Saturday, November 20, 2010

Break Even Saturday?

Brown Stadium's aging facade

Columbia Lions at Brown Bears

November 20, 2010

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Location: Brown Stadium

Gametime Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy, 52 degrees and windy

The Spread: Brown is favored by seven points

Columbia Game Notes

Brown Game Notes


Unless you’re a relatively long-term fan of Ivy League football, you can’t really grasp the enormity of the turnaround in the Brown program.

The Bears were perennial doormats for many decades.

But for the last 16 years, the Bears have been one of the best Ivy teams, winning three titles in that period and posting winning season after winning season.

Columbia fans feel the sting of that Brown turnaround more than anyone else.

After all, if the Bears can turn things around with their lukewarm student body and shaky stadium, why can’t the Lions?

Most of the credit goes to Head Coach Phil Estes. Brown actually did start turning it around before his tenure, but he has done the heavy lifting for so long. Superior coaching in this league almost always wins. And the Bears have won.

Of course Columbia IS consistently better than it was 25 years ago, but the Lions have only contended for a title once in that span.

While the players certainly don’t think about these things, Brown’s stellar improvement compared to Columbia’s is an elephant in the room whenever these teams play.

Another backstory Saturday is the revenge factor from last season.

The Lions stunned the Bears, 28-14 at Wien Stadium in 2009 and a big chunk of the players from both teams from that game will be on the field again Saturday.

Keys to the Game

Get Going Early on Offense

In Columbia’s previous nine games, their opponents have scored first eight times. In most of those games, the Lion offense was way too slow to get going. In the final weekend of the season, it’s time to scrap the “feeling out period” on offense and come out with all guns blazing. That means getting Brackett running on the edges, throwing screens, doing some trick plays, etc. There is no tomorrow.

Contain Tounkara

He’s not Buddy Farnham or Sean Morey, but Brown senior WR Alex Tounkara is one of the best offensive weapons in the Ivies right now. He’s going to get his share of catches, but the key is to make sure he doesn’t burn the Lions for 15 catches and 200 yards. I suspect Columbia’s outstanding CB Calvin Otis will be assigned to Tounkara most of the day and I expect Calvin to keep him on “Otis Island” as much as possible.

Trust the Safeties and Get After the QB

Brown’s running game is by no means bad, but it’s weaker this season than it has been in awhile. That tells me the Lions should blitz often and test either a banged up Joe Springer, (the starter for most of this season who is listed as the BACKUP in the Brown game notes), or harrass third string QB Ryley Hegarty.

Make Brown Pay on Kicks

Brown is just not kicking the ball off deep this season. The results have not always been bad for the Bears as a lot of teams haven’t been able to handle the short kicks. Columbia can’t be one of those teams.

More Recognition

I know there’s a chance all three of the seniors mentioned below could end up applying and getting 5th year status, but I want to make sure I say a few words about these special young men.

Dan Cohen

One of the few real New York City kids in the Columbia football program in recent years, Cohen has given his heart and soul to this program. The Lions right tackle is a big reason why the overall quality of the offensive line has improved. His parents are also true gems as his mom has organized a parents tailgate for four years now. Most of us are wondering what going to a Columbia game will look like without Dan and his family.

Paul Havas

Another player who has truly embraced the team work ethic. After paying his dues as a backup QB for three seasons, Paul switched to WR this season when the team needed more speed and bodies at the position. He also became the holder and did a flawless job all year. It was a very sweet moment for the fans when he caught his first-ever pass last weekend against Cornell. Paul’s parents have been truly great friends to me for the last four years.

Mike Stephens

A major talent at WR, he was robbed of playing most of this season after breaking his arm in week one. But the co-captain has remained on the sidelines and pumped his teammates up week after week. His stellar play in 2008 and 2009 leaves us all wishing for another year from him in 2011. His family too has been a delight to know for the last few seasons.

Gross to the CFL?

Alex Gross' hometown paper has a piece about him today where he is quoted as being interested in continuing his football career, perhaps in the CFL!


At Sat Nov 20, 11:59:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, I understand that our JV lost to Brown 34 to 0. Any report on what happened?

At Sun Nov 21, 03:49:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very disappointing game. I do not understand the decision not to start Brackett until we were losing br four TDs. It was the last game. If he was well enough to play he should have started. He almost pulled it out. That leads to the big question. Norries is a wonderful leader and a fine man, but his coordinators in my opinion had a bad year and we suffered from poor on field coaching.

At Sun Nov 21, 05:14:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a positive note....some snippets from the game that make me proud to be a Lion fan:

1) Before the kickoff I saw Brackett give Bell a man-hug as he knew Bell was going in. Brackett dutifully held the headphones and assisted calling in the plays and exhibited sideline leadership with his O-line. This kid is a winner and a team player and a quiet, confident leader.
2) Our crowd was large (500+)...filled with players parents and also die hard fans (like me). Brown's crowd was not that much bigger and probably not even half of what our last home game was vs Cornell. So Lion team, you have a hardcore fan base.
3) At 28-0 we did not give up.

At Sun Nov 21, 05:20:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A parent of one of the JV kids told me that Brown overpowered us on both sides of the line and simply ground us down. He said the skill players looked about on par but the beef/line units were not comparable.

The same can be said of the varsity in the second half of the season. It's THE crucial fix in this off much as the kicking game was last year.

At Sun Nov 21, 06:34:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't understand why the left side of our OL wasn't dominant this year. Adams was a returning first team all Ivy and Hauschildt looked like the same sort of player. On the DL we were just too small, and the loss of a healthy Fraser was a real setback. But you can't expect a DL which runs from 205 to 230 to stand up to the big OLs we face. When we were playing well early in the year we won the battle of the trenches. That ended against Penn. In addition to some big linemen we also need a WR who can get separation. If we get a tall WR with hands and speed Brackett will break all of Witkowski's records. One final note; I actually thought that we had a chance to pull off the comeback when Brackett started moving the team. He is the best player in the league.

At Sun Nov 21, 06:54:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A prior post was somehow dropped...hopefully not because I had tough things to say about the coaches. Bottom line, the OC needs to be sacked. Today was a case in point of poor OC decision making in keeping an obviously ineffective Bell in way too long. Brackett with a hamstring injury is still a better passer than Bell is healthy and Brackett should have been put in much sooner.

At Sun Nov 21, 09:06:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think both coordinators may need to be replaced. Too much indecision on offense. Case in point: the wasted time outs because we didn't know what plays to call. On defense, inability to mask coverages, predictable coverages, ineffective use of personnel, and poor tackling technique.


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