Sunday, September 30, 2012

Humiliation Station

Princeton 33 Columbia 6

Why Princeton Won

The Tigers returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and hardly looked back from there. The defense recorded five sacks and never let the Columbia running game get going or passing attack remain consistent. The special teams play was perfect.

Why Columbia Lost

The Lions didn't look prepared to play. Once again the team tensed up and couldn't execute in the red zone, play calling was weak, and the defense couldn't harass the opponent like it had in the first two weeks of the season.

Key Turning Points

-After Princeton took a 7-0 lead on the 94-yard opening kickoff return, the game settled down with the defense stopping the Tigers on their next three possessions. But on the fourth possession, Princeton drove 66 yards from their 20 before setting up for  FG from the Lion 14. Only trouble was it was a fake FG and it was executed beautifully for a TD pass. 14-0 Tigers.

-On the ensuing drive, Columbia finally got a drive going thanks to some great screen passes to Marcorus Garrett. But inside the 10, the Lions stalled by failing to get the first down after getting a 2nd and 3 at the Princeton 9. Two unimaginative running plays right into the strength of the Tiger defense produced nothing. Columbia had to settle for a FG and Princeton's two score lead was intact.

-Columbia had one more chance to get back in it, trailing 17-6 midway through the 3rd quarter after Marquel Carter intercepted  a Connor Michelsen pass and returned it to the CU 37. But then a three-and-out and a bad snap on the punt gave the Tigers the ball right back at the Lion 20.

Columbia Negatives

How much time do you have? The team looked unprepared. The offensive line wasn't able to get much push, the defense often faltered on 3rd downs, the WR's dropped almost a dozen passes, the play calling was weak, Columbia was out-coached by the worst coach in the league.

There are a million questions to be asked after this game like:

-Why was freshman sensation WR Isaiah Gross essentially benched for the entire game?

-Why is the play calling getting so conservative and hopeless once we arrive inside the 20 or the 10?

-Why isn't QB Sean Brackett being allowed to run if he can't remain in the pocket and pass as effectively?

-How could the team be so unprepared... again?

Columbia Positives

-He had a drop or two, but WR Connor Nelligan still had 11 catches for a 102 yards.

-DE Will Patterson had a fantastic game with nine tackles, four of them for a loss and one of them a sack.

-K Luke Eddy was a perfect two-for-two on FG's including a 41-yarder that had plenty of extra distance.

-RB Marcorus Garrett looked very effective as a screen pass receiver and he ran about as hard as he could against the execellent Princeton run defense. He also never fumbled even after absorbing a bone crushing, dead-on hit early in the second half after a pass reception.

Where We Go From Here

Columbia has just been humiliated by a team that was picked for dead last in the Ivies. Clearly this is the biggest gut check time for Head Coach Pete Mangurian and the staff. I guarantee you that all the pundits have just written us off for the rest of the season, but is that justified? Can the Lions just forget about this game or was this loss the true definition of the season and where this team is right now?

Columbia now heads to the road against two teams that are a lot better than Princeton. Are 30 and 40-point losses to Lehigh and Penn in the offing?

If this team shows no improvement and even a dropoff from last year's levels, it will be a gloomy year indeed.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

5 Things...

-Well, my prediction that Holy Cross would not get embarrassed last night proved to be 100% WRONG. Harvard just destroyed the Crusaders 52-3 last night. The Crimson just look scary good.

-The rain has stopped here in New York and we're looking at a beautiful day ahead for the Lions-Tigers game at Wien Stadium. I will be very interested to see how the attendance numbers turn and whether any decent numbers of Princeton fans will show up. In recent years, Tiger fans have probably been the worst about coming out to games against Columbia. This makes little sense given the proximity of NYC to their campus and the fact that the biggest chunk of PU alumni live here anyway.

-This will be the 125th Columbia football game I have attended in my lifetime, and the 17th against Princeton.

-Set your DVR's for the Penn-Dartmouth game, which kicks off at Memorial Field on NBC Sports Channel at noon Eastern Time. Penn and Dartmouth are our next two Ivy opponents, so this is a good scouting opportunity.

-The betting lines have gone nutty again with a lot of late changes. Princeton is now favored by 1 point, Penn-Dartmouth is now a pick 'em game, and Cornell is now a 9 1/2 point favorite over Bucknell. Go figure.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cat Fight

Princeton Tigers at Columbia Lions

September 29, 2012

Location: Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at the Baker Athletics Complex

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: 65 degrees, partly cloudy

The Spread: Columbia is favored by 1 point

Here's my guide to getting to 2012 Columbia home games

**REMEMBER** The #1 subway train WILL be running tomorrow! 


You can get free audio and fee-based video on the SideLion Pass SideLion Pass. Jerry Recco and Sal Licata have the call. 

The student station broadcast is on WKCR at 89.9 on your FM dial.

Lead Stories

Both teams have a lot to prove. 

Princeton's only win of 2011 was a squeaker over Columbia at Princeton Stadium and the Lions want revenge. Both of these teams are expected to finish at the bottom of the Ivies until they prove otherwise. so the loser can count on major disrespect the rest of the season.

Columbia wants to prove that it's way too talented and way too better coached this season to lose at home to Princeton. The Tigers' third-year Head Coach Bob Surace, (2-20 overall W-l record at PU), is fighting for his job. I actually think that if Princeton loses tomorrow, Surace is as good as fired at the end of the season. 

Before the 24-21 loss to the Tigers last year, the Lions smoked Princeton in '09 and '10 by scores of 38-0 and 42-14 respectively. That 38-0 win in 2009 is what sealed former Princeton Head Coach Roger Hughes' fate, (a move I am sure the school regrets now, especially since he rallied the team to two big wins to end that season). The 42-14 win in 2010 established Lion QB Sean Brackett as a legitimate star as he tossed five TD passes. 

Columbia's Three Keys to Victory

1) Stop Leaving Points on the Field

While everyone is focused on Brackett's low completion rate, that's only one of the reasons why Columbia has come away empty handed from far too many trips into the Red Zone. There have been fumbles and dropped passes, plus the occasional mis-run route. All of that has to go away if the Lions want to get winning.

2) Establish the Running Game

 Columbia's running attack is for real this year with Marcorus Garrett well ahead of a 1,000-yard pace after two games. Even if he doesn't run for 100 yards, Garrett still needs to do well enough to make Princeton at least guard against the run and avoid allowing the Tigers to key in on Brackett and knock his head off. Princeton still has a very good overall defense that will only look better if it doesn't have to worry about the run. 

3) Make the QB's Beat You

The Lions need to halt the spotty Princeton running game and freshman bright spot DiAndre Atwater in order to put the game on the shoulders on the even spottier Tiger passing game. Neither one of Princeton's two top QB's seem to have what it takes to lead the team to a win on their own. 

Week 3 Picks

Despite having to create a betting line on my own for the Georgetown-Princeton game last week, I still  posted  respectable 3-2 record against the spread and a good 4-1 record straight up. My record for the season so far is 6-5-1 against the spread and 9-3 straight up.

Now on to this week's games. 

Holy Cross +19 at Harvard

I like Harvard to win this game tonight, but the Crusaders aren't going to get humiliated.

Penn +5 1/2 at Dartmouth

I think the Big Green will win this game, but not by more than a field goal. I don't like Penn's offense right now and the Big Green offense should be able to simple outscore the Quakers.

Colgate -6 at Yale

This spread is way too small to make sense to me even though they've boosted it from a three point line yesterday. Colgate all the way.

Cornell -6 at Bucknell 

This game might be close, but not closer than a full TD and PAT win for the Big Red.

Brown -3 at Georgetown

I like Brown's offensive composure and the defense will have a much easier time this week than it did last time out vs. Harvard. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Scouting Princeton

Toothless Tiger?

Betting Lines Released

The spreads for all of this weekends Ivy games have just been released. Columbia and Princeton are listed as a pick 'em game right now, (that will probably change), but here are the other lines, and there are some REAL eye-openers here:

Harvard -21 hosting Holy Cross

Yale +3 hosting Colgate 

Dartmouth -9 1/2 hosting Penn

Brown -4 at Georgetown

Cornell -2 1/2 at Bucknell

I'll have my picks tomorrow, and you know how opposed to sports gambling I am. But some of these lines are REALLY tempting me. Yale only a three point dog at Colgate?!?! Cornell only a 2 1/2 point favorite at Bucknell? Dartmouth a huge 9 1/2 favorite over Penn? Whoa.

Weather Looks Better

The forecasters are no longer expecting much, if any, rain at all Saturday so it looks like we'll have great day for football with temps at 68 degrees and just some clouds. In other words: get your butts out to Kraft Field for this game! 

Looking at Princeton


I've made no secret of my serious doubts about the Tigers, picking them last in my preseason preview and openly wondering whether this team is headed for an 0-10 campaign. 

But Princeton hasn't looked as bad as all that in the first two weeks of the season. They played Lehigh pretty well and darn near beat Georgetown in a sloppy game last Friday night, 

Yet this team has provided no real argument to move up the expectations ladder. The defense has been good at keeping opponents from scoring despite giving up big chunks of rushing and passing yardage so far. The offense has not really done much to strike fear into anyone, especially in the passing game. 
Bottom line: Head Coach Bob Surace's job is in serious jeopardy. 


A lot was made of 2011 Ivy Rookie of the Year Chuck Dibillio suffering a stoke and leaving this team in terrible shape. But the story there is about a 19-year-old suffering a stroke, not so much about a powerhouse offense losing its leader. With DiBillio last year, the Tigers were still 1-9 and had a toothless offense. So the sad story here is Dibillio's personal health scare, not a fall from on high for Princeton.

Freshman DiAndre Atwater, son of NFL great Steve Atwater, looks like he could be a bright spot after some nifty runs against Georgetown. He's stll listed as a backup in the Tiger game notes, but I think Surace would be crazy to give him fewer than 15 carries Saturday. (With Atwater and Columbia's Wells Childress on the field at the same time during the game, we'll have the sons of two NFL greats playing against each other). 

After Atwater, the story gets considerably worse. The Tigers passing game is weak. The passing yards average per game is just 131. But the stats really don't tell the whole story. Neither Connor Michelsen nor Quinn Epperly seem to have a plan out there or much zip in their throws. They might get better, but not from week to week. 


Despite a great interior defense featuring stars like Caraun Reid, and Mike Catapano, Princeton is giving up more yards rushing than you'd expect at 134 per game. The pass defense and the younger secondary hasn't been as sharp. But these guys found a way to hold Lehigh to just 17 points and they can't be written off. LB Andrew Starks is another guy to watch.

Special Teams

Punter Joe Cloud is doing a very good job. 

Princeton's return game is solid, the coverage teams have been very good. 

After that, things get really dicey.

The real headline is that freshman kicker Nolan Bieck had a nightmare game last week, missing three FG's and a PAT in a one-point loss top Georgetown. He'll be under big pressure Saturday to turn it around. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mysteries of the Ivy League

After two games, some would say the real season begins this Saturday with the annual Ivy League opener against Princeton.

As much as we've learned about Columbia and all the other Ivy teams in the last two weeks, the real lessons don't kick in until everyone's faced an Ivy opponent.

Consider what we thought we knew about Harvard last week before they played Brown. They looked like they were underachieving and listless after a comeback win over an over-matched U. San Diego team.

Now we know the Crimson are as powerful as predicted in preseason, and maybe even more.

Last week, we thought Cornell's defense was not at all improved and maybe even worse after the Big Red fell to Fordham in a shootout in the Bronx.

Now we know Cornell really has what it takes to crush lesser Ivy opponents like Yale after that 45-6 thrashing of the Elis.

Right now for Columbia, it sure looks like the Lions are not a good red zone offense, and thus can't expect a much improved defense to help them win too many more games than the one they already have under their belts.

Princeton looks like it has a mostly punchless offense with a good overall defense that also can't be expected to overcome the hole the offense will put it in week after week.

But looks can be deceiving.

We know Columbia has some emerging and dangerous offensive weapons like RB Marcorus Garrett and WR Isaiah Garrett. We know there's a lot better and consistent QB play just dying to get out of Sean Brackett.

We also know some top players like WR Jake Wanamaker and DL Nick Melka have been injured and are set to return this week.

But the whole point is we DON'T KNOW about Ivy teams until they play each other. This weekend really is a reboot on the whole season, and luckily for Columbia the Lions already have a win in their pockets and they know they have what it takes to win.

Ivy Honor Roll

As the athletic department often points out, the Ivy honor roll is kind of a rubber stamp of the names each school submits to the League. (The winners of the weekly awards have to undergo a more arduous process).

But it was great to see Zach Olinger and Garrett get mentioned for their super games against Fordham.

One added note about each of them: 1) Olinger got right back up after what looked like a really tough hit late in the game and made a few more tackles.  2) Garrett wasn't one of the players who Head Coach Pete Mangurian ordered to lose lots of weight, but his conditioning is certainly impressive. He's run an identical 30 times in both games and he looks just as energetic in the fourth quarter as he does in the first.

Coach's Take

Be sure to get a look at Coach Mangurian's analysis of the Fordham game which he has thankfully made public to all. In the past, these kinds of recaps were confined to a private list.

Weather Issue?

It's really too early to get worried, but right now rain is forecast for New York City this Saturday. But I don't really take these weekend reports seriously until Thursday when they tend to change.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ivy Power Rankings

With two weeks in the books we're starting to get an idea of what's what in the league...

1. Harvard

The Crimson looked a little out of it in their week one win over San Diego, but rose to the challenge at Brown Saturday. Some very good Harvard teams have failed to win in Providence in recent years, but this isn't one of them. Treavor Scales leads the Ivies in rushing and is getting about 15,000 yards per carry. These guys are scary.

2. Cornell

The week one loss at Fordham seems like a distant memory now that the Big Red are coming off a 45-6 trashing of Yale in Ithaca. Jeff Mathews is living up to all the hype, averaging 414 yards passing per game and throwing seven TD passes with no interceptions so far. The defense and the running game are still suspect, but Cornell should be in every game.

3. Dartmouth

A very impressive win over Holy Cross has the Big Green stock rising this week. Critics will point to the offense's troubles against the Crusaders, but this is a Tom Gilmore-coached team. No need to be embarrassed by only beating them by three on their home field. The real test comes this Saturday against Penn, but you have to give Dartmouth and "A" so far this year.

4. Brown

Brown's scrappy win over Holy Cross in week one made the season look promising, and there's no shame in  losing to Harvard. But there does seem to be a drop-off from the last two seasons. Don't count them out, though.

5. Columbia

The Lions defense is for real, so is workhorse RB Marcorus Garrett. With sharper QB play from Sean Brackett, the Lions would be 2-0 and two notches higher on this list.

6. Penn

The Quaker defense is still pretty solid, but the offense is in disarray. QB Billy Ragone may lose his starting job, and backup Andy Holland isn't the answer. In the 24-8 loss to Villanova, Penn never challenged.

7. Yale

After a scrappy win over Georgetown, the Elis were believing they might be able to ride their running game to a respectable season. Not anymore. The huge loss to Cornell puts a spotlight on Yale's problems at the QB position and a dozen other places. Yale is also last in rushing defense and they haven't even played a very good running team yet.

8. Princeton

It now appears the Tigers close loss to Lehigh was just a mirage. Anyone who saw the ESPNU broadcast of Princeton's one point loss to Georgetwon Friday night saw the truth. DiAndre Atwater looks like a decent runner and the interior defense is solid, but the offense overall seems punchless and the defense just isn't good enough in the clutch.

Kudos to NBC Sports

I hope most of you were able to watch or tape the NBCS doubleheader coverage of Yale-Cornell and Harvard-Brown Saturday. The quality of the broadcasts was a real step above what Versus did in the past and what we've seen on YES or ESPNU. It's a shame Columbia won't appear on the network this season, but I can't wait to see them there next year.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Letting 'em off the Hook

The dark clouds never really cleared up over Kraft Field

Fordham 20 Columbia 13

Why Fordham Won

The Rams got a monster game from RB Carlton Koonce, who finished with 250 yards rushing and both of Fordham's TD's. But the Ram defense also came up big, getting two turnovers inside their red zone and getting the ball back on downs on Columbia's final drive.

Why Columbia Lost

The Lions simply left too many points on the field. Columbia got into the Fordham red zone four times and only came away with 6 points on two field goals. The defense played generally very well, but gave up a 92-yard TD scamper to Koonce that was essentially the difference in the game.

Key Turning Points

-Fordham fumbled away the opening kickoff, giving the Lions a 1st and goal at the 10. Three plays netted just four yards and Columbia had to settle for a FG.

-Still trailing 3-0 and sputtering on offense, the whole game turned around on Koonce's 92-yard TD run with  just over six minutes left in the 1st quarter. Before that run, Koonce had rushed the ball six times for a grand total of 12 yards.

-After another Fordham TD with just over a minute left in the 1st quarter, the Lions looked dead in the water down 14-3. But that all changed after a great rollout pass by QB Sean Brackett to WR Louis DiNovo who got two great blocks from his fellow wide receivers Isaiah Gross and Connor Nelligan en route to a 60-yard TD. Columbia was back in it, and this would be a game.

-Midway through the 2nd quarter, Columbia RB Marcorus Garrett burst through the right side for a 64-yard run all the way down to the Fordham 4. But he was caught from behind on that run and two plays later, Brackett threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted in the back of the end zone.

-Columbia's next possession started all the way back on the Lion 11, but thanks to two extremely acrobatic catches by Gross, Columbia had another 1st and goal at the Ram 8. But three plays went only two yards and the Lions had to settle for another FG.

-With 7:51 left in the game, Columbia began a drive from their own 20. This time Garrett and DiNovo did the heavy lifting with Garrett runs of 11, 3 and 19 yards and DiNovo catches of 11 and 17 yards. But RB Alec Fisher fumbled the ball away at the Fordham 13 despite what seemed like the refs blowing the play dead. Head Coach Pete Mangurian was livid after the call, but the Rams escaped with a big break.

-Columbia had one last chance with a drive that began on their own 45. On 4th and 10 from there, Brackett completed a nice 16-yard pass to Gross to keep the drive alive. But on 4th and 13 from the Ram 28, Brackett went over the line of scrimmage before completing what looked like a miraculous TD pass to Garrett in the back of the end zone.

Columbia Positives

-The total yards allowed don't really tell the story as the Lion defense stepped up big and played extremely well against a stacked Fordham offensive attack. Bottom line, the D gave Columbia every chance to win this game.

-Despite the undersized offensive line, the Lions run blocking was strong again, freeing up Garrett to rush for an incredible 168 yards. The pass blocking was better this week, as Brackett had a lot more time to throw, especially in the final quarter.

Columbia Negatives

-Crucial turnovers and red zone failures sealed their fate and are the kind of habit that needs to be broken before they derail the entire season. You can't let three first and goal situations and two desperation drives deep into opponent territory leave you with six total points.

-Brackett was inconsistent, and especially inaccurate with his throws early in the game. He eventually got better when he started to roll out and throw, but he still finished with a sub-.500 completion percentage.

-The play calling seemed a little suspect, especially the call for a fade patter throw on 2nd and goal from the 1 in the 2nd quarter that resulted in an INT. Much of the other offensive series seemed a little too vanilla. Perhaps this is all part of a conservative approach before the Ivy games begin next week vs. Princeton.

-Despite what it said in the two-deep, Seyi Adebayo did not play and is out for the season with an ACL.

Columbia MVP

-It was not a perfect game for Marcorus Garrett, despite the 168 yards and 30 carries. But he stayed strong throughout the entire game and made key play after key play. The fact that he still would have had his second straight 100-yard game even without that 64 yard run is all you need to know.

Garrett is now the first CU rusher to have back-to-back 100 yard games since Johnathan Reese did in in 2001.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Game Day Quick Hitters

Caraun Reid had a standout game in the loss for Princeton

About six-and-a-half hours to kickoff, and here's what's new:

-Today's weather in NYC will be warmer than the previous few days, but not unbearably hot. The high should be about 80 degrees. Rain is not expected until late tonight.

-Once again, the GW Bridge will be closing three NJ-bound lanes until 10am today. That usually snarls traffic on a number of other roadways including my beloved Harlem River Drive, the decent Major Deegan Expressway, the Bruckner Expressway and the West Side HWY/Henry Hudson Parkway. These tie-ups often last until a few hours AFTER the GW lanes are re-opened. You'll need to give yourself some extra time to get to the game if you plan to take any of these roadways today.

P.U., literally

-Princeton and Georgetown both looked pretty awful in the Hoyas 21-20 win over the Tigers last night. Much of the blame for the loss will fall on freshman kicker Nolan Bieck, who missed three FG's and had  PAT blocked. Remember, Princeton had the great Patrick Jacob as their kicker for the last few years before he graduated and they really miss him.

-I was impressed by Tiger freshman RB DiAndre Atwater, who came into the game in the second quarter and finished with 92 yards on 15 carries including a 53 yard TD.

-As for Georgetown, it was surreal watching a different team run former CU offensive coordinator Vinny Marino's offense. It really looked a lot like the Columbia offense circa 2009. There were a lot of QB draws, those awkward handoffs where the QB and the RB almost look like they're hugging, and some good plays too. Credit the Hoyas for their game-winning drive that started on their 12, and aided by a roughing the passer penalty, ended up going 72 yards and grinding up more than five minutes of the clock before the game winning FG. Another key play was an option toss on 4th and 3 from the Princeton 48 that went for six yards.

-Tiger Head Coach Bob Surace is now 2-20 at Princeton and the Tigers have lost nine in a row.

-Looking to the Columbia-Princeton next week here in New York, it certainly doesn't look like the Tigers have much of a passing game, and the Princeton defense has weaknesses on the edges. Bottom line, the Tigers need better QB play.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cup Crazy

The Liberty Cup

Fordham Rams at Columbia Lions: Liberty Cup XI

September 22, 2012

Location: Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at the Baker Athletics Complex

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: 77 degrees, sunny

The Spread: Fordham is favored by 3 1/2 points


Here is my guide Here is my guide to getting to 2012 Columbia home games

**REMEMBER** The #1 subway train WILL be running tomorrow! 


You can get free audio and fee-based video on the SideLion Pass SideLion Pass. Jerry Recco and Sal Licata have the call. 

The student station broadcast is on WKCR at 89.9 on your FM dial.

Lead Stories

The Lions began the Pete Mangurian era last week with a scrappy win over Marist. Now, they face a tougher test against an athletic scholarship team that is also looking resurgent under new Head Coach Joe Moorhead.

The game looks like it will be a duel between Fordham's potent offense and Columbia's impressive front seven on defense. It will also be a sharp contrast between a much bigger Ram team and Mangurian's "Grand Experiment" lighter and better conditioned squad.

Fordham's offense attack could be a lot less varied this week because of an injury to QB Michael Nebrich. He's out for this game and probably several more. Nebrich was the running QB who could still throw pretty well in the dual QB system that still mostly featured Ryan Higgins under center. 

The Lions seem to have posted some good news yesterday when the game notes listed standout DE Seyi Adebayo as a starter even though he had to be helped off the field with an injury last week. 

The Liberty Cup games have almost all been very close, and the last five have all come down to the last two to three minutes of the fourth quarter. Last year's 21-14 win by Fordham in Rose Hill was the only game the Rams would win in all of 2011. 

Columbia is also trying to win three straight games at home, (albeit stretched over the course of two seasons), for the first time since 2010 and only the third time ever at Wien Stadium.

Columbia's Three Keys to the Game

3) Protect Brackett and get him on Track3) Protect Brackett and get him on Track3) Protect Brackett and get him on Track3) Protect Brackett and get him on Track

1) Protect Brackett and get him on Track

Even if Columbia's defense plays BETTER than it did against Marist, Fordham is likely to score more than nine points. That means the offense has to be more productive. QB Sean Brackett needs more time to throw and his throws need to be more accurate. That should do it.

2) Stop the Run

Ram RB Carlton Koonce absolutely destroyed the Cornell defense last week in the 34-27 Fordham win. Columbia stuffed the run against Marist, but this will be a much taller order. With all of Fordham's passing targets, this game will become just about impossible to win if Koonce has another 150+ yard day.

3) Win the Turnover Battle

The Rams have been overly generous with the football through the first three games of the season and they haven't grabbed many takeaways. The Lions need that trend to continue.

Fordham Update: Nebrich Out

Michael Nebrich

I'm a tad late with this news, but UConn transfer QB Michael Nebrich, who adds the great running dimension to Fordham's dual QB system, is out for tomorrow's game against Columbia.

Nebrich injured his knee in the Ram win over Cornell last Saturday. He likely has torn ligaments.

While Fordham's offense is still a powerhouse, this means the Lions will probably only have to worry about one Ram QB and not two.

Week 2 Picks

I posted a halfway decent 3-3-1 record against the spread and 5-2 straight up in week one, (which I always say is the hardest week to predict ballgames).

Now it's on to week 2, but we're faced with a tough opening challenge in that tonight's Georgetown-Princeton game has no betting line. That means I'll have to set my own line, which will be favoring the Hoyas by 6 1/2. So let's get started:

Georgetown -6 1/2 over Princeton

I liked the Tigers' resolve against Lehigh last week, but the Mountaineers have been playing lazy after getting multi-score leads all season and coasting down the stretch of games. Georgetown played sloppy against Yale, but the Elis do have a serious running attack and Princeton does not.

Holy Cross -3 1/2 over Dartmouth

This is going to be a great game, but I trust Tom Gilmore to get his team ready to play 60 minutes this time after faltering against Brown last week. I also have a feeling the Big Green will be holding just a little in the tank looking ahead to next week vs. Penn.

Cornell +1 over Yale

I like the Big Red to bounce back in their home and Ivy opener and post the win. Fordham's offense is very good, and allowing 34 points to the Rams on their Homecoming field is not worth panicking over. Yale's offense is one dimensional with the run and even Cornell can stack eight guys in the box and figure it out.

Villanova -3 over Penn

The Quakers' QB situation is a mess. 'Nova always finds a way to beat these guys.

Harvard -4 over Brown

I'm still a big believer in Phil Estes, especially early in the season. Harvard seems a bit dazed right now. But the Crimson still seem too strong and that lackluster start last week will serve only as a motivation to get it right this time. There are still plenty of Harvard players who remember how their loss to the Bears in Providence in week 2 of 2010 derailed their championship hopes.

*One note, while I still don't pick the Columbia games, fans should know the line in the game against Fordham tomorrow has gone from pick 'em to Fordham now being favored by 3 1/2 points.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BREAKING:Adebayo Starting

According to the just-released Columbia game notes, senior DL Seyi Adebayo will start against Fordham Saturday despite leaving the Marist game with a leg injury.

This is excellent news for a defense that will have its hands full with the Rams varied offensive attack.

Now we have to take this news with a slight grain of salt, because last week, DL Nick Melka was listed as the backup to Greg Lee, but he was in khakis and did not play in the game.

In other BREAKING NEWS, most of the Ivy game betting lines have finally be released on the online offshore sites. Columbia and Fordham are listed as a "pick 'em" game. So are Dartmouth and Holy Cross.

Yale is a one point favorite at Cornell, Penn is a 1 1/2 point underdog at home vs. Villanova, and Harvard is a four point favorite against Brown.

Someone forgot to handicap the Princeton-Georgetown game, and they better hurry up because that game is tomorrow night.

Waiting Game

As of 5:42 this morning, we still don't have the Columbia game notes or the lines for this weekend's Ivy games.

I expect both to be out sometime today.

Of course, the big question is whether senior DL Seyi Adebayo will play on Saturday after his injury last week. As good and deep as the Lion front seven is, the defense definitely loses something without him.

As for the betting lines, the folks on the Cayman Islands better hurry up because Princeton hosts Georgetown FRIDAY NIGHT... so time's running out.

More on Fordham 

The more you look at Fordham, the more you realize that Cornell could have easily won that game in the Bronx last Saturday if the Big Red had a least a semblance of a running attack.

The Rams seem to have a tendency to give up big running plays, or at least they did against Villanova the previous week. If this is the result of the fact that Fordham's defense is a little TOO big, then the speed and conditioning of the Lions offense could really cash in.

It's just something to think about...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scouting Fordham

Patrick Murray seems headed for the NFL

(For those of you who have asked, the offshore bookies have not yet released their lines for the Ivy games this weekend. Usually they come out by the end of the day Wednesday, so check back here periodically. And AGAIN, I STRONGLY OPPOSE sports gambling, but simply like to discuss lines in theoretical way)


Fordham's game notes for the game are now available.

The most annoying thing about Tom Masella's Fordham teams was that they were often very different from week to week. That's not a comment on how hard the Rams played, but a comment on how different Masella's strategies were depending on the game.

Sometimes, he would run the ball 40 times, other times it would be more like 10. Sometimes, he'd ask his QB's to pass all day, etc.

Under new coach Joe Moorhead, things haven't become that much easier. First, the Rams played a game against Division II Lock Haven that really didn't tell us anything. Then, they played Villanova tough for most of the game before losing 28-13.

Finally, Fordham gets what looks like an impressive win over Cornell. But the Big Red lost because of what we knew they'd have troubles with this season: defense and running the ball.

So we're kind of back to square one.

But let's get a handle on what we do know, shall we?


Carlton Koonce barely saw any action in Fordham's against the Lions in 2010 and 2011, but he busted out nicely against Cornell last Saturday with 176 yards and two TD's.  He was named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week. He's packed solid at 5-8 and 180 pounds and can be hard to grab and bring down. None of the Marist rushers was as good as Koonce, so this will be a test for the Lions rush defense that looked so good last week.

The Rams dual QB system can also be deadly. Ryan Higgins is a big strong passer who can stand strong in the pocket. UConn transfer Michael Nebrich is a very good option runner.

The Fordham defense has not been as strong as I expected it to be so far, but considering they have played strong offensive teams like Cornell and Villanova, they may not be so bad after all. I would still consider any team with a DL like Justin Yancey and a LB like Nick Womack to be very dangerous indeed.

The fact is, Fordham's linebacking crew could be the best Columbia sees all season. Joining Womack is  fellow senior Michael Martin who had a big game against the Lions last year and is off to a stellar start in 2012. Junor Jake Rodriques looks sharp as well.

In addition to Yancey, sophomore DL DeAndre Slate has been a big roadblock at 270 lbs., (Yancey goes at 295), and senior Dl Patrick McGee is 280 lbs.

So if you were thinking that this coming week will be an even bigger test for Head Coach Pete Mangurian's "Grand Experiment" of going with a lighter and fast O-line, you were right.

Fordham's O-line by contrast, has two 300-pound starters and another who goes at 295. You could not find two teams with much greater contrast than Columbia and Fordham in the weight department.

Another strength is the WR corps and the way the Ram QB's have spread the ball around. Four different Fordham receivers have 10 catches or more, led by senior Nick Talbert. Talbert is a big target at 6-3. The shorter and speedier option is Brian Wetzel who is a 5-11 sophomore.

But the most dangerous weapon may be H-back Sam Ajala, who burned the Lions for a big TD last season. He's fast and strong.


This is still a Fordham team that, like Columbia, went 1-9 last year. But with improved QB play and a more resilient defense, it's hard to find any one area that looks truly bad.

Here's something: Fordham has very few takeaways this season and a turnover ration of -4. It's not a big emergency as of yet, but the Rams' last two opponents have passed a combined 73 times against their defense and there hasn't been one interception.

I also think Fordham is playing its better ball in the first half right now. They traded scores with Cornell for the most past last week and that wasn't too bad. But the second half collapse against the Wildcats was something else.

Starting left Matt Stolte is out for this game and will be replaced by sophomore Mason Halter. That will be a position to watch all day.

Special Teams Factor

Kicker/Punter Patrick Murray will probably be the best kicker Columbia faces all year. He had an uncharacteristic weaker game against the Lions last year, but this years he's 6-6 on FG's including a 52 yarder. He's also averaging an incredible 44.6 yards per punt.

Fan Support

Fordham is making a big effort to get its students to come out to the game, so there's a chance a very vocal anti-Lion contingent will be on hand.

That brings me to my next point about fan support. A number of our fans told me they thought the crowd was too quiet last week and it took too long for simple things to happen, like standing up on 3rd and 4th down plays for the defense.

And the crowd of just 3,900 last week was just not anywhere near good enough.

So far, the weather forecast is great for Saturday so let's get a LARGE and LOUD crowd out there!

This game is for the Liberty Cup, and it's great when the team gets to hoist that trophy high and point it towards the home stands.

New Voices

The Roar Lions 2012 newsroom is getting crowded!

So... I guess I lied when I said I was through writing posts all about the win over Marist.

(Don't worry, my "Scouting Fordham" post will appear later today).

But I have a good excuse.

First, we have to add ECAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for Zach Olinger to this Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week crown.

Second, today is the first installment of some brief guest analyses of games from people who know the game a lot better than I.

I am very excited to be introducing this new feature, that gets some of the younger voices we all yearn for onto the blog.

First up is Paul Havas '12, who spent five years with the CU varsity, (he was injured his sophomore year), as a QB and then as a WR. Here's his take:

"Lions Win. Period.

Great to see the boys start the season off right. Columbia hasn't won their season opener since the Rumble in the Bronx against a John Skelton-led Fordham team back in 2009. Watching my ex-teammates as well as the new faces donning the Columbia Blue march off the field with pride and ear-to-ear smiles this past Saturday gave me a good feeling of what is yet to come for the Mangurian-era Lions. 

Being that this is my first season as a Lions spectator, I am presented with a whole new perspective to CU football and ivy league play. 

Let's start off with some positive takeaways from Saturday:

1) Our front seven looks as talented as ever, flying around, rallying to the ball and making plays all afternoon. Olinger, Murphy and Waller are all experienced, downhill players who can truly set the tone for your team. Having played with them I believe all three guys are big time leaders and will be one of the primary reasons our defense has success this year.
 Our D-line, equally as impressive, has nice depth and made plays at crucial times against Marist, most notably a blocked extra point by Childress late in the game. I expect huge things out of Martin and Adebayo and believe that Lee, Sommers, Childress, Melka and Washington will provide solid, consistent play which should prove to be a dominant unit, collectively. 

2) Garrett and our running game. I liked the fact that for the first time in a while Columbia was able to consistently squeeze out 4+ yards a pop, breaking out for a few nice-looking runs of ~15 yards a piece. I really hope that the Lions can sustain this ground production, because with Brackett's mobility, our running game can do wonders for clock-control and game-management. We had some nice blocking from sophomore FB Silvio. 

3) Organization. Just take look at our sideline. Looks like the NFL! Dressing fewer guys is something I completely agree with and gives more motivation to the players in their uniforms watching from the stands. Being able to dress for gameday should be an earned privilege and more often times than not when you dress 110+ guys the sideline can become a complete mess when trying to gather players together to make quick sideline adjustments. 

Room for improvement:
1) Pass protection... I know it is our first game in a new offensive system with a lot of young guys playing , but the protection seemed absolutely abysmal at times. We have the conference's top QB, so how about we give him a chance to perform like one. I know this sounds very cliche but If we can control the line of scrimmage this year from an offensive standpoint we will be a very effective offense. Between Garner, Nelligan, Gross, DiNovo and Slivka we've have a group who can make plays, so let's give Brackett a chance to get it to those guys.

2) Passing game- too inconsistent and taking too many shots downfield when the throws weren't there. We have a great QB in Brackett and we need him to play that way in order for us to have success. It comes down to him performing for us to have any chance this year, and if I know him well enough, which I think I do, he knows that and he'll find any way to get it done. Expect him to have his best season yet. The first game jitters are now out of the system and time for Brackett and his weapons to start picking on defenses. 

3) Cornerback play- Too many times did we find our CBs' backs turned allowing the Marist receivers to make nice plays. Coverage down the field cannot be played with that technique because it allows for too many of the currently-famed back-shoulder throws. If a DB's back is turned, any mediocre receiver will be able to make the play over him as he has no true idea where the ball is. That happened way too many times on Saturday and we must minimize those occurrences going forward. Our front seven can only play so well and will need the corners to step up their game."

Counting down the days till Fordham. 

Our next analyst is Alec Davison '16, a top recruit for this year who has had to leave the team because of injury. I'm very happy to say that Alec has agreed to stay close to the program and observe the physical progress of the team.

Here's what caught his eye Saturday:

"The players' bodyfat levels are all dramatically decreased from a season ago, due to coach Mangurian's philosophy of speed. I dont think there is any front seven as fast or physical in the Ivy League. 

And this combination of speed and attitude allowed us to DOMINATE! The decrease in the weight of our linemen allowed them to.block well in the run game, but may have hindered them in pass blocking.

Brackett had very little time to throw throughout the game, and got sacked too much in the first half. But he did a great job of getting the ball out faster in the second half and not throwing a pick all game. 

This team is so much better as a whole than last year and the biggest reason for that is this is actually a TEAM, and not a group of individuals. You can tell that the guys love playing for each other out there, and their mind is all on the same goal: to win!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jake's Honor Roll

These are the Lions who roared

Now that Zach Olinger has been named Ivy Defensive Player of the Week and Marcorus Garrett has made the weekly honor roll, I thought I'd add some names to my own list of players who should be singled out for their efforts Saturday.

(And after that, it's time to stop looking back and start focusing 100% on Fordham):

-Senior LB Mike Waller was all over the field, making some key tackles and tipping the pass late in the 4th quarter that Olinger intercepted to seal the game.

-Freshman WR Isaiah Gross made the most spectacular single play of the game with a diving catch in the going, and he also got open and forced a pass interference call late in the 3rd quarter. He did not score a TD, but this was the most spectacular debut for a freshman wide out since Austin Knowlin '10 burned Fordham in the 2006 season opener.

-Senior co-captain LB Ryan Murphy had six tackles including an 11-yard sack.

-Senior DL Josh Martin had seven tackles, one for a loss and a crucial fumble recovery. He also drew double-teams almost all day.

-Senior DL Seyi Adebayo was just living in the Marist backfield in the early part of the game and registered an eight-yard sack. Hopefully he will be fully recovered from his injury and we will find out his status soon.

-Sophomore CB Malcom Thaxton shined in his first start. He dropped a sure INT late in the game, but two plays later Olinger got his key INT. Otherwise, Thaxton was stellar in coverage and showed his considerable speed. He finished with five tackles as well.

-Senior CB Brian DeVeau played shut-down level ball as well, justifying all the confidence and praise Head Coach Pete Mangurian has very publicly put in him.

-Safety Marquel Carter played with obvious passion, making six tackles including one for a loss.

-We all know what junior DL Wells Childress did to save the game with that blocked PAT, but he also helped fill in for Adebayo when he went down.

Great Shots!

Make sure you check out the great photo gallery of the game now available on the CU website. One of the best shots is the very close up picture of Gross making that impossible fingertip catch.

Monday, September 17, 2012

BREAKING: Olinger Wins Top Honor

Junior LB Zach Olinger has JUST been named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week!

Waiting on the Awards...

Sometime after noon today, the Ivy League will announce the weekly player awards for football.

Which Lions will be recognized? Which will be snubbed? Will we be surprised?

I hope LB Zach Olinger is not overlooked, and Marcorus Garrett also deserved recognition.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Around the League

It was an opening week worth remembering for a lot of reasons so let's look at the games outside of Wien Stadium:

Fordham 34 Cornell 27

Ram RB Carlton Koonce torched Cornell for 176 yards and two TD's to overcome Jeff Mathews' 489 yards passing. On the flip side, the Big Red's supposedly improved running game only netted 29 yards. Fordham QB Ryan Higgins had 281 yards passing, but was picked twice. The Rams come into Wien Stadium for Liberty Cup XI this coming Saturday.

Lafayette 28 Penn 21

Penn QB Billy Ragone, (whose passing abilities I have been doubting since day one), threw five INT's before being pulled for backup Andrew Holland in the second half. Holland got the Quakers back into the game, but ultimately threw two more picks to seal Penn's fate. The loss is the third in a row dating back to last year for the Quakers.

Lehigh 17 Princeton 14

A much better showing on the scoreboard than anyone could have predicted for the 28-point underdog Tigers. But in reality, Princeton still has problems. Starting QB Connor Michelson was just 14 of 30 for 103 yards. Leading Tiger rusher Akil Sharp did have a decent day with 79 yards, but did not average four yards a carry. The best thing you can say for Princeton is that they did not turn the ball over.

Yale 24 Georgetown 21

The Elis surprised a bumbling Hoya team that turned the ball over four times. Canadian transfer RB Tyler Varga saved Yale's offense with 103 yards on 21 carries and two TD's. Freshman Yale starting QB Eric Williams was 19 of 30 with three interceptions.

Brown 24 Holy Cross 21

Brown did it again, coming back to beat a tough opening day opponent on the road. Spiro Theodosi, back after two missed years to injury, was the hero with 120 yards on 20 carries. New starting QB Patrick Donnelly was just okay, going 24 for 41 for 199 yards, two TD's, but also two INT's.

Harvard 28 San Diego 13

The Crimson should have destroyed USD, but waited until the 4th quarter to finally pull away. Treavor Scales was a beast with 173 rushing on just 19 carries. He had two TD's, including a 66-yarder. But QB Colton Chappel was just "eh," going 16 of 29 for 209 yards, two TD's and one INT. USD QB Mills Mason passed the ball an amazing 63 TIMES!

Dartmouth 35 Butler 7

In perhaps the only game yesterday that went exactly as we all expected, the Green slammed Butler under the lights at Memorial Field. Dartmouth up-man Miles Gay took the opening short kickoff for an 85 yard TD and the rout was on. Dominic Pierre inaugurated the post-Nick Schwieger era with 170 yards rushing anf two TD's. New starting Green QB Alex Park was 15 of 20 for 184 yards and a TD.

One Singular Sensation

Opening Kickoff

Columbia 10 Marist 9

Why Columbia Won

The Lions defense put up it's most impressive defensive performance in years, allowing just 21 net yards rushing and forcing three turnovers and five sacks. The offense was better than its 10-point output would indicate, registering its first 100-yard individual rushing performance in 17 games and making a crucial halftime adjustment to grab the lead for good.

Why Marist Lost

The Red Foxes turned the ball over at crucial times, couldn't protect their QB, and committed almost every special teams miscue known to man. A holding penalty negated what would have been the winning score.

Key Turning Points

-Trailing 3-0 at the half, the Lions marched 87 yards down the field on the opening second half possession and scored a TD on a 10-play drive. The effort highlighted a key halftime adjustment that was a rarity last season when the 3rd quarter was a regular disaster for Columbia.

-Marist threw away three points when punter Jason Myers accidentally touched his knee to the ground at the Red Fox four yard line. Columbia was not able to score a TD, but got a gift field goal out of the play.

-After the Lions made it 10-3, Marist took the ensuing possession 83 yards from its own 16 to set up a 1st and goal at the one. But on that play, junior LB Zach Olinger slammed Calvin McCoy and forced a fumble that was recovered by senior DL Josh Martin.

-After Marist went 80 yards for a TD to make it 10-9, junior DL Wells Childress blocked the extra point to preserve the Lion lead.

-On the next Red Fox possession, QB Chuckie Looney seemingly completed a 76-yard TD pass to TE Anthony Calcagani, but a holding penalty during the run wiped out 39 yards worth of the play. Four plays later, Olinger caught a pass tipped by senior LB Mike Waller to preserve the win.

Columbia Positives

-The Lions highly-touted front seven on defense did not disappoint. Not only did they stifle the Marist offense for most of the game, but bone-jarring hits were the norm.

-"The Grand Experiment" generally worked. Despite a little undue pressure coming to senior QB Sean Brackett from that extremely light right side of the O-line, Columbia's offense mounted a steady running attack and Brackett had time to throw.

-Junior RB Marcorus Garrett rushed for 115 yards on 30 carries. It was the first 100-yard rushing game for a Lion RB since current senior Nick Gerst did it against Princeton in week three of the 2010 season. Garrett's 30 carries were the most by a CU player in 12 years.

-As promised, the freshmen got into the action and made impressive contributions. 10 first-years played in the game led by starters OL Keith Ramljak and WR Isaiah Gross. Gross brought the crowd to its feet early in the second quarter with a diving, diving fingertip catch for a 46 yard gain. He finished the day with four catches for 63 and was the Lions leading receiver. Freshman DL Niko Padilla had an 11-yard sack at the Marist two yard line early in the 4th quarter.

Columbia Negatives

-The Lions came up empty on too many scoring opportunities, mostly due to a weak 31% 3rd down conversion rate. Brackett was never even close to being intercepted, but too many of his passes were off the mark and he finished with a sub-.500 completion rate.

-The secondary played well overall, but gave up too many long passes despite decent coverage. Lion CB's are going to have to look for the ball a bit more without falling behind the receivers.

-Columbia committed some deadly penalties, some of them questionable calls, but they did hurt.

-Senior DL Seyi Adebayo went out with a leg injury in the second half and the CU defense lost some of its edge after that. I did see Adebayo after the game with an ace bandage on his leg, but he was walking on his own power with no help getting into an SUV taking him back to campus.

Columbia MVP

Junior linebacker Zach Olinger was the most consistently dominant defender of the day, with 10 total tackles, one sack, one other tackle for a loss, a crucial forced fumble and a game-icing interception.