Thursday, October 07, 2010

Scouting Lafayette: The Pause that Refreshes?

This Leopard doesn't look so tough

It seems tough for Columbia to push “pause” on the Ivy League segment of its schedule and take on Lafayette right now.

Just ask Alex Gross.

After last year’s 38-0 win over Princeton the Lions came into Lafayette riding high and focused, despite the fact that the game against the Leopards wasn’t an Ivy contest and it was sandwiched between the great win at Princeton and a big Homecoming showdown with Penn.

Then Gross shredded his knee on the opening kickoff and the Columbia season was not the same after that.

Columbia lost that game, 24-21, after a series of questionable calls fueled a Leopard comeback from the Lions 21-10 halftime lead.

This season, the game against Lafayette has a different feel. The Leopards are 0-4 and desperate for a win, making them a very worthy adversary as the Lions need to prepare for the huge challenge at Penn on Oct. 16th.

State of the Rivalry

Columbia has played more games against Lafayette than any other non-Ivy rival except for Rutgers, and we’re not likely to face the Scarlet Knights again... ever.

The Lions have never defeated the Leopards in Easton, but they also haven’t beaten Lafayette at home since 2000 when Johnathan Reese had a monster game in a 47-22 win.

Here are some of my most memorable Lafayette games over the years:


In a game televised nationally on ESPN, the Lions fall behind 34-3 at the half but storm back to come within one TD before losing 41-34.


In an absolute monsoon, Columbia edges Lafayette on a late FG for a 3-0 win. The rain ruined attendance for Homecoming for the Lions during an 8-2 season.


Columbia blew a 21-7 halftime lead thanks to series of tough pass interference calls and fell, 28-21.

In short, Columbia’s history against the Leopards has been a tough one. But seasons where Columbia has been able to beat Lafayette are especially telling. Two of Columbia’s last three wins against the Leopards came during Lion winning seasons.

This Year

The deceptive transitive property would make you believe that Columbia should easily beat Lafayette because Princeton defeated them in week 2 and the Lions just mauled Princeton in week 3.

But that transitive property is really dangerous because it seems to only be true about 60% of the time in college football.

I expect to see a Leopard team that will play defense a lot more like it did against Penn on 9/18 and an offense that will make adjustments a lot more often and better than Princeton did against the Lions last Saturday.

But it’s clear this is a Lafayette team that has been decimated by graduation. We knew that coming in to the season, but most of us gave the Leopard program too much credit and assumed a “reload” as opposed to a rebuilding year.

The result is Lafayette has some obvious weaknesses right now.

While the Leopard offense is passing the ball very well, the rushing attack isn’t there. In fact, no single Lafayette rusher is averaging more than nine carries a game. No one is being effective enough.

The same passing over running superiority is evident on defense where the Leopards are doing a good job in overall pass defense, (despite just one interception), but are allowing almost 200 yards rushing per game. You have to take the pass defense numbers with a grain of salt though, because the rushing problems have taken the need for passing off the table for some of the Leopard opponents.

The workhorse QB is Ryan O’Neil, who is throwing about 35 times for about 225 yards per game. But he only has four TD passes through four games, and that’s a problem for a team that only has two TD’s rushing.

The rushing defense has allowed nine TD’s and 199 yards per game. Even if you strip out the 311 yards Harvard torched Lafayette for on the ground last week, the Leopards would still be allowing 162 yards rushing per game. That’s a lot for a team known for its defensive dominance the last several years.

The two big stars for Lafayette are O’Neil, who is completing almost 69% of his passes, and his top receiver Mark Layton. I expect the Lafayette coaches to try to test the Columbia secondary early and often, not because the Lion pass D has been bad, (it’s been very good), but because no Columbia opponent has really tried to attack the Lions deep down the field with any consistency.

Special teams have been solid for Lafayette. Kicker Davis Rodriguez is finally a senior and kicking as well as ever. He hit a 45 yard FG against Harvard last week.

There does seem to be a bit of a problem in kickoff coverage, (are you listening Craig Hamilton?), where the Leopards are allowing 27 yards per return putting opponents on the 35 for an average starting field position.

But the real problem is the defense. Lafayette allowed 28 points to Georgetown, 33 to Princeton and 35 to Harvard. The only strong defensive game was the 19-14 loss to Penn, but the Penn offense was hardly firing on all cylinders in week one.

Speaking of Calls…

In my view, Columbia has been victimized by some bad calls this season. But we should count ourselves lucky compared to Dartmouth. There were some really terrible calls in the Big Green’s game against the Quakers, and you can read all about it on Big Green Alert.

Columbia was abused by a slew of non-holding calls in the Towson game, and a strange personal foul ruling in the Princeton game. Both led to opponent TD’s and the Lion coaches must be wondering what they can do to get some better officiating around here.


At Thu Oct 07, 05:21:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the Lions stout defense will shut down the Leopards and hold them to under 10 points. I also believe Columbia has to many offensive weapons for Lafayette to defend against. I'm calling this one as follows: Lions 38 Leopards 7.

At Thu Oct 07, 05:36:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am afraid of angering the football gods by calling for a big margin of victory. Those of us who went through the core curriculum know how fickle the gods can be. It is best to say that we will be valiant and resourceful, and if the gods smile upon us we will also be victorious. I do think it will be important to gird our loins for a stout effort on both sides of the ball. This is a do or die game for the Leopards, and they will be flying around the field.

At Thu Oct 07, 09:48:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous ungvar said...

Nice to see Owen Fraser back in the two-deep for the upcoming game.

At Thu Oct 07, 11:34:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the classic trap game. Leopards come in without a victory. Columbia is fresh off a big win and soon to play its biggest game of the year. This game is as much a test of mental preparation as execution.

At Fri Oct 08, 12:11:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True enough, poster #4. We have to win this game for the Lion's Pride.

At Fri Oct 08, 05:19:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger cathar said...

Since those whom the gods will destroy they traditionally first make mad, we're all fine. Columbia fans are deranged enough already to keep believing in this team's propsects year after year.

But this is not last year's Lions nor are they last season's Leopards. (And does anyone remember that former Lafayette QB Marko Glavic, who once killed us with a trick play where he went out for a TD pass himself, even worked a while for us post-graduation?)

We will win, and in the process we'll probably regain some measure of sanity. Enough to enable us to look forward to Penn the following Saturday.


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