We Need a Hero
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Two years ago, Columbia started the 2009 season with a lot of promise.
The Lions beat a very good Fordham team with an NFL-bound QB in the opener in the Bronx.
Two weeks later, Columbia whipped Princeton 38-0 in New Jersey.
But then, everything stalled.
Five weeks later, the Lions were 2-6 and sailing without a rudder.
Enter then-freshman Sean Brackett.
The young QB had actually made his debut two weeks earlier against Yale, and darn near beat the Elis himself on national TV.
But in weeks nine and ten of the season, Brackett led the Lions to victories over Cornell, (with a big assist from M.A. Olawale), in Ithaca and a very good Brown team at home to salvage the season and add to high hopes for 2010.
Two years later, Columbia has started out the year a dissappointing 0-2, dropping a game they should have won at Fordham and laying an egg against a good Albany team in the home opener.
It's early, but the Lions need someone to step up NOW to right the ship before it crashes on the rocks in 2011.
Here are some possible candidates:
He's done it before, why not now?
Brackett's been a bit off in the first two games, throwing four INT's when all of last year he was only picked off six times.
But if he's able to start playing like himself again, things could look up for Columbia in a hurry.
Hamstring injuries are tricky and Gerst has been battling a bad hammie almost his entire CU career. But if he can get healthy enough to take 15-20 carries a game, the entire offense changes as evidenced by what he did against Albany last week.
A real "X Factor" right now, the freshman Nelligan should get a lot of playing time Saturday night and going forward with top WR Mike Stephens out indefinitely.
He's not a complete dark horse as the coaches knew he was a top recruit coming in and he impressed in camp.
If Nelligan can make things happen in the passing game and draw a crowd in coverage, a lot of other doors can open up for the Lions offense.
This freshman running back probably won't be a key ball carrier this season, but who knows? It's possible he'll get more of a chance than any expects. But he will contribute as a kick returner and could still be a game changer in that regard.
Someone in the Secondary
The Lions have a lot of defensive weapons, like Josh Martin, Ryan Murphy, Zach Olinger, Ben Popeck, etc.
They all know they need to step it up from here on out, but the secondary is where Columbia needs a star to emerge... or re-emerge.
I say "re-emerge" because AJ Maddox and Ross Morand are banged up at CB. Morand seems likely to be out again this weekend, while I don't yet know if Maddox will return. Columbia needs them both back soon.
The Training Room
The Albany game took a very banged up Lion team and banged it up a lot more.
The rash of injuries last Saturday may have set a record of work for the team doctors.
But a hero or two in the medical and training staff, (they already are heroes anyway), could save the season too.
Call it the "Wounded Lions Project."
Ivy Lines Released
The early lines for Saturday's games are out.
Columbia is now a four point favorite against Princeton.
The other lines are:
Penn at Dartmouth (pick 'em)
Yale +12 at Lehigh
Wagner +1 1/2 at Cornell
Harvard -7 at Lafayette
Rhode Island -3 at Brown