Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Welcome Henry!


From Bushnell winner to Bushnell coach: Buddy Teevens

I am a big fan of the Columbia basketball teams and that’s why I’m delighted to learn that an enthusiastic new blogger has decided to follow the CU men’s basketball team.

The blog is called “Going Lions,” and it’s run by a man from Inwood named Henry Vick.

Henry says he got into Columbia sports because he lives so close to Wien Stadium and first got hooked on the football team.

Welcome Henry and go Lion hoops!


Bushnell Cup Dry Spells

We’re a week away from the special ceremony honoring the winner of the MVP award for Ivy League football 2010.

It’s interesting that two of the most likely contenders come from schools that haven’t enjoyed a Bushnell Cup winner in the longest time.

The longest draught right now belongs to Columbia. The Lions haven’t had an MVP winner since John Witkowski ’84 won it in 1982, 28 years ago.

The second longest streak belongs to Dartmouth, which is at 18 years and counting since QB Jay Fiedler took home the cup in 1992.

Like the Biblical story in Genesis, Dartmouth’s 18 years of famine have come after some years of plenty. Fiedler was the third straight Big Green star to win the cup, following Shon Page and Al Rosier in 1990 and 1991, respectively.

Columbia has had only one other Bushnell winner besides Witkowski. That was RB Doug Jackson '76 in 1975.

In the running, (at least most people believe so), this year from Dartmouth is RB Nick Schwieger and from Columbia, QB Sean Brackett.

It should be noted that if either of them win, it really would be a historic moment for the league because of the long dry spells for each school.

In case you were wondering how all the schools measure up in total Bushnell Cup winners:


Penn 9

Yale 8

Princeton 6

Dartmouth 5

Harvard 5

Brown 4

Cornell 4

Columbia 2

(includes repeat winners and co-winners)


Another interesting tidbit is that if Schwieger wins, he’ll be the third-ever Bushnell Cup winner to have a head coach who is former Bushnell winner.

He would join Page and Rosier who were also coached by 1978 Bushnell winner Buddy Teevens.

To be fair, Teevens is the ONLY former Bushnell winner to become an Ivy head coach… not that others haven’t tried very hard.

In fact, the personal histories of some of the Bushnell winners are a good lesson in how rare it is for star football players to become successful head coaches or managers in any sport.

One Bushnell winner who has tried more than once to grab a head coaching spot in the Ivies is 1985 winner Tom Gilmore. Gilmore remains the skipper of a pretty successful Holy Cross squad, but has for some reason not been given the call at any of the five Ivy schools that have had head coaching openings since 2005.

A number of Bushnell winners have been assistant coaches to Bushnell winners. That includes Columbia’s Doug Jackson who was at Penn when Gilmore won the cup.

Jackson came back to Columbia, also as an assistant, in 1986. But Jackson’s Ivy career ended two years later as he was caught up in the mess that led to Head Coach Larry McElreavy’s ouster.

Princeton’s current OC James Perry won the Bushnell in 1999 when he was a spectacular QB at Brown. But after this year’s performance with the Tigers, Perry’s chances to become a head coach anywhere have taken a hit.

1988 winner Jason Garrett leapfrogged college coaching altogether and is now the interim head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s doubtful he’ll ever become an Ivy coach.

The list goes on.

Would Ivy football be a better experience for fans and players if more of its ex-players became head coaches in the league?

It’s probably not a question that can be answered in anything other than a case-by-case basis.

But the recent data is not encouraging.

Former Ivy stars Bill Campbell and Bob Shoop had very limited success as head coaches at Columbia.

The jury is still out on people like Teevens, who excelled toward the end of his first tenure at Dartmouth and is just now seeing some success in his second.

Bob Surace has hit rock bottom in year one at Princeton.

Jim Knowles never made it happen at Cornell in his six years at the helm that ended lat season.

Despite the recent track records, I would like to see more Ivy grid alums become head coaches in the league.

Maybe we just need a different KIND of alum to jump into the ring?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Otis Elevates


Jeff Otis in 2004


Perhaps some of you have seen the sobering reports that about 80% of NFL players are essentially BROKE within two years of retirement.

Jeff Otis '05, won't be one of them.

Jeff made a valiant effort to stick with the pros, but has now made a great career move to business school.

Jeff's 2003 season at Columbia was one of the gutsiest performances seen by a Lion QB over the past generation. His 17 TD passes stood as the best number of throwing scores by a Columbia passer in the post-John Witkowski '84 era until Sean Brackett tossed 19 this season.

Best of luck to Jeff!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Now the Season REALLY Begins


The sun rises on a whole different kind of football season


During the actual football season, this blog doesn't really provide all that much new information that you can't get on your own.

You can watch the games, analyze them yourself, etc.

But during the offseason, it's the recruiting news that is fun for me to gather as it is sometimes buries in obscure websites and newspapers.

Speaking of recruiting, it's time to start publishing the rolling list of incomin freshmen for the fall of 2011. That would be the class of 2015.

So far, we have just two names.


1) Hunter Little DL 6-4 225 lbs. The Webb School Knoxville, TN

2) Kal Prince QB 6-4 198 lbs. Owenboro HS Owensboro, KY



The next few weeks should be interesting as we see this list grow.

Congratulations to these young men for accepting the very big academic and athletic challenge that is the Ivy League.

Oddities



Some strange facts about the 2010 Columbia football season:


-All four of Columbia's wins, even the 42-14 thrashing of Princeton, were come from behind victories.


-All 10 of Columbia's games were played in generally nice weather. The overcast game at Harvard was as bad as it got. I can't remember a warmer and drier Lion season.


-Sean Brackett became the first Columbia player since Archie Roberts in 1964 to lead the Lions in passing and rushing. I consider this an oddity mostly because the Lions have had excellent running QB's like M.A. Olawale and Mike Cavanaugh, but neither were ever able to lead in both categories. Roberts actually did it twice, in '64 and his junior year of 1963.


-The Lions overall stat comparisons for the season are a remarkable study in almost total symmetry. Columbia scored 222 points compared to 228 for their opponents. They rushed for 1,520 yards compared to allowing 1,526. They passed for 2,092 yards while allowing 2,053. They committed 57 penalties compared to 56 committed by their opponents. The list goes on...


-Neither the Lions nor any of its opponents missed any field goal attempts until the week six game when Dartmouth missed one. Then it wasn't until week eight that Columbia had a miss, actually two, while Harvard also missed two.


-In the final game of the season, Columbia attempted its only fake punt and its first onside kick attempts of the season. They were both successful and executed by Greg Guttas.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stack the Line


John Witkowski won a grand total of three games as a Lion starter


The All Ivy announcements spell out a very clear path to success in this league.

And that path can be summed up in one word: “linemen.”

Ivy champ Penn had a stunning, but deserved, THREE 1st Team All Ivy offensive linemen, one 1st Team Defensive Lineman, an O-lineman and a D-lineman on the 2nd Team, and another O-lineman AND the tight end getting All Ivy honorable mention.

This HAS to be the first time one team has earned All Ivy recognition for each and every starting member of its offensive line.

The Quaker D-line, was also a force… as usual.

Columbia’s offensive line, with repeat 1st Teamer Jeff Adams and talented new starters like Bob Hauschildt and Kyle Stupi, is certainly not bad. But there was obvious weakness along the defensive line.

Result? A 2-5 league record.

Harvard had a good defensive line, but it’s offensive line wasn’t nearly as good as it has been in recent years.

Result? The Crimson came in tied for second, but they were WAY behind Penn this season in overall team quality.

The good news for the rest of the league is that only one of Penn’s honored O-linemen wasn’t a senior.

The bad news is that top flight linemen are very hard to recruit and it’s becoming harder every day.

Columbia can be very encouraged by the fact that it has the best player in the Ivies at the most crucial position in football. That would be Sean Brackett at QB.

But we’ve been down this path before.

Archie Roberts, Marty Domres, and John Witkowski were all not just great Ivy QB’s, but they were three of the truly great QB’s in all of college football history.

These three great CU signal callers won a total of 15 games as starters... COMBINED.

In Roberts’ case, the reason was a lack of great running backs during his final two seasons. Domres failed to win enough because of the defense and the fact that then Head Coach Frank Navarro didn’t use the passing game enough. Witkowski played on some Columbia teams that might as well not have bothered to show up on “D”… an empty field would have been more of a challenge to opposing offenses at times.

Every once in a while, a player comes around who changes everything… and makes it worthwhile to change everything.

I’m thinking along the lines of the San Francisco 49ers ripping out their Astroturf and going back to grass when they acquired the sore-kneed O.J. Simpson in the late 70’s.

The Lions don’t need to do anything that drastic to their facilities, but everything else should be on the table.

With two years left in his Columbia career, it’s time for the football program to rearrange things to make sure Sean Brackett gets all he needs to turn his super skills into as many victories as possible.

If that means recruiting a little differently, shifting veteran players around, and most importantly re-writing the playbook, so be it.

I’ll leave to the true experts to fill in the details here.

We’d all hate to see a once-in-a-generation player like Brackett miss out on a total “cash-in” for his skills.

The nagging feeling is that’s what happened to recent stars like Austin Knowlin, Johnathan Reese, Michael Quarshie, Lou Miller, and the list goes on.

Posting five 1st Team All Ivy honorees is certainly something to be proud of, but six, seven, or eight wins would be better.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Honored Pride


Calvin Otis


The Lions fared nicely on the All Ivy 1st Team, grabbing nods at QB, TE, LT, CB, and LB.

The most pleasant surprise for me was the well-deserved recognition for Calvin Otis. Calvin really played "shutdown corner" this year, but I was worried the other Ivy coaches wouldn't notice.

Meanwhile, Calvin's fellow defensive back, Adam Mehrer, was given a great honor today as he was named to the ESPN Academic All-America Football Team.

Making the All Ivy 2nd Team was promising sophomore DE Joshua Martin, Mehrer was an honorable mention along with inspiring comeback story WR Nico Gutierrez who is a senior.

Here's the entire All Ivy roster. Congratulations to all the winners!


Rookie of the Year: *Jeff Mathews, Cornell (Fr., QB, Camarillo, Calif.)


Bushnell Cup Winner, (Ivy MVP): TBA on December 6th



First Team All-Ivy



Offense


Patrick Conroy, Brown (Sr., OL, Leesburg, Va.)

Jeff Adams, Columbia (Jr., OL, Western Springs, Ill.)

Ryan O'Neill, Dartmouth (Jr., OL, Orland Park, Ill.)

Joseph D'Orazio, Penn (Sr., OL, Bryn Mawr, Pa.)

Luis Ruffolo, Penn (Sr., OL, Webster, N.Y.)

Greg Van Roten, Penn (Jr., OL, Rockville Centre, N.Y.)

Sean Brackett, Columbia (So., QB, Brooklyn, Conn.)

Billy Ragone, Penn (So., QB, Chesire, Conn.)

Nick Schwieger, Dartmouth (Jr., RB, Norton, Mass.)

Gino Gordon, Harvard (Sr., RB, Bonita, Calif.)

Luke DeLuca, Penn (Sr., FB, Grand Island, N.Y.)

Alexander Tounkara, Brown (Sr., WR, Staten Island, N.Y.)

Tim McManus, Dartmouth (Sr., WR, St. Paul, Minn.)

*Trey Peacock, Princeton (Sr., WR, Chandler, Ariz.)

Andrew Kennedy, Columbia (Sr., TE, Westport, Conn.)



Defense


Charles Bay, Dartmouth (Sr., DL, Marietta, Ga.)

*Josue Ortiz, Harvard (Sr., DL, Avon Park, Fla.)

Brandon Copeland, Penn (So., DL, Sykesville, Md.)

Tom McCarthy, Yale (Sr., DL, Chester, N.J.)

Alex Gross, Columbia (Sr., LB, Kettering, Ohio)

Erik Rask, Penn (Jr., LB, Newport Beach, Calif.)

Zack Heller, Penn (Sr., LB, Orlando, Fla.)

Jordan Haynes, Yale (Jr., LB, Folsom, Calif.)

A.J. Cruz, Brown (So., DB, Lake Forest, Calif.)

Calvin Otis, Columbia (Sr., DB, Windemere, Fla.)

Shawn Abuhoff, Dartmouth (Jr., DB, Hileah, Fla.)

*Collin Zych, Harvard (Sr., DB, Plano, Texas)

Josh Powers, Penn (Sr., DB, Fishers, Ind.)

Adam Money, Yale (Sr., DB, Whiteland, Ind.)



Special Teams


Patrick Jacob, Princeton (Jr., PK, Colon, Ohio)

Drew Alston, Cornell (Sr., P, Memphis, Tenn.)

*Shawn Abuhoff, Dartmouth (Jr., RS, Hileah, Fla.)


Second Team All-Ivy


Offense


Brian Ellixson, Brown (Sr., OL, Havertown, Pa.)

Austen Fletcher, Dartmouth (Jr., OL, Old Brookville, N.Y.)

Chris LeRoy, Harvard (Sr., OL, Portland, Maine)

Kevin Murphy, Harvard (Jr., OL, San Clemente, Calif.)

Brent Osborne, Harvard (Sr., OL, Draper, Va.)

Drew Luango, Penn (Sr., OL, Germantown, Md.)

Patrick Witt, Yale (Jr., QB, Atlanta, Ga.)

Trevor Scales, Harvard (So. RB, Stone Mountain, Ga.)

Brandon Colavita, Penn (So., RB, Sewell, N.J.)

Alex Thomas, Yale (Jr., RB, Ansonia, Conn.)

Andrew Kerr, Princeton (Sr., WR, State College, Pa.)

Chris Smith, Yale (So., WR, Midlothian, Va.)

John Gallagher, Dartmouth (Jr., TE, Salem, Ore.)

Chris Blohm, Yale (Sr., TE, San Francisco, Calif.)


Defense


Jeremy Raducha, Brown (Sr., DL, Bristol, Conn.)

Josh Martin, Columbia (So., DL, Aurora, Colo.)

Chucks Obi, Harvard (Sr., DL, Tracy, Calif.)

Drew Goldsmith, Penn (Sr., DL, Jupiter, Fla.)

Andrew Serrano, Brown (Sr., LB, Phoenix, Ariz.)

Alex Gedeon, Harvard (Jr., LB, Hudson, Ohio)

Nick Hasselberg, Harvard (Sr., LB, Carlsbad, Calif.)

Jon Olofsson, Princeton (Sr., LB, Frankfort, Ill.)

Steve Peyton, Brown (Jr., DB, Woodland, Calif.)

Emani Fenton, Cornell (Sr., DB, Ashburn, Va.)

Matthew Hanson, Harvard (Jr., DB, Lafayette, Colo.)

Matt Hamscher, Penn (Jr., DB, Whitehall, Pa.)

Special Teams

Alexander Norocea, Brown (Fr., PK, Hermosa Beach, Calif.)

Joe Cloud, Princeton (So., P, Edwards, Ill.)

Chris Smith, Yale (So., RS, Midlothian, Va.)



Honorable Mention All-Ivy


Jack Geiger, Brown (Jr., OL, Whitefish Bay, Wisc.)

Jared Mollenback, Penn (Sr., OL, Hampton, Iowa)

Jake Koury, Yale (Sr., OL, Dublin, Ohio)

Mark Kachmer, Brown (So., RB, Wheaton, Ill.)

Jordan Culbreath, Princeton (Sr., RB, Falls Church, Va.)

Jimmy Saros, Brown (Jr., WR, Grosse Point Park, Mich.)

Nico Gutierrez, Columbia (Sr., WR, New Canaan, Conn.)

Michael Reilly, Dartmouth (Jr., WR, Denver, Colo.)

Nicolai Schwarzkopf, Harvard (Sr., TE, Decatur, Ga.)

Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard (So., H-Back, Medina, Ohio)

Luke Nawrocki, Penn (Jr., TE, Syosset, N.Y.)

Clayton McGrath, Brown (Jr., DL, Longmeadow, Mass.)

Brian Wing, Penn (Sr., DL, West Bloomfield, Mich.)

Mike Catapano, Princeton (Jr., DL, Bayville, N.Y.)

Sean Williams, Yale (Sr., DL, Portland, Ore.)

Chimso Okoji, Brown (Sr., LB, Silver Spring, Md.)

Zack Imhoff, Cornell (Jr., LB, Cincinnati, Ohio)

Luke Hussey, Dartmouth (Sr., LB, Seattle, Wash.)

Brian Levine, Penn (Sr., LB, Westport, Conn.)

Andrew Starks, Princeton (So., LB, Plainfield, Ill.)

Adam Mehrer, Columbia (Sr., DB, Midlothian, Va.)

Bradford Blackmon, Penn (Sr., DB, Jackson, Miss.)

Drew Baldwin, Yale (Jr., DB, Alexandria, Va.)

Foley Schmidt, Dartmouth (Jr., PK, Inner Grove Heights, Mich.)

Andrew Samson, Penn (Sr., PK, West Bloomfield, Mich.)

Nate Lovett, Brown (Jr., P, East Providence, R.I.)

Scott Lopano, Penn (So., P, Southlake, Texas)

Bradford Blackmon, Penn (Sr., RS, Jackson, Miss.)


*Unanimous Selection

Instant Cheer

Images from Homecoming...







Tuesday, November 23, 2010

POY Clarity


Nick Schwieger in 2009


The final weekend of 2010 helped clarify, for me at least, the tough race for the Bushnell Cup.

That’s what happens when one of the leading candidates for the Ivy player of the year award runs for over a 100 yards and scorews three TD’s in the last game of the season.

That candidate would be Dartmouth’s Nick Schwieger, who finished the year with an impressive 1,133 yards and an even more impressive 14 TD’s. He also averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

It’s true that Columbia’s Sean Brackett injected more life into his team than any other player this season, but Schwieger really got more consistent results and wins.

I don’t know if the Ivy coaches will vote for Schwiegger, especially because the Big Green finished 5th in the league. But I think they will, because he managed to play strongly even in most of Dartmouth’s Ivy losses.

I still think it would be even better if they just gave the award to the entire Penn offensive line, but that’s not going to happen.

Either way, we won’t learn the winner of the Bushnell Cup until the special new ceremony set for December 6th. I don’t know if they will announce finalists like they do for the Heisman Trophy, but I haven’t heard anything about that.

The All Ivy honorees should be announced sometime tomorrow.

Here are the three big questions I have that will be answered when that news is released:

1) Will Brackett be the 1st Team All Ivy QB? I think he was clearly the best QB in the league this year, but will the coaches reward a 6th place team in this way?

2) Will Alex Gross be a 1st Team All Ivy linebacker? No doubt. Will he be a unanimous choice? He deserves to be, but I’m not sure.


3) Will any other Lions make the 1st team? I think Andrew Kennedy deserves it at TE, but I am also not sure about the voters.

Tune in again in about 24 hours for the answers.


Sad Loss

I don’t know if there is a more appropriate place to make this announcement, but here goes:

Elizabeth Ann Dwyer, (nee Deruiter), A classmate and friend of mine from the class of 1992, and a great friend of athletics and Columbia financially and emotionally, died late last week.

She was 40 years old.

Beth came to Columbia because of athletics and rose to great successes in life after graduation.

Even though she left the swim team after her sophomore year, she remained a strong advocate for CU athletics for the rest of her life.

She had a lot of personal reasons to not be such a big supporter for Columbia sports, but she remained a big contributor and mentor for years.

She died Thursday of a cancer they caught too late.

She leaves behind a husband and two sons ages eight and five.

I am saddened and scared.

And yes, her loss has put the 2010 season into some perspective on my end.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Appeal

Many of you have already weighed in with some well-written and politely expressed criticisms of the coaching staff and calls for change.

But because of the anonymous nature of the Internet I'm not going to publish any more; I am concerned that perhaps the point is being overstated.

Feel free to continue commenting on almost anything you like, but I think the anonymous calls for resignations have reached the limit.

But I do appreciate the fact that no one has descended into vulgarities, personal nastiness, and profanity in their comments.

Others cannot say the same.

Faulty Finish


Call it a Brownout


Brown 38 Columbia 16


Why Brown Won

The Bears ran a flawless offense through most of the first half, especially on 2nd and 3rd down. The Bears offensive line was especially dominant and helped Brown take advantage of almost every Columbia mistake.


Why Columbia Lost

The Lions came out extremely flat on offense, and dug themselves into an 0-28 hole. Sean Brackett ignited some life into the squad when he entered the game in the second half, but Columbia was still error prone and it was far too late anyway.


Key Turning Points

Columbia missed three key chances to grab a spark in the game:

1) After the Bears grabbed a Jerry Bell interception at the Lion 20, the Columbia defense held and Brown turned it back over on downs. But the Lions gained no momemtum as they got one first down and then had to punt.

2) Brown fumbled a Greg Guttas punt late in the first half, but the result was only a missed Columbia FG.

3) After the Lions scored a TD to make it 31-13 in the third, Guttas and Columbia executed a flawless onside kick and got the ball right back. But the resulting drive ended in a fumble inside the Brown five.


Columbia Positives

-Brackett's near flawless play and gutty performance on a bad leg.

-Alex Gross' 14 tackles to finish the season with a league-leading 124.

-The onside kick.


Columbia Negatives

-Without Brackett, the offense simply does not move.

-The run defense was alarmingly absent.

-Turnovers in both red zones were rampant.


Columbia MVP

It has to go to Brackett. The game was not remotely interesting for Lions fans until he got into it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Break Even Saturday?


Brown Stadium's aging facade


Columbia Lions at Brown Bears

November 20, 2010

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Location: Brown Stadium

Gametime Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy, 52 degrees and windy

The Spread: Brown is favored by seven points

Columbia Game Notes

Brown Game Notes


Backstories

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

The Bears were perennial doormats for many decades.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another backstory Saturday is the revenge factor from last season.

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


Keys to the Game


Get Going Early on Offense

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


Contain Tounkara

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


Trust the Safeties and Get After the QB

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


Make Brown Pay on Kicks

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



More Recognition

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


Dan Cohen

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


Paul Havas

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


Mike Stephens

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


Gross to the CFL?

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 10 Picks



I had a rougher time in week 9 than I’ve had all season long. But I did call the most important game right on the money, so I have that to feel good about.

Let’s see how I did:


Princeton +22 ½ at Yale

Jake Said: The Elis can smell a shot at a title and this is the season finale at home. The Elis will cover.

Result: Yale just barely pulled it out. 1-0 overall, 0-1 against the spread.


Brown +3 at Dartmouth

Jake Said: I think the Big Green will indeed win by three points. But I will conform and say Dartmouth will beat the spread here.

Result: Wrong and wrong again. Brown won by seven. 1-1 overall, 0-2 ATS.


Harvard +6 ½ at Penn

Jake Said: The Quakers win and cover.

Result: Penn won by 20. 2-1 overall, 1-2 ATS.


So going into the final weekend, I am 29-12 overall and 28-13 ATS. Still not too shabby.


Now to week 10, which is always a little trickier than it looks:


Penn -24 ½ at Cornell

Another monster spread here, but you can understand why. Penn’s super running game and offensive line should approach 300 yards on the ground alone against the Big Red’s porous run defense. And there’s also the fact that Yale could conceivably tie the Quakers for the title if Cornell somehow beats them.

That won’t happen, but the fact that Penn needs to win this game to be sure of the solo title will keep the Quakers awake and hungry. They will cover.


Dartmouth -8 ½ at Princeton

Last week’s loss must have the Big Green hungrier to finish the season on a high note. Memories of last year’s loss to the Tigers will also be a big motivation. This will be a close game until the fourth quarter when the Green pulls away and covers the spread.


Yale +10 at Harvard

Harvard is banged up and starting to look weaker every week. Yale might be an even more improved team than Dartmouth this season. But I still think Harvard will win. That 10 point spread is too high though. Harvard wins, Yale covers.


Special Words

I’d like to write a sentence or two in honor of some of the other seniors who will be ending their Columbia careers tomorrow. I apologize for being too short with all of them, and I wish I could write long pieces about all the seniors. But I hope the recognition here is a good beginning. (I also am trying to leave out the seniors who are likely to apply for 5th year status):


Nico Gutierrez

Nico had a super freshman season and then struggled to recover from an ACL injury his next two years. As a senior this season, he broke out again and was a great weapon in the passing game and a reliable replacement for the injured Mike Stephens as a punt returner. His hard work to get himself physically able to play again is a huge credit to him.


Craig Hamilton

Super kick returner and a much better than expected defensive back. Craig made this season a lot more exciting.


Marc Holloway

Great linebacker who made his greatest impact during the Lions’ strong start to the 2009 season. A very popular guy among his teammates.


Leon Ivery

Made great strides as a junior and a senior. Had some great runs in his tenure and NEVER seemed to fumble.


Andrew Kennedy

Easily the best Columbia TE since Wade Fletcher in 2004, and he stayed a lot healthier over four years. The best tight end in the Ivies this season and a great team leader.


Bryan Kipp

Excellent plugger on the defensive line, fit in well with coach Denauld Brown’s heavy substitution policy.


Zack Kourouma

Great swing back and a very strong receiving threat out of the backfield. Who can forget his super 59-yard catch and run for a TD at a run-soaked Towson in 2008? He scored another great TD on a super catch against the same Towson Tigers this season.


Nathan Lenz

A true unsung hero. He wasn’t called on that much, but it seems like he ALWAYS got the yards and the blocks Columbia needed.


Adam Mehrer

A true superstar in the secondary and basically a four year starter. Mehrer became a better tackler year after year in addition to grabbing a good share of interceptions.


Matt Moretto

Came back from a tough injury and made a good impact on the team as a captain this year. A masterful team leader.


Mike Murphy

Overcame an injury to return to the team this year and return kicks nicely. One of the rare New York City natives on the team.


Daniel Myers

Great spark on special teams. His mustache is an unofficial MVP of the team!


Calvin Otis

A shutdown corner and another four year starter who overcame injuries. He’s got a chance to finish on a high note if he can contain Brown’s super WR Alex Tounkara Saturday.


Clif Pope

Great TE who simply had the misfortune of having to play behind the super Andrew Kennedy for four years. But he did get into some games and lots of two-tight end formations. When he caught a TD pass in the Princeton game this season, it was a real crowd pleaser.


Ian Quirk

His senior season has been cut short by injury, but he stepped up early on as a sophomore to become a major star on the offensive line.


Prentis Robinson

Excellent jack of all trades on the O-line. He got some good and effective playing time the last two seasons.


Tim Skalak

Another fantastically helpful backup on the offensive front. A big reason why the Lions O-line has gone from one of the worst offensive lines in the Ivies to one of the best since 2007.


Josh Smith

Broke out as a great force on the defensive line last year and has battled through injuries this season. A star.


Matt Stotler

Has emerged this season as a key part of the defensive line. With all the injuries at his position, he’s been a Godsend.


Augie Williams

A massive spark plug on special teams and on the defense for four years. You can’t bottle what he brought in enthusiasm for this game. If you did, it would be banned!


Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure watching you play for four years. You deserved better than the won-lost record over those seasons, but you gained something even more valuable than wins.

All of us thank you so very much for keeping Columbia football alive.

Now go make your mark one last time against Brown!


**LATE UPDATE***

I'm being told that the Columbia University Marching Band will be performing tomorrow, (Friday), morning on the CBS Early Show. Check it out.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Scouting Brown


Joe Springer has been more than a adequate replacement QB


The 2010 Brown Bears must feel like they’ve played through half a dozen different seasons just this year alone.

First, there was the start of the season. Those were the first two games of the year. The dramatic overtime win over FCS playoff-bound Stony Brook in the opener, and then the emotional rout of Harvard in the first-ever night game at Brown Stadium in week two.

The Bears were enjoying the highest of highs, all despite not having their star QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero at the helm.

But next came the “second season;” three straight road games that began with two straight losses to URI and Holy Cross, then a squeaker win over a weak Tiger team in Princeton and a predictable easy win at home over Cornell.

During that second stanza, it briefly looked like Newhall-Caballero was coming back. But then he reinjured himself and was lost for the season.

Backup Joe Springer has done better than an average job replacing him, winning two player of the week awards in the process.

The third phase came during two very tough losses in a row to Penn and then Yale. In those games, Brown was a scrappy team with consistent strength in the passing game and in pass defense, but weaknesses in their own running attack and especially in kick coverage.

The team looked a bit different yet again last weekend at Dartmouth, losing a big lead in Hanover and then recovering it and winning in dramatic fashion on the road.

So it’s reasonable to wonder aloud about just which Brown team the Lions will be facing in Providence this Saturday.

There are some obvious partial answers:

-Surely, the Bears passing offense will be strong. Brown leads the league in passing and has arguably the best WR in the league in Alex Tounkara.

-The Brown offensive line will most likely do a great job in pass protection. The Bears have allowed just ten sacks all season even though they throw the ball an average 35 times per game.

-Kicker Alex Norocea will do a great job on PAT’s and short-to-medium range FG’s.

-Coach Estes will have them ready to play.

After that, it’s crap shoot.

Brown can be pretty good at running the ball, but neither Mark Kachmer or Zach Tronti can win a game on their own. They’re both averaging fewer than four yards per carry.

The defense is consistently good against the pass, and solid against the run, but running QB’s can give them problems. Penn’s Billy Ragone torched them at Franklin Field. (Sounds like a good recipe for Sean Brackett)

Overall, this team does not look as good as the Brown squad that lost to Columbia last season. But that game was at Wien Stadium and that makes a big difference when you consider the Lions have beaten the Bears just once at Brown Stadium since 1971.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Lion for Life


Alex Gross with two of his biggest fans


Even a cynical fan has to admit that Columbia has been disproportionately blessed with some of the best players in Ivy football history.

I say “disproportionately” because the Lions haven’t enjoyed the luxury of a winning record very often over the past 50 years.

In the last 30 years, the Lions have been blessed with future NFL stars like Marcellus Wiley, and multiple record breakers like John Witkowski.

And every once in a while Columbia gets a player who is not only 1st Team All Ivy, but is also a superstar as a human being.

By that I mean someone who becomes a great ambassador for Columbia sports, Columbia academics, the Ivy League, and even America.

Bill Campbell was one of those players, and has become one of those Columbia alums who every Columbian admires and strives to emulate. Most of the people who knew him as a player and student just knew he was going to be a great leader and a difference maker in his life beyond the gridiron.

He didn’t disappoint.

It’s almost a given that a large number of the Lion seniors about to take the field for the last time this Saturday will be extremely successful in the near and distant future. The kind of person who plays four years of Ivy football almost always has what it takes to succeed anywhere else.

But is there a super-special person in the current crop of true Columbia seniors… a Bill Campbell/Archie Roberts type person?

I believe there is.

Two-time captain Alex Gross strikes me and many other long-time Columbia observers as a once-in-a-generation player, student, and person. It’s very easy to envision Alex making a name for himself, a very big name for himself, in business or politics or on some other stage we can’t even describe in this changing world.

Anyone who can come back from a devastating knee destruction, (it was more than just an “injury”), and play as dominantly as Alex Gross has this season is force of nature and personal discipline.

He will win the Ivy tackling crown this season for his second tackling title in his career.

He was the Ivy Rookie of the Year in 2007, and 1st Team All Ivy in 2008.

His teammates made him the rare junior to be elected a team captain and he repeated as captain this season.

He has somehow improved from year to year despite that 2009 injury.

Anyone who can put up the grades and stats to make the list of 16 finalists for the Bill Campbell Trophy is not going to be just a spectator in the sport of adult life.

Alex also comes from a good family, a great state, (Ohio just seems to produce outstanding Americans), and shows a great combination of drive and humility.

I don’t mean to put extra pressure on him, but as much as we’ve all enjoyed the seasons of greatness Alex has had on the field, it’s the next 50 years of his life that I bet will be even more significant for him, and for Columbia.

Can he be another Bill Campbell?

Yes.

And I’m just selfish enough to want to be able to say I was one of the first people to predict that level of great things for Alex Gross.

And here’s another prediction that’s easier to make:

Win or lose against Brown this Saturday, Alex Gross is going to have a monster game. This is not a young man who’s going to leave anything on the sidelines in the final football game of his life.

I hope this post serves as at least a partial thank you to Alex and his family for their commitment to Columbia football and the joy that’s brought so many of us as fans, parents, and people since 2007.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Who's Your MVP?


John Witkowski was the last Columbia Bushnell Cup winner... 28 years ago


The Ivy League championship race is, for all intents and purposes, over.

The ONLY way Penn doesn’t walk away with its second straight solo title is for Cornell to beat the Quakers in Ithaca AND Yale would need to beat Harvard at Harvard.

The Cornell over Penn thingy is not going to happen.

Congratulations to the Quakers, they were clearly the best team this year.

What isn’t even remotely as clear is who will be the MVP of the league and the winner of the Bushnell Cup.

And the suspense is even greater this year because the announcement of the winner and presentation of the Bushnell Cup will be at a special ceremony in Manhattan on December 6th.

Usually, voters in these competitions like to reward the key star player on the championship team.

But who is the key star player for Penn this year?

Nobody, really.

It speaks volumes to how strong a team the Quakers have been that they’ve been so strong without any major individual star.

But that doesn’t help us decide our Ivy MVP.

Voters also usually favor the best offensive skill player in these things.

There are some good names to throw out here:

Nick Schwieger

The Dartmouth running back has the inside track to win the Ivy rushing title. He’s already over 1,000 yards rushing this season. He has 11 TD’s. And seriously, is there any doubt that Schwieger is the biggest reason why the Big Green have won ANY games this season? Even in the games where he was not dominant, he was a key contributor.

Those are the arguments FOR Schwieger.

The arguments against are not numerous. But you could quibble with the fact that his 1,028 yards rushing this season aren’t exactly Earth-shattering. You could also point out that Dartmouth has only won two Ivy league games, (so far – I like their chances against Princeton Saturday), and was never in the title hunt.


Gino Gordon

The Harvard running back just barely trails Schwieger in total rushing yards. Gordon has eight touchdowns. He is averaging an astonishing 6.6 yards per carry. Gordon successfully carried a huge load for the Crimson offense as Harvard suffered numerous key QB and WR injuries. He ran for 110 yards and a TD against mighty Penn. Plus, he and the Crimson were in the title race until this past Saturday. Unlike Schwieger, Gordon is a senior and the awards voters tend to favor seniors.

But Gordon only has 1,023 yards overall, and that’s not incredible by any stretch.


Sean Brackett

Fresh off being named an Ivy Offensive Player of the Week
for the third time this season, Brackett is seemingly in the race.

We all know how electric and versatile the Columbia QB is. Only Schwieger comes close to being as crucial a cog in his team’s offense as Brackett is to Columbia’s. He has six more TD passes than his nearest competitor, has a comfortable lead for most total yards in the Ivies, and has come up strong despite taking some terrible beatings in numerous games.

But Brackett’s Lions are just 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the league. And he’s just a sophomore. The voters are very likely to deny Brackett first place votes as they figure he has two more chances to win the cup.


Defense?

The voters could go for a defensive player this season, but no one player seems to pass a serious litmus test.

There have been some huge stars like Harvard’s DT Josue Ortiz, who leads the league in tackles for a loss. But his total TFL’s are only 12, less than 1.5 per game.

Columbia’s Alex Gross is having a monster senior season. He leads the league in total tackles, has two INT’s, one INT return for a TD and has been the heart and soul of his team. But he faces many of the same disadvantages as his teammate Brackett, mostly because of the Lions overall won-lost record.

Dartmouth’s Charles Bay has only played in seven games, and he still leads the league in total sacks. But Dartmouth actually WON two of those games he missed, and his overall contribution to the team hasn’t been as consistent as Gross or Ortiz’s.

The numerous other defensive stars deserve great recognition, but they all seem to be at least a bit short in the race for the Bushnell Cup.


And My Winner is..

Just because you can’t give an MVP award to an entire team, it shouldn’t mean that you can’t give an MVP award to a single UNIT of a team.

And with that in mind, I think there’s no question that the Penn offensive line deserves to be the MVP of the 2010 Ivy League season.

That’s right, give the cup to LT Greg van Roten, LG Luis Ruffolo, C Joe D’Orazio, RG Drew Luongo, RT Jared Mollenbeck.

Together, they are the biggest reason Penn was able to win each of its Ivy games this year.

They are the reason QB Billy Ragone and a revolving door of Penn RB’s have been able to crush defense after defense.

They are the reason why a team without much of a vertical passing game still leads the Ivies in scoring.

They are the reason why the Quakers average 239 yards rushing per game.

They are the reason Penn has allowed just FIVE sacks ALL season.

They are the reason the strong Penn defense hardly ever has to come on to the field without a decent rest.

The list goes on and on…

Do I expect the Penn O-line to get the MVP award and split it five ways?

No.

But they deserve it, and I suspect most Ivy watchers know it as well as I do.


Jake’s Week 9 Ivy Power Rankings


1. Penn (#1 last week)

There is no doubt who is the top dog. No one else even comes close.


2. Yale (tied for 2nd last week)

I have to admit I was dead wrong about how good this team was at the start of the season. The Elis are a very decent team, but the lazy way they beat lowly Princeton at the Bowl Saturday just goes to show how far they are from being anywhere near as good as the #1 team in the league this year.


3. Brown (5)

The gutty win at Dartmouth Saturday puts the Bears back in the top 3. Who knows how well they could have done this season with a healthy Kyle Newhall Caballero all year long?


4. Harvard (tied for 2nd last week)

Without healthy QB’s this team just isn’t strong enough to compete for a championship. It was 27-0 Penn before the Crimson even woke up in the biggest game of the year.


5. Dartmouth (4)

The Big Green had a chance to make a pretty big statement against Brown at Memorial Field, and they failed.


6. Columbia (6)

Despite the weak opposition, it was very important for Brackett and company to pull out a final minute, 4th quarter win. But the Lions were 19-point favorites after all.


7. Cornell (7)

The Big Red clearly have some bright spots for the future, and they really outplayed the Lions for most of the game on Saturday. Now, they need to learn how to win.


8. Princeton (8)

The Tigers really woke up and nearly pulled off a shocker at Yale this weekend. But a loss is a loss. And Princeton is staring at an 0-7 Ivy record.


Congrats Coach Kelton!!

Former Columbia defensive coordinator Aaron Kelton completed a perfect 8-0 season in his first year as head coach of Williams College. Numerous reports say the Williams crowd on the road at Saturday’s game was wild and big.

Kelton became the first Williams head coach to lead his team to an 8-0 mark in his first season.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Clutch Bowl


Nice trophy! And it's ours!



Columbia 20 Cornell 17


Why Columbia Won

The defense kept the Lions in the game as the offense went through a very slooooowwww wake up call througout the first three quarters. In the final stanza, QB Sean Brackett ran and threw beautifully to lead the Columbia awakening while the defense forced Big Red punt after punt. And after failing to do so in three other games this season, Brackett successfully led the Lions on a game-winning final drive.


Why Cornell Lost

Despite scoring seven more points than their 10 point per game season average, the Big Red offense failed to put Columbia away and went into complete hibernation in the fourth quarter. The Big Red had the ball for 15 plays from scrimmage in the fourth quarter and gained a total of 24 yard on those 15 plays for a average of 1.6 yards per play. Meanwhile, the Cornell defense finally faltered as it had no answer for a running and gunning Sean Bracket.


Key Turning Points


-After Cornell scored to make it 17-3 with 2:19 left in the third, the Lions finally woke up... and fast. Up to that point, Brackett had run for a decent 57 yards on 13 carries. But on that possession alone, he ran three times for 30 yards as he led the team on a 70-yard TD drive in just 2:51. Brackett would run eight more tmes for 64 more yards and the winning touchdown to finish with 25 carries for 151 yards.


-With Columbia still trailing by 17-13 with just 4:42 left, the Big Red took over at their own six after Greg Guttas' most clutch punt of the year. Cornell got one first down, but the Lions defense held on the next set of downs on a third and two when Matt Stotler knocked down a short pass over the middle.


-The game winning 59-yard drive featured just two third downs. The first one was a third and 10 from the Lion 41. On an injured foot, Brackett ran for a gutsy 16 yards to keep Columbia alive. The second third down was a third and seven from the Cornell nine. On that play, Brackett zinged a strike to Nico Gutierrez putting the Lions just inches from the first down. Two Brackett runs later, Columbia had the lead.


Columbia Positives

-After failing to execute on late fourth quarter drives in the losses against Fordham, Dartmouth and Yale, the Lions finally put it all together in the final march against Cornell. In addition to Brackett's heroics, there was a super catch by Ian Cummins and Gutierrez did well to hold on to his catch in heavy traffic. The offensive line also held up brilliantly. It was clutch all around.


-Columbia's defense was exceptionally clutch down the stretch. Overall, the Lions held Cornell to just 74 yards rushing, had three sacks, and forced nine punts.


-The Lions were penalized just three times for a total of five yards.


-Columbia's kicking game and special teams were as good as I've ever seen them in a single game. Luke Eddy was perfect on his two FG tries and two PAT's, (he now has hit all 26 this season, a new CU record), Guttas punted seven times and had some very clutch kicks, including a 47-yarder and his last punt that buried the Big Red at the six. And Guttas' final squib kickoff was a thing of beauty that Cornell could not handle and iced the game when Columbia recovered.


Columbia Negatives

-Favored by 19 points, Columbia just didn't come out of the gate strong enough to earn that distinction. Had the Lion defense not played as well, Columbia would never have had the chance to win in the final quarter.



Other Stars of the Game

-Alex Gross made his final game at home, well... just like almost all his other great games at home with 14 total tackles and three pass breakups.


-Ryan Murphy sped around the Cornell line time after time and terrorized Big Red QB Jeff Matthews for two sacks and another QB hurry.


-Speedy Nick Gerst had 52 yards on just eight carries and caught two passes for nine yards.



COLUMBIA MVP


Too many of his throws were high and he was a bit slow to get going, but Sean Brackett put his team on his back and logged 355 tough all purpose yards in a dramatic come-from-behind win.

Sean Brackett is your inaugural Empire State Bowl MVP.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Bowl of Our Own


Cornell Big Red at Columbia Lions


November 13, 2010

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm


Location: Robert K. Kraft Field, Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at the Baker Athletics Complex


Gametime Weather Forecast: Sunny and 61 degrees


The Spread: Columbia is favored by 19 points


Columbia Game Notes

Cornell 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


Backstory


Columbia and Cornell have followed eerily similar paths over the past 15 years or so. The teams have split their last 14 games right down the middle at seven wins apiece.

But the Lions come into this game having won the last two in a row and looking to beat the Big Red three times in a row for the first time since 1992, '93, and '94. Befor that, Columbia hadn't won three in a row against Cornell since 1960, ’61, and ’62.

When the game is in New York City, the local Cornell club makes a serious event out of it and even holds a short parade near its clubhouse in Midtown. The Big Red travelling crowd is usually the best you see at Wien Stadium compared to any other Ivy.

The added excitement of an actual named “Bowl” game and corresponding traveling trophy should make the crowd even more enthusiastic.



Keys to the Game



Run, Run, Run!


Cornell’s run defense is not strong by any stretch and the Lions must take advantage. Columbia needs to see if it can match or exceed the roughly 245 yards in rushing offense the Big Red has been allowing this season.


Avoid the Turnovers and Short Punts


The only way a team like Cornell can really improve on its 10 points per game average is to grab a bunch of turnovers and capitalize on insanely short fields.


Get the Sacks


The Big Red is allowing five sacks per game. Columbia needs to match that number and maybe even exceed it. It’s time for the defensive line that looked so good in the wins over Towson and Princeton to make its triumphant return.



Keep the Crown In, (and out) of It


Cornell’s crowd will be decent in size as it always is when the Big Red visit Wien Stadium. The Lions need an early lead and a grind-it-out clock-controlling game to keep the bad guys from cheering their team on to a 19-point underdog upset.

At the same time, the Lion crowd needs to keep cheering and drowning out the considerable Big Red crowd and large marching band.


Saying Goodbye

There are some all-time great Lions who will take the field at Wien Stadium for the last time tomorrow.

These guys all went through a lot for this program and our gratitude knows no bounds.

I know that there are a good number of seniors who are considering taking a 5th year because of injuries, but I do want to include the names of all the seniors here:

Dan Cohen OL

Rex Cole DB

Carl Constant OL

Alex Gross LB

Nico Gutierrez WR

Craig Hamilton DB

Paul Havas WR

Marc Holloway LB

Leon Ivery RB

Andrew Kennedy TE

Bryan Kipp DL

Zack Kourouma RB

Nathan Lenz FB

Adam Mehrer S

Matt Moretto LB

Mike Murphy DB

Daniel Myers DB

Calvin Otis CB

Clif Pope TE

Ian Quirk OL

Prentis Robinson OL

Tim Skalak OL

Josh Smith DE

Mike Stevens WR

Matt Stotler DL

Augie Williams LB

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 9 Picks and Scouting Cornell

The Columbia game notes for this week’s game at home against Cornell.

We are still without Ian Quirk according to the two-deep. That’s a darn shame, since this would be his final home game as a senior. Sophomore Xander Frantz gets the start again at RG.






Make it three strong weeks in a row now for my game predictions as we head into the home stretch of 2010.

Let’s see how I did in week 8:


Dartmouth -10 at Cornell


Jake Said: "With their running game and decent pass rush, Cornell should get badly beaten. Take Dartmouth and give the points."

Result: Dartmouth pulled away late to win 28-10. 1-0 overall, 1-0 against the spread.


Yale +5 at Brown


Jake Said: "I like Brown to win this game, but I think the five point spread is too much. Yale covers."

Result: Yale pulled out a squeaker win. 1-1, 2-0 ATS.


Penn -17 ½ at Princeton

Jake Said: "Forget the home field advantage. The Tigers are just without a prayer of making it close against Penn."

Result: Penn won 52-10, and it wasn’t that close. 2-1, 3-0 ATS.


So my record as we begin week 9 is now 27-11 overall and 27-11 ATS.

On to this week:


Princeton +22 ½ at Yale

It’s a huge spread, I know. But Princeton is in serious trouble. The Elis can smell a shot at a title and this is the season finale at home. The Elis will cover.


Brown +3 at Dartmouth

This spread would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago. But now it seems just about right. I wish I could pick a tie against the spread, because I think the Big Green will indeed win by three points. But I will conform and say Dartmouth will beat the spread here.


Harvard +6 ½ at Penn

This is another spread that really looks just about right. But Penn is a better bet to win by 7 or more. The Quakers win and cover.


Scouting Cornell

The numbers don’t lie. Cornell is struggling as it’s ranked dead last in the league on offense and second to last on defense.

The Big Red are gaining just 79 yards rushing per game and allowing a whopping 245 yards on the ground each week.

The offense has allowed an incredible 43 sacks already, more than five per game.

Obviously, there are still some positives.

Freshman QB Jeff Matthews is tough and talented. He’s taking most of those sacks and getting back up. At 6-4, he’s got the look of a great passer for the future.

Lafayette transfer RB Nick Booker-Tandy runs well and is averaging 4 yards per carry.

WR’s Shane Savage and Luke Tasker, (son of Buffalo Bills great Steve Tasker), are dangerous and exciting.

On defense, where Cornell is faring relatively better this season, the Big Red have a 6-6 defensive end in Justin Harris who has power and speed. The pass defense has done decently, but hasn’t really been tested.

I still think new Head Coach Kent Austin is extremely capable and we will soon be talking about how far Cornell has come in such a short time.

But you can’t get away from that 10 points per game offensive output and the inability to protect the QB. Those are killers for the Big Red. Cornell’s two wins this year were against the worst Princeton team in at least 28 years and an awful Bucknell squad.


97, 98, or 99?

I’ve made some mistakes of my own with this calculation lately, so there is no finger pointing here, but Saturday’s game will be the 99th in the Columbia-Cornell series. Not the 97th, 98th or anything else.

That means the historic 100th meeting will actually be NEXT YEAR in Ithaca.

Oh well.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Best of the Bowls


Some great Columbia moments took place on this field in recent years

It’s only now being officially named the “Empire State Bowl,” but many Columbia and Cornell fans have recognized the annual battle between the Ivy’s only two intrastate rivals as a special rivalry for years.

Over the past 10 years, each team has won five games and most of the contests have been close.

For Lions fans, here are the top 5 moments in the rivalry over the last decade:

5) Ayo Almost Loses It!

The 2003 game at Schoelkopf Field started out looking like a whitewash with Columbia jumping out to a 27-7 lead.

But the Big Red pulled to within 27-21 with five minutes to go and had the Lions backed up inside their own 30.

Luckily for Columbia, the offense rediscovered its punch. The Lions marched all the way to the Cornell 39 before it looked like the drive was stalling. Then running back Ayo Oluwole, who would end the year with the 3rd best ever rushing season in Columbia history, burst through the line and was in the clear for a TD.

But suddenly, Ayo just lost the handle on the football! It spurted high in the air from his grasp, but luckily Oluwole was able to catch it and control the pigskin. He did end up going down at the Cornell three, but the game-icing TD came moments later in the 34-21 win.


4) Hormann to Russell: Bang Bang!

The 2006 Cornell-Columbia game was tight battle, with Columbia clinging to a 14-7 lead late in the third quarter.

Then came two back-to-back plays that gave the Lions a big cushion.

Tad Crawford skied impossibly high in the air to grab an interception at the Big Red 33. And then on the very next play, Lion QB Craig Hormann faked a handoff on a reverse and found TE Jamal Russell streaking uncovered along the Wien Stadium western sideline. Russell went untouched into the end zone and Columbia had a 21-7 lead.

The Lions were able to hold on for a 21-14 victory.


3) Zack’s Opening Shot

On the very first play from scrimmage in the 2009 contest in Ithaca, Zack Kourouma went in between the tackles on the left side of the Columbia line and scampered untouched for an 80-yard TD. It would be the longest run from scrimmage in the Ivies for the entire season.


2) M.A.’s Heroic Run

With Columbia trailing 20-16 late in the third quarter of the 2009 game, the Lion coaches decided to pull starting QB Sean Brackett for injured senior M.A. Olawale.

The Big Red knew Olawale was banged up, but they didn’t know just how bad. Olawale could barely throw at all and was really in the game to run the football.

And run it he did. With just under two minutes left in the 3rd, M.A. dove into the end zone for a one yard TD and gave the Lions the lead back at 23-20.

But it was his second TD run with less than 2 minutes left in the game that really iced it. That run was a 19-yarder to the left side on a third and 10 that stunned the Schoelkopf crowd. That would be M.A.’s last run of his Columbia career.


1) Reese’s Runs to Glory

The 2001 game at Schoelkopf was another back-and-forth affair. But the Lions had the unstoppable Johnathan Reese on their side.

With the score tied at 21 in the fourth quarter, the Lions faced a 4th and one at the Big Red 33. Everyone in the stadium knew Reese was getting the ball.

But it didn’t matter.

Reese didn’t just get the first down, he got the touchdown, and put the Lions ahead 28-21.

Six minutes later, Reese scored on a 4th and one from the 14 and Columbia held on for a 35-38 win.

Reese finished the day with 140 yards and the two dramatic TD’s.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ivy Power Rankings, Week 8



Check this Out!

That's Larry Walsh ’86, with freshman kicker Luke Eddy who broke Walsh’s Columbia record for consecutive successful PAT’s in a single season. Eddy has now hit 24 extra points in a row. Walsh has no hard feelings about his 27-year-old record dying.



Jake’s Week Eight Ivy Power Rankings


1. Penn (#1 last week)

It just keeps getting better for the Quakers. Billy Ragone is better. The endless string running backs are better. The defense is better. Is there anyone who needs me to go on?


2t. Harvard (2)

Eh. Can anyone still be that impressed with the Crimson after the way they sleepwalked through the 23-7 win over Columbia Saturday? Obviously, this is a very good team but they could be badly beaten by Penn this weekend.


2t. Yale (4)

Looking better and better. If you erase the poor second half against Columbia two weeks ago, you’re looking at a juggernaut of a team compared to last year’s poor squad overall.


4. Dartmouth (5)

Dartmouth’s offensive line and running game simply set it apart from most Ivy teams. The slow start against Cornell would be a concern if it weren’t for the fact that the Big Green have started EVERY game slowly all season.


5. Brown (3)

Losing at home for the first time this year sends the beaten up Bears down the line right now. There are just too many injuries here right now.


6. Columbia (6)

Treaded water with the loss at Harvard. But the Lions need to avoid an emotional abyss or risk losing to Cornell this Saturday.


7. Cornell (7)

Not a terrible showing vs. Dartmouth, but not a good one either. The offense did almost nothing.


8. Princeton (8)

Penn was relatively merciful even in the 52-10 win over the Tigers. Big Three schools are not supposed to fall this far.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Finishing Strong



EMPIRE STATE BOWL

So now it’s official, the Cornell-Columbia game this weekend will be called the “Empire State Bowl” with an accompanying trophy.

It will also be the 98th meeting between the two teams, and that means the landmark 100th game will also be here at Wien Stadium in two years.

This is a great idea and feeds nicely into my long-running call to make Cornell our official “rival” in the Ivies.


First 2015 Commitment

A top senior QB in Kentucky has committed to Columbia. He's Kal Prince. a 6-4, 198-pound passer. His height will set him apart in this league.

Prince would be the first known Columbia frosh from Owensboro HS.

You can see his video highlights here.


State of the Team

After eight weeks of the 2009 season, Columbia fans were wondering what could have been.

The team was 2-6 and reeling. Then, the Lions won their last two games and almost everything that was wrong after week eight seemed right for the coming year.

Right now, the Lions are 3-5 and things are suddenly gloomy after a great 3-1 start to the year.

How much would a two-game winning streak do to brighten our moods this time around?

Well, the 5-5 overall record would be nice. So would beating Cornell for the third year in a row and Brown for the second time in a row.

But unless the wins come along with a reversal of some bad trends like a short-circuited offense and costly turnovers, the team won’t be able to get an “all clear.”

Of course, this is still a big stretch scenario. Columbia should be favored against the Big Red, but a win over Brown in Providence seems like a major tall order right now.

But the Lions have actually done pretty well in the final stages of seasons in the Norries Wilson era.

In the previous four seasons under Coach Wilson, Columbia is 5-3 overall in those eight final-two-weeks-of-the-season games. That’s a .625 winning percentage compared to an overall winning percentage of just .312, quite a difference.

And that’s really a stark contrast to the previous two coaching administrations.

In Bob Shoop’s three seasons, Columbia was just 1-5 in his six final two weeks of the season games, a .166 average.

In his 28 final two weeks of the season games during his 14 year tenure, Ray Tellier was 8-20, a .285 percentage.

Changing the momentum is a very difficult thing to do in football. Wilson has been able to do that twice, reversing a five game losing streak in 2006 with a two-game winning streak to end the year, and reversing a four game losing streak last year with the two wins in the final two weeks.

Now he is being asked to do it again.

It will not be easy.

Cornell is an improving team with a super coaching staff. The Big Red hung in there most of the game against Dartmouth Saturday before finally losing 28-10.

Brown is still 3-2 in the league overall and will be a “Bear” to beat at Brown Stadium despite numerous injuries.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Snakebitten




Harvard 23 Columbia 7


Why Harvard Won

The Crimson offense was opportunistic, capitalizing on Lion turnovers and scoring all four times on drives that lasted no more than two minutes and 38 seconds. Meanwhile, the Harvard defense bent but didn't break allowing just seven points despite yielding 394 total Columbia yards.


Why Columbia Lost

The Lions turned the ball over four times, twice inside the Harvard red zone. Despite forcing the Crimson to go an awful one for 13 on 3rd down, the defense couldn't shut down Harvard when it really counted.


Key Turning Points

-The game was truly decided during one strange sequence in the second quarter. Trailing 3-0, the Lions punted to the Crimson with a little under eight minutes to go in the half. Matthew Hanson clearly muffed the punt and Columbia recovered, but the refs called it Harvard ball. Later in the series, Harvard went for it on 4th and 10 from the CU 35 and Craig Hamilton intercpeted Crimson QB Collier Winters at the CU 18. But Hamilton promptly fumbled the ball back to Harvard. Four plays later the Crimson had a TD and it was a 10-0 game.


Columbia Positives

-It was another strong game for WR Kurt Williams. He grabbed seven passes for 123 yards including a 36-yard TD. The converted junior defensive back is setting himself up nicely for next year.

-Alex Gross had another double-digit tackling day with 12, one for a loss.


Columbia Negatives

-Harvard was not nearly as dominating as advertised, and Columbia truly beat itself.

But the football gods played a big hand too. The Hamilton interception that was fumbled right back to the Crimson was the kind of play long-time Lion fans have sadly come to expect. The fact that the whole Harvard possession should never have happened save for a terrible "no call" of Matthew Hanson's fumbled punt return just adds to the special level of terrible luck Columbia continues to endure. It's hard not to feel truly snakebitten when things like that happen.

-All the Lion turnovers happened at crucial times, and Harvard took advantage of them.


Columbia MVP

Kurt Williams was stellar and now has 24 catches for 349 yards and two TD's on the year. Not bad for a guy who was on defense the last two years.

Saturday, November 06, 2010




Columbia Lions at Harvard Crimson


November 6, 2010

Kickoff Time: 12 noon

Location: Harvard Stadium

Directions to Harvard Stadium


Gametime Weather Forecast: Cloudy and 49 degrees

Listen to the game live on SideLionPass or watch it live on Harvard’s game day central ($9.95 charge)

The Spread: Harvard is favored by 11 points


Columbia Game Notes

Harvard Game Notes



Backstory

Harvard’s Head Coach Tim Murphy has only lost to Columbia four times since he took over the Crimson in 1994. Simply put, Harvard has dominated this series during his tenure.

But it wasn’t pretty even during the woefully mediocre Joe Restic’s years as well. The Lions played the Crimson in the season opener every year from 1976-1999 and Columbia started its seasons 0-1 in 20 out of those 24 years, most of them during the Restic era.

In recent years, Harvard has played the Lions almost flawlessly. The Crimson have won six straight over the Lions by an average score of 37-10.

But the elephant in the room is that since 2000, most Ivy titles have come down to a battle between Harvard and Penn… and since 2000, the Harvard-Penn game has always been the week AFTER the Harvard-Columbia game.

The incredible discipline Harvard teams have exhibited as they avoid looking ahead to Penn and ignoring the Lions may be Coach Murphy’s greatest achievement.

In other words, Columbia just can’t bank on a distracted Crimson team.


Keys to the Game


Lull the Crimson to Sleep

That's what Lehigh did a few weeks backs when the Mountain Hawks beat Harvard at Harvard. (But that was a game where the Crimson had to start the 3rd string QB)

A sustained and successful running attack is a great way to defeat a team that likes to beat YOU with a sustained and successful running attack. That will be a tall order against the Crimson defense, but not impossible. Surely, Harvard will not be as tough against the run as Penn was. (No it isn’t… and don’t call me “Shirley”).

Columbia needs to get the run going by using lots of weapons. That’s Nick Gerst to the outside, Leon Ivery to the inside, and Sean Brackett all over the place.


Freeze the Crimson Defensive Line

This could be the week to attack with screen passes. Gerst and Zack Kourouma are good options to throw to on screens. I’d try screens early in hopes of getting the D-line and linebackers to back off a bit and then rip into them with he running game.


Let Brackett be Brackett (2nd Appeal)

Brackett needs to attack the edges of the field and not get chained into the pocket play after play. A sustained attack along those lines would at least wear out the Crimson defenders by the latter stages in the game.


Shore up the Middle on Defense

Harvard running back Gino Gordon will come right at the Lions until they stop him. So, they’ll have to stop him.


Come out Ready to Play and Avoid the Snowball

Last week at Yale, the Lions were out of it early and just let the Elis steamroll to a 31-7 lead before they woke up. Eliminating just ONE Yale TD during that snowballing period would have changed the game. Harvard may come out looking strong, but as long as Columbia can avoid a three score deficit they’ll still have a chance.


Reminders!!!

1) This Saturday is a very important date in college football, and Ivy football history.

Can you guess why?


2) If you watch this weekend's games on YES or VERSUS, keep an eye out for the new PSA promoting Ivy football directed by my friend Erick Greenberg Anjou. Better yet, order his full-length documentary on Ivy football, 8: Ivy League Football and America, now!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Week 8 Picks




The Columbia game notes for the week eight game at Harvard are out.


Mike Muston returns to the list as one starting WR, but we still are without Ian Quirk. Xander Frantz gets the start at RG.



I’ve had two strong weeks in a row with my picks and I’m going for three!

Let’s look back at last week first.


Princeton -1 at Cornell

Jake Said: “I have to go with the home team here and predict a win for the Big Red.”

Result: Cornell won by 2. 1-0 overall, 1-0 Against the Spread.



Harvard -1 ½ at Dartmouth


Jake Said: “… I think Harvard is really gearing up for a strong stretch run. The Crimson win and cover.”

Result: Harvard easily beat the Big Green by a 30-14 score. 2-0, 2-0 ATS.



Brown +7 ½ at Penn

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

Result: The Quakes won by 17. 3-0, 3-0 ATS.



So, with three weeks to go, I am 25-10 and 24-11 ATS.


Now for this week…


Dartmouth -10 at Cornell

I like the Big Green here. With their running game and decent pass rush, Cornell should get badly beaten. Take Dartmouth and give the points.


Yale +5 at Brown

I like Brown to win this game, but I think the five point spread is too much. The Elis have a good track record in Providence lately. Yale covers.


Penn -17 ½ at Princeton

Forget the home field advantage. The Tigers are just without a prayer of making it close against Penn. The good news is that that Quakers should pull their starters relatively early as they prepare for Harvard.


THANKS!!!

Visits to this blog were up 19.6% in October, year-over-year.

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Buy High and Sell Low?


Don't even look Josue Ortiz in the eye... ahhhh!!!!


The best thing to do in investing is to grab assets when they are underpriced and sell them when they’re up.

But by unlucky coincidence, Columbia seems to be doing the exact opposite when it comes to playing Harvard this season.

The Crimson were limping around the field just a couple of weeks ago. They lost to Brown badly. They lost at home to Lehigh. They had some bad injuries.

But now, 2009 2nd Team All Ivy QB Collier Winters is back from injury and back in the groove. His return was a big reason why Harvard simply embarrassed Dartmouth on the Big Green’s Homecoming field last Saturday, 30-14.

Two Crimson strength has been riding consistent 52-week highs all season long. One is the play of the defensive line. Josue Ortiz is a very scary customer who can disrupt opposing offenses all day long. In this regard, Harvard is once again showing its long-running strength on the front line. Many Ivy coaches talk about how recruiting quality D-linemen is the hardest part of their job. It’s probably hard because the Crimson are getting all of them. They’re that good and that deep and it seems to be the case every year.

The other strength that’s been there all year is the running game. Gino Gordon and Treavor Scales comprise a very frightening one-two punch that’s totaled 1,254 yards and averaged seven yards per carry so far this year.

The other aspects of the Harvard team have had their ups and downs. The passing game hasn’t been consistent and pass protection is not exactly great. But with Winters back at the helm and playing as well as he did last week, both of those problems seem to be getting solved.

One problem that isn’t going to be solved right away is the loss of super WR Chris Lorditch to injury.

Some of the really scary stats show just how efficient Harvard can be when it counts. The Crimson are converting a healthy 41% of third down opportunities. They have 22 sacks, (more than three per game), and are winning the turnover battle week after week.

But for all the talk about Winters and the defense, Harvard is all about Gino Gordon and his ability to control games. He's a bruiser and he's making the overal Crimson offensive line look better than it actually is. Columbia didn’t do a terrible job against Dartmouth’s Nick Schwieger two weeks ago, but the Lions will have to do even better against Gordon if they hope to win the game.

Gordon is now a strong candidate for the Bushnell Cup, something he may win if he keeps his numbers up and Harvard either gets a share of the title or at least a 5-2 league record.

So considering that, can Harvard be beaten?

Brown and Lehigh did it by getting after the Crimson QB’s and making them pay.

But they also neutralized the running game somewhat, either by getting a big lead, or, (in Lehigh’s case), keeping close enough to be able to win with a late burst. The still somewhat gimpy Winters may be vulnerable to a furious rush and the Lions should come out more intense than Harvard as this game means a lot more to Columbia than it does to the Crimson.

Allowing Gordon to get his yards here and there won’t be so bad as long as he’s not converting every 3rd down or running for 42-yard touchdowns.

But defeating Harvard on the road will take nothing short of shock and awe from the Lions.

That’s the way it is now that the Crimson are riding an upward trend in their season.

Columbia has to prove that Harvard’s stock is at least a bit overpriced.