New Faces, Trusted Leaders
It was a COOOLLLD Spring
On what became a progressively chiller night, Columbia's Spring Game provied a mix of conventional football wisdom and "chaos theory" outcomes.
The Blue Team, made up of the presumptive first-string offense and second-string defense, edged the first-string defense/second-string offense White Team by a 7-6 final score.
As per usual in most Spring Games, the defenses dominated. That's consistent with the football conventional wisdom that says offenses take longer to work out the kinks than the defense.
The score was 0-0 at the half.
But what was surprising was that both TD's in the game were scored by the second string units.
First, White took a 6-0 lead after FB Andrew McHugh burst through the middle of the line for a 5-yard score. (The PAT was no good after a bad snap).
Then, Blue won the game when CB Christopher Thomas timed a beautiful interception and made an even nicer run into the end zone for what turned out to be the winning TD.
The rest of the game was marked by a series of drives that didn't produce points, thanks to stout defensive play... especially on the edges.
Here are some of my key notes from the game:
Marcorus Garrett and Nick Gerst were the running backs for the Blue Team. Both looked good but you could tell Gerst was a little banged up and Garrett went out with an injury late in the game that looks like it will need some of the remaining four months until training camp to fully heal.
David Chao and Bruce Grant did the running for the White Team. Both of them looked very good at times too, but didn't see too many holes.
DB Steven Grassa had the best punt return of the night, (there were no kickoffs), and he may have that job in the fall.
The punting was very good all night from Greg Guttas, Luke Delaney and Andrew Weiss, who also played a series at QB, (probably just for this game, though).
Other than Thomas' super pick six, WR Joey Andrada had the most amazing play of the night. He grabbed a long pass with super concentration even while CB Jeremy Mingo was all over him. That big catch set up White's TD a few plays later.
Long snapping fo both teams was sloppy all night, but presumptive starting center Kyle Stupi was out with an injury.
WR Maurice Rothschild got open a lot and made several nice plays. He was playing for the White Team, but he may move up the depth chart on offense this summer. He also left the game with an injury, but it did not seem very serious.
There were lots and lots of dropped passes, especially on some extremely nice throws by Sean Brackett who looked more and more like a team leader as the night wore on.
DB Marquel Carter looked great for the Blue Team, making some great hits.
On defense, you heard Seyi Adebayo's name a lot, along with Chris Groth, Nick Melka, Zach Olinger, and Grassa.
There were three missed FG's. All had the distance but were just wide. Luke Eddy missed two and Tyler Feely one.
After the game, Adebayo was named the Most Improved Defensive Player of the spring, TE Zack McKown was named Most Improved Offensive Player.
Then the captains for 2011 were named, WR Mike Stephens, OL Bob Hauschildt, DB Ross Morand and Brackett.
As a junior, Brackett gets the chance to be a rare two-time captain, but more importantly, this solidifies the best overall QB in the Ivies as his team's leader.
My overall impressions of the team is that the Lions are much faster than I can ever remember and it looks like my pleas for making stopping the run the #1 priority have a good chance of being answered.
Brackett is looking great and in a real game situation, (where just touching him wouldn't be enough to blow the play dead), he may have run for 100 yards or more last night.
The wide receiving corps is by no means settled, but the play of Andrada and Rothschild certainly signals that the offense will have some new options. Kurt Williams also looked decent last night but was not able to make any key plays.
We're less than five months to the openerat Fordham.
The countdown begins...
A Couple More Things...
-The cold evening was made a lot better by spending time with the good-sized and enthusiastic crowd.
I especially enjoyed meeting rising senior Nico Papas' parents, (Nico played well, by the way). Nico's dad John is the Head Coach at Buckington, Browne and Noble High School in Massachusetts. John's summer football camp/clinics are highly regarded.
And he and wife are great cooks as they treated my daughter Jordan and I to some great chilli, meat balls, and desserts!
-The Roaring Lion statue right outside the field house now has a new plaque honoring George Baker, who donated the land for Baker Field way back in 1923. Check it out the next time you're up there which we hope will be often in 2011.
-I spent much of the game sitting with great Lions of the past, including Bob Kent '92, Greg Abbruzzese '91, Stan Waldbaum '62, and many others.
-Earlier in the day, Bob was a guest on my show on FOX Business.