Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scouting Princeton


Culbreath was not much of a factor against the Lions in 2008


The game notes and two-deeps have been released and there are some changes and notable points.

-Still no Owen Fraser on the list… perhaps he will be a game time decision.

-WR Mark Muston is not on the two deep at all. Kurt Williams and Nico Gutierrez are the starting WR’s, the backups are Ian Cummins and Paul Havas.

-CB Kalasi Huggins is also not on the two-deep.

-DT Chris Groth is now listed as a backup at DT, the starters at tackle are Ben Popeck and Matt Stotler.


Princeton Overview

Princeton’s team seems a lot better than the last place squad I picked them to be in the preseason. The Tiger offense in particular has been pretty effective and the fact that Jordan Culbreath is back and actually contributing to the team is a big deal in the club house and on the field.

But I think the real improvement comes from QB Tommy Wornham, who was just confused on the field at this time last year. He’s getting into a groove, and he no longer needs to run because he can’t figure out just when and how to pass. And he has great weapons to throw to, namely Trey Peacock who destroyed the Lions in 2008 the last time these teams hooked up in New York City.

Another major shot in the arm has been the hurry-up offense Princeton has put into place this year under new offensive coordinator James Perry. At first, I thought the hurry up was just being used to cover up a patchwork offensive line… and it still does… but it’s also becoming a great weapon, especially in the hotter weather where opposing defenses tend to get winded faster. A cooler day on Saturday is in the forecast, and that might help Columbia do better than Princeton’s first two opponents. And getting a better chance to analyze the Princeton film should also help.

Still, Princeton’s hurry-up is much quicker than the no-huddle offense Fordham used against the Lions in week one. Substitutions will be much harder to come by, especially for the Columbia defensive line which is shuttling 8-9 players in and out of every game so far.

Defensively, the Tigers are giving up a lot of points, but not so much yardage. The loss of LB Steven Cody, the best all-around player on the whole Princeton squad, is not helping. The Tigers do have decent size on defense, not unlike Towson which was big but not fast and seemed a little brittle for some reason.

Princeton’s special teams are solid.

Another question is how much the Tigers will be motivated by last year’s devastating 38-0 loss to the Lions. I do expect Princeton to be hyped up for the game, but that excitement will be tempered quite a bit if Columbia can grab an early lead and contain Culbreath.

Again, the forecast for Saturday is for a beautiful, sunny 65 degree day. So a decent crowd should be there to help the Lions gee extra motivated too.


Elsewhere...

In other news, a shocker out of UC Berkeley.

The school is de-funding rugby, making it a club sport.

Berkeley has the best rugby program in the nation!

This is crazy.

I'm sure the members of the Old Blue Rugby Club born here at Columbia will have a lot to say about this.

But the coach of Berkeley Rugby, Jack Clark, will be joining my show, Varney & Company , on FOX Business tomorrow at 10am Eastern time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Columbia-Princeton: State of the Rivalry


Bob Surace must still be haunted by his last game at Wien Stadium


Princeton’s game notes and two-deep have been released.

The Columbia-Princeton rivalry has always been one of the most interesting in Ivy football.

For Lions fans, there have been many highs and lows in this series and few of the highs were better than last year’s stunning 38-0 whipping of the Tigers at Princeton Stadium.

Let’s not mince words about the effects of that game; former Tiger Head Coach Roger Hughes was basically fired because of the loss even though the termination didn’t take effect until the season was over. It was a decision a lot of people questioned when Princeton ended up winning three of its remaining six Ivy games, including a victory over its most hated rival, Yale.

New Head Coach Bob Surace HAS to know the Columbia loss got his predecessor canned, and woe to him if he takes his first contest with the Lions too lightly.

One Princeton coach who learned how important the annual Columbia matchup can be was Steve Tosches. After being at the helm when Columbia stunned the preseason championship-favored Tigers in 1988 to end THE STREAK, Tosches seemed to coach his team better and better against the Lions over the years.

Surace was on the field that fateful October 8th, 1988 day when Princeton played the tackling dummy in the Lions stunning 16-13 win. It has to be a feeling that still stings somewhere in his heart, even after all these years.

So even though Surace is new to the job and he won’t be fired even if Princeton gets walloped Saturday, I’d say the pressure is on at least a little bit for him and his staff.

From Columbia’s standpoint, the headline is this:

Columbia has NEVER… that’s right NEVER… Beaten Princeton two years in a row.

It’s a fact that really is hard to swallow since these teams started playing each other in 1871. The Lions have come close a few times in recent years, but it never worked out.

Princeton’s “revenge factor,” that some people are talking about in regards to the 38-0 loss to the Lions last year, really is silly when you realize how much the Tigers have dominated the series over the decades. In other words, if revenge is the motivation, Columbia has that over the Tigers in spades.

Columbia hasn’t beaten Princeton at home since 1997. That includes a stinging 27-24 loss to the Tigers in front of the 2008 Homecoming crowd because of a late CU fumble.


Where are They?

We’ve talked for years on this blog about the attendance by Columbia fans at Columbia games.

But what about the fans of the opposing Ivy teams?

Clearly, New York City is home to at least the plurality of every Ivy school. So why don’t more alums from opposing teams come to see their team play at Wien Stadium?

One notable exception is Cornell, which always has an impressive alumni contingent at the Lions games.

Princeton, on the other hand, is the perhaps the worst fan group when it comes to showing up at Wien. That includes the 2006 game when the Tigers were on the way to a league championship and the visitors stands were still quite empty.

I place most of the responsibility for this on the alumni communications offices at the other schools. Cornell’s big crowds are a direct result of the good job I know they do in their outreach efforts to alums. So, it’s time for the other Ivies to step it up.

Of course, if 17,000 Columbia fanatics decide to pack Wien Stadium on their own Saturday, that would be even better!


Where is Charles Bay?

One of the most devastating single players Columbia ran up against last season was Dartmouth defensive end Charles Bay. But Bay hasn’t started in either of Dartmouth’s first two games this season. Bay did come off the bench in the Bucknell game, but he hurt his shoulder in that contest. He sat out the whole game against Sacred Heart last Saturday. If he is able to come back at full strength in time for the Big Green’s big showdown at Penn this weekend, that could change the nature of that game.


Where is Lyle Marsh? Out!

Speaking of that contest, the young man who I thought was possibly the best running back in the Ivies last season is now out for the rest of this season. Penn’s Lyle Marsh eerily suffered a broken forearm just like Columbia’s Mike Stephens. The conventional wisdom is that the Quakers can brush this off because of all their depth at running back.

I’m not entirely buying that.

Marsh is a great runner, and good enough to be the primary tailback as a freshman in Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli’s system. You can’t just brush off a loss like that. Until Penn proves it can really pass the ball effectively, the Quakers need all the running backs it can get.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Snubbed?


Joshua Martin may have been robbed (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

The Ivy League weekly football honorees have been named and no Lions are among them. That's not surprising since the league tends to favor players who have starred in intraleague games.

But I do wonder if Defensive Player of the Week Andrew Serrano of Brown really had a better game than Columbia's Josh Martin.

Columbia's next opposing QB, Tommy Wornham of Princeton, was named offensive player of the week.

CB Calvin Otis was recognized by as a "performer of the week" by CollegePerformance.com.

Otis's fine play also gave us a hint about the health of Owen Fraser. After his second pick, Otis was greeted on the sidelines by a jumping Fraser who certainly seemed like he'll be healthy enough to play this Saturday against Princeton.


Gerst's Gem on YouTube

If you missed Nick Gerst's nice moves as he scored his first collegiate TD Saturday, you can now see it on YouTube.



Back in the Stands


After three years of calling the games from the press box, it had been a long time since I sat in the stands for an entire game at Wien Stadium.

It was a nice feeling, and the best part was that my two young daughters didn't want to leave!

I also like that they moved the pregame picnic area right in front of the stadium, which makes for a better looking "scene" and atmosphere.

As far as getting to the games, I really recommend getting there early.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Power Rankings & Some Stats


Before the weekly look at my Ivy rankings, here are some notable highlights from the Ivy stat sheet:


-Columbia is allowing the fewest points per game in the Ivies at 13.

-Alex Gross continues to lead the league in total tackles with 26. He has just a one tackle lead over Cornell's Brian Gee.

-Sean Brackett leads the league in a nebulous stat called "pass efficiency," which basically adds up all the passing stats like completion percentage, etc.


-Josh Martin leads the Ivies in sacks with 3.5.

-Through two games, the Lions have been penalized a league low 57 yards.



Jake's Ivy Power Rankings 9/26



1. Brown (last week, #2)

The Bears seem to have answered every question about the team from its new defensive line to the kicking game with resounding positives across the board. The 29-14 thumping of Harvard Saturday night gives them the top spot with little doubt.


2. Penn (3)

A good showing at Villanova gives the Quakers the leap from #3 to #2, but where is this Penn offense? Even if Keiffer Garton returns at QB next week against Dartmouth, there are some serious questions to be answered here.


3. Harvard (1)

The Crimson fall two spots after they fall flat in Providence. The re-patched offensive line did not perform as well as Head Coach Tim Murphy has advertised. QB Andrew Hatch didn't look good under the lights, but at his age he just may not be allowed to drive at night.


4. Yale (5)

The Elis move up one notch, not so much because they beat a weak Cornell team, but because RB Alex Thomas looked very good and they did stuff the Big Red after two straight losses to Cornell.


5. Columbia (6)

The Lions defense performs well for the second straight week, and Brackett looks strong.


6. Princeton (7)

The Tigers move up a notch thanks to two straight weeks of impressive offensive output. Culbreath is back, but can he carry the ball 20+ times per game over the long haul? He may have to.


7. Dartmouth (5)

The Big Green fall two notches after a subpar performance against Sacred Heart. Even without Nick Schwieger, who was out with the flu, this should not have been a game. The fact that Dartmouth needed a missed Heart FG with less than a minute to play is a real buzz kill.


8. Cornell

It could have been worse against Yale for the Red... but that's the best you can say.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sophomore Sensations


It's like a flashback to the 70's!


Columbia 24 Towson 10


Why Columbia Won

The defense played brilliantly, and the Lions offense woke up in time to take control of the game at several key moments. The most telling stat was the 224-87 advantage Columbia enjoyed in rushing yards. That took a team effort on both sides of the ball.

But perhaps most importantly, when the game's momentum seemed to shift strongly in Towson's favor, the Lions went on a brilliant 11 play, 80 yard TD drive to turn a shaky 14-10 lead into a dominant 21-10 cushion.


Why Towson Lost

The Tigers had no consistency, neither with play calling nor with execution. No one Towson back even carried the ball more than seven times. The defense couldn't handle the Lions multi-faceted running attack, especially when Sean Brackett and Nick Gerst started getting into a groove.


Key Turning Points

-Trailing 3-0 in the 2nd quarter and facing a 2nd and 10 on his own 33, Brackett found WR Mark Muston for a 26 yard pass play that seemed to ignite the entire slumbering offense. The Lions marched the remaining 41 yards and scored on a 19 yard TD pass from Brackett to Zack Kourouma. That gave Columbia the lead they would never give up.

-After Towson took a Brackett interception and turned it into a TD just two plays later, the score was Columbia 14 Towson 10 late in the 3rd with the Tigers seemingly on a roll. But Brackett made some huge runs on an 80 yard drive, including a 25 yard scamper on a 3rd and 13 on the CU 40 to keep the march alive. Later, Gerst made several nice moves to get into the end zone on a 13 yard run and the Lions were back in control.


Columbia Positives

-The offense improved thanks to a big jump in quality from the running game. Leon Ivery ran better than he had in week one, but getting Brackett's full running talents into the mix and the addition of Gerst made the biggest difference.

-Sophomore DE Josh Martin was a force on what seemed like every play. It also looked like Towson held him on every play. The refs only called it once, but Martin still finished with three sacks and four QB hurries. Remember, Martin is the young man who had committed to Wyoming before reconsidering and comng to Columbia. He sure seemed like BCS quality talent today.

-It wasn't just the sophs, freshman kicker Luke Eddy absolutely drilled all his PAT's and his one FG attempt from 37 yards was also very impressive. In all my years of watching Ivy football, I've never seen a kicker get so much air under the ball.

-Calvin Otis snagged two interceptions deep in Columbia's own zone to snuff out Tiger scoring chances. It sure is good to see him back after missing so many games last year.


-The Lions responded well to the tough loss of WR Mike Stephens by spreading out the receiving goodies to six different receivers. TE Andrew Kennedy had the most grabs with four, but Nico Gutierrez proved he can be the big time deep threat with two catches for 52 yards.


-Brackett had a number of highlight reel plays, especially a 44 yard toss to Gutierrez where he avoided two Towson pass rushers and got the ball off at the last moment off his back foot. The Fran Tarkenton comparisons will continue.


-In addition to Eddy's kicks, the entire special teams effort was much improved. Greg Guttas punted and kicked off very well, and Gutierrez safely fielded a bevy of Tiger punts.


Columbia Negatives

-Not many, but the blown coverages and tackles on the lone Towson TD were tough to watch. Sadly, we all know the coaches will have to make the team watch that play in film sessions this week!


COLUMBIA MVP

Despite all the encouraging improvements on offense, the defense kept the Lions in this game throughout and the defense was sparked by the dominant play of Josh Martin. Not since Marcellus Wiley played here have I seen a Columbia pass rusher just terrorize an opposing team play after play. Even recently graduated sack master Lou Miller never had such a game, but Martin has a LONG way to go before he can truly challenge Miller's legacy.

It was just one game after all... but what a game.


In other News...

-Brown beat up Harvard to win 29-14. The Bears seem like the team to beat for now.

-Columbia's next opponent, Princeton, won a double thriller against Lafayette. The best personal story of the year, Jordan Culbreath, scored the winning TD.

-Dartmouth had to play lowly Sacred Heart without star RB Nick Schwieger who was out with an illness. Still the Big Green should have mauled Heart by more than the 21-19 final score.

-Yale outlasted a better than expected Cornell, 21-7.

-Penn once again fought valiantly, but fell to Villanova.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Change & Hope


CU There!


Towson Tigers at Columbia Lions

September 25, 2010

Location: Robert K. Kraft Field at Wien Stadium on the Baker Athletic Complex, West 218th Street and Broadway, New York, NY.

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: Sunny, 82 degrees

The Spread: Towson is favored by 2 1/2 points.


Columbia Game Notes

Towson Game Notes


HOW TO GET TO THE GAME (Jake’s preferred methods):

By Subway: Take the Uptown A train to the final stop at 207th Street. Exit from the 211th Street exit and walk up to 218th Street.

By Car: Do whatever you can to avoid the Cross Bronx Expressway.

By Commuter Rail: Take the Metro North train from Grand Central to the Marble Hill stop and walk back over the Broadway Bridge to the stadium.

Full getting to the game details here.


Two-Deep Comments

The Columbia depth charts for this game were just released today and there are some notable changes and points.

-Owen Fraser still does not appear on the two-deep.

-Because of Mike Stephens being lost for the year, senior QB Paul Havas moves to WR and ends up right on the depth chart as the primary backup to Nico Gutierrez. This is not as shocking a development to those who have always known that Havas has been one of the faster players on the team for years. He also has a deep range of other talents the Lions are more likely to utilize now thanks to this change. Havas also moves up to the starting holder on special teams.

-Mark Muston moves up as the other starting WR opposite Gurierrez. He’s backed up by Kurt Williams.

-Gutierrez becomes the starting punt returner, backed up by DB Ross Morand. Morand also replaces Mike Murphy as the alternate kick returner next to Craig Hamilton.

-Sophomore Josh Martin flips to the top of the depth chart at one DE slot. He impressed in the Fordham game.

-Leon Ivery and Zack Kourouma remain atop the depth chart as starting RB’s.

-Freshman Joe Ghergurovich makes the rare appearance on the two-deep for a freshman offensive lineman.

-Dean Perfetti remains the starting placekicker and Guttas the starting punter.


Keys to the Game




1) Get the Offense Going

Whatever works to get the Lions offense moving, let’s do it. I think the run blocking will improve compared to the opener with Fordham, but it needs to improve now. Mixing the pass and the run and using all of QB Sean Brackett’s tools could do the trick. It sure did in the final drive against the Rams when the Lions moved 81 yards down the field before a fatal turnover.


2) Contain Hart

Towson’s starting QB Chris Hart is super athletic and he will test the Lion linebackers and safeties with his running abilities.


3) Contain Moore

No one else Towson has played, not even Villanova or Indiana, could keep WR Hakeem Moore out of the end zone. The good news is he hasn’t exactly been a guy Towson goes to very often in each game. The Lions need to make sure that continues.


4) Button Up Special Teams

Columbia’s kicking and kick returning issues have to stop being a liability. It would be kinda nice if they were actually a positive, but we can settle for not being a negative for now.


5) Get Out of Your Heads

This is a variation on the “get the killer instinct” cry I’ve made for many years. After last week’s late fumble on a botched snap, I have to add something about not getting too tight to all that. I expect this will be another close game. Thus, the chance that the Lions will be under pressure at some point late in the game is high. Thinking too much in a position like that is all too common and must be avoided.


SEE YOU ALL TOMORROW!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week 2 Picks


Okay, I’m feeling pretty good after my first week of picking with the spread.

Let’s review my choices from last week and how I did:


Georgetown at Yale (Yale is favored by 11 ½)

JAKE SAID: “I am taking Georgetown and the 11 ½ points while I still pick Yale to win the game outright.”

RESULTS: Yup. Yale won, but by just 5 points. 1-0 and 1-0 Against the Spread.



Stony Brook at Brown (Brown is favored by 7 ½)

JAKE SAID: “The 7 ½ point spread is way too generous in my opinion, especially since I think Stony Brook will win the game too.”

RESULTS: I was right about the spread, but wrong about the winner. 1-1 and 2-0 ATS.


Princeton at Lehigh (Lehigh is favored by 5 ½ points)

JAKE SAID: “I’m taking Lehigh and giving the 5 1/2 points.”

RESULTS: Double winner there. 2-1 and 3-0 ATS.


Dartmouth at Bucknell (Dartmouth is favored by 4 points)

JAKE SAID: “I’ll take Dartmouth and give the four points.”

RESULTS: Dartmouth won by 23. 3-1 and 4-0 ATS.


Cornell at Wagner (Cornell is favored by 4 ½ points)

JAKE SAID: “I’ll take the Big Red and give the 4 ½ points.”

RESULTS: Worst pick of the week by me. 3-2 and 4-1 ATS


Holy Cross at Harvard (Harvard is favored by 3 points)

JAKE SAID: “I’ll take Harvard and give the three points.”

RESULTS: Harvard wins in a blowout. 4-2 and 5-1 ATS.


Lafayette at Penn (Penn is favored by 11 ½ points)

JAKE SAID: “Take the Leopards and grab the 11 ½ points, but expect Penn to win.”

RESULTS: Perhaps my best pick of the week. 5-2 and 6-1 ATS.


Towson at Villanova (Villanova favored by 31 points)

JAKE SAID: “I say take Towson and grab the 31 points, but Villanova is still a shoo-in to win the actual game.”

RESULTS: So close… Towson wasn’t able to cover. 6-2 and 6-2 ATS.


6-2 against the spread!!!! But as they say in ads for diet pills, I realize these “results may not be typical.”

However, if I keep this up I am moving to Vegas and starting a sports book.


Okay, now to the new challenges:


Yale -13 ½ at Cornell

I don’t usually like choosing road teams to cover by two scores in today’s Ivy League. But Cornell is hurting and is now forced to start a freshman QB in week 2. This seems ugly.

Take Yale and give the 13 ½.



Sacred Heart -20 at Dartmouth


The Big Green should win this one something like 34-7… that could actually be the halftime score.

Lay the 20 points.


Lafayette -3 ½ at Princeton

Princeton is hurting even more now that Steven Cody is out for the year. Lafayette really needs this win.

Take the Leopards and give the 3 ½.


Harvard -5 ½ at Brown

I’m going for the split decision here. I like Harvard to win, but by about a field goal. The Bears should get some decent home cooking here, but the Crimson are stacked. There’s a reason I picked them to win the league.

Harvard wins, but choose Brown and take the 5 ½ points.



Penn +17 at Villanova

Another tough one. Villanova wins this one, maybe somewhat easily. But I think this Quaker team will defend their pride and keep it within 14 points.

Choose Penn and take the points, but Villanova wins.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scouting Towson


QB Chris Hart remains the starter for Towson


Towson has its game notes and two-deeps up for this Saturday's game against the Lions

If you think there’s a way to get a real grip on this Towson team this season, congratulations… because after two losses to highly superior opponents, (Indiana and Villanova), and a 5 OT win over Coastal Carolina, I’m pretty stumped.

Towson Head Coach Rob Ambrose seems to have a star in QB Chris Hart, but Hart turned the ball over too many times against the Wildcats last week and Ambrose angrily pulled him out of the game. But with Hart’s strong running ability, I’m not surprised he continues to hold the #1 spot.

Many of you probably know about WR Hakeem Moore, a major deep threat who has found a way to make big plays in each of Towson’s three games.

But I’m also a little worried about RB Tremayne Dameron. He’s a top performer who hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do very much, with the exception of a 100+-yard game against Coastal Carolina. However, Dameron may be a little down this Saturday because he lists his favorite pro athlete as Braylon Edwards. (It’s been a bad 48 hours for Braylon).

The elephant in the room here is Towson’s schedule. Coach Ambrose et al must be desperate for a win because their next two games are against UMass and James Madison. UMass just came darn close to knocking off Michigan at the Big House, and JMU is still riding high after that stunning win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

This all comes back to my point that this is a very important game for the Lions. I know it’s not an Ivy contest, but a win on Saturday would speak volumes about this Columbia team.


“Wall Street Mafia?”

Why would Wall Street insiders like the folks at Bloomberg be doing a story about the well-documented and long-established Ivy League pipeline to Wall Street?

I don’t know, but I’m glad they did.

More publicity, especially inside audiences like Bloomberg’s, is good.

Our league could benefit from the apparent strong interest in Ivy football at The Wall Street Journal and now Bloomberg.

Bloomberg TV also sent a reporter to cover the Harvard-Yale game last year.


Baseball Gem

Another GREAT story for Columbia was in the New York Post today. It was about a top baseball recruit, and it’s a feather in the cap for the whole athletic department.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quick Change?


A lot of football coaches will tell you a team puts in its best improvement between week one and week two of the season.

That’s good, because we’d all like to see better things from the Lions this Saturday against Towson.

The game seems eerily familiar to what Columbia faced in week 2 against Central Connecticut State last season.

Like CCSU, Towson features a speedy running QB and a team that has already faced some big-time competition.

Columbia looked great against CCSU in the first half last year, before they made a switch to that speedy QB and suddenly the Lions couldn’t stop the run. The Lions relative weakness against the ground game was exposed in that game and abused by other opponents several times in the next eight weeks.

Columbia hasn’t faced Towson in two years. But that meeting was also in week two, and the game turned out to be the second in a string of five straight very close losses to start the Columbia season in 2008. There aren’t many starters left from either team from that very rainy day at Unitas Stadium.

The early line has Towson as a 2 ½ point favorite. I would have expected worse, but I suppose the odds makers have gained some good respect for the Lions defense.

In my season preview, I tagged this game as the key early season contest to really get a grip on how good the Lions will be in 2010. After a rough loss in week one, it still looks like that kind of a definitive game. A solid performance from the offense plus another great defensive showing could mean better things for the year.


On the Other Hand…

One game we can’t learn much of anything from when it comes to the Ivy race is that Sacred Heart-Dartmouth game in Hanover this Saturday.

I can’t remember another time when an Ivy team was facing such an obvious mismatch in a non-conference game. I seriously think the Dartmouth backups could win this game by seven points against the Sacred Heart starters.

The early line on this game has the Big Green favored by 20 points. I don’t like sports betting, but if you are so inclined, don’t let this big line scare you away. The spread is justified… and then some. My guess is the spread will get larger as the week goes on. Heart’s only saving grace may be that Buddy Teevens is a gentleman and he may pull his starters very early.

It will be great for Dartmouth to get a win, but the easy opponent does them no favors in the long run as the Big Green prepare for Penn in week 3. On the other end of the spectrum, Penn takes on super powerhouse Villanova this Saturday. Talk about a major contrast for these two teams as they head into their big league opener at Franklin Field on 10/2.


The BIG Game

But the real focus in the Ivies this Saturday is the Harvard-Brown game in Providence this Saturday night. This will be first-ever night game at Brown Stadium.

Right now, Harvard is a 5 ½ point favorite and I think that’s fair after the way the Crimson slashed Holy Cross in week one.

Brown is expected to have #1 QB Kyle Newhall Caballero back after a hand injury kept him out of the Bears OT win over Stony Brook last week.

The Brown offense seems up to the task, but the defense has a tough job to contain the Crimson passing attack led by Andrew Hatch. And the Harvard running weapons weren’t even really used that much against the Crusaders in what had to be a nice tune-up game for that new offensive line.

Halftime Interviews

I hope everyone enjoyed my halftime interview with John Alex ’89 on Saturday. You can hear it by clicking onto the audio replay of the Fordham game here.

This coming Saturday, I’ll be sticking with the ex-football captain theme as I will interview Chris Carey ’04. Chris was a great linebacker with a great Columbia pedigree as you will all learn from the interview.

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?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Overnight Sensations


Andrew Hatch looks bigger with bifocals

The results from the two late Ivy games are in and they seem rather telling.

Harvard crushed Holy Cross 34-6 behind a near perfect game from QB Andrew Hatch. Hatch went 20-25 for 276 yards, three TD's and no INT's. Somebody check if there's surveillance camera film of Coach Murphy deliberately injuring Collier Winters ;) .

The entire Harvard machine looked very strong from top to bottom. Next week, the Crimson take on Brown in the first big Ivy intraleague game of the year. More on that later.

Also last night, Penn came back to beat Lafayette at home, 19-14. A sloppy first half put the Quakers down 14-6, but when QB Billy Ragone replaced starter Ryan Becker, the game turned around.

Keiffer Garton did not play for Penn, and Lafayette's top QB was also out most of the game. It's hard to get a good read on the Quakers right now and next week's game against super powerhouse Villanova won't provide much insight either.

Speaking of Villanova, the Wildcats crushed the Lions' next opponent Towson, 43-7. It was 36-0 at the half before Villanova presumably brought in the second team. Towson was held to just eight first downs and 180 total yards. Tiger receiver Hakeem Moore was a bit of a bright spot, catching a 59-yard TD pass after the Wildcats made it 43-0.

Getting back to Brown-Harvard, the game looks like it will be even better than first thought as Brown's offense has clearly not missed a beat despite the graduation of a bevy of skill players. The Bears 33-30 double OT win is even more impressive considering it came without starting QB Kyle Newhall Caballero who is out indefinitely with a reinjured hand. Senior backup Joe Springer stepped in and looked shaky at times, but still put up big numbers.


Jake's Ivy Power Rankings 9/19


1. Harvard (preaseason #1)

The older and wiser Hatch is the real deal. Next stop, the canasta tournament in Boca!


2. Brown (preseason #3)

Up a notch after the impressive win vs. Stony Brook, but the Bears can't beat the Crimson without Caballero.


3. Penn (preseason #2)

Down a notch after a win over a hobbled Lafayette, but will Bagnoli risk putting Garton in next week against Villanova? No way.


4. Dartmouth (preaseason #6)

Up two big nothes because you gotta like the offensive explosion in the second half and Schwieger's 200+ rushing yards. But how did they stumble so badly in the first half against Bucknell? Next week against Sacred Heart looks like a bigger lock than before.


5. Yale (preseason #4)

Good offense, bad defense for the Elis so far. Wasn't it supposed to be the other way around?


6. Columbia (preseason #5)

Offense seems anemic, defense looks tough. Stephens seems like he's out for he year with that late injury. Lions need to get act together in time for Princeton in two weeks.


7. Princeton (preseason #7)

Not as bad as many thought they would be and Culbreath looks like he's back. Defense may have dropped a notch though.


55. Cornell (preseason #8)

41-7 loss Wagner?!? Oh. My. God.

Sputtering out of the Gate

Fordham 16 Columbia 9



Why Fordham Won

The Rams eventually wore the Lions down with a relentless running attack and a timely pass or two to score their first and deciding TD late in the fourth quarter. On defense, Fordham shut down the Lion running attack in all the key moments.


Why Columbia Lost

The Lions offense waited far to long to vary its attack, waiting until the games final drive to get big yards on a long drive. A botched snap ended what looked like a great chance for Columbia to tie it in the final seconds.


Turning Point

Just like last year, a special teams miscue shifted the momentum away from the Lions. After a brilliant short TD pass from Sean Brackett to Mike Stephens gave Columbia a 9-3 lead in the third quarter, the PAT was blocked. Columbia did not score again.


Columbia Positives

Brackett looked like a 5th year senior rather than a sophomore making only his fifth career start. He did not throw an INT, and he directed traffic successfully in some hairy situations throughout the game. While he did not run nearly as much as expected, he still did a good job to avoid the big hits when he did take off.

Alex Gross led the defense with 14 tackles and 10 solo stops in his first game bak since his week 4 injury in 2009.

Neil Schuster had a breakout game, especially against the run, with 11 tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

The new-look defensive line did very well overall. Fordham did gain over 200 yards on the ground, but that was not due to any real weaknesses up front. New contributors Matt Stotler, Josh Martin, Seyi Adebayo and even freshman Joe Raimondi made a nice impression in sustained playing time.

Nico Gutierrez had his best game since freshman year with 88 total receiving yards inlcuding a beauty of a catch on Columbia's final drive.


Columbia Negatives

Too often, running Leon Ivery into the line resulted in nothing much for the Lion running attack. Ivery did yeoman work, and avoided fumbling the ball at least, but he was stuffed all too often.

The PAT block was all too much of a reminder of last season's kicking woes.

The turnover in the final minutes inside the Ram 10 was far too reminiscent of Columbia over the last several seasons. At that key moment in a tight game, we still did not see a really confident, careful squad with a killer instinct.

When it comes to the five keys to the game that I laid out yesterday, Columbia failed to execute on three of them.

They did not stop the Fordham run quite as effectively as they needed to, (although it was close).

They did not run the ball well enough.

They missed a PAT.

On the positive side, Brackett kept himself healthy and looked poised most of the game. The Lions also did not get burned by any trick plays.


Columbia MVP

Alex Gross gets the nod over Brackett as Gross truly directed an overall brilliant performance by the defense.



In other News...

The big shocker was on Staten Island where favored Cornell was stomped by Wagner by a staggering 41-7 score. We knew this would be a rebuilding year for the Big Red, but that's ugly.

Brown and Yale pulled off thrilling wins. The Bears beat Stony Brook in double OT, 33-30, and the Elis won on a TD in the last second.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Liberty Cup Keys to the Game


The Liberty Cup honors Columbia & Fordham alumni who died on 9/11


Fordham Rams at Columbia Lions --- Liberty Cup IX

September 18, 2010

Location: Robert K. Kraft Field at Wien Stadium on the Baker Athletic Complex, West 218th Street and Broadway, New York, NY.

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy, 75 degrees

The Spread: Columbia is favored by 6 points.

Columbia Game Notes

Fordham Game Notes

Watch the game LIVE! Sign up here for SideLion Pass

HOW TO GET TO THE GAME, (Jake’s preferred methods):

By Subway, take the Uptown A train to the final stop at 207th Street. Exit from the 211th Street exit and walk up to 218th Street.

By Car, do whatever you can to avoid the Cross Bronx Expressway.

Full getting to the game details here.



Keys to the Game:


1) Stop the Fordham Run

Columbia can’t let the Rams continue with their strong running start to the 2010 season. The Rams are averaging a whopping 246 yards rushing per game so far.

But Ram Head Coach Tom Masella has been extremely inconsistent with his game strategies during his five year tenure on Rose Hill. But he would have to be certifiably crazy not to feature his very deep and talented running attack against the Lions tomorrow.

That starts with senior Xavier Martin, who has killed Columbia… when the Rams gave him the ball that is.

Masella didn’t give Martin the ball very much last year, and the Lions won the game in the Bronx.

Masella didn’t give Martin the ball until the end of the game in 2008 and that’s when the Rams overcame a nice Columbia lead and squeaked out a win.

Masella gave Martin the ball all night in 2007 and the Rams won in a rout.

This year, Fordham has more weapons on the ground than just Martin. QB Blake Wayne, a junior college transfer, is rushing for 81 yards per game. And the other tailback, Darryl Whiting, is also dangerous.

But the Ram offensive line is still a question mark, and the Lions should have some opportunities to test it. Graduation hit that unit particularly hard.

The Columbia defensive line seems a little nicked up, especially with junior Owen Fraser not even appearing on the two-deep. But as Bruce Wood of the Big Green Alert Blog wrote yesterday, the depth charts are often not worth the paper they’re not printed on.

Whoever is playing on the front line, they will be tested. But help will be there with the returning Alex Gross and a rejuvenated Matt Moretto starring as linebackers. Also, you can expect a big year from MLB Nick Mistretta.

Stopping the run isn’t just the top key to this game, it’s the top key to the 2010 for Columbia.


2) Run the Ball with Authority

For some reason, the Lions running game didn’t work at all against Brown in the preseason scrimmage. The fact that QB Sean Brackett wasn’t playing was probably the biggest reason.

The left side, anchored 1st Team All Ivy LT Jeff Adams and bolstered by the strong Bob Hauschildt at LG, looks extremely solid. Adams and Hauschildt don't just come from the state of Illinois, they just about ARE the state of Illinois when they line up together. Adams is bigger and somehow even faster than he was last year. His off season training program was a super success.

But the right side of the Columbia offensive line needs to prove itself. Ian Quirk is back, and he’s been more than solid since he began starting at RG his sophomore year. As of now, the two-deep lists sophomore Scott Ward at the starting RT, but we’ll see. Dan Cohen was the projected starter there during the off season so I am not so sure he won’t actually be out there when the game really begins.

I expect the Lions to use the option run early and often. Brackett executed it better than any Ivy QB I’ve ever seen last season. It’s definitely a strength if the revamped O-line is up to the challenge.

The actual ball carriers look good. Brackett is the speediest QB in the league and he can be lethal if he starts avoiding hits a little better than last year. In most recent years, running backs Leon Ivery, Zack Kourouma, Nick Gerst, and Marcorus Garrett would each have been shoo-ins for the starting job on their own for Columbia. But this year, they’re all on the squad at once. That begs for the running by committee plan Coach Wilson has been talking about in preseason interviews.

But don’t be surprised if one runner really emerges in the first few weeks and starts becoming a truly featured back.

Either way, the Lions can’t win this game and can’t have a successful season without at least matching their running effectiveness of 2009.


3) Keep Brackett Healthy


Much of this burden will be on Brackett himself. He needs to be more like Fran Tarkenton and take fewer hits. He also needs to become more of a threat in the passing game.

Brackett actually threw the ball nicely last season, but you could tell his first instinct was to run on most plays in 2009.

Brackett has a much stronger arm than most fans realize and while Austin Knowlin is gone, he has a lot of receivers to chose from this season to spread the ball around. The best way to keep Brackett healthy is to let him throw the ball quick and short regularly to freeze the blitz and keep the action centered somewhere other than the pocket.

I think a key player in this regard is TE Andrew Kennedy. Andrew had a super season last year, but he needs to take the next step. If Brackett can rely on him to go from a 2-3 receptions per game receiver to a 5-6 receptions per game receiver or more, that will be a huge help.


4) Don’t Sleep on Caldwell and Skelton

Fordham has that great running attack, but Masella will definitely try to test the Lion secondary with weapons like WR Jason Caldwell and TE Stephen Skelton.

Caldwell already has 20 receptions this season and is clearly Wayne’s go-to guy. The talented and very tall Skelton hasn’t been getting into the mix much, but he’s ripe for a breakout game. Surely, he wants to prove he can be an attractive target for someone other than his brother, former Ram QB John Skelton.


5) Make the PAT’s and Have a Chance on the Short FG’s

Columbia doesn’t have to have a FG kicker with 85% accuracy from 45 yards out, (though that would be REAL nice), but they need to feel confident that the vast majority of kicks from 35 yards and closer will be good. PAT’s? Forget about it if the Lions can’t get better than 95% accuracy there.

Who knows how much better Columbia’s final record would have been if the kicking had been better? This season is a big test for the Lions and the coaching staff’s ability to make this better.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week 1 Picks




Week 1 Picks


Last year I went 34-8 in my picks of all the games involving Ivy League teams other than Columbia.

I usually have a similar winning percentage.

But that was easy. I was just picking winners and losers.

This year, I am going to set the bar higher and include the spreads just to make it tougher on myself.

For the record, I will not be supplying the name of the source on the betting lines because I actually really oppose sports betting and I am the one schmuck in America who really does use them “for entertainment purposes only.”

Also, I will continue to not pick Columbia games for obvious reasons.

Okay disclaimers over!


Georgetown at Yale (Yale is favored by 11 ½)

Good for Georgetown for finally pulling off a big upset and shocking Lafayette in Easton last week. But I don’t think the Hoyas can pull it off two weeks in a row… not on the road at least.

However, that 11 ½ point spread is too big in my opinion. I am not high on Yale and will need the Bulldogs to beat someone bigger than Georgetown to change my mind.

So, I am taking Georgetown and the 11 ½ points while I still pick Yale to win the game outright.


Stony Brook at Brown (Brown is favored by 7 ½)

I am very high on Stony Brook this season. This is a team on the rise that just got supercharged with a few transfers from Hofstra after that program discontinued football.

Brown is a big question mark this season with all the graduating stars off the roster. Don’t get me wrong, I still expect the Bears to be a good team and I think the world of Phil Estes.

But 7 ½ point spread is way too generous in my opinion, especially since I think Stony Brook will win the game too.


Princeton at Lehigh (Lehigh is favored by 5 ½ points)

Lehigh is generally on the rise and I think this will be a tough year for the Tigers.

I REALLY don’t like Princeton’s offense line that looks more like a patchwork job than one of my 2nd grade dioramas.

I’m taking Lehigh and giving the 5 ½ points.


Dartmouth at Bucknell (Dartmouth is favored by 4 points)

The Bison just don’t look very good this year, especially on offense.

I know Dartmouth hasn’t won a road game since 2006, but this Bucknell squad is hurting.

One thing I can say: if the Big Green lose this game, it’ll be a disaster for the program that’s promising big improvements this season.

I’ll take Dartmouth and give the four points.


Cornell at Wagner (Cornell is favored by 4 ½ points)

I think this will be a very tough year for the Big Red, but Wagner is just not a program on a par with even the weakest Ivy team.

I am high on the new Cornell coaching staff, so this looks like a lock.

I’ll take the Big Red and give the 4 ½ points.


Holy Cross at Harvard (Harvard is favored by 3 points)

This is NOT the same Crusader team we’ve come to know the last 4-5 years. It’s not a bad squad, but Harvard should not have too much trouble handling them at home.

I’ll take Harvard and give the three points.


Lafayette at Penn (Penn is favored by 11 ½ points)

I know Lafayette is emotionally and physically wounded after its loss to Georgetown last week. But an 11 ½ point spread is an insult to the Leopards, and it must not be making the Penn coaches very happy.

There’s a good chance Lafayette wins this game outright, especially if Keiffer Garton doesn’t play.

But I think the Quakers will win the game in the end… just not by two scores.

Take the Leopards and grab the 11 ½ points, but expect Penn to win.


Towson at Villanova (Villanova favored by 31 points)

Villanova is a truly great team, but I think Towson will do better than Lehigh did last week against the Wildcats in a 35-0 loss.

I say take Towson and grab the 31 points, but Villanova is still a shoo-in to win the actual game.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Favored Class



The just-released betting lines for this Saturday have EVERY Ivy team except Princeton favored to win!

(NOTE: I will NOT be making predictions on Columbia games for a number of reasons. This has always been my policy. Also, I want to make it clear that I ABHOR sports betting, but I do have the utmost respect for the odds makers who are eerily good at setting the betting lines for football. Like it or not, the lines are an important factor to consider).

Our Lions are six point favorites over Fordham.

Lehigh is a three point favorite at home over the rebuilding Tigers.

The biggest surprise to me was the 7 ½ point line favoring Brown over Stony Brook. I think Brown is good and certainly can win, but Stony Brook looks stacked and I don’t see them losing by more than a TD.

Lafayette takes the hardest hit after its loss to Georgetown and the injuries in the game. The Leopards are now whopping 11 1/2 point underdogs to Penn at Franklin Field.

Georgetown gets no love after beating Lafayette. The Hoyas are 11 1/2 point dogs at Yale.

Harvard is just a three point favorite at home over Holy Cross.

Dartmouth gets just a four point cushion at Bucknell.

And Cornell is a 4 ½ point favorite at Wagner.

In other Columbia opponent news, week two foe Towson is a 31 point underdog at defending FCS champion Villanova.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Winding Road to Wien


Remember this Sign...



... and remember this train!



Every year, I publish my guide to getting to the Columbia home games at Kraft Field at Wien Stadium at the Baker Athletic Complex.

But this year, you REALLY need to pay attention to the guide because there are some significant updates you must kmow about, so read through it carefully:


THE #1 HEADLINE

For those of you who haven't heard, the the #1 train on the NYC Subway will NOT be running on weekends this season.

(The ONE exception is Homecoming Weekend, that's the October 23rd game against Dartmouth, when the #1 will be running).

I think most students and a lot of others choose the #1 train as their primary route to the games.

Many, many Columbia fans are probably ignorant of the GREAT other choices, (and in my opinion, BETTER choices), for getting to Baker.

My favorite public transportation option is the A train.

All the details are below...


Step one: DON'T PANIC



Getting around New York City, and Manhattan in particular, is all about your state of mind. If you're an overly aggressive or too passive driver, you will either drop dead of a tension-induced stroke or become the victim of a panic attack, respectively. The city is fraught with double-parkers, Kamikaze cabs with no regard for life and limb, and people who routinely make right turns from the left lane.



But fear not! The road to the Baker Athletics Complex is filled with special advantages and other options that can make the whole experience livable, decent, and even fun.

The key to avoiding disappointment, dyspepsia, and dismemberment is to LEAVE YOURSELF A LOT OF TIME.

Other than the Homecoming game which starts at 1:30, the Columbia home games will begin at 12:30 this season, (some times could change, but that's how it stands as of now). With another season's worth of great pre-game activities in the works, (like free beverages, even some beers for those of you over 21), the best thing that could happen is that you show up an hour or so before the game and enjoy a good time in the picnic area. Is that so bad? And if you just make it in time for the game, well then you made it. Either way, going early is the way to go.




Baker or Morningside: Make Your Choice Now

Before we talk about getting to the actual game by car, ask yourself where you'd really like to keep your gas-guzzling SUV for the day. Do you want to park it up at the very tip of Manhattan, or do you want to keep it near the Columbia campus where you can spend a very pleasant morning and late afternoon/evening before and after the game? This is not exactly a rhetorical question, as there ARE things to do and see not far from Wien Stadium... but it's not exactly a culinary hotbed, in fact it's quite residential, (in the Baker Field neighborhood of Inwood there are actually a few houses... detached houses in Manhattan!). There are new choices lately. Just over the Broadway Bridge north of the stadium there's a strip mall with an Applebee's and a Starbucks!


You can also park very close to the stadium at many of the newly-opened garages within 1-6 blocks of Baker.


But My advice would be to park the car near the Columbia campus, which is only 100 blocks or so from Baker Field, (I will discuss how to get to the game from campus and more to do around Morningside Heights later). There is more to do, see, and definitely eat around there.





A path in Inwood Hill Park... yes, this IS Manhattan!

BUT definitely choose one game, and check out Inwood and its environs during the season. Parts of Inwood Hill Park are the only pieces of Manhattan that still look as they did in 1524 when the Dutch explorers arrived.

A few blocks South of Inwood is Washington Heights, a very resurgent neighborhood with lots of interesting Latin restaurants and shops.






The Cloisters... an excellent Marital Bargaining Unit if I say so myself

One Washington Heights highlight about 30 blocks South from the Baker Field is the lovely Cloisters. Most Columbia students get sick of the Cloisters after a few years, (some classes make you go there too many times), but it's a great place for the uninitiated. It's also not a bad date spot. So, if you have a wife or girlfriend who's none too pleased about being dragged to a football game, the Cloisters can be your olive branch. No need to thank me if your lady ends up thinking you're a romantic genius; like Billy Flynn, all I care about is love.




But How Do We Get to Neverland?

The directions provided here by the athletic department are very good. You can use them with confidence... but don't ignore the key section of those directions for people coming from Queens, Long Island, Eastern Brooklyn via the Belt Parkway, and that includes JFK Airport and La Guardia. If you are one of those people, I'm about to save you anywhere from 45 minutes to 7 hours by urging you to never, never, even if you're a Penn fan, NEVER take the Cross Bronx Expressway!


The Cross Bronx Expressway... dear Lord, why us?

The Cross Bronx Expressway was designed by Robert Moses a brilliant but evil man whose disdain for ordinary people was well documented by Robert Caro in The Power Broker. If you live in New York, drive in New York, or are thinking about driving in New York, you owe it to yourself to read this book. One great section details how the Cross Bronx Expressway was poorly designed from the outset, destroyed good middle class neighborhoods like East Tremont, and virtually guarantees traffic jams at the drop of a hat. And the kicker is, a lot of other urban planners in the 40's, 50's and 60's emulated this man and his designs. Robert Moses is a big reason why driving in America sucks.

So avoid the Cross Bronx, take the Grand Central Parkway to the Triboro Bridge, (now named the "RFK Bridge," presumably to honor the old home of the Redskins), follow the signs to Manhattan, (DON'T MAKE "THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES" MISTAKE AND END UP IN THE BRONX), and THEN take the Harlem River Drive North. Take the HRD to the 10th Avenue/Dyckman Street exit, (this is also the end of the Harlem River Drive, so it should not be hard to miss), make the first right at the first light that will take you onto 10th Avenue if you stay straight, (you'll be driving under an elevated subway track). 10th Avenue runs parallel to Broadway and will take you straight up to 215th Street, 218th Street, or wherever you want to go in the Baker Complex vicinity.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Harlem River Drive is officially a parkway, so if you're driving a U-Haul or a big bus of people, you can't take it. Otherwise, you and your sedan, SUV, pickup truck, etc. can enjoy it. IF YOU'RE TAKING A CAB FROM THE QUEENS AIRPORTS... MAKE SURE YOU TELL THE CABBIE TO TAKE THE TRIBORO/RFK BRIDGE TO THE HARLEM RIVER DRIVE. DON'T LET THE DRIVER TAKE YOU INTO MANHATTAN!!!

Parking: The Odyssey

Option 1: Donate to CU!

Now if you're going to park near Baker Field, your options are limited, but there ARE options. Your first option is to send a big fat check to the Athletic Department and grab one of the sweet spots in the Baker Field complex itself reserved for generous donors. Seriously, I can think or worse ways to spend your money, and having a spot at Baker Field is like being a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway during "Buffettstock"... you get to enjoy your investment in a party atmosphere!

Option 2: Parking Garages Ahoy! See the parking link above. FYI: in the past, parking has cost fans about $15 for the whole game.

Option 3: Street Parking, or "The Hunt"

Of course, you can try being really sneaky and try to park for free on the residential streets around the area. This is really something for early-birds, as the spots fill up fast. In fact, there aren't a lot of spots to begin with because Inwood is really residential and the local folks like to keep their spots for the weekend. BUT, the eagle-eyed among you may be able to find a nice spot and enjoy knowing that you're a winner even before kickoff by saving a few bucks with a free spot. There are a couple of important pitfalls to avoid:

a) If you aren't really good at parallel parking, don't even think about parking on the streets of Inwood. The hilly terrain makes even seasoned parkers a little nervous, and all those scratched bumpers and fenders on the parked cars are proof of the "goofs" people make from time to time.

b) Inwood is not really a high-crime area, especially during the day, but you should never tempt fate. Lock your cars. DO NOT keep any packages or valuables in plain sight in your car, and you probably should leave them out of the trunk too if you can. This is especially true if you are driving a car with out-of-state plates.

c) Make sure to check the street signs to see if you're parking in a legal spot. Saturdays are usually immune from alternate side of the street parking rules... but not always. You cannot park within six feet, either way, of a fire hydrant, and you also need to give a lot space for bus stops. You cannot block any driveways. And if there's a yellow stripe painted on the curb, you can't park there either. A good M.O. is to eye every open spot with EXTREME SUSPICION, the chances are more than likely that the spot is there because it's not a legal spot.

d) You may be hampered even further in your quest for free parking if the NYPD blocks 218th Street at Broadway which they often do on game days. To be safe, just find your way to Seaman Avenue, which runs parallel to Broadway on the WEST and start looking for spots there. You might consider printing out a Google Map of Inwood, NY to learn to navigate the local streets better. Remember to look out for one-way streets and the occasional street fair which often pops up and further kills parking opportunities on the weekends.

TIME OUT! WHY IS THIS SO HARD?

Manhattan is a great and unique place. One of the things that makes it so unique is that every inch of land is super-valuable and the chances of any institution setting aside lots of space for occasional parking is not likely or even sane. Most sensible people living in all parts of Manhattan do so without a car, regardless of their economic stature. A day or two driving around here will tell you why.

That's why we have the best public transportation system in the world. And luckily, there are a number of more relaxing and reliable ways to get to Baker Field.


Public Transportation Option 1: From Columbia Campus

You can ditch your car at one of the many parking garages near the Columbia campus, or try to find free street parking, (it's not much easier than Inwood, but doable), and then take the free shuttle bus or public transportation.

To get the subway somewhat direct to the stadium you can 1) catch the uptown #1 train at 116th Street and SWITCH to the A at 168th Street. I do NOT recommend this option as the transfer involves taking a creepy and long elevator ride and I just hate the 168th station! AND THIS WEEKEND... that option is not even viable as there will be no subway service uptown after 96th Street. Seriously, forget the #1 train this fall, folks!

You CAN 2) walk down the hill at West 110th Street, get on the uptown C train and switch at 168th Street for the A from there. That transfer does not involve the creepy elevator and is much better, but still not ideal.

Taking the subway is your best option, even with the loss of the #1 train. Just remember that getting the A directly is a lot easier from Midtown Manhattan, where most hotels are located anyway. From the Columbia campus, you can also take the #1 DOWNTOWN to 59th and then get on the A train UPTOWN from there. It's not too terrible to do that actually.

If you're in Manhattan, I recommend taking the A at the 59th Street and Broadway station. It is a VERY short ride, (less than 20-25 minutes), from there. The A train runs on the far West side of Manhattan, through Brooklyn, past JFK airport, and all the way to a neighborhood where I did a lot of my growing up called Far Rockaway. The uptown or Manhattan bound A takes you the 207th Street stop, which is the last stop. Exit at the 211th Street exit and then you can either walk the seven blocks along Broadway, (about 35% of a mile), to Baker Field or better yet, enter Isham Park on your left and enjoy a nicer trip that will take you to Seaman Avenue along the left side of the park and you will see Wien Stadium right in front of you at the end of the avenue. This is a more scenic walk and will give you a better idea of what Inwood is like.

If you REALLY want to avoid walking, Columbia is running shuttle buses from the 207th Street stop to the stadium.




To ride the NYC subway you will need a Metrocard. I recommend the all-day "fun pass" that will allow you a full day's use of the subways AND buses no matter how many times you choose to ride. Unless you're absolutely 100% sure you'll only be going to the game and back, this is a good value. If you are just going to the game and back, go to the booth or the automated Metrocard machines and buy a two-trip card, (note: the all-day pass is ONLY sold at the machines, not at the booth). The machines take cash, credit and debit cards.

When you get to the platform, again make sure that you are on the UPTOWN side awaiting the UPTOWN train.




FREE BUSES!

If the subway isn't for you, for the last several years Columbia has been running free shuttle buses to and from Baker Field on game days. They usually run from the 116th Street and Broadway entrance, but ask the security guards at the gate to be sure. I'm not sure how long it takes for these buses to reach the stadium, but they will always be slower than the subway. (There is no faster way to get around Manhattan than the subway... none).

A number of NYC buses, (not free, you need a Metrocard), run to the Baker Field area, but I really don't recommend using them. They are extremely slow, (what do you call it when you have sex on a NYC bus? "Joining the 3-mile-an-hour club"), and erratic on the weekends. BUT if there ever is a fire on the subway or something, it's good to know they're there.



The Marble Hill Station on Metro North

One of the most beautiful ways to get to a Columbia game is on the Metro North commuter railroad. Take the HUDSON RIVER LINE to the Marble Hill stop and simply walk over the footbridge to Baker Field. The views of the Hudson that you will get if you're coming from the North, (if you're looking to go this way from Grand Central Terminal, it's not a terrible idea, but much more expensive than just taking the subway from another station on the West Side), are just great. Here is the link to a schedule of trains running Saturdays from Grand Central to Marble Hill this year. Note the reliable 19-20 minute travel time and the many, many options you have for trains all the way through game time. If you are staying on the East Side of Manhattan, this is a GREAT option.



Cab Anyone?

You can always try to hail a yellow cab and tell the driver to take you to WEST 218th and Broadway, (don't say "Baker Field," there's a very good chance he won't know what you're talking about), and go that way. I expect the trip will cost about $15-$18 in cab fare not including tip... but it varies.

In NYC there are also non-yellow so-called "gypsy" cabs that may honk their horns at you and offer you a ride. The official rules in the city say that you can't take a ride with them without arranging it in advance, but I have found they are usually reliable. The price should be about the same as Yellow cab, but they don't use a meter... so make sure you agree on the fare before you get in.

What if I'm coming from New Jersey, and I want to take Public Transportation?

New Jersey Transit trains take you to Penn Station where you can get the A train, or a cab. I'm not sure about the reliability of NJT trains or buses on weekends, but perhaps some of my readers would like to chime in about that in the comments section.

Isn't the Subway Dangerous?

Not really. It's dirtier than it should be, but in general it's fine. Here are some subway safety tips for the very cautious. Basically, keep your wallets and valuables secure, try to ride with or near larger groups of people, and try not to telegraph the fact you're a tourist by pulling out a map every two seconds. It's okay to ask fellow riders directions; most New Yorkers like proving they know the City.

I'm Coming from JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark Airport. What should I do?

A cab from Newark directly to Baker Field is actually not that terribly expensive. But from the other major airports, I suggest you get into Manhattan via a cab and then take the subway, unless you have lots of bags which will make the whole day a pain. In that case, try to get to your hotel first, dump the bags and then follow the directions above.

What if I get Lost?

Go into almost any store you see and ask for help. Store owners can sometimes seem surly, but they'll probably help you. Cops on the street will be good too.

Can't I Just Come with You?

I'd love the company, but I don't think that will work. I am with you in spirit, I promise.

Game Notes & Two-Deeps Released


Nico Gutierrez is back on the two-deep! (CREDIT: Colubia Athletics)


The game notes and the long-awaited two-deeps for the opener against Fordham have been released by the athletic department.

Also, there's the official announcement that Sal Licata from SNY will be taking over my duties as color commentator. (I will still be producing and conducting halftime interviews). I met Sal on Saturday at Wien Stadium and he was a great guy... but more importantly, he's a sports broadcasting professional who will do a fine job.

As I say every year, it's important to remember the two-deeps are mostly the same as what you'll see on game day, but they are not to be taken as the Bible. You really have to pay attention when the team runs out onto the field for the first plays from scrimmage to really know all the starters.

But here's how the lineup looks on paper:



OFFENSE


STARTER (Backup)

QB: Sean Brackett (Jerry Bell)

RB: Leon Ivery or Zack Kourouma (Nick Gerst)

FB: Nathan Lenz (Nico Papas)

TE: Andrew Kennedy (Clif Pope)

WR: Mike Stephens (Mark Muston)

WR: Nico Gutierrez (Kurt Williams)

LT: Jeff Adams (Dan Cohen)

LG: Bob Hauschildt (Prentis Robinson)

C: Kyle Stupi (Tim Skalak)

RG: Ian Quirk (Eric Walker)

RT: Scott Ward (Sam Cecil)


DEFENSE


STARTER (Backup)

CB: Calvin Otis (Rex Cole)

FS: Adam Mehrer (Steven Grassa)

SS: Neil Schuster (Dan Myers or Mike Murphy)

CB: Craig Hamilton (A.J. Maddox)

SAM: Matt Moretto (Ryan Haslett)

MIKE: Nick Mistretta (Marc Holloway)

WILL: Alex Gross (Evan Miller)

DE: Seyi Adebayo (Josh Martin)

NT: Chris Groth (Joe Raimondi)

DT: Matt Stotler (Ben Popeck)

DE: Josh Smith (Will Patterson or Ryan Murphy)


SPECIAL TEAMS

STARTER (Backup)

PK: Dean Perfetti (Luke Eddy)

P: Greg Guttas (Andrew Weiss)

KR: Craig Hamilton (Mike Murphy)

PR: Mike Stephens (Nico Gutierrez)

H: Mike Stephens (Paul Havas)

LS: Bryan Kipp (Ben Popeck)



My Take:

-Owen Fraser is not on the two-deep, but don't be surprised if he's in on the first play from scrimmage... and also don't be surprised if he's held out of the game or a lot of the game to make sure he's 100% for the Ivy League opponents.

-Ditto for Kalasi Huggins at CB.

-I think we'll see a lot of running backs get playing time Saturday, thus it's nice they put three names under the "RB" column.

-Scott Ward surprised me as the #1 at right tackle. He was always a good looking prospect, but this is a big jump for a sophomore.

-The special teams info may be completely jumbled by game time.


-It's great to see Nico Gutierrez back in the two deep. This time as a starter!

Big News


Hatch it is!



Call Highlights

I was able to listen in to some of the weekly Ivy League Football coaches conference call today.

The big news came from Harvard Head Coach Tim Murphy who announced that last year's starting QB, Collier Winters, is out for the season with a turn labrum. So the controversial Andrew Hatch will be the starter after all... as I predicted years ago.

At 24, and with two transfers and a rescinded commitment under his belt, Hatch has a huge bullseye on his back this year.

Here were some of the highlights from Head Coach Norries Wilson’s remarks:

-He thought practices were good this camp. He realizes that the scrimmage was bad against Brown, but reminded everyone that Columbia played well in opening games after bad scrimmages in 2008 and 2009.

-Have to get ready for Fordham. They’ve shown a good ability to score points.

-Great to have Alex Gross and Owen Fraser back. No substitute for good players.

-Sean Brackett will be the starting QB barring him getting kidnapped! Sean has grown up. He gets better with every rep he takes. He has a decent hold on the passing game now, and when that gets even better, he will be a “great quarterback” for Columbia.

-He’s been thinking about how to replace Austin Knowlin since the end of last year. Our receivers and runners need to pick up the slack from losing him.

-Tight end Andrew Kennedy has been playing since he was a freshman. We think linebackers trying to cover him is a mismatch in our favor.

-Jeff Adams needs to realize that last year is over. He needs to play with a “bad attitude” every day!

Estes Speaks Out

I also got a chance to ask Brown Coach Phil Estes about how he was planning to stop Stony Brook’s powerful running attack despite the losses of guys like James Develin and Dave Howard to graduation.

Estes insisted he isn’t going to change his strategy, he’ll just use eight-man fronts and his players will just have to avoid missed tackles.

He also sounded like he’s going to use all the talk about the losses of Howard, Develin, and Buddy Farnham and Bobby Sewall as a motivating tool for his team this year. It sounds like the Bears are getting a little annoyed at how more attention is being paid to graduated players than the team right now.


In other highlights...

-Jordan Culbreath WILL start for Princeton against Lehigh. That's a great story and a triumph over disease.

-Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli says he's still not sure if he'll start Keiffer Garton Saturday. It could be Ryan Becker or Billy Ragone at QB.

-New Cornell Head Coach Kent Austin says both Adam Currie and Jeff Matthews will get some snaps at QB this Saturday. No definite word on who is the actual "starter."


Thomas Autopsy

On a somber note, we have some scary reports that Penn player Owen Thomas’ suicide may have been partly due to a brain disease that’s a result of concussions. They bring renewed urgency to the concussion studies being conducted by a number of football experts, including a number of former Ivy players turned doctors. Incidentally, Al Bagnoli would NOT comment about this story in the coaches conference call this morning!

But for parents worried about letting their kids play football or any other sports, please consider this:

We have a MUCH bigger epidemic in this country with childhood obesity, adult obesity, juvenile diabetes, etc. We need more kids playing sports, not less. The chances of a kid getting a serious injury that will lead to death from playing sports are minute compared to risks of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes inactive children face much more often.

I DO want the safety issues addressed in football. The helmet is used as a weapon far too often. But give me more kids playing football, not less

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Starving and Waiting


We’ve finally begun our first game week of the 2010 season and that means we’ll soon have a lot of the information we’ve been waiting so long for.

That includes:

1) Two Deeps

We could see the starting lineups in the game notes as early as tomorrow, but if Fordham delays their release we’ll have to wait a little longer. Also, seasoned Columbia fans know the official published lineups aren’t usually what you see when the games actually start. But you know we’ll all devour every piece of info on that two-deep anyway… because we’re STARVED for COLUMBIA FOOTBALL!!!


2) Weather reports

Yep, we care about the weather because it can affect the players and it certainly affects attendance. Not that attendance won’t already be challenged a bit this Saturday because it’s Yom Kippur. But there’s no avoiding either the weather or the Jewish holidays. Right now, the forecast for Saturday is calling for sunny skies and 74 degrees… but I have found that the forecasts for the weekends in New York usually aren’t remotely accurate until Wednesday.



3) Ivy League Football weekly coaches conference call

Tomorrow at 11, we’ll hear from each coach and the news media will even get a chance to ask a question or two. This happens every Tuesday and I assume the league will make an audio file of it available later in the day.
My predictions. My forecasts will be back this year, but this time I will be counting the betting spreads! So let’s see how well I do against the off shore smarties!


4) My 2010 guide to going to the games at Baker Athletics Complex!

That should be out this Wednesday.


Carter Switches

Speaking of devouring bits and pieces of news, the final live blog of the preseason was filled with a few good tidbits Saturday.

I thought the news of freshman Marquel Carter switching to QB was interesting. With all the running QB’s Columbia will be facing this season, I wonder if Carter will become a go-to guy to run scout team offenses in practice. This will give the freshman very good experience at least.

We also have a new name on the roster. He is frosh kicker Daniel Chester from Charlottesville, VA.


Pregame Picnics!!!

The pregame picnics with FREE BEER will be back this season, but they’re moving the picnic area to the concourse in front of the stadium and the adjacent grassy area. I like that better actually, because it makes for a shorter walk to the actual game.


Cupcakes and Jawbreakers

Which Ivy teams have the easiest and the toughest week one opponents based on those opponent records so far?

Three days ago I would have said Yale had the easiest opponent in Georgetown and Harvard probably had the toughest opponent in Lafayette.

But now the Hoyas are riding high after their stunning upset of… Lafayette!

That leaves me confused about the toughest opponent, but I’ll have to go with Holy Cross. The Crusaders face Harvard Saturday and they always play the Crimson tough. But Holy Cross does not seem to be as good as last year’s team that barely edged Harvard in Worcester last year.

Fordham may be a close second in the tough category now that the full-scholarship Rams have seemingly reignited their season with a thrilling win over Rhode Island. The Lions will certainly have their hands full with speedy QB Blake Wayne and Fordham’s other offensive weapons.

Speaking of scholarships, Bruce Wood at Big Green Alert believes the whippings some of the top Patriot League teams took on Saturday could help the pro-athletic scholarship forces within that conference. If those forces win out, Fordham could find its way back from its quasi-exiled status in the league.

But don’t sleep on up-and-coming Stony Brook. They beat Brown last season at home and seem very strong this year too. This will at least be a home game for the Bears this time around.

I am going to say that Dartmouth officially has the easiest week one opponent in Bucknell. The Bison lost by two scores to Marist… that’s right Marist, on Saturday. It’s a road game for the Big Green, but that shouldn’t hurt too much.

Cornell doesn’t exactly seem to have its hands full against Wagner… but Bucknell is obviously going through a crisis right now. Wagner is not very close to that kind of nadir right now.