Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Best

Welcome to CU!

A total of 12 recruits are visiting the Columbia campus this weekend, so let's hope we get some commitments today or tomorrow and add to our list of six confirmed incoming football freshmen.

I wish it were warmer in NYC for the visitors, and also wish they had seen the basketball team pull off a win over Penn last night. But alas, the Quakers edged the Lions, 66-64 in Levien last night.

Looking Back
So, it's finally time for some perspective on the Norries Wilson era. But instead of going through all the historical points and analyses that you've all seen a million times on my old blog and elsewhere, I think the entire Wilson era can be boiled down to three games that showed his regime at its best, its worst, and the one game the truly defined it all.

Over this coming three day weekend, let's choose the "Best, the Worst, and the Definition of Norries Wilson Football."

The Best

Let's start with the good news. In six seasons at Columbia, Coach Wilson oversaw 60 games. The Lions won just 17 of them, so choosing Wilson's best game shouldn't be that hard.

The three finalists for best overall win came down to three games; all of them wins over Brown.

First was the 22-21 win in Providence in 2006 that sealed the Lions' one and only .500 season in Wilson's tenure. That game was a gutsy come-from-behind affair on the road that was sealed by a dramatic last minute drive for the winning FG.

The only trouble is, that 2006 Brown team was not very good. Coming off the Bears" 2005 Ivy title season, Brown just wasn't that year after the graduation of RB Nick Hartigan.

The other runner up was this past November's 35-28 double overtime win over the Bears at Wien Stadium.

That game was also a comeback win and it was against the best Brown team the Lions were able to beat in any of their three wins over Phil Estes and co. in the Wilson era.

The game had huge meaning as the win ensured Columbia would not have a winless season and proved to a lot of people that the 2011 team was really better than its 1-9 final record.

Avoiding the 0-10 season helped ensure the Lions wouldn't be parodied
in clips like the one below from 1987 that I just found:

The heartless attack on Columbia football aside, the video is worth watching to see scenes of the old Palmer
Stadium, (with its Harvard-stadium like concrete bleachers), and the Lions pretty decent road uniforms at the time.

Getting back to the contest for best Wilson-era game, it's important to remember that the 2011 Brown win
also featured some bad mistakes, especially in the first half, and can hardly be considered the "best" of the Wilson years.

And so that brings us to what was the most impressive win from all of the Wilson years, the 28-14 victory over Brown to finish out the season in 2009.

The Bears were an excellent team that year, featuring super QB Kyle-Newhall Caballero and future NFL player WR Buddy Farnham.

Columbia had started the year with tremendous promise, defeating Princeton 38-0 in New Jersey to make a big statement early on.

But the injuries just kept piling up after that. M.A. Olawale, Alex Gross, Ray Rangel, and other key players just kept dropping like flies.

The 2-1 Lions suddenly became the 2-6 Lions and what had seemed like a fantastic year was in danger of being a total loss.

But then Columbia pulled out an exciting win at Cornell in week nine and there was at least some optimism brewing for the season finale.

Of course, Cornell was a very weak team that year and Brown was looking to clinch a second place finish. It was not going to be an easy hill to climb.

One exciting X-factor in the game was Columbia's freshman starting QB Sean Brackett. Brackett was making his fourth career start, but the previous week's win over Cornell had been won "in relief" by Olawale
after he replaced Brackett in the second half for what would be his final real game action of his Columbia career.

With M.A. out for sure for the Brown game, it was up to Brackett to get his first real, wire-to-wire, win of his career.

Brackett did just that, passing brilliantly and running for more than 170 yards in the win that made a lot of people believe this was a program truly on the rise.

The game also featured a super effort by WR Austin Knowlin, who was probably Coach Wilson's best recruit. Knowlin scored one touchdown running, one receiving and was generally all over the field in his
final collegiate game.

But the game will mostly be remembered for "the lateral" the amazing play shown below that was clearly the best moment of the year and the 2000-2010 decade for Columbia football.

It was also my last game as the color commentator for the Lion football broadcasts with Jerry Recco. What a way to got!

As much as this video is thrilling, it just can't capture how exciting it was to see it live. Adam Mehrer and Andy Shalbrack will forever be enshrined in Columbia lore for this play:

If only that big win had translated into real momentum for the Columbia football program.

But the Lions took a step back instead of forward in 2010 and the bleeding only got worse in 2011.

The good news is that some very good players who were on the field for that 2009 win are still with the team now and they at least know what it feels like to win an amazing game like that.

They need to feel it again.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Looks like a pretty good crowd at that 1987 game as well. Pity they didn't film the parody at the Princeton game the following year. :)