Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Win-Win



Scouting Princeton

Kurt Holuba wants to make his mommy proud


After two games, I’m still having trouble deciding whether Princeton has fallen a bit from last year’s championship season.

The big question coming into this season was whether the Tiger defense would weaken without the super DT Caraun Reid, who graduated in May. So far, that’s still a big question as Princeton gave up 39 big points to San Diego and 17 to a Davidson team that not many people thought would get more than one score against PU. But a closer look yields some better news that I’ll get to in a moment.

The offense is not as crisp as many thought it would be. Yes, the Tigers are scoring lots of points but QB Quinn Epperly’s passing numbers are down from last year’s stratospheric levels. But again, a closer look quiets those fears just a bit.

And another reason to quiet the fears is the fact that under Head Coach Bob Surace, the Tigers have typically not played so well in weeks one and two. Since 2001, the Columbia game has been the launching pad for this team and it sure looks like that’s where we’re headed again this year.


The biggest reason not to panic about Epperly’s passing numbers so far is because they were just too good last year to expect him to maintain that level. The second biggest reason for Tigertown not to freak out is because Epperly is still running the ball extremely well and it was his running that really shredded Davidson last Saturday.

RB DiAndre Atwater has been sort of kept under wraps so far this year, but when he has run he’s been very good. Atwater has 121 yards rushing on just 16 carries.

Epperly is spreading his passes around more so far this season than he did in 2013, but senior WR Connor Kelley is the #1 target in the absence of the graduated Roman Wilson. Look for sophomore TE Scott Carpenter to get more and more involved in the passing game as he matures.

The offensive line didn’t have its leader, senior LT Spenser Huston, in the game last week but he’s expected to start Saturday. Center Joe Tull has also been out so far this year, but could start Saturday. Considering how much Epperly runs, this line has to be judged differently than others but it seems to be doing its job well enough this season.


The D is working in some new names right now, but the stats and points allowed don’t tell the whole story.

First off, LB Mike Zeuli is taking the leadership role he was handed and doing the job. Zeuli already has three sacks, and leads the team in tackles.

Junior DB Anthony Gaffney, possibly the best athlete in Ivy football and the other expected team leader, is also doing his job with nine total tackles, a tackle for a loss, and two pass breakups.

The new names emerging to fill the void include sophomore LB Rohan Hylton, who was named Ivy Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after an 11-tackle performance vs. Davidson.

And then there’s freshman DE Kurt Holuba. Holuba was named one of the top incoming freshmen in FCS football over the summer and he’s been a starter since week one.

So far, this defense has allowed more points than expected. But it’s been great against the rush; allowing just 2.0 yards per carry on 87 carries.

The pass defense has been weaker than expected; allowing 7.6 yards per attempt, 5 TD passes and so far no INT’s.


Junior Kicker Nolan Bieck is having a very solid season so far. He’s 3-3 on FG’s, including a 40-yarder last week.

Sophomore Punter Tyler Roth is very solid.

Showing their depth, Princeton took Gaffney off of kick return duty and gave the job to junior RB Dre Nelson. All he’s done is average over 31 yards per return and he had a game-opening 89-yard KO return for a TD last week. Even if you strip out that 89 yard return, Nelson is still averaging a very good 23+ yards per return.

Punt returning junior Max Lescano can be dangerous.

Princeton’s kickoff coverage teams have been excellent, but the Tigers did allow one big punt return in the two returnable punts they’ve had so far.


There’s a reason why Princeton is a 28 ½ point favorite, and it’s not just because Columbia hasn’t looked decent in over a year.

The Tigers are better than they’ve looked so far in 2014, and I suspect they’re dying to prove it this weekend.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Yes We Can Fix It

The "here we go again" mentality from those who say Columbia can never do anything right and it doesn't matter whether we fire Pete Mangurian are all wrong.

Here are three big reasons why:

1) The Columbia administration has NEVER hired the fans' choice.

Did anyone here clamor for Ray Tellier, Bob Shoop, Norries Wilson or Pete Mangurian? Of course not.

It's an outrage that the administration and its blind supporters continue to ignore our specific demands, and then act like they gave us what we wanted. Yes, we wanted Wilson out, but NO ONE asked for Mangurian. I feel guilty for being as nice as I was at the time of his hiring and calling him a "good hire," but I was trying to be somewhat welcoming. Nevertheless, I certainly never lobbied for him or anyone like him for the job. Neither did anyone else.

The only time where the administration and the fans were somewhat in sync was when Shoop was fired and Chuck Priore was offered the job as our first choice to replace him in 2005. Most fans and alums in the know that I spoke too really wanted Priore too. But Priore turned us down.

2) The administration is always secretive, defensive and dismissive of the real fans

This is not just about coaching search committees. This is about an athletic department that never gets it right because it never works with the real alums and students who give a damn about winning. The same coterie of drinking buddies has made or rubber stamped the key decisions for CU sports for 40+ years. Enough is enough.

3) The most woeful sports franchises and programs CAN change

Northwestern, the Red Sox, the Arizona Cardinals. All three were perpetual losers. All three, we were told, had unbeatable structural problems that could not be solved with a few good hires here and there.

Turned out all it took at Northwestern was a new A.D, All it took in Boston was a new GM. And all it took for the football Cardinals was the owner's sons to take over. Suddenly, those impossible, unfixable problems were solved and fixed.

Here's what needs to happen now:

-Give the real fans/concerned alumni a seat on both search committees.

-Keep the search process as public and open as reasonably possible. We have to have accountability this time.

-Do not allow anyone who had a major hand in the Mangurian or Dianne Murphy hires to participate. Give someone else, a new generation, a chance.


Ivy Power Rankings

1) Harvard

The Crimson may have gotten away with one in Providence in that squeaker win over Brown. But remember what I wrote in my Ivy season preview: Tim Murphy’s teams have very rarely won big Ivy road games. This may be a relatively down year for the Bears, but it’s still a big win for Harvard. This bodes well for the Crimson’s chances at Dartmouth and Princeton.

2) Yale

Why isn’t Yale #1 after that stunning win over Army? Two reasons. First, the Elis only confirmed what a lot of us have been saying for many years about how the quality of Ivy football is indeed better than the past. This is not the worst Army team we’ve seen over the last 20 years, but it’s still one of the weaker FBS teams out there. I’ve believed for years that a good Ivy team could play a lower tier FBS team well. The second reason I’m not ranking Yale first is the Eli defense is still really suspect. Against Princeton or Harvard they could be in real trouble. We’ll know more about this team a little further down the road.

3) Princeton

Beating up on Davidson tells us really nothing about Princeton right now, and it’s hard to believe we’ll learn much more about the Tigers after this weekend’s game at Columbia. But Princeton still has all the horses to win it all.

4) Dartmouth

Losing to UNH is no embarrassment, especially in the road. But there do seem to be some defensive issues for the Big Green. Needless to say, beating Penn this Saturday is an absolute must.

5) Brown

The Bears seems to have come back to life despite the loss to Harvard. Brown now has a fighting chance of surprising some people this season.

6) Penn

Losing to Villanova anywhere this year is nothing to be embarrassed about. But Penn looks a little lost right now. It will take a very good showing in Hanover for the Quakers to shake off this bad start. Perhaps Al Bagnoli should have retired after winning the title in 2012.

7) Cornell

The Big Red gave Bucknell a better fight on defense than I expected. Now they have a chance to surprise Yale just as the Elis are busy reading their press clippings.

8) Columbia

It’s the 3rd season after Columbia fired their previous coach and no one can reasonably say the Lions aren’t clearly worse in every way than they were in 2011.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sad Story

I'm sorry to pass along a very sad story concerning a CU football alum, but I know many of his teammates would want to know.

Former Columbia DB Tony Lucas' wife Sarita died suddenly last week.

She was six months pregnant.

The full story can be found here.

I know everyone in the Columbia community would like to express our deepest sympathies to Tony and his whole family.