimmage on both offense and defense. The week two win over Towson was especially indicative of this as the Lion defense basically lived in the Tiger backfield while the offense had a big day running the ball.
But starting with the week four win over Lafayette, the defense stopped getting serious penetration and pressure on the QB. At first, it looked like this was just the result of the Leopards running screens and other plays that dealt better with the Columbia rush. Then, Penn’s great veteran offensive line was credited with simply outplaying us. Dartmouth’s offensive line is pretty good, but it dominated the game more than the Quaker O-line!
Changing the personnel is probably not the solution. Defensive coordinator Denauld Brown shuffles in different players along the line with more frequency than I’ve ever seen in football.
Of course, all of us would like to see Owen Fraser return to 2008. But it’s obvious he’s just not there yet and may not be this season.
As far as the offensive line is concerned, there seems to be less work to do here. The pass protection hasn’t been good the last three weeks, but not on every series. The running game was generally good against Dartmouth. A lot of fans seem to think putting Nick Gerst in for 60 minutes and giving him the ball 30 times might be an answer, but the coaches still seem to want to use him somewhat sparingly.
This Saturday’s game at Yale will provide a supreme test for the offensive line, as the Yale D is attacking and blitzing with ferocity this season.
It’s harder to tell how much of a test it will be for the defensive line as the Eli offensive line is not doing as well, and the running game has suffered. But any success here will be a huge positive for this unit.
What will be a big test for the Lion D is the quick release Yale QB Patrick Witt often showcases in the pocket. Big Green QB Conner Kempe ate the Columbia pass defense up last weekend with a similar quick release all day.
Three Up and Comers
Some of the newer players on the varsity are starting to grow into their positions.
One of them is WR Kurt Williams who had a near breakout game vs. Dartmouth with six catches for 75 yards. Williams is a junior and with the expected return of Mike Stephens at WR next year, he could be the second part of a good one-two punch at split end for the Lions. In the meantime, he seems like a good bet to get 10 or more receptions or a 100-yard game in any one of the four remaining contests this year.
Sophomore DE Joshua Martin grabbed another two fumbles on Saturday and definitely is showing a good knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Sophomore DB Steven Grassa is starting to get onto the field more often and doing some damage. He has 11 tackles this season.