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Monday Marching Orders
As a new week of practice begins for the home opener against Albany, it's time to address the biggest issues for Columbia after the 21-14 loss to Fordham:
1) Get Brackett Back in Sync
Whatever was going on with Brackett on Saturday needs to stop right now. For a guy who threw just six interceptions in 287 attempts last year to throw two very costly picks in game one is disturbing.
He also needs better protection that he got after taking five sacks on the Jack Coffey Stadium turf.
2) Get the Blocking Going
The offensive line just didn't pass protect well enough or get the holes open for the running game. I'm not sure if Nick Gerst had played that he would have done much better than Marcorus Garrett's 42 yards on 15 carries. But if Gerst is healthy and plays next week, that will almost surely help the ground game.
3) Let the Team Recharge
For a season opener, the Lions sure looked tired out there on Saturday. I know the coaches want to cram in all they can in the limited number of practices, but the skill players seemed gassed. If that means running fewer reps for the first team offensive guys, so be it.
4) Keep it in Perspective
Columbia, especially the offense, didn't look very good after the week one game against Fordham last year either. After that loss, the Lions embarked on a three game winning streak where the team hit on all cylinders.
Sure, Columbia ran into some reall trouble after that... but the essential offensive problems in that loss to Fordham did not re-emerge.
I'm also a believer in the idea that teams get their most improvement between weeks one and two.
The personnel surprises for Columbia were numerous, so let me try to list all of them if I can:
-Owen Fraser played a lot more than I expected and he looked very good. He may not be at 2008 levels, but this is a very positive sign.
-Listed starter Wells Childress did not play much at all. Perhaps this was a bit of chess playing by the coaches but we shall see.
-Despite not being listed as a starter, Seyi Adebayo lived up to his billing of "most improved defensive player" in spring practice. He had three tackles for a loss including a vicious sack.
-When Head Coach Norries Wilson mentioned LB Mike Waller's name in the preseason teleconference, I honestly thought he was throwing out a decoy. I was wrong. Waller was all over the field with six tackles, one TFL, and a lot of hustle. This is great news for a Columbia defense that has gone to the 3-4 and thus needs more strong linebackers.
There's a little backstory here too. Mike's older brother Tim was committed to Columbia before pulling out and switching to Georgetown late in the game. The whole saga prompted a very kind comment on this blog years ago from Waller's father who explained the agonizing decision.
This is a quality family with two quality young men and I am very happy that Columbia got one of them in the end!
-Kalasi Huggins didn't crack the official two-deep but he played a lot and was effective. Another good sign.
-I expected great things from Zach Olinger, but maybe not this fast. He was directing the defense quite a bit out there on Saturday and finished as the leading tackler.
-Josh Martin's field goal block was a thing of beauty and it got me thinking... when was the last time Columbia blocked a kick of any kind? I know it can't be since 2007 when Eugene Edwards was blocking kicks in so many games... can it???
-It's worth noting that two wide receivers no one other than Columbia fans mentioned in preseason are now at #2 and #3 on the list of leading WR's by yards. Mike Stephens and Kurt Williams both had 100+ yard days and only a super night by Brown's Alex Tounkara outdid them.
-How's this for imbalance? After week one, Columbia stands at #1 in the Ivies in total defense and dead last in total offense.
-The Lions held Fordham to 77 yards rushing, and while it may seem like it's been 15 years since Columbia held an opponent under 100 yards rushing, but it was actually not that long ago. The Lions held Cornell to 74 net yards on the ground in the week 9 20-17 win last year.
I want to close the book on looking back at the Fordham game after today, but it sure felt great to be in such a strong Columbia fan section at Fordham on Saturday.
Sections 10 and 11 were not only filled with blue, but the fans were very loud and excited all game.
Columbia fans can feel superior in another way despite the loss after seeing what passed for a homecoming carnival on the Fordham campus. Hey, my daughters REALLY appreciated the bounce house and climbing wall, but it paled in comparison to the shindig Columbia puts together for our homecoming festivities.