Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day of the Living Dead

Columbia's first half was a horror show

Yale 31 Columbia 28

Why Yale Won

The Elis were extremely aggressive and poised right from the coin flip, forcing Columbia mistakes and turning them into quick scores. Eli QB Patrick Witt was extremely accurate early on, and the Yale defense dominated the line of scrimmage. It was 24-0 Bulldogs before the Lions showed any signs of life.

Why Columbia Lost

Columbia looked like Halloween zombies for most of the first half, allowing big runs, big kick returns, and wide open completions for scores. When the Lions finally started to rally late in the third quarter, it actually wasn't too late to turn it around, but a final drive to tie the game or win it fell flat still inside Columbia territory.

Key Turning Points

-Alex Thomas' easy 42-yard TD run to start the scoring exposed just how out of it the Lions were at the opening gun.

-With the score 24-7 and Columbia looking like it would at least stop the bleeding by halftime, the Lions fumbled a punt and gave the Elis a chance to score one more TD before the break. They did, and it was 31-7 at the half.

Columbia Positives

-Freshman LB Zach Olinger was a revelation with a game-high 10 tackles, including a sack and two other tackles for a loss. They were not light tackles either; he hits hard.

-Alex Gross had another strong game. He posted nine tackles, a sack and an interception.

-Adam Mehrer finally grabbed an interception, a beauty of a diving grab off a deflection, and recovered a fumble as well.

-Luke Eddy broke Larry Walsh's '84 27-year-old record for consecutive PAT's and now is 23-23 on the season. They're calling him "Eddy Money."

-I thought the Columbia running backs, Zack Kourouma and Leon Ivery, ran very hard. Both Kourouma and Ivery had plays where they refused to go down and got lots of bonus yards out of it.

Columbia Negatives

-The Lions did some things they had not done all season, most notably turn the ball over more times than an opponent, and had trouble covering kicks.

-Sean Brackett had a good second half and finished with four TD passes to put him at 16 for the year. But he also threw two INT's when he had just one for the entire season coming into this game. He also failed to reach a 50% completion rate.

Columbia MVP

Andrew Kennedy had a monster game, grabbing three TD passes and making sure the Lions at least had a chance in the fourth quarter. The senior TE edges out the frosh Olinger for the MVP nod. Kennedy now had seven TD receptions for the season and 456 receiving yards.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bounce Back, or Crash Land?

The ol' Yale Bowl doesn't look so intimidating from here

Columbia Lions vs. Yale Bulldogs

October 30, 2010

Location: Yale Bowl

Kickoff Time: 12 noon

Gametime Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy and 58 degrees. Moderate wind, (always a factor at Yale Bowl)

The Spread: Yale is favored by 2 points

Watch the Game Live on the YES Network! And listen live on SideLion Pass. My halftime guest on the SideLion Pass broadcast will be former Head Coach Ray Tellier! We’ll talk the history of Columbia-Yale, especially his very successful run against the Bulldogs in the mid to late 1990’s. And just wait until you hear what Coach Tellier has to say about current Lion QB Sean Brackett!

Columbia Game Notes

Yale Game Notes


From Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways:

Take Exit 57 (Route 34 East) directly to the Yale Fields, or take Exit 59 (Whalley Avenue) and follow Yale Bowl Signs to the Yale Fields.

From I-95:

Take Eastbound Exit 44 or Westbound Exit 45 to Route 10 and follow Yale Bowl signs. Or, take Exit 47 (Downtown) and follow Route 34 to the Yale Fields.

From Downtown New Haven:

Go north on Chapel Street, then turn left on Derby Avenue (Route34) to the fields.
From I-91: Take Exit 1 (Downtown) and follow Route 34 to the Yale Fields.

For MapQuest or your GPS: Yale Bowl's address is 276 Derby Ave. West Haven, CT 06516-1046


Both teams are coming off emotionally deflating losses. The Lions blew a late lead to drop a Homecoming contest against Dartmouth, while the Elis fell to Penn in a big game to determine first place in the Ivies.

Last year’s 23-22 loss to Yale had to be the most disappointing game of 2009 for the Lions. It ruined a brilliant debut for then-freshman QB Sean Brackett. Columbia seemed to have the game wrapped up with a 22-17 lead and a first and goal on the two late in the 4th quarter. But two costly fumbles gave the Elis the win.

The geographic subplots are numerous. Columbia head coach and offensive coordinator come from the UConn program, along with six players and three starters who are from Connecticut. That includes the starting QB Brackett, from Brooklyn, CT.

The Lions haven’t defeated Yale since 2001, a 28-14 win at Wien Stadium highlighted by a 70+-yard TD pass from Jeff McCall to Doug Peck.

Sean Brackett was nine years old that day.

Yale’s eight game winning streak over the Lions is second only to Penn’s 14-game streak over Columbia for the longest opponent streak around the Lions necks.

About half of the last eight losses have not been close. In addition to last year’s close loss, the 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007 games all could have gone either way.

Lions fans are still especially sore about the 2006 game, where then-Yale Head Coach Jack Siedlecki called a late timeout to secure a tack-on TD and earlier, Mike McLeod did a backflip into the end zone in a hot dog play.

The 2004 game at the Bowl ended with a glaring “no call” from the refs on an incomplete pass to tightly covered TE Wade Fletcher in the end zone, that would have been the tying TD.

The 2007 game was tied, 0-0, at halftime in a driving rainstorm.

In 2008, Lion superstar DE Lou Miller was ejected from the game for making a hit out of bounds. Upon further review, the hit was found not to be especially flagrant, and Miller received no further suspension or penalty.

The two schools have a long history together… and it’s not all bad.

Columbia and Yale became the first two future Ivy teams to play football against one another in 1871. Yale won, 3-0.

And Columbia University was founded by a group of young Yale grads when they formed classes in the back rooms at Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan in 1754.

Keys to the Game

Pressure and Pick off Witt

Just because the Lions couldn’t get enough pressure on Dartmouth’s Conner Kempe, doesn’t mean they can’t mix things up and achieve that against Yale. Switching Alex Gross to middle linebacker this week, may free up more of the outside pass rushers to lock on target.

Witt is improving in this category but he still can be picked off, especially if he’s pressured. Columbia has not INT’s in each game of this current losing streak and grabbing at least one Saturday could turn things around.

Let Sean Run, and then Watch the Offense Run

It’s been pretty obvious: the Lion offense has been stagnant when Brackett has been playing like a regular drop back passer. When he starts running, the rest of the offense starts to click as well. Obviously, you don’t want to risk injury, but when Brackett puts himself out there opposing defenses seem to get clueless going forward.

Brackett has now started 10 games in his career. Columbia is 5-5 in those games, 3-4 Ivy. It’s time for Brackett to be given almost full responsibility for the team’s fortunes… at least on offense.

Brackett almost shocked the Elis last year in his first ever varsity game.

Now it’s time for him to finish what he started.

Let Brackett be Brackett.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Week 7 Picks

Columbia’s game notes for Saturday’s game at Yale have now been released.

The headline is Alex Gross has been moved to middle linebacker.

This news come on the same day that we learn that Alex has been named one of Sixteen National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athletes.

Congratulations Alex!

Now back to the continuing saga of my game picks overall and against the spread.

I had a strong week last week, and let’s go to the proof:

Lafayette +8 at Fordham

Jake Said: “The Leopards… will cover the spread, but Fordham should eke out the win.”

Result: Fordham eked out a 14-10 win. 1-0 overall, 1-0 Against the Spread.

Cornell +19 at Brown

Jake Said: “I think the Bears win by 20 or 21.”

Result: A late Cornell TD helped the Big Red cover the spread. 2-0 overall, 1-1 ATS.

Harvard -10 at Princeton

Jake Said: “The Crimson should bounce back and cover the spread here.”

Result: Harvard won by 17. 3-0 overall, 2-1 ATS.

Penn -3 at Yale

Jake Said: “Take Penn and give the points before the bookies come to their senses.

Result: Penn won by seven. 4-0 overall, 3-1 ATS.

So now I am 22-10 overall and 21-11 ATS through six weeks.

On to this week…

Princeton -1 at Cornell

The loser is facing a very likely 0-7 season in the league. I have to go with the home team here and predict a win for the Big Red.

Harvard -1 ½ at Dartmouth

A very tough game to pick, but I think Harvard is really gearing up for a strong stretch run. The Crimson win and cover.

Brown +7 ½ at Penn

Can the Bears beat or keep it close against the Quakers without their best QB? I don’t think so. Penn should cover.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Scouting Yale

Love him or hate him, Patrick Witt IS the Elis this season

With the exception of Fordham, Yale is the most “Jekyl-and-Hyde” football team Columbia has faced over the last three years.

It’s very hard to nail down the answer to the essential answer to the essential question: “Is Yale a good team?”

Split the team up into units and it becomes a little easier to answer.

Yale is a very good defensive team, with the exception of the season opener when the Elis allowed Georgetown to score 35 points on them at the Bowl. But that was the first game and season openers are the game you usually have to discount the most.

The Yale offense is better than most people might think. When QB Patrick Witt plays, the Elis are a pretty good bet to put about 24 points per game.

Special teams are generally weak, but not a disaster. The kicking game is shaky with nine missed FG’s and three shanked PAT’s already this season. The Elis are giving up too many yards on kickoffs and punt returns, but they have a pretty good punt return average of their own at over 10 yards a pop.

Those are the overviews, here’s a bit more detail:


It’s all about Witt.

The polarizing transfer QB from Nebraska is outspoken, banged up, apparently not very popular on campus, but pretty darn talented as a passer any way you slice it.

Witt’s quick release, good completion percentage and decent ability to avoid too many INT’s, (he throws one for every 32 passes, not so bad), make him dangerous.

Some Yalies love him, some love to hate him, but it’s obvious the Eli offense moves a lot better this year when Witt is in the lineup.

Witt is doing a great job spreading the ball around. Gio Christodoulou, Jordan Forney, and Chris Smith are all making lots of catches and can be dangerous. But Forney is the guy Witt mostly looks for in the end zone.

Running the ball most of the time this year is the Connecticut high school legend Alex Thomas. But Thomas is having a rough time establishing himself with a 3.8 yards per carry average and 304 total yards on the season.

Most observers were more impressed with the bruising RB Mordecai Cargill, but he seems to be injured for at least another couple of weeks. Cargill was averaging a hefty 5.7 YPC before he went down with a torn labrum.

Yale’s O-line has been much maligned this season, but the unit has only allowed five sacks all year.


The Eli defense has picked up where it left off last season and seems to have improved a bit as well.

Leading the way is junior LB Jordan Haynes, a breakout player this season. Haynes only trails Columbia’s Alex Gross for the league lead in total tackles. He has 64, with five for a loss and three fumble recoveries.

Adam Money is making a big impact in the secondary with three picks and eight overall passes defensed.

Captain Tom McCarthy does a fine job anchoring the offensive line.

Yale is holding opponents to fewer than 20 points a game, and just barely allows more than 100 yards rushing per game. But opponents are converting 3rd down chances at a 40% clip, which is a bit high for a good defense. This can be indicative of not stepping up in the clutch.


Sophomore Philippe Panico seems to be providing some stability at the kicker position after a very rocky start from Alex Barnes. But his range on FG’s seems no better than 39 yards no matter what.

Christodoulou is a good threat on punt returns and seems ready to break one at any time.

Chris Smith has done most of the kickoff returns, but Deon Randall can be electric in the rare times he gets a chance to touch the ball.


This is a team that has a great knack for keeping games close and getting a good chance to win them in the end. The fact that the Elis haven’t put together a really solid 60-minute performance this year probably gives the coaches some pause, but a 4-2 record overall from a team that was just 2-5 in the league last year is a good start. Coming off a tough loss at home to Penn last week, Yale could be a very dangerous animal this Saturday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Basic Problem

The Lions need to draw a line in the sand

For three straight games, the Columbia defense has been getting blown off the line of scrimmage by opposing offenses.

For two straight games, the Columbia offense has had trouble protecting the QB and opening consistent holes for the runners.

Not too much good can change for the Lions until they fix this problem.

The genesis of this line issue is hard to find. For the first three games, Columbia mostly dominated the lines of scrimmage on both offense and defense. The week two win over Towson was especially indicative of this as the Lion defense basically lived in the Tiger backfield while the offense had a big day running the ball.

But starting with the week four win over Lafayette, the defense stopped getting serious penetration and pressure on the QB. At first, it looked like this was just the result of the Leopards running screens and other plays that dealt better with the Columbia rush. Then, Penn’s great veteran offensive line was credited with simply outplaying us. Dartmouth’s offensive line is pretty good, but it dominated the game more than the Quaker O-line!

Changing the personnel is probably not the solution. Defensive coordinator Denauld Brown shuffles in different players along the line with more frequency than I’ve ever seen in football.

Of course, all of us would like to see Owen Fraser return to 2008. But it’s obvious he’s just not there yet and may not be this season.

As far as the offensive line is concerned, there seems to be less work to do here. The pass protection hasn’t been good the last three weeks, but not on every series. The running game was generally good against Dartmouth. A lot of fans seem to think putting Nick Gerst in for 60 minutes and giving him the ball 30 times might be an answer, but the coaches still seem to want to use him somewhat sparingly.

This Saturday’s game at Yale will provide a supreme test for the offensive line, as the Yale D is attacking and blitzing with ferocity this season.

It’s harder to tell how much of a test it will be for the defensive line as the Eli offensive line is not doing as well, and the running game has suffered. But any success here will be a huge positive for this unit.

What will be a big test for the Lion D is the quick release Yale QB Patrick Witt often showcases in the pocket. Big Green QB Conner Kempe ate the Columbia pass defense up last weekend with a similar quick release all day.

Three Up and Comers

Some of the newer players on the varsity are starting to grow into their positions.

One of them is WR Kurt Williams who had a near breakout game vs. Dartmouth with six catches for 75 yards. Williams is a junior and with the expected return of Mike Stephens at WR next year, he could be the second part of a good one-two punch at split end for the Lions. In the meantime, he seems like a good bet to get 10 or more receptions or a 100-yard game in any one of the four remaining contests this year.

Sophomore DE Joshua Martin grabbed another two fumbles on Saturday and definitely is showing a good knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Sophomore DB Steven Grassa is starting to get onto the field more often and doing some damage. He has 11 tackles this season.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rankings and More!

Jake’s Week 7 Ivy League Power Rankings

1. Penn (#1 last week)

Not the most impressive win over Yale Saturday, but not bad either. The Yale game was the last real tough road test for the Quakers, who get Brown and Harvard at home.

2. Brown (2)

Also not an impressive win over a weak Cornell team, but 3-0 in the league is 3-0 in the league. And the Bears can certainly surprise Penn this Saturday, even though they most probably won’t.

3. Harvard (5)

Hatch and Winters are back at QB! The Crimson seem to be back in the hunt.

4. Yale (4)

Pretty good performance against Penn despite the loss. The Eli defense is really good enough to keep them in any game.

5. Dartmouth (6)

This might be the best coached team in the league. A super game plan got the Green the win over Columbia.

6. Columbia (3)

A big drop here because the Lion weaknesses at the lines of scrimmage are getting worse. A win at Yale would be the best medicine, however.

7. Princeton (7)

Pretty good offensive performance against a good Harvard “D.” But the chances for an Ivy win this year other than against Cornell seem remote.

8. Cornell (8)

Could have been a lot worse against Brown, but the 27-14 loss wasn’t enough to leap out of the cellar.

Players of the Week

The league split the offensive player of the week honors between Brown QB Joe Springer and Harvard RB Gino Gordon. Penn’s DB Jason Schmucker was defensive player of the week.

If I were a Dartmouth fan, I’d be a little miffed at being shut out of the top honors this week. But if they keep playing like they did this Saturday, the cold shoulder won’t last.

The Rushing Race

Could the Ivy League’s whacky stat rules rob Gino Gordon again? Last year, Gordon rushed for the most yards total of any back in the league. But because the league rushing champ is chosen by average yards rushing per game played, he did not win the Ivy title. Dartmouth’s Nick Schwieger grabbed that honor, and he certainly is a great player.

Fast forward a year later and Gordon is again second in the Ivy rushing race despite gaining four more yards total than Schwieger in 2010. Schwieger missed one game early this year, and thus he’s averaging a lot more yards per game.

Once again, no disrespect to Schwieger, but this is football, not baseball. Averages, are not as important as totals in this sport.

If Schwieger does win the Ivy rushing crown, I just hope he also gains more total yards this time around.

And as much as I still think QB Sean Brackett deserves to be in the Bushnell Cup race, it’s now looking like the MVP award will be
Between Schwieger and Gordon. A lot of that is because Brackett is only a soph and the Bushnell has NEVER gone to anyone younger than a junior.

Use the Force, Luke!

Luke Eddy was another perfect three for three for PATs against Dartmouth. He needs three more to match Larry Walsh’s 27-year-old record of 22 in a row.

And the way Luke has been booting the ball, I’d say the record for longest field goal in CU history, (50-yards by Matt Pollard in 1988), is also in jeopardy.

Luke Eddy is a freshman, people.

YES We Can!

A reminder that this coming Saturday’s game at Yale will be televised nationally on the YES Network as part of the “Yale on YES” package that Yale pays for. I know we’re all a bit down about the loss on Homecoming, but beating the Elis on national TV on a network that they PAY to put their games on the air would be… nice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Conner Kempe was barely touched all day (CREDIT: Dartmout Sports)

Dartmouth 24 Columbia 21

Why Dartmouth Won

The Big Green controlled the line of scrimmage, and except for a serious bout with fumblitis in 4th quarter, they controlled the game. Dartmouth sacked Sean Brackett four times, gained 401 total yards, and ran 81 plays without using a no-huddle. With the game on the line late in the contest, the Green orchestrated an impressive 69-yard TD drive to win the game.

Why Columbia Lost

The offense went stagnant after the opening TD drive and didn't awake again until a series of Dartmouth miscues gave it new life. The defense never really pressured Big Green QB Conner Kempe and allowed him and his offense to dictate the game. After coming back from the dead to grab a 21-17 4th quarter lead, the Lion defense allowed two 3rd and long conversion and one fourth down conversion on that 69-yard Dartmouth TD drive to win it.

Key Turning Point

-Leading 7-3 in the third, the Lion defense forced a rare three-and-out on Dartmouth's opening possession of the 2nd half. But the Green punt bounced all the way down to the Columbia one. After a three-and-out of their own the Lions punted to the Dartmouth 49 giving the Green a short field. Four minutes and 19 seconds later, it was 10-7 Dartmouth.

Columbia Positives

-The Lions did win the turnover battle again, losing just one fumble that did not end up hurting them while recovering three Dartmouth fumbles. Columbia's turnover ratio is now +7.

-Alex Gross had 16 tackles, a pass break up and was all over the field once again.

-It wasn't his best performance, but Sean Brackett still went 17-31 for 188 yards, one TD and no INT's. On the season, the 18-year-old sophomore now has 12 TD passes to just ONE interception.

Columbia Negatives

-The Lions inability to control the line of scrimmage is shaping up to be a serious problem. Losing the battle in the trenches at Penn last week was one thing, but getting pushed around by Dartmouth in front of a big crowd of 11,000 people at Homecoming is something else.

-The Columbia offense is not playing consistently. It seems like it can score at will at some points, and at other times can't move forward at all.

Columbia MVP

-Alex Gross kept the Lions in the game and continues to lead the Ivies in total tackles.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Come Home Lions!

That Championship Season: The '61 Lions wouldn't mind some company at the top (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Dartmouth Big Green at Columbia Lions


October 23, 2010

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

Kickoff Time: 1:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: Sunny and 65 degrees

The Spread: Columbia is favored by 8 ½ points

Columbia Game Notes

Dartmouth Game Notes

HOW TO GET TO THE GAME: Jake’s Special Homecoming Edition!

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. Or take the Uptown #1 Train to the 215th Street stop and walk the three blocks to 218th Street. (*Note, the #1 train will be running this Saturday ONLY).

By Car: Do whatever you can to avoid the Cross Bronx Expressway. But ALSO avoid the tie ups at Broadway north of Dyckman that are also a result of the subway construction. If you choose the parking garages along 10th Avenue, I would get under the tracks as soon as you can on 10th and pull into the first garage you see within 10 blocks of the stadium.

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.


These two teams have been locked in each other’s rear view mirrors for the last 10 years.

Columbia comes into the game after a tough loss to Penn, but still seems to have the best squad at this point in the season in more than a decade.

The Lions are 3-2 and have the best quarterback in the league in Sean Brackett. Add that to the fact that the weather forecast is perfect and you have the makings of a great crowd for Saturday.

Columbia hasn’t won a Homecoming game in 10 years, the longest such streak in program history, and is hungry to perform as well as possible on the bigger stage. That last Homecoming win was in 2000, 49-21 against, of course, Dartmouth.

Speaking of Homecoming, the Lions were the Big Green’s Homecoming victims last year in a terrible rain storm in Hanover. Dartmouth came into that game 0-5 and riding a 17 game losing streak, but rolled past an injury-plagued Columbia team by a 28-6 score.

The star of that game, Dartmouth RB Nick Schwieger, rushed for 242 yards on the day. He is just a junior now and leading the league in rushing. Another star of the contest, Big Green DE Charles Bay, is back to about 100% after starting the 2010 season with injuries.

Dartmouth’s last road win in an Ivy League game came at Wien Stadium in 2006 in a 20-7 game. That game was marked by the debut of M.A. Olawale, who came into the game in the second half to play QB.

So it’s the Ivy’s best QB vs. the best RB. Two up-and-coming teams with a lot to prove. All with a big crowd for Homecoming as a backdrop.

Keys to the Game

Contain Schwieger

It’s obvious the Lions can’t let Schwieger put up another 242 yard day. They don’t have to hold him under 50 yards to win, but keeping him out of the end zone is important. That and stopping him enough times to force Dartmouth to go to plan B on offense is a key to the game for Columbia.

Adjust to the Quick Release

Conner Kempe’s best talent is getting rid of the football quickly. The entire Lion defense needs to work together to take that away from him. The pressure needs to bear down on him faster, the linebackers need to jam the receivers on the line, and the secondary needs to cut off the sideline passes.

Attack the Pass Defense

The Big Green has had trouble against the pass, and the fact that freshman A.J. Dettorre is starting at one corner position this year doesn’t figure to be a big help. Brackett and company need to spread the field and make the secondary work hard all day. The long passing game in particular may be a good weapon to use early and often.

Restart the Run

The best way to keep Schwieger from getting 30+ carries and running all over the Lions could be to run the ball so well that Columbia dominates the time of possession from the get go. This is one of those games where you take the ball first if you win the toss and try to dictate the tempo for the entire game.

Avoid the Block

The Dartmouth special teams are blocking kicks all over the place this season. Columbia PK Luke Eddy has great elevation on his kicks and he has to keep it up. Punter Greg Guttas needs to be ready for the extra pressure.

Get There!

The Homecoming ticket challenge is STILL ON! You can still buy your tickets now and have them waiting for at Will Call. DO IT!!!

On the day new members were inducted to the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame,, it would be great to see some possible future members make their mark on the field!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 6 Picks

Homecoming ticket challenge!

In the spirit of NY gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan let me say this:

“Get your DAMN Homecoming tickets NOW! And don’t wait another DAMN minute!”

The weather forecast is holding up! 64 degrees and now upgraded to sunny from partly cloudy! A lovely day for a game!

Homecoming Rooting Points

-Freshman Luke Eddy needs to hit just six more PAT’s to tie Larry Walsh’s 27-year-old record of 22 successful extra points in a row. With the way the Columbia offense has been playing at home, a five-TD game is very possible.

-Despite Columbia’s relative success in recent years against Dartmouth, there are still two losses that stick in my craw. First, the 1987 loss that extended the infamous losing streak with Dartmouth kicked a late FG and Columbia missed a late kick that would have won it. Second, the 1989 game that Columbia lead 12-3 for most of the game only to give up 10 points in less than two minutes. Those were two of the toughest losses I have ever experienced at Wien Stadium. It’s not that the Big Green did anything dirty to win, but can’t we make the other guys go home sad this time?

Picking the Winners

Once again, the injury “news” failed me last weekend, but I’ll make no excuses for my second subpar week in a row.

Here’s how I did:

Fordham +7 at Yale

Jake Said: "I think Fordham wins this game outright.”

Result: Yale squeaked by with a 7-6 win. 0-1 overall, 1-0 against the spread.

Lehigh +11 ½ at Harvard

Jake Said: “I think the Crimson win and cover the spread too if Andrew Hatch starts and I’m just guessing he will.”

Result: Hatch didn’t play and Harvard lost. Thanks for the heads up, Coach Murphy! 0-2, 1-1 ATS

Colgate -15 ½ at Cornell

Jake Said: “Cornell is improving, but the Raiders win this by 17.”

Result: Colgate won by 17,000. 1-2, 2-1 ATS

Brown -14 at Princeton

Jake Said: “Take the Bears and lay the points.”

Result: Princeton made it very close. 2-2, 2-2 ATS

Holy Cross +4 ½ at Dartmouth

Jake Said: “I like the Big Green to win this game, but not to cover the spread.”

Result: A late defensive TD pushed Dartmouth beyond the spread. 3-2, 2-3 ATS.

So, on the season I am now 18-10 overall and 18-10 against the spread.

On to this week…

Lafayette +8 at Fordham

The Leopards are bouncing back and are underrated. They will cover the spread, but Fordham should eke out the win.

Cornell +19 at Brown

Brown got a wakeup call after that near loss at Princeton, and they should cruise in this game. I think the Bears win by 20 or 21.

Harvard -10 at Princeton

Harvard has been sputtering, but the Crimson should bounce back and cover the spread here.

Penn -3 at Yale.

Am I missing something? Yale’s great RB Mordecai Cargill is out, and Penn is riding high. Take Penn and give the points here before the bookies come to their senses and make the Quakers the 10 point favorites they deserve to be.

Thursday, October 21, 2010



Columbia’s game notes have been released and one headline is that Owen Fraser does not appear on the two-deep at all. Ian Quirk is listed as the starter after missing last week’s game at Penn entirely.

Ticket Challenge

I’d love to hear from more of you who have bought at least one extra ticket and committed to bring at least one added person to the game this Saturday. I hate to shoot for an exact number, but this Lions team deserves a crowd of at least 10,000 people for Homecoming.

Actually I’d like to see more like 13,000, but with 10 years gone since our last Homecoming win I realize it will be hard to win back a decent chunk of the casual alumni fans.

But the weather is going to be just great! The temperature forecast has now been kicked up to 65 degrees and partly cloudy. That’s a nice change from a bit of a drizzle or two at last year’s Homecoming and absolutely terrible weather at each of the last two Columbia-Dartmouth games.

Odd Stat of the Day

Through five games, there have been NO missed field goals in any Columbia game this season. The Lions are 4-4 and their opponents are 6-6.

Some More “Rooting Points”

-Do you really want to wait any longer to see Columbia QB Sean Brackett? The Lions have had some very good QB’s over the years, but it’s been more than 25 seasons since we had a signal caller who almost everyone considered to be the best in the league. That player was John Witkowski '84, and he was also Columbia’s last lvy MVP/Bushnell Cup winner. You really have to see Brackett in action to appreciate his many talents.

-Columbia has NEVER won four in a row at Wien Stadium. That’s through 26 and half seasons. You could be among the first to see that happen Saturday.

-The Lions have had decent success against Dartmouth since 1998, but the history before that was pretty ugly. Columbia went 27 years without a win in this series between 1971 and 1998, (and they played every year). There’s a lot of catching up to do here for Lions fans.

Looking at the Green

When you look at the Big Green in 2010, you see a lot of very good players, some great players, and a top-flight coaching staff.

And then you might ask: “So why is this team 0-2 in the Ivies?”

One reason is that one of those games was against a great Penn team in Philly and Dartmouth did a great job getting that game into OT.

The Yale game is more troubling to explain because it was in Hanover, but the Elis do have a great defense and that never hurts.

I think the overall answer is that despite some great players on defense like Shawn Abuhoff, Pat Scorah, Charles Bay and the up and coming freshman linebacker Bronson Green, this Dartmouth team is really much stronger on offense than it is on defense.

Just look at the average amount of total points scored in Dartmouth games this season: 51, 16% above the overall league average. Basically the news is that even when the Big Green play defensive powerhouses like Penn, the game is likely to be pretty high-scoring.

The offensive strength is mostly centered on RB Nick Schwieger, who’s on track to be the first 1,000-yard rusher in the Ivies since 2008. He is a great cutting runner whose style makes up for deficiencies in the offensive line. Schwieger brutalized the Lion defense in Hanover last year, running for well over 200 yards.

Another key improvement this season is QB Conor Kempe’s quick release style. Those fast-action passes are also keeping a lot of heat off the offensive line that’s allowed just ONE sack all season! Kempe is also keeping his interceptions down to a decent level, averaging just one per game.

And don’t be fooled about the Green O-line, it may not be the best in the league but it is pretty experienced and getting better.

Dartmouth also has some good and dangerous receivers led by Michael Reilly and former QB Tim McManus. But with Schwieger averaging almost 150 yards rushing per game, the receivers haven’t had to carry the load this year.

Meanwhile, the defense is just giving up way too much yards. Opponents run for an average of 162 yards per game and pass for 242 yards per game against the Big Green.

But there are dangers here.

The outside pass rushers, led by Bay are strong and getting stronger now that Bay is almost back to 100% from injury. Abuhoff is a ball hawk who can pick off passes and score with his great speed.

Abuhoff also headlines a good special teams as the punt and kick returner. Abuhoff has already returned one punt for a TD and is averaging more than 27 yards per kickoff return. Kicker Foley Schmidt is pretty steady and the kickoff specialist Donald Kephart has three touchbacks this season.

Obviously, the key to beating Dartmouth is finding some way to control Schwieger. It’s not impossible, as he does have big yards this season but just five TD’s.

Another key is putting the Big Green away if they start out slowly as they have just about every week this season. Like Columbia, Dartmouth has yet to score first in any game this season. Unlike Columbia, Dartmouth is being outscored in the first half by 82-54, while the Lions have outscored their opponents in the first half by 55-50.

And while Penn made no bones about simply going with their strength and running right at us all day, (I still can’t get over the mere FIVE passes attempted by the Quakers for the whole game), if I know Buddy Teevens as well as I think I do, he’ll do something with the game plan that Columbia won’t be expecting. Maybe that means five or six pass attempts in a row to start the game. Maybe it means blitzing all day. But when you prepare for Dartmouth you have to prepare for the unexpected.

With the weather forecast calling for absolutely perfect conditions Saturday, I expect a high-scoring game that may blow well past the under/over of 50 set by the odds makers.

And Finally...

I love this pretty funny video from some Columbia Business School guys. They prove their B-School guys and not English majors by misusing the word "glib" when I think they meant "glum," and they have the lyrics to our fight song a bit wrong, but they did use my blog title by accident... and WHO CARES? (For the record it's "Roar LION, Roar." My blog just pluralizes it to Lions). Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Team, (and the train), Return Soon!

Hello old friend

Just FOUR days to Homecoming and I still urge you ALL to buy at least one extra ticket to the game and get someone to use that seat!

LATEST WEATHER UPDATE: The forecast for this Saturday is now UPGRADED to 64 degrees, (originally 59), and mostly sunny!

LATEST TRANSPORTATION UPDATE: Great news! The #1 train will be running this weekend and will be an option to get to Wien Stadium for the game!

The team needs a boost from the fans right at the start to avoid a letdown against Dartmouth. The Lions lost tough games against the Big Green in 2006 and last year mostly because of TD’s scored by Dartmouth on opening drives.

Some More “Rooting Points”:

-Columbia hasn’t won a Homecoming game since 2000, a very bad streak that I believe has hurt long-term attendance more than any other single factor. That last win in 2000 came against… you guessed it, Dartmouth, 49-21.

-Perhaps some wind is out of the sails for a possible Ivy title, but Columbia is striving for its first winning season in 14 years. 14! Achieving that would be a big feather in the caps of all the seniors on the team. A win Saturday makes that much more possible.

-The recruiting battles with Dartmouth for many of the same players has been occurring a lot more often in recent years. We win this game, we probably get more of those recruits.

-The overwhelming majority of Columbia-Dartmouth games since 1997 have been very close and exciting. Last year’s 28-6 Big Green win was the first 14+-point spread in the annual rivalry since 2000.

Jake’s Week 6 Ivy League Power Rankings

1) Penn (#1 last week)

Quakers make a big statement against Columbia and win on defense and running alone. With Harvard and Brown fading with injuries, this team is looking like a lock for the title.

2) Brown (3)

A very weak offensive effort against Princeton, but does anybody doubt that Estes and Co. will have this team scoring points in bunches very soon?

3) Columbia (2)

The Lions still have the best QB in the league despite the loss to Penn. That counts for a lot.

4) Yale (5)

Starting to look very good on defense, but will they look good against mighty Penn this Saturday?

5) Harvard (4)

Losing to Lehigh at home is a shocker. Something is amiss in Cambridge, and it’s not just the QB situation. Injuries at WR are hurting too.

6) Dartmouth (6)

Very solid win over Holy Cross and the OT loss to Penn in Philly looks better and better in retrospect.

7) Princeton (8)

A near win against Brown gets them out of the cellar.

8) Cornell (7)

Back to the bottom after a crushing loss to Colgate.

One More Thing

... And you just gotta love this story!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Homecoming Countdown

First off, congratulations to freshman kicker Luke Eddy for being named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week. Luke was a bright spot for the Lions in the loss at Penn, especially his booming 48-yard FG in the second half. For those of you who are counting, his 16 straight PAT’s put him just six shy of the record of 22 straight set by Larry Walsh in 1983.

All of this week’s posts will focus on Homecoming as the Lions are set to host what should be a well-attended and exciting affair.

Here’s what Homecoming 2010 has going for right now, (there will be more as the week goes on):

-A good matchup between two Ivy teams that are clearly on the rise.

-A Columbia QB who has a legit shot to win the league MVP award, the Bushnell Cup.

-A Dartmouth team that has the Ivy League’s leading rusher, who also has a legit shot to win the Bushnell Cup.

-A Lions team that wants to avenge last year’s embarrassing 28-6 loss to a Big Green team that had lost 17 straight games.

-A Columbia team that has a winning record coming into Homecoming for the first time since 2006.

-As of today, the weather forecast is great. 59 degrees and mostly sunny. It could change in the coming days, but it’s looking good right now.

On a psychological note, you could argue that Homecoming is coming at the perfect time for the Lions. What better way to quickly shake off the downer of a loss at Penn than with a big crowd, and big game against an opponent that hasn’t beaten another Ivy team on the road in four years?

And with a poor showing by the Lion rush defense mostly to blame for the Penn loss, Dartmouth’s Nick Schwieger provides a great opportunity for the defense to redeem itself and prove it’s not as soft as it looked against the Quakers.

Ticket Challenge

My challenge to all my readers to buy at least ONE extra ticket for Homecoming and get someone to fill that seat is still on!

This team really deserves your support and this Saturday’s game really should be a good one.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Brick Wall

Pennsylvania 27 Columbia 13

Why Penn Won

The Quakers controlled the line of scrimmage, gaining huge yardage on the ground while allowing very little in return. The running attack was so strong that Penn threw the ball just five times and still won by two scores.

Why Columbia Lost

The Lions just could not stop the Quaker run, or the Quaker pash rush at the most crucial moments in the game.

Key Turning Points

-Trailing 7-3 and in the early stages of somewhat promising drive, Sean Brackett was sacked and stripped, and Penn returned the fumble for a TD to make it 14-3 Quakers before the end of the first quarter.

-After scoring a third quarter TD to make it 20-10, Columbia seemed to kill any chance for real momentum with a personal foul penalty, giving Penn great field position on the ensuing possession. Penn scored a TD with the short field and the game was essentially over.

Columbia Positives

-Brackett stayed tough despite the furious Penn rush. He was sacked five times and did have that costly fumble, but he also went 18-33 for 240 yards, a big TD pass to Andrew Kennedy, and no INT's.

-Luke Eddy seems like the strong and consistent leg the Lions have always wanted. He nailed a 48-yard FG late in the game and hit his 16th straight PAT.

Columbia Negatives

-The rush defense was dead soft up the middle. No team can win when the opponent can just go right at you and get yards.

-The pass protection, especially against a great defense like Penn's, wasn't up to snuff.

Columbia MVP

I have to give this one to Brackett. The 18-year-old soph kept his poise and made sure the game didn't get ugly. Most senior QB's in this league would have started forcing things after that fumble. Even in a clear loss, Brackett shines brightly.

Psychology Session

As was the case after the depressing loss to Fordham in week one, the Lion faithful is a bit down right now.

But I think this game proved that Penn was a better team than most thought, rather than proving Columbia was a weaker one.

The Quaker "D" was amazing; as tough as the brick walls that surround Franklin Field. And it will be some time before the Lions face that kind of opposition again.

Credit the Penn coaching staff for not trying to be tricky and simply going with their strength above any head games. They are certainly the favorites to win the Ivy title now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time to Shine

The Adams Family: Jeff Adams and the O-line need to pave the way for the Lion pride (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Columbia Lions vs. Pennsylvania Quakers

Location: Franklin Field, South 33rd and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Kickoff Time: 12:00 pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: 62 degrees, partly cloudly, and very windy

The Spread: Pennsylvania is favored by 6 ½ points

Columbia Game Notes

Pennsylvania Game Notes


Columbia has lost 13 straight to the Quakers, by far their longest current losing streak against any Ivy team. Most of the losses have been downright ugly, but the last few games at Franklin Field have been tighter.

This is the most significant game for the Lions in at least seven years, and not just another game for the Quakers who have a chance to grab the inside track to the first repeat solo championship in the Ivies since the 2002-2003 Penn teams.

Despite Penn’s mostly dominant play as a program since 1982, both schools routinely recruit some of the same players as the local metropolitan regions overlap.

In other words, there are a lot of players on both teams that were either passed over or desperately wanted by the other guys. That always makes things more interesting.

For Penn’s side, they are at least playing the part of respectful adversaries. Head Coach Al Bagnoli had nothing but good things to say about the Lions in the weekly coaches teleconference. Even most of the fans on the chat boards are saying they expect a tough game.

Keys to the Game

Win the Turnover Battle

Penn’s big weakness has been turnovers. Every one of the three Penn QB’s this year has thrown too many interceptions relative to passes attempted. Turnovers have been the key to several key scores against the Quakers this season. And with their defense, it may be the best way to get on the board.

Columbia has taken very good care of the ball, and needs to continue to do so. Lion turnovers, especially in their red zone and in the Quaker red zone, were key factors in their last two losses to Penn.

Move Forward on the Ground

Columbia’s running attack will face a very rough test against the Quakers, but the Lions don’t need a 200 yard rushing performance to win. Simply moving the ball forward, even just at three or four yard clips at a time, would help a lot.

Attack the Back Four

The Penn defense is all about that front seven and how it controls the game. Hardly any opponents even get the chance to test the rest of the troops. And that doesn't mean you can expect the secondary to be weak. There are some talented players back there, including Stanford transfer Fred Craig, who played with a number of Columbia Lions in high school at Saint Xavier in Cincinnati.

But you can infer that the "back four" will be at least a little rusty. Opposing teams have only passed an average of 22 times per game against Penn, and that has a lot to do with a great pass rush and good coverage on short passes.

The Lions are uniquely qualified to test the Quaker deep coverage with Sean Brackett’s ability to scramble for time to throw to the many speedsters at wide out on the team right now.

Cover the Kicks, and Make the Most of Returns

Penn is returning kicks really well, but who can deny that Columbia's Craig Hamilton isn't one of the hottest returners in the league right now? The Lions need to win the overall kick returning battle Saturday, especially when it comes to giving the offense breathing room vs. the Quaker "D."

Play One Game, Not 14

Yes it's been 14 years since Columbia beat Penn. But this Lion team isn't responsible for any history but their own. They need to be amped up for a big game to determine this year's Ivy title, not worried about overcoming nearly a decade and a half's worth of futility.

Week 5 Picks

If I were actually betting money on these games, I would have a very good reason to be angry after last weekend’s games.

Secret injury information, that really should not have been secret, would have altered my picks significantly in more than one game.

But no sour grapes here, I will take my lumps.

Here’s how I did:

Cornell +23 at Harvard

Jake Said: “Take Harvard and lay the points.”

Result: Harvard won the game, but didn’t cover. No way would I have given 23 points if I had known Andrew Hatch was sitting out the game. But what can I do? 1-0 overall, 0-1 Against the Spread.

Yale -2 at Dartmouth

Jake Said: “(this) really looks like a game the Big Green can win. Take Dartmouth and the points.”

Result: No injury excuses here. Dartmouth just didn’t get it done and lost by 3. 1-1, 0-2 ATS

Brown -6 at Holy Cross

Jake Said: “Brown should win this one by more than 6.”

Result: Thanks Brown, for not telling anyone that you knew starting QB Kyle Newhall Caballero was OUT FOR THE SEASON and you knew it by last Monday! Thus, Holy Cross won. 1-2 0-3 ATS

Colgate -5 ½ at Princeton

Jake Said: “The Tigers are going to have a tough day. Take the Raiders and give the points.”

Result: Colgate won by 34. 2-2, 1-3 ATS

Penn -18 ½ at Bucknell

Jake Said: “The Quakers will roll by 3 TD’s… lay the points.”

Result: Penn won by 3 TD’s. 3-2, 2-3 ATS.

So, I’m steamed the B.S. from Harvard and Brown cost me two ATS wins, but I am still 15-8 overall and 16-7 against the spread.

Okay, I’m over it. On to this week…

Fordham +7 at Yale

I am still not sold on Yale and I like Fordham to play Dr. Jekyl this week in the Rams ongoing Jekly and Hyde season. I think Fordham wins this game outright.

Lehigh +11 ½ at Harvard

Who knows who will play QB for Harvard this Saturday? Don’t expect a straight answer from the coaches. Anywho… I think the Crimson win and cover the spread too if Andrew Hatch starts and I’m just guessing he will.

Colgate -15 ½ at Cornell

Cornell is improving, but the Raiders win this by 17.

Brown -14 at Princeton

Brown seems really down emotionally right now… but Princeton is also morose. Take the Bears and lay the points.

Holy Cross +4 ½ at Dartmouth

I like the Big Green to win this game, but not to cover the spread.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scouting Penn

Zach Heller may be Penn's best defender

The Columbia game notes and two-deep are out for the Penn game. No real changes in the starting lineups that I can see. Owen Fraser remains as a “2.”

Beating Penn is a tall order but a simple one as well.

You just have to do two things: 1) Run the ball well and 2) Stop them from running the ball well.

That’s a lot easier said than done, and it’s also the way to beat just about every college football team in America.

But it’s especially true in the Quakers case, because Penn has lived well simply off of stuffing opposing runners and running the ball well on its own for the last few seasons.

The Columbia-Penn game last season at Wien Stadium was a bit of an exception, as neither team ran the ball well. But Penn QB Keiffer Garton had some flashes of brilliance as a passer and the Lions turned the ball over way too many times, (7!), for the Light Blue to win.

Garton is not the starter for Saturday, at least that’s what Coach Al Bagnoli said in the Ivy teleconference yesterday, but he could play in the game and make a difference after sitting out most of the last six months with a knee injury.

Otherwise sophomore QB Bill Ragone will do most of the work, and he is a big threat to run or pass.

Penn’s best strength is its offensive line. A very veteran and talented unit that paves the way for almost 200 yards rushing per game while allowing just two sacks all season.

The Quakers most talented runner, sophomores Lyle Marsh, is out for the season with an injury. In his place, the top two runners have been sophomores Brandon Colavita and Jeff Jack who are averaging 5.6 and 4.2 yards per carry, respectively.

The Penn passing attack is a far cry from the top quality and deep running game. Ragone is throwing one interception per 17 passes, and the Quakers’ top receiver Matt Tutten is getting fewer than four catches a game. But not many teams are likely to force Penn to rely that heavily on the passing game anyway.

The defense has gone from allowing just 9.5 points per game to 18.5 so far this year. It’s still a dominant squad, led by a front seven that can just blow you off the ball game after game. And a lot of the points scored against Penn this season have been off of turnovers. But the unit is a lot more human, as the 28-point performance by Dartmouth two weeks ago would indicate. The rush defense is still holding opponents under 80 yards per game, but the secondary is allowing a more pedestrian, but still damn good, 165 yards per contest.

The trick is getting the chance to pass in the first place. Despite Penn’s great rush defense, opponents have only attempted an average of 22 passes per game against the Quakers. That may have something to do with the 12 sacks they’ve registered and a lot to do with the nearly nine minute per game time of possession edge Penn enjoys.

And the most impressive stat of all may be the 22% 3rd down conversion "success" opponents are posting against this Quaker defense. Just 11 conversions in 50 attempts. T-O-U-G-H.

Special teams are also solid. Columbia’s Luke Eddy may become the best kicker in the Ivies someday soon, but Penn’s Andrew Sampson is #1 until proven otherwise. He has missed three field goals this year, but he’s a perfect 11-11 on PAT’s. Meanwhile, the Quaker return game is excellent. Bradford Blackmon is averaging 30.2 yards per kick return. He’s a little more human with a 5.8 punt return average. Punter Scott Lopano is averaging more than 40 yards per punt.

The key weakness for Penn is turnovers, where the Quakers have a -5 turnover ratio. Interceptions in particular are killing them, and that’s really disturbing for Penn since the offense really only employs a short passing game. The Quakers have lost four of their five fumbles so far this year.

Doing the Atten-dance

My Homecoming ticket buying challenge continues. Please buy at least one additional ticket than you need for Homecoming now, get someone to use that ticket, and tell me all about here in the comments section.

Meanwhile, attendance is not just an issue for Columbia fans to debate. Check out this piece from the Daily Pennsylvanian’s “The Buzz” blog about football attendance and tailgating at Franklin Field.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's all about the Franklin

A brief history of Columbia football at Franklin Field...

Franklin Field is one of the nation’s most historic football stadiums. It became the first two-tiered stadium in the U.S. in 1925 when the venue was expanded to 50,000 seats.

When Franklin Field was the home of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1958-70, seating could be upped to as much as 78,000 but the biggest crowd recorded was for the 1960 NFL championship at 67,325. There are about 52,000 seats now.

It was the home of the Army-Navy football game from 1899-1935.

It’s also where they booed Santa Claus at and Eagles game on December 15, 1968.

It is an excellent venue to watch a football game, with no bad seats. The whole facility is currently undergoing an upgrade that is nearly finished.

Every Ivy football fan should try to see at least one game at Franklin Field in their lifetimes.

Columbia last won at Franklin Field in 1996. That’s also the last time the Lions beat the Quakers at any venure.

The 20-19 overtime win in ’96 stands as the best Columbia game I have ever attended. It wasn’t pretty, there were lots of bad turnovers and penalties, but for sheer excitement it had it all. The Lions came into the game forced to start a 3rd string QB, but battled back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to force OT. A blocked PAT in the extra session gave Columbia a chance and then a miracle 25-yard TD pass from Paris Childress to Dennis Lee won the ball game, (of course, with the Matt Linit extra point).

Before that, the Lions hadn’t won in Philly since 1976.

Recently, Columbia has actually played better against the Quakers at Franklin Field than they have at Wien Stadium. In 2008, the Lions fell in a 15-10 defensive battle. In 2006, Columbia lost 16-0, but the game was much closer than the score would indicate. In 2004, the Lions fell by a 14-3 final in a rain-marred game. By contrast, the Penn-Columbia games in New York in 2005, 2007, and 2009 were not as close.

For the last few decades, the Columbia-Penn games at Franklin Field have either been on the weekend of the fall student break or the weekend immediately after the break. As a result, the home crowds haven’t been too large and there have been years when the Lions fans have been close to matching the Penn faithful.

I’ll also assume that with the NLCS opening at nearby Citizens Bank Park later that evening, the city and even most of the Penn students who happen to be sports fans will be buzzing about Roy Halladay and the Phillies this weekend.

Another factor is a degree of “bad blood” that has been brewing between the two schools for some time.

It’s hard to argue with Penn’s dominance on the field, (13 straight wins in the series is well, 13 straight wins), but are they being “sore winners?” It’s hard to say if you’re not on the field with the players and coaches.

But the losses against the Quakers have somehow stung more than they have against any other Ivy opponent, with the possible exception of Yale, in the Norries Wilson era.

If I did a survey of Lions fans, I would guess Penn is the one team most of them would like to see Columbia defeat the most. Penn fans probably want to beat Harvard the most, (at least since 1982), but they all seem to have a special place in their hearts for defeating the Lions.

But to the Columbia players’ credit, I haven’t sensed any danger of the Lions focusing on this game too much and losing sight of the goals for the entire season. That’s important, because Columbia can’t let one win or loss against Penn define the entire year. Half the season remains after this game.

Somebody Likes Us!

Columbia got a vote this week Nice.

in the FCS Top 25 poll.


Special Challenge

As we all continue to discuss the attendance issue, I say it's time for all the readers of "Roar Lions Roar" to do something about it.

So here's my challenge: even if you have all the tickets you need for Homecoming on the 23rd, everyone should buy at least ONE more ticket. And then, make sure you get a real person to fill the seat too!

When your mission is accomplished, tell us about it in the comments section.

I'll start out: I just bought two extra tickets and got my co-workers to use them.

Click here to buy your tickets now.

Who's next?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I just wanted to tap out a quick note to say the comments about low attendance are not all on-target.

I agree the non-athletic department support from the administration could be better, but you'd have to be blind to miss how much the athletic department has done in recent years to get people in the seats.

Free beer and soft drinks in the picnic area, bonus plans for attendance for students, massive web site content, shuttles to and from games up the wazoo, and the list goes on and on.

Bottom line, only winning will fill the seats of the football stadium and now that we are winning, the fans will come back, but it isn't an instant thing.

That said, the crowd WILL be big for Homecoming. And if the Lions beat Penn Saturday, it may be a RECORD crowd.

The Stage is Set

Waiting for Superman? He's already here! (Credit: Columbia Spectator)

All systems seem to be “go” for what is shaping up to be one of the most important Columbia football game in a very long time.

The Lions are riding high into Philadelphia for a showdown with the Penn Quakers at Franklin Field this Saturday.

Columbia hasn’t defeated Penn since 1996, (that’s 13 straight losses folks), when the Lions edged the Quakers 20-19 in OT in Philly.

But this game is about more than just revenge, or getting over a mental hump.

This game is about grabbing the inside track to the Ivy title, which arguably is up for grabs. And that is what’s really important here.

Look, this blog is all about history… almost all the time. But I realize to these young men on the Lion football team right now, the past is not their responsibility. These guys want to make their own history, and they are already.

Let’s just talk about the history Sean Brackett is making:

-Brackett already has five wins under his belt as a Columbia starter. That’s more than any Columbia starter since Craig Hormann '08 who finished his career with eight. Jeff Otis ’05, needed a year and a half as a starter to reach five wins, and he sadly never got any more, finishing with an overall personal record as a starter of 5-15. Brackett's overall record as a starter is 5-3.

-Not only has Brackett achieved this less than halfway through his sophomore year, but he’s done it before his 19th birthday. #10 is 18 until November.

-Going beyond raw stats, consider what Brackett brings to the football-watching experience. Yes, he has a great arm and can run. But it’s actually a joy to watch him go through his reads, make a good decision, and then commit to it. He actually makes people watching him smarter about football. You don’t have to be a Columbia fan to realize it. I DVR’d the Lafayette broadcast of the game on ESPN GamePlan, and the Leopard announcers got more and more excited about Brackett as the game went on.

(Speaking of the Lafayette broadcasters and writers, I’d like to give them kudos for the great and evenhanded job they did all week leading up to the game and postgame as well. Do yourselves a favor and read Paul Reinhard’s many pieces about the game, especially this one. )

Keeping Mike on the Field

Look closely at the picture above.

That’s WR Nico Gutierrez wearing injured teammate and team captain Mike Stephens’ initials on his wristband.

Nico is just one of the many Lions trying to make sure Stephens is not forgotten despite his season-ending injury in the week one loss against Fordham.

Stephens is actually helping WR coach Aaron Smith develop the receivers and is giving as much as he can to the team from the sidelines.

This reminds me of the great gesture by Austin Knowlin last season when he came out for the Yale game wearing Ray Rangel’s #4 after Rangel had been lost for the season in the Dartmouth game the week before.

Nitpicking… I Admit

Getting back to history, you’ll see a lot of news releases this week saying Columbia is enjoying its first three game winning streak since 1997.

That’s technically correct, because the 2nd “win” in that streak was a game Penn had to forfeit at the end of the season because of a blatantly ineligible player, (Mitch Marrow).

But that feels like revisionist history.

This is really the best streak since the 1996 team began the year 6-0.


1. Penn (#2 last week)

The Quakers are looking iffy on offense, and super strong on defense. Just like last year, when they went 7-0 in the Ivies and won the title.

2. Columbia (3)

The Lions offense behind Brackett seems almost unstoppable. The defense had its roughest day of the season, but Lafayette’s offense came in ready to play.

3. Brown (1)

The Bears are in trouble without Kyle Newhall Caballero for the rest of the season. But they still have the tools to win this whole thing.

4. Harvard (4)

Is Hatch coming back? Even if he doesn’t, the Crimson can run the ball and play great defense. Not a bad combo.

5. Yale (6)

You have to respect the Elis 2-0 league record. But this is still a team that lost at home to Albany. If they beat Fordham this Saturday, I’ll give them an upgrade.

6. Dartmouth (5)

The Big Green really needed to beat Yale to prove they are for real. They didn’t.

7. Cornell (8)

Decent first half performance boosts the Big Red up a notch.

8. Princeton (7)

It’s hard to find any positives right now.

Brackett, Gross Sweep Awards!!!

QB Sean Brackett has been named Ivy Offensive Player of the Week and LB Alex Gross is Ivy Defensive Player of the Week by the league office.

Full release is here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

QB Issues!

See you next year?

We got issues people.

At the beginning of the season, the chatter in the Ivies was that Columbia's QB Sean Brackett was very good but his running game would make him too likely an injury victim.

Well, now the best purely passing QB in the Ivies is out for the season.

Brown's Kyle Newhall Caballero broke his wrist late in the game against URI last week. (Thanks Bruce Wood for alerting me to that).

Another top QB in the league with injury issues, Penn's Keiffer Garton, saw limited action yesteday. Garton was five of seven for 32 yards and an interception. Penn's other QB and co-Ivy offensive player of the Week last week, Billy Ragone, was suspended for the game yesterday for undisclosed reasons! Ryan Becker got most of the snaps at QB for the Quakers and he was a decent 14-22 for 194 yards, one TD and one INT.

And Harvard's Andrew Hatch was held out of the game against Cornell yesterday as a continuing precaution after his concussion against Brown in week 2. Harvard already lost 2009 starter Collier Winters to an injury in training camp.

Clearly, Columbia has been very lucky to keep Brackett healthy so far and will have to work hard to keep him that way without abandoning what has worked so well for them through the first four weeks of 2010.

And, just a little complaint here:

The two or three weeks, there has been MAJOR injury news from several teams that no coach in the weekly Ivy media teleconference has bothered to mention.

Harvard's Tim Murphy decided to hold Hatch out of last week's game at Lafayette at least 24 hours before the call on 9/27. But there was no mention of that. Brown's Phil Estes must have known Caballero was done for the year by last Tuesday.

I like having the conference call, and I realize that injury news is not a right in college football, (let alone the secretive Ivies), but this is getting a little silly.

In Good Hands

Columbia 42 Lafayette 28

Why Columbia Won

Sophomore QB Sean Brackett wouldn't let them lose. Brackett kept the offense moving at key moments with his arm and his feet all afternoon. Every time the Lions seemed to be in trouble, Brackett and/or a big kick return by Craig Hamilton put them back in control.

Why Lafayette Lost

The Leopards didn't take care of the football. The offense moved the ball extremely well, but a terrible INT/pick 6 and some lost fumbles sealed Lafayette's fate. The defense was also pourous at times, but the turnovers stymied an offense that was otherwise matching the Lion offense step for step.

Turning Points

-With Lafayette leading 10-7 early in the second quarter and in what looked like another scoring drive, Leopard QB Ryan O'Neil threw a pass right to Columbia LB Alex Gross. Gross picked it off and rumbled 69 yards for a TD. Lafayette would get the lead back again, but the big play from Gross kept the Lions from getting too far behind.

-On the opening drive of the second half, Columbia faced a 4th and 1 at the Leopard 32. After failing on a 4th down conversion with a bad pass in the first half, the Lions just used a simple running play to FB Nathan Lenz this time, and Lenz gained three yards to keep the drive alive. On the very next play, Brackett executed a beautiful double fake handoff and completed a 29 yard TD pass to a wide open TE Andrew Kennedy. Columbia never had less than a two score lead after that.

Columbia Positives

-Brackett keeps getting better and better. He never even came close to throwing an interception, giving him just one this season in 80 total attempts. His scrambling ability, even when everyone in the stadium knows he's going to run, is also better than ever.

-The Lion offensive line is starting to dominate, as opposed to just wearing down opponents over time. Columbia finally scored in the first quarter of a game this season, because the O-line came out right to shine right away.

-If Columbia thought losing Austin Knowlin meant losing a decent kickoff returner, that was very wrong. Hamilton now seems like he could break one every single time he touches the ball.

Columbia Negatives

-The defense put in its worst performance of the season, looking particularly vulnerable to fakes and screen passes. Whatever the Leopards figured out about the Lion D that the previous three opponents did not needs to be fixed in time for Penn next week.

-Still too many penalties, and this time it wasn't the refs' fault.

Columbia MVP

Sean Brackett's 105 yards rushing and three TD passes should only promote his legend across the Ivies even more. Remember, folks, this is just a sophomore who will only get better if he stays healthy.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Gross Gains

Most Ivy League college seniors spend time reading the Wall Street Journal in preparation for job interviews.

But today, Columbia Captain Alex Gross is in the Wall Street Journal.

In a spectacular piece by Joshua Robinson Alex's remarkable character comes shining through.

All of us who have even briefly known or spoken to Alex are not surprised.

Here's the key paragraph:

"Like roughly 100 others at Columbia and countless more throughout the Ivy League, Mr. Gross leads the double life of a football player and a student at an elite university—two sets of commitments that, really, should not be able to share one person's schedule. Yet over the last three years he has made the All-Ivy team, been Ivy League Rookie of the Year and built the highest grade-point average of any senior on the team."

One year ago this week, Alex's season was lost because of a terrible injury during the opening kick off at Lafayette.

This time, it will be Alex's day.

Don't Stop...

Otis Island: Calvin Otis needs to come up big again tomorrow

Lafayette Leopards vs. Columbia Lions

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 and 70 degrees

The Spread: Columbia is favored by 9 points

Columbia Game Notes

*Make sure to click on the Princeton Game Highlights icon on the game notes page to see super high quality video highlights from the big 42-14 win over the Tigers last week.

Lafayette Game Notes

HOW TO GET TO THE GAME (Jake’s EVEN NEWER 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 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.

By Car: Do whatever you can to avoid the Cross Bronx Expressway. But ALSO avoid the tie ups at Broadway north of Dyckman that are also a result of the subway construction. And the Harlem River Drive is now backed up on weekends because of GW Bridge construction. You can still take the RFK/Triboro Bridge to either 125th Street and stay on 125th going west until you reach the West Side Highway North, or take the RFK/Triboro to the Major Deegan North to the 230th Street exit and drive down Broadway to 218th.

If you choose the parking garages along 10th Avenue, I would get under the tracks as soon as you can on 10th and pull into the first garage you see within 10 blocks of the stadium.

More driving, subway, and bus directions and tips here


Logon to to see the game live. Turn down the sound there and go onto the SideLion Pass and hear the Columbia commentators, Jerry Recoo and Sal Licata with the ESPN3 video!


Columbia has lost eight straight to the Leopards, some in horrific fashion thanks to the refs and some of the Lions own errors.

But last year’s 24-21 Columbia loss was especially stinging as it came with the massive injury to Alex Gross and killed the momentum the team earned from the big win at Princeton the week before.

On the positive side, Lafayette’s coaches and some players said the Lions were the best Ivy team they played all last season, including Harvard and Penn.

The 13-3 loss in 2008 also stung, as the Lion defense played its best game of the year, only to see the offense squander several scoring opportunities.

Columbia’s last win over the Leopards was in 2000, an unusual off year for them.

Lafayette comes into the game 0-4, reeling from injuries, and still not settled after a lot of key graduations. Last week, they were tarred by Harvard, 35-10, thanks to 311 rushing yards by the Crimson. But the Leopards three other losses, including one to Penn, were much closer and could have gone either way.

History Alert!

The Lions have NEVER won three straight games at Wien Stadium in the same season. They did win the last two contests in 1996 and the first home game in 1997, but that's it. Of course, Columbia had many long home winning streaks at the old Baker Field. The 17,000 seat Wien Stadium opened in 1984, replacing the all-wooden, decaying, 32,000 seat Baker Field stadium, which opened in 1923.

Familiar Faces

-Columbia TE Clif Pope, who scored his first varsity TD last week, was a high school teammate of Lafayetter QB Ryan O'Neil at Iona Prep.

-Freshman defensive back Chris Alston was a teammate of Lafayette freshman DeOliver Davis at the Hun School in New Jersey, (though Alston is from Virginia).

Keys to the Game

Take an Early Lead

The Leopards confidence needs a boost with an 0-4 record around their necks. The Lions can go a long way to killing any optimism by scoring first, something they haven’t done all year.

Last year’s loss to an 0-5 Dartmouth team was sealed when the Big Green scored a TD on a long opening drive of the game. Yes, Columbia had some massive injury issues that day, but as soon as Dartmouth saw they could win, they were well on their way to winning.

And the Lions, who haven't scored in the first quarter of any game, need to give their defense a lift with an early score.

Dominate the Lines of Scrimmage

Columbia, flat out, has better offensive and defensive lines than Lafayette and that needs to come through loud and clear. The Lions need to do a better job than last week at harassing the Leopard backfield, especially if the returning Owen Fraser gets real playing time.

On offense, the Columbia O-line must continue the job it’s been doing the last two weeks and establish the running game against Lafayette’s questionable ground defense.

Be Ready for the Deep Ball

The Lions still haven’t been really tested deep down the field with any regularity. I like our chances in that scenario, but that may be the only way to win if you’re Lafayette.

Cut the Penalties

The Leopards are a very young team playing on the road, there’s no reason why Columbia should even come close to committing as many penalties as Lafayette might in this game. Penalties have cost the Lions two of the last seven losses to the Leopards and this needs to stop now.