Thursday, September 29, 2011

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:

Sean Brackett

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.

Nick Gerst

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.

Connor Nelligan

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.

Alec Fisher

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


At Thu Sep 29, 08:51:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not so much a hero as a solid performance from our guys. We need solid play from the d-line with sure tackling by all. We need solid special teams play keeping opponent in their end of the field. Finish it off with solid offensive play. Play smart, take what is given, avoid turnovers trust your team mates. What we dont need is one guy trying to win the game by himself. Work as a unit, put it together, remain calm and carry on!

At Thu Sep 29, 08:54:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's hope that Nelligan is ready for prime time. Considering he couldn't beat out the other WRs (excluding Stephens) tells me this is a long shot.

Let's hope that the aggressive blitzig D we saw agaisnt Fordham returns agaisnt Princeton. We seemed to abandon this approach against Albany.

At Thu Sep 29, 10:03:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appeared they were running the "aggressive blitzig D" against Albany too. The big difference was when we did that they tossed quick short passes to the side, passed to an almost always uncovered running back or the QB ran with no one back to fill the holes. They really need to start playing receivers tight (not 10 yards off) and make sure the RBs are covered. If they beat us long then they beat us. The full out blitz with no LBs holding back to cover holes and the RB killed us multiple times in both of the first two games.

"Beat up" is a great excuse, but, it is just that. They have more than enough depth and for the most part still in good shape as far as key players.

At Fri Sep 30, 01:27:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gerst ripped this team up last year...hopefully he is healthy and does the same tomorrow...but ya gotta play D..

At Fri Sep 30, 01:42:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger cathar said...

I still think Wornham is a wildly overrated player. He goes to Princeton and plays QB, ergo he is "very good." Not so the few times I've watched him play. He's very average at best, would not have been a starter at a truly big-time h.s. program.

Brackett, contrastingly, retains the potential to be very, very good. But he has to do it. This really does seem like a sort of make-or-break Saturday for our beloved Lions (who wear "Columbia blue," Pantone 290, as I learned from reading Spectator!). Definitely, too, a must-attend game.

At Fri Sep 30, 02:25:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger DOC said...

My 2 cents: CU over PRIN
HAR over LAF
RI over BRN

At Fri Sep 30, 02:30:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Mitch '68 said...

I will be surprised if Columbia does not win this week, and there is even the possibility of a blowout. If we don't win, things are really bad.

Regardless, we will still desperately need a short yardage running game. Despite all the talk about Gerst on this blog, he is clearly not an all-purpose back. There is his vulnerability to injury, for one thing.

At Fri Sep 30, 02:56:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without Stephens, the Lions will be hard pressed to score. Luckily, the Tigers are not too potent. Maddox would surely help to keep them caged (!))

At Fri Sep 30, 03:06:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting...You are not an all purpose back because of injury problems...If the offensive coordinator new how to use Gerst than you would have an all purpose back....You throw to an all purpose back in the run screens with an all purpose back and you get him just a little blocking off tackle so he can use that 4.4 speed....Anybody thats been watching Columbia football can see this is one of the most electric backs we have had in a long time...But yes can he stay healthy...Theres no short yardage thus far because the offensive line opens no holes on most any inside run..Lets pull for all the kids to do their thing against Princeton...

At Fri Sep 30, 09:27:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are no players in the Ivy League who run 4.4. There are 5 or less (probably less) who run 4.5, and there are less than 50 on the 8teams combined who run 4.6. The best skill players in this league over the last 10 years have all been timed by NFL scouts, and not one has run faster than 4.5. Gessner, Morris, Dawson,Bartholemew,etc. were all high 4.5's or in the 4.6s. So let's ease up on Gerst, who is barely a viable Ivy league back because of his lack of durability, having "4.4 speed." It undermines the credibility of any further posts.

At Fri Sep 30, 09:58:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alot of experts on this blog...Gerst was timed in 2 high school combines before the injuries with a laser time of 4.42 when completely healthy..hopefully everybody knows what laser time is... We can only hope this kid stays healthy...

At Fri Sep 30, 10:50:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm no expert on laser timing, but I do agree with the poster who said that there are very few Ivy Leaguers who can run a genuine 4.5 or faster. There's been typical college "grade inflation" in 40 times over the past two decades as so many high school athletes report hand-timed speeds which are simply not accurate.

At Sat Oct 01, 06:32:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the Fordham pro day when he was a senior Austin Knowlin was timed at 4.49.


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