Thursday, October 8, 2015

Week 6 Picks

I had a schizophrenic week 5, going 6-1 straight up but a terrible 2-5 against the spread to bring my season totals to 18-9 straight up and 13-14 ATS.

Yale +13 at Dartmouth

This is the big one of the year so far. I think the Big Green will win but it will be closer than two scores.

Harvard -23 ½ at Cornell

The Big Red have reached a tipping point after losing three games they could easily have won. I think they’re going to tip over.

Colgate +7 ½ at Princeton

The injuries, some still not reported, are stacking up for the Tigers. I think Colgate will win this game.

Fordham -13 at Penn

The Quaker D will not be able to handle the Rams.

Holy Cross -7 ½ vs. Brown

The Crusaders under Head Coach Tom Gilmore are on a roll this year and Brown hasn’t impressed.

Georgetown +1 ½ over Lafayette

I like the Hoyas to bounce back after losing to Harvard and they will win this game.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Scouting Wagner

Jason Houghtaling


Throughout the off season I found myself having to remind a lot of fans that Wagner was not a weak opponent and the Seahawks were stacked with FBS transfer talent. But since the season started, it’s clear Wagner is not as strong as anyone thought as the team is struggling with injuries and other problems under first year Head Coach Jason Houghtaling. At 0-4 coming into this game, it’s obvious this will be seen as a chance for the Seahawks to get that first win.


Wagner started the season with their hopes resting greatly on senior option QB Chris Andrews. But Andrews was having trouble completing passes and was yanked after two games. The new QB is sophomore Alex Thomson who is also a dual threat. But like many inexperienced sophomores, Thomson has been erratic. He’s thrown some crucial interceptions and doesn’t yet seem to have the upperclassmen totally in sync with him on the field.

But in Thomson’s defense, he seems to be working with a dearth of serious talent at the skill positions. Perhaps the best Wagner weapon is junior WR Andre Yevchinecz, but even he has been held under four catches per game. The Seahawks mostly run by committee, but the leader on the ground is junior Matt McKinnon, who seems poised for a breakout game at some point. Senior Otis Wright was the rushing leader for Wagner last year, but isn’t getting as many carries this season.

The offense line has been spotty, and it could get worse. Senior Center Eddie Garcia went down to injury in last week’s loss to Robert Morris and his status is questionable for Saturday night. Wagner’s offense visibly started to stall once he went down.


The Seahawks defensive stats are a bit misleading because of the team’s opening game at Rice and the inevitable beat down that ensued. But it does appear Wagner is a bit better at stopping the run than the pass. Yardage isn’t the key problem; it’s the total number of completions allowed. The Seahawks have allowed 20 more completions than they’ve made. The bad rushing stats appear to mostly be a result of the Rice game.

There’s a lot of talent here despite the bad results.

The most fearsome weapons for Wagner’s D is senior DE Mike Mentor who has four sacks and should have a nice cheering section in the stands as he hails from very nearby Bergen County, NJ. He’s the pass rush specialist. Also from NJ is the big run stopper DT Fidel Okoye, who is a 295 monster who will be difficult to block. And yet another NJ native is Wagner’s best overall tackler, senior DB Brett Brittingham who also is a good pass defender. The best linebacker is senior Najee Harris who can rush the passer and defend the pass very well.

Special Teams

Wagner has a place kicker from Alaska, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he knows how to deal with the wind and other rough conditions. He hit two long field goals in last week’s loss to Robert Morris despite some crazy winds. Overall, he’s 5-8 on FG’s, but is money on kicks under 40 yards.

Junior Punter Bryan Rafano is in his first year as a starter and is posting mediocre, but not terrible stats.

Yevchinecz is the punt returner and he can be dangerous. Wright is the primary kick returner who has an 83 yard return this season but hasn’t been a consistent threat. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back Under the Lights

M.A. Olawale under the 2nd half light in 2008

It’s been more than 11 years* since Columbia hosted a night game at Wien Stadium. That will end this Saturday night against Wagner. It’s also the first time these two teams have ever played one another.

I like the “first time ever,” and “first time in years” themes for this game since the Lions are trying to beat someone, anyone, for the first time in nearly three years.

Incidentally, the last night home game was a 17-14 loss to Fordham in the 2004 season opener. Columbia stumbled out of the gate and trailed 17-0 before mounting a 2nd half comeback highlighted by a blocked punt for a TD.

The last time Columbia won a night home game was 2003 against Bucknell on a late TD pass that gave them the 19-16 victory. It was then-Head Coach Bob Shoop’s first victory at Columbia.

I guess you’re seeing all the parallels too. Night game. Non-conference opponent. Chance for a new head coach to win his first game with the Lions.

Perhaps the stars are aligning.

(*=While most of the game was played in nighttime conditions, the 2008 CU-Dartmouth game won by Columbia 21-13 was actually a 4pm start).

Down on the Farm, Interview Edition

Hogan Irwin

Incoming RB Hogan Irwin was interviewed here and he talks about why he chose Columbia and what he needs to work on before he comes to New York. By the way, he doesn’t sidestep the elephant in Columbia’s room.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Honors for John Alex

A very good piece in a publication called "Sport in American History" follows the story of former Columbia football captain and our friend, John Alex '89.

It includes the great picture above of the uniforms the Lions wore in 1985 and 1986.

I interviewed John about his charitable efforts in 2010 in a piece that aired during the opening game halftime show.