Saturday, April 23, 2011

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.


At Sat Apr 23, 07:39:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always good to see the boys back in action. Sounded a bit sloppy, but that's to be expected. Very disappointed on the field goals, thought we had solved that problem last year, looks like Perfetti made the only kick, is he back in line for starting duties?
- Larry

At Sat Apr 23, 07:58:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great report. No surprise that the defenses were ahead of the offenses. Any word on incoming class?

At Sat Apr 23, 08:18:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did Owen Fraser look? Who were the TEs?

At Sat Apr 23, 08:52:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice writeup Jake. A few additions/comments: another name that was called on multiple occasions was Chris Alston. Overall, I thought that all of the DBs, i.e., on both teams, played well, i.e., there seemed only one or two occasions in the entire game when there wasn't tight coverage.

Since we're playing a 3/4, I was surprised to see that most of the time we had 5 defenders on the line. Maybe somebody can explain that to me. Also surprising to see Mistretta line up as an interior D lineman on various series.

On the very nice long catch by Andrada that Jake mentioned, Andrada pushed the DB in the back before making his catch; if you can get away with it, God bless, but I think that most of the time that will get called.


At Sat Apr 23, 08:57:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, that was a great write-up of a fun evening. As you noted, a number of the freshmen looked outstanding at the skills positions. Joey Andrada made a terrific catch on that down and out. Maurice Rothschild has very good speed and hands. Lou DiNovo caught a bullet off the top of the grass. Garrett, Grant, Cooper and Alston were all very impressive. Garrett is fast and explosive. Grant is fast and tough. Cooper is an excellent all-around athlete. McClain, East and Hitchcock are talented young linebackers. Now it's up to the Lion mom and dads to feed these kids some pasta so they come in bigger and stronger this September.

At Sat Apr 23, 11:18:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anytime you have a big strong smart receiver like Andrada you are going to get a couple of calls when he goes up to catch a ball against a smaller defender. Very smart play by Andrada and a very decent play by the defender who stayed with Andrada until the last second and will probably interceopt the next such ball thrown his way.

At Sat Apr 23, 11:20:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anytime you have a big strong smart receiver like Andrada you are going to get a couple of calls when he goes up to catch a ball against a smaller defender. Very smart play by Andrada and a very decent play by the defender who stayed with Andrada until the last second and will probably interceopt the next such ball thrown his way.

At Sat Apr 23, 11:36:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of our smaller skills players need to beef up, but if they do so they could really be something. Thomas showed Brackett like moves on that touchdown return, Rothschild, Grassa, Grant, Garrett and Sigmon all have very good speed and Carter and Alston have both speed and strength. I hope these guys work hard the coming months to get bigger and stronger. Throw Gerst, Stephens, Havas and Murphy into the mix and the Columbia Express may be really flying this fall.

At Sun Apr 24, 01:10:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The "3/4" moniker for our defense relates less to the number of players on the line and more to the fact that we have just 3 true linemen on the field. What the players do and where they lineup is based upon the offensive formation. Last night, the D stayed in just a few basic sets. The team is running a very complex defensive scheme now and it should be fun to watch as opposing teams struggle to figure it out!

At Sun Apr 24, 02:24:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

who is Cooper? (not listed on roster)

At Sun Apr 24, 02:35:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting observation with Gerst. Don't know if anybody noticed when he entered the game late he actually looked like the best back on the field all night..A nice catch and run as well as a couple of explosive runs.
He is without a doubt the fastest kid on the field appearing pretty healthy

Nick mistretta was a huge force on D

At Sun Apr 24, 05:37:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Defense is always head of the offense, however there were a lot of drop balls last night by the receivers, not sure of the cold weather came into play. Looking forward to 2011 season.

At Sun Apr 24, 05:47:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Cooper" is, of course, "Marquel Carter." Sorry about that. He played very well last night.

At Mon Apr 25, 02:37:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mentioned, Garrett got injured in the game towards the end. Any word on whether it's serious or not?

At Mon Apr 25, 07:38:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the stands across the field, Garrett's injury looked like a sprained ankle

At Mon Apr 25, 06:55:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They looked ok. The 3 missed short field goals by white were interesting. Good high kicks which was nice, but, just missing outside. There were some great long hanging punts. Many dropped or poorly positioned passes were an issue. The QB on the blue side had more than enough time to make the pass it was more of a fundamental problem. Cho by far was the star running back of the night. One poster asked about Fraser. He was dressed, looked in great shape but didn't play. Rumor has it he was tearing things up in practice, but, had a minor injury last week (not a knee) which kept him out of the game.

At Mon Apr 25, 09:03:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Previous poster said Chao was "by far the star running back of the night." First time I've heard that -- can you elaborate?

At Mon Apr 25, 09:23:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the poster about the Blue QB, was that Brackett or Bell? And can we have more particulars about the problem? Was it passing accuracy? Or do our receivers have difficulty holding on to the ball? One problem which has concerned me is the tendency of our receivers to give up on patterns by slowing down and then having the ball sail over their heads. Also, will our QBs and receivers stay in the City this summer and work out together on timing, etc.? That strikes me as critical. Finally, Stephens may be our best WR, and he of course was ineligible to play in the Spring game. Smart move keeping Fraser out of the game. We will need him.

At Mon Apr 25, 11:15:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

QBs during scrimmage at:
Brackett let the Blue team 56 yards to the 19-yard line
Quarterback Jerry Bell led the White team in a six-play, 61-yard scoring drive

At Tue Apr 26, 12:55:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the poster that asked for more info on the QB and passing issues..

Blue was Brackett.

Dropped passes, slowing down on routes, poor passes were all seen. Overall they looked good, but, there was enough to make me concerned. I do think they will look better in a real game where the QB can make things happen with his feet. The drops and route issues I am confident will be much less this fall.

The defense was good, but, not very representative of how it will work in a real game. The white defense (1st team) had a line that was on the small side again which last year showed is trouble against bigger lines like Penn. The bigger line seemed to be on the 2nd team and seemed more effective at interior penetration (given against the 2nd team offense). I am hoping they will look at the film and make some adjustments to avoid the issues we had last year.

At Tue Apr 26, 01:38:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slowing down on routes and then seeing the ball thrown over the head of the receiver is the #1 issue for our receivers coach. At this level you should never, ever see a receiver slow down and then have the ball sail over his head. I see this more with TEs than with WRs.

At Tue Apr 26, 03:59:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brackett was 9- for 30 for 75 yards. Bell completed 16 passes for 175 yards

At Tue Apr 26, 05:18:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having a good back-up QB is critically important, especially with a runnning QB as the starter. I was always impressed by Bell's arm, but I was disappointed in his showing against Brown last year.


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