Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scouting Harvard

Colton Chapple brings it in

Hurricane Sandy knocked a lot of us on our backs yesterday. 

But now I have power back at home on Long Island, (I'm the only one on my block though), and practice resumed at Baker Field today, so I think we're coming back! 

Now, all we have to do is figure out how to beat Harvard! I can't decide if that will be easier than draining the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.


Throw out 12 minutes and 45 seconds of this season, and you have a perfect team up in Cambridge with no serious weaknesses. 

But that 12:45 happened to come at Princeton Stadium with the Crimson up 34-10 and cruising in the 4th quarter.

The the Tigers went crazy, employing a hurry up offense and holding firm on defense to complete a stunning 39-34 comeback win that will not soon be forgotten in Ivy League history.

Last week, Harvard got back on track with a 31-14 win over the Big Green in Hanover. BUT, there were some similarities in that game as the Crimson seemed to relax too much when they grabbed a 21-0 lead at the half. Dartmouth made it 21-14 and came close to tying it before Harvard regained control.

So if there is a weakness on this team, it would appear to be mental in nature... and only after Tim Murphy's team takes big leads. Somehow, I don't spotting the Crimson three TD's is a good strategy. 

And after two straight games with letdowns, there's a good chance Harvard's #1 goal Saturday will be to play 60 minutes of intense football even if that means running up the score. 


On a very strong team, this is the stronger overall unit. QB Colton Chapple is having a bang up season with 18 TD passes and just four interceptions in 217 attempts. Chapple is also a good runner with 418 yards and six rushing scores this season. 

Then there's RB Treavor Scales. On any other team, he would have been a 1,000 rusher before his current senior season. But the always-stacked Crimson make it hard for underclassmen to make their mark. One gets the feeling that Harvard could just hand the ball off to Scales all day and score plenty of points if they wanted to. As it is, Scales has more than 700 yards rushing on well under 20 carries per game and he's averaging a monster 5.8 yards per carry. Oh, and he also has 10 TD's. 

And I haven't even mentioned the guy everyone was gushing about in the preseason.

That guy is H-Back Kyle Juszczyk, who is certainly not disappointing with 40 receptions for 571 yards and six touchdowns. 

Struggling to get some attention in this crowded field of stars is the junior WR Cameron Brate who has 33 catches for 465 yards and five TD's. 

The offensive line may be the best in the Ivies. In addition to plowing over opponents in the running game, the Crimson have allowed just 12 sacks all season. 


Harvard seems to always have a great D-line and this year is no exception. The Crimson are tops in the Ivies, allowing just 52 rushing yards per game and also leading the league in sacks with 33. Sophomore Zach Hodges and senior John Lyon are the most fearsome defensive ends in the league with eight and seven sacks, respectively. Senior Grant Sickle and junior Jack Dittmer round out the front four and they are also on the Ivy sack leader board.

Getting back to rush defense, it's been more than a year since Harvard allowed an opposing rusher to gain 100 or more yards against them. That rusher was Chuck DiBillio on October 22, 2011. 

The linebackers are led by senior Bobby Sneider, who is among the Ivy leaders in tackles for a loss. Junior Josh Boyd is also a star at LB.

Things get a little dicier in the secondary, where Harvard ranks a surprising 6th in the league in pass defense. But that stat is deceiving since opposing teams HAVE to pass so much to get around the brick wall Crimson run defense. Harvard is still allowing the lowest completion percentage in the Ivies, and that's very telling. 

Chris Splinter, a junior cornerback, is one of the stars in this underrated unit and he has two picks this season. Sophomore Norman Hayes is a rising star in the secondary. 

Special Teams

There's not a lot of weakness here. Punter Jacob Dombrowski may be the best in the league. Kicker David Mothander isn't as strong as some Crimson kickers of the past, but he's hardly a liability.

On the other hand, Harvard's return game has been unimpressive this season but the kick coverage has been very strong.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Honors for the Hero

Mike Waller, who literally saved the day for Columbia with a key strip of Yale's Tyler Varga, has just been named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week!  This is really great news for Mike and his family.

More thoughts from Saturday's win over Yale:

-As surprising as it was to see Yale's decision to go with a wildcat for just about the entire game, the Eli run defense was an even bigger surprise. The Lions run blocking was just not strong, especially when it counted. This a week before they have take on the truly tough Harvard rush defense which is allowing fewer than 80 yards on the ground per game.

-It was fortuitous that Columbia got into some kind of rhythm in the short passing game, because that may be the only way to score points against the Crimson's huge and fast defensive line in Cambridge this coming Saturday.

-I'm sure the Harvard coaches are watching the film of the Yale and Dartmouth games with interest, especially when they see what looks like Columbia's issues defending the run on the edges. If the Crimson's brilliant RB Treavor Scales gets to those edges in full stride, look out.

-I know he didn't always run extremely well, but am I the only one who thinks we should get the ball into Marcorus Garrett's hands a little more often? It seems like he's lethal as a receiver out of the backfield when he's not grinding out the yards on the ground.

-Connor Nelligan is having a monster sophomore season, but he has not scored a TD this season. That needs to change. 

Thoughts on the League Overall

-Harvard, Princeton, and shockingly even Penn are all now tied for the league lead. At least one of those teams will fall out of that 3-way tie this weekend because Penn travels to Princeton Stadium to take on the Tigers. Whatever happens, it's nice to see an Ivy title race that's a bit more crowded after week 7.

-Cornell's Luke Tasker has more than 1,000 receiving yards for the season... already! He also has 7 TD catches. The next most prolific WR in the Ivies is also a Cornellian, Grant Gellatly. He has 709 receiving yards. The Ivies haven't seen two receivers dominate the leader board like this since Columbia's John Witkowski was slinging the passes to Don Lewis and Bill Reggio in 1982. 

-This is all because Cornell QB Jeff Mathews is AVERAGING 383 yards passing per game. But he only has 13 TD passes, which is the big problem in Ithaca. 

-Even though he missed an entire game with an eligibility question, Yale's Tyler Varga is still leading the Ivies in total rushing yards! Let's see if the Eli trip to Brown this Saturday and that slower grass at Brown Stadium cuts into his numbers. 

-I've been pegging Princeton's improvement this season only to its strong defense but clearly, QB Connor Michelsen is on the rise. He's a sophomore with a chance to improve even more and he's getting into a rhythm with junior WR Roman Wilson who has 533 receiving yards this year so far.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Air Columbia

Columbia 26 Yale 22

Why Columbia Won

QB Sean Brackett and his receivers had their best days of the year, racking up 369 total yards and posting a 68% completion rate. WR Connor Nelligan was the key target of the air attack, pulling in 11 catches for 138 yards. And save for a desperation heave that was intercepted at the end of the first half, the Lions did not turn the ball over.

Why Yale Lost

The Elis turned the ball over too many times on offense and had no answer for Columbia's short passing game on defense. Despite a brilliant decision to go in the wildcat for almost the entire game with RB Tyler Varga taking the snaps, the Bulldogs relied on it too much and had no other weapons.  And a late fumble with two minutes left in the game lead to the Lions' winning score.

Key Turning Points

-With Columbia trailing 7-3 midway through the second quarter, a bad snap to Varga into the end zone led to a safety when LB Ryan Murphy dragged him down. It was the first safety scored by Columbia in over 10 years. The score put an end to a momentum shift that had moved decidedly in Yale's favor.

-Now trailing 7-5, a Mordecai Cargill fumble forced by LB Mike Waller gave the Lions the ball at their own 46 with 5:29 left in the half. This time, Columbia mixed the pass and the run to set themselves up for a 1st and goal at the one. But three runs by RB Marcorus Garrett and an incomplete pass left the Lions with no points as Head Coach Pete Mangurian decided not to go for the short FG and the 8-7 lead. That put the momentum squarely back in Yale's corner.

-Yale fumbled the ball away again on the first play of the second half, setting Columbia up at the Eli 32. But the Lions failed to get even one first down, and on Yale's ensuing possession, the Bulldogs drove 74 yards for a Varga TD that gave them what looked like a commanding 14-5 lead. But the Lions answered right back with a 75-yard drive that again mixed the pass and the run for an amazing 14 plays ending with a brilliant four yard fade pass for a TD to WR Jake Wanamaker. The Lions now trailed by just 14-12 and they were back in business.

-After Yale went three and out on their next possession, RB Alec Fisher electrified the crown with a 30 yard punt return to the Eli 48. It was by far the longest punt return of the year against Yale. On the ninth play of the drive, Brackett kept the ball off tackle and lept into the south end zone for a TD and 19-14 lead with 11:38 left in the game.

-Everything seemed to go wrong for Columbia after that. Varga led the Elis on a 10-play 75 yard TD drive on the ensuing possession and the two point conversion made it 22-19 with 7:30 to go. The Lions got a super kickoff return from CB Travis Reim to start at the Bulldog 44, but when the drive stalled a 41 yard FG attempt by Luke Eddy went just wide left. But then Waller struck again, brilliantly stripping Varga of the ball for a fumble that Murphy recovered at the Lion 41. Brackett and the brilliant Columbia short passing game took over after that. He completed his first three passes, the last two of them to Nelligan, to set the Lions up with a first down at the Yale 13. Two plays later a 10 yard completion to Nelligan made it first and goal at the 3. And after two unsuccessful runs, a little pass to Garrett for the TD proved to be the winning score.

Columbia Positives

-It was just a fantastic passing day for Brackett as the Lions adjusted to Yale's surprisingly good run defense. The passes were accurate, the receivers didn't drop the ball, and there were several plays with significant runs after the catch.

-The defense was generally beaten by Varga and the wildcat, but Waller's heads up work to strip two fumbles was exactly what a defense needs to do when it's getting beaten in the trenches.

Columbia Negatives

-Going up against the worst run defense in the league coming into this game, the Lions could not get the running game going, especially during first and goal situations. The agonizing goal line stand at the end of the first half that led to no points could have deflated the team.

-Varga was brilliant, but too many plays saw him wriggle out of what should have been tackles for short gains or for a loss.

Columbia MVP

Brackett was brilliant, but Connor Nelligan was stunning. The sophomore made several diving catches and exploded for a few spectacular runs after the catch. #84 is the MVP this week.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our TV Momemt

Yale Bulldogs vs. Columbia Lions

October 27, 2012

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

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: 66 degrees and partly cloudy

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


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

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


The game will be broadcast live on the YES Network 

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

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

Lead Stories

This looks like it may be the battle to avoid the outright Ivy cellar. That's despite the fact that Yale did beat Penn at the Bowl last week thanks to some great fill-in work by the backup QB's and Penn's inexplicable decision to ditch the running game after early success. But each one of Yale's QB's is banged up coming into this game and a WR converted back to QB named Henry Furman has taken most of the snaps in practice this week for the Elis. The somewhat hyped, (by me), feud match with former Columbia commit-turned Yale QB Logan Scott will NOT happen as Scott is definitely out for the next few games. 

Another storyline for the game is Yale's 10-game winning streak over the Lions coming into tomorrow. Each of the last three games have been hard-fought contests won by Yale by a TD or less. There is some bad blood between these teams to be sure. 

Columbia's Three Keys to Victory

1)    Contain the Run

Yale has the most fearsome running attack in the Ivies with Tyler Varga and Mordecai Cargill splitting the carries and are starting to gel together as a duo.  Columbia has been one of the better teams in the Ivies this season when it comes to defending the run, but I did notice some weakness on the edges against Dartmouth last week. My bet is that Yale will try to exploit that and test the Lion safeties and outside linebackers. If Varga and Cargill get going, it won’t matter who is playing QB for the Elis.

2)    Be Ready for Anything at QB

The Bulldogs will almost surely try to surprise with some passes even as they should rely on running plays 85% of the time. Witness what Dartmouth did last week when Buddy Teevens used his running QB to throw the longest pass of the day for the Big Green. That kind of thing can’t happen again.

3)    Exploit the Yale Run Defense, but Establish the Pass

Yale’s run defense has been the worst in the Ivies this year, and that’s good news for CU’s star RB Marcorus Garrett, but Columbia needs QB Sean Brackett to get into a rhythm or the offense will become too predictable. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Week 7 Picks

I was perfect last week.

Perfectly wrong... about EVERYTHING.

I scored a perfect 0-3 in both straight up predictions and against the spread. 

For someone who is used to a .600 percentage in both categories, this was a shock.

But it proves definitively just how badly I've misread the league this year and how exciting this season has become. 

I am now 14-15-1 against the spread and 18-12 straight up.

Princeton -6 over Cornell

I'm tired of fighting against the tide. As much as I think Cornell can win this game, I'm clearly clueless about anything connected to this Princeton program. 

Brown -6 1/2 over Penn

The Bears proved how resilient they can be with that win over Cornell last week. Penn's problems on defense will burn them Saturday.

Dartmouth +17 vs, Harvard

The Crimson will win this one, but the excitement of playing under the lights at their homecoming, (kickoff is 5pm), will keep the game respectable for Dartmouth. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scouting Yale

Coach Reno is getting bitten by the injury bug

Before I get to scouting Yale, I have to direct you to Head Coach Pete Mangurian's comments posted on yesterday.

Keeping with the coach's "moving forward" mantra, here are my headlines from what he had to say:

1) WR Isaiah Gross, essentially out since week 3, is apparently healthy now and we can probably expect him to play against Yale Saturday.

2) Freshman QB Trevor McDonagh should start getting some playing time.

3) McDonagh isn't alone, Mangurian says he'll get freshmen Max Keefe and Scooter Hollis into the games more as well.

The comment that our freshmen will learn more from four games of live football than they will from 12 days of practice in the spring is well taken. Let's see if it produces great results right away.

Looking at the Elis


Yale began the season with no real veteran QB, a controversial head coach, and a decidedly weakened defense.

For the most part, those shaky ingredients have produced a shaky team. The Bulldogs are 2-4 with losses to Dartmouth and Cornell by a combined score of 79-20.

But last week's surprise win over Penn, thanks to great contributions from backup QB's Logan Scott and Derek Russell, looked like it could change everything.

And yet... not so fast.

The New Haven Register is is now reporting that all three QB's for Yale, Scott, Russell and Eric Williams, are injured. They're not all OUT for Saturday's game, but they're banged up.

The QB injury situation, casts a big shadow over the team right now and over this game.


Yale's offense is far from inept. The Bulldogs grind out a lot of yardage per game. The problem is they don't score all that many points. Only Columbia has scored fewer points this season among the Ivies.

The reason is simple: Yale has a strong running game but not a great passing attack. As a result, when they get closer to the goal, opposing defenses stack the box and the Elis can't get the passing game to generate enough TD's. In addition to that problem the Yale FG kicker, Phillipe Panico, is only five of 11 this year.

But that running attack is very good. Not one, but TWO Yalies are in the top five rushers in the Ivies so far this season. Transfer Tyler Varga is the speedster averaging 103 yards per game and a monster five yards per carry. Mordecai Cargill, who destroyed the Lions with 200+ yards at a snowy Wien Stadium last year, is averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

The WR corps is much less impressive. 5-9 junior Cameron Sandquist is the team leader with 36 receptions for 376 yards and two TD's.


Here's where Yale has fallen the hardest. The Elis are allowing a whopping 30 points per game, dead last in the league. Most of that is because of Yale's problems stopping the run. They're allowing 180 yards on the ground per game and have given up 12 rushing TD's.

The pass defense has been a little better, giving up fewer yards than most Ivies but only registering two INT's all season long. With opposing teams running so well against the Bulldogs, it's not hard to figure out why they don't throw altogether than much against them.

The stars on D are LB Will McHale, who was set to be the captain of the team this season before he became involved in a violent incident with another Yale student at a bar. The other two big names to watch out for are DL's Chris Dooley and Beau Palin. Combined, they have 6.5 sacks this season.

Special Teams

Panico has been automatic on his PAT's, but still struggles on field goals. He does have a 43-yard FG this season, so it's not so much about range as it is about consistency.

Yale's punter Kyle Cazzetta is just average.

The Elis are very good at kickoff coverage, giving up just 15 yards per return. And here's a suprise: There have been only THREE punt returns against Yale all season! None of them have been for any real yards.

Giving Day "Surprise"

Today is Columbia Giving Day.

For the record, I donated $200 to football. I know that’s not much, but it’s not the only financial contribution I made this year.

This Giving Day Leader Board tells you all you need to know about why athletics are essential at Columbia. Athletics is #2 on the giving leader board and only trails the College!  
What’s amazing and appalling is how BAD the law school, biz school and all the other grad schools are doing. I knew the grad schools were laggards, but this is terrible!

Again, it just goes to show how CU should be A LOT more subservient to the undergrads and athletics. They owe us EVERYTHING!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Let's Play the Feud!

The bad blood scenario many of us thought unlikely to occur this year could very well take place on Kraft Field this Saturday.

Notorious Columbia decommit Logan Scott could very well be the starting QB for the Yale Elis when they take on the Lions on national TV no less.

Sadly for Columbia, Yale decommit Isaiah Gross is probably going to be out of the lineup again with his hamstring injury this Saturday. 

But the story line still holds. The Lion defenders get the chance to pummel a guy who gave up on them and Scott gets to rub things in by showing the Columbia coaches what they lost.

Before last week's impressive win over Penn, Yale looked like it was on the highway to a possible 0-7 season. But Penn's suddenly inept red zone offense and the performance of Scott and fellow backup QB Derek Russell turned that all around. 

I'll have my full scouting report on Yale tomorrow, but the whole equation seems to be changing in New Haven.

Giving Day is Tomorrow; Know Your Goals

I encourage everyone to donate to Columbia athletics and academics tomorrow for "giving day." I know I will. 

But let's make sure that when you give, you at least make it clear to yourself what you want that money to help achieve. 

Overall, I want our athletes and students to have the best facilities and resources at their disposal. And I am very confident in saying they really get that despite Columbia's location in super-expensive New York City.

So for me, I want to see winning results. Dammit I want WINS. And I want no more talk of resurgence or renaissance in our sports programs until we get them. 

If that's too much to ask, then we are already losers.

Garrett's Game

Again, my full scouting report comes out tomorrow on Yale but it should be noted now that the Elis have the worst rush defense in the league.

I think that means good things for CU RB Marcorus Garrett. 

How many yards do you think he'll run for? How much extra time should Sean Brackett have if he effectively sells the play action fakes? 

Enter your bids now in the comments section.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shaking it Up, and the Importance of Truth

Bob Surace is taking the Tigers from worst to first

Despite all the shifting at the middle and the bottom of the Ivy League through the first five weeks, the 2012 season was unfolding mostly as predicted.

Until this past Saturday. 

One big surprise, and two minor surprises have changed everything and they provide lessons for Columbia that I hope our coaching staff is taking to heart.

First was Princeton's shocker of a win over Harvard at Princeton Stadium. It was a miracle comeback to be sure, but any win over Harvard is just something that no one could have seriously predicted. 

Let me take this opportunity to publicly apologize to TSN's Craig Haley, who I lambasted in the preseason for picking Princeton to finish higher than anyone else expected. Apparently, he really saw something everyone else missed.

But even he wasn't seriously thinking the Tigers could challenge for the title this year. And yet, after six weeks of the season, Bob Surace's boys are alone at the top with a 3-0 league record.

The other two games featured freshmen replacements making big differences in upset wins. 

Yale's 27-13 win over Penn was fueled in part by former Columbia commit Logan Scott at QB. He shared the passing duties with senior Derek Russell and finished 8-11 for 67 yards, a TD and no INT's.

And former bench warmer Jordan Reisner came out of nowhere to torch Cornell for 193 yards rushing in Brown's 21-14 win over Cornell. Just as shocking was the Bear defense holding the Big Red to under 20 points and picking off Jeff Mathews three times.

After seeing what transpired this weekend in the Ivies, it really seems like surprisingly good things can happen to anyone in this league... except Columbia. It's hard not to feel snake-bitten right now but what took place on Saturday was very good for a league that had been falling into a Harvard/Penn dominated stupor for the last several years. 

The Message is Key

I was in the tent Saturday to watch the very nice dedication of the Campbell Center and all the speeches in honor of Bill Campbell '62. 

And it was a really nice ceremony, but what was VERY disturbing was administrator after administrator talking about the "resurgence" or "renaissance" of Columbia sports.

I'll be the first to say the marketing, packaging, and the facilities for the program are much better, but it borders on criminal deception to say our teams are better than they were 15, or even five years ago.

We're not winning in football or basketball, period. We are doing much better generally in baseball and women's soccer, but it's not an every year kind of thing. We're not getting better where it counts, and it rubs salt in the wounds of the true Columbia fans to hear our athletic department administrators tell us the opposite. 

I really think the administration thinks there are so few of us that care whether we win or lose, that they can get away with it. Perhaps they're right factually about that, but I'm not so sure and I am 100% sure they're ethically wrong in that position.

It does add clarity though on why they were so very angry at my public call for Norries Wilson to be fired last year. It's not that they disagreed with my conclusions, or really wanted to defend Norries... it was because I said something negative PUBLICLY and wasn't marching to their "happy talk" empty agenda through and through.

Let me make this 100% clear: Columbia football will NEVER get better until we're honest about where it is right now. And for the Athletic Director to get in front of hundreds of top donors Saturday and talk about how there's a resurgence in the sport is disgraceful. I most certainly object.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Same Old, Same Old

Dartmouth 21 Columbia 16

Why Dartmouth Won

The Big Green controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the game and came up with the big plays in pressure situations. Coach Buddy Teevens brilliantly shuffled his two QB's in just about the best way, and the Dartmouth defense was generally stingy.

Why Columbia Lost

The defense ran out of gas as the game wore on and the offense took too long to finally get into a rhythm. For the second straight week, the Lions allowed a long TD drive late in the game to blow a lead.

Key Turning Points

-With Dartmouth leading 7-3 midway through the 2nd quarter, Chad Washington sacked QB Dalyn Williams, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Josh Martin at the Dartmouth 29. The Lions proceeded to lose nine yards and go three and out.

-With Columbia clinging to a 10-7 lead late in the third quarter, Dartmouth took over at their own 33 yard line. Running QB Dalyn Williams came in to the game, but anyone who really knows Teevens knew that he was going to have Williams throw the ball deep while the Green still had a few plays left with the wind at their backs. Sure enough, Williams faked a run and then found a streaking Bo Patterson wide open for the 67 yard TD. 

-After Columbia climbed back to a 16-14 lead with 2:40 left in the game, good Lion coverage on the ensuing kickoff nailed the Big Green back at their own nine. But you knew the game was turning after Dartmouth and QB Alex Park converted the initial first down. In fact, after the first play resulted in the an incomplete pass, the next six were all good gainers for a total of 83 yards. Two plays after that, Dartmouth had its winning score.

Columbia Positives

-RB Marcorus Garrett got nowhere most of the day, until it counted most. He finished with 72 total yards and a spectacular series on Columbia's final scoring drive to stay on pace for a 1,000 yard season.

-With the exception of a desperation 4th down and 30 heave that was intercepted, the Lions did not turn the ball over. 

Columbia Negatives

-The Lions O-line did not protect Brackett well or open enough running holes most of the day. This cannot go on.

-The Columbia defense, despite all the emphasis on going lighter and being better conditioned, ran out of gas for the second week in a row.

Columbia MVP

The Lion coaches chose LB Mike Waller for the John Toner Homecoming game MVP award and it was well deserved. He had 13 tackles and an INT. 

I also thought Garrett had a great game; refusing to quit and making a huge impact down the stretch.

What We Learned

Sadly, the culture of losing is still alive and well at Baker Field. Coach Mangurian will have to learn the lessons that every new coach here has to learn: there IS something different about our program. I'm not sure what it is, but the usual rules don't apply. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Homecoming Hope

12 years ago, another junior RB made history for the Lions on Homecoming vs. Dartmouth

Dartmouth Big Green at Columbia Lions


October 20, 2012

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

Kickoff Time: 1:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: 66 degrees and partly cloudy

The Spread: Dartmouth is favored by 6 points

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 PassJerry Recco and Sal Licata have the call. 

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

Lead Stories

Columbia is looking to win its first Homecoming game since its 2000 win over Dartmouth. The last two Homecoming games for the Lions have been heartbreaking losses, including a 24-21 loss to the Big Green in 2010. Last year, Dartmouth shredded Columbia in Hanover 37-0, but Columbia was playing without the injured Sean Brackett at QB.

The Lions enter the game after losing another heartbreaker, 24-20 at Penn last week. The Green fell to Sacred Heart 27-10 at home but they were playing without their best RB Dominic Pierre and best WR Michael Reilly. Their status for this week's game is still unknown.

Another big storyline is new Columbia Head Coach Pete Mangurian trying to do something his predecessor Norries Wilson never did: win on Homecoming. 

Dartmouth comes in trying to prove last week's loss was a fluke.

Columbia Three Keys to the Game

1) Keep up the Passing Game Momentum

Even without freshman star Isaiah Gross, Columbia's passing attack has improved greatly in the last two games. Brackett needs to keep improving and test a Dartmouth pass defense that is not one of the best in the league. 

2) If Garrett Stays Hot, Keep Giving Him the Ball

Ivy League rushing yardage leader RB Marcorus Garrett is getting hot just at the right time. Dartmouth will be worried about him right from the start, and Columbia needs to get him going either as a runner or a receiver out of the backfield all day. When Columbia last won on Homecoming, it was an historic day for RB Johnathan Reese, who shredded the all-time CU rushing record with 237 yards in the 49-21 victory. Note that the 2000 game was also on the eve of an historic presidential election, and the junior Garrett is emerging now in a way the then-junior Reese was that year as a dominant player. 

3) Cover the Kicks

The Lions have had special trouble covering kickoffs and Dartmouth will burn them tomorrow if they don't fix it. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week Six Picks

I HAD to start with this item! 

Special thanks for Bruce Wood from Big Green Alert for posting this, because it's a gem. The real prize is being able to see and hear Lou Little actually talking at the end of the clip even though it is a very rehearsed line:

Incidentally, the Lions went 4-4-1 in 1935, finishing out the season with a 13-7 home win over those Dartmouth guys featured in the beginning of the video. They also played the other team featured in the video, Navy, but lost to them in Annapolis 28-7.

Last week I was 3-2 against the spread and a terrible 2-3 straight up. My record is now 14-12-1 against the spread and 18-9 straight up.

Penn -9 at Yale

This is a tough one, but I think Penn will be much more motivated after almost losing to Columbia this week. A late score should push them over the top to cover.

Cornell +5 at Brown

We don't know if Jeff Mathews is back at QB for Cornell this Saturday, but I bet he's back. So I'm taking a chance on the Big Red to win this game straight up.

Harvard -11 at Princeton

Princeton is a lot better, but not good enough to really challenge here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Scouting Dartmouth

Dominic Pierre is the (banged up) man for Dartmouth


The Dartmouth Big Green briefly grabbed the mantle of "worst team in the Ivies" for a few seasons, culminating in an 0-10 2008 season and a 17 game losing streak that stretched into the middle of the 2009 season.

Predictably, that streak ended with a win over Columbia in Hanover on a rainy October day.

Since then, the Green have lapped Columbia and posted respectable, if not remarkable, seasons in 2010 and 2011.

2012 looked like it was headed in the same kind of decent, if not championship-contending, path until last week's 27-10 loss to Sacred Heart exposed some troubling problems in Buddy Teevens' world. 


The strength of this team is the running game. That's still true despite the graduation of super RB Nick Schwieger, (who absolutely killed Columbia year after year), last spring.

But there are two BIG "if's" here:

The biggest one is RB Dominic Pierre, who leads the Ivies in yards rushed PER GAME, (Columbia's Marcorus Garrett is tops in total yards rushing with 543). Pierre, (who Dartmouth fans should really canonize as "St. Pierre"), was out of last week's game with an injury and he's still questionable for this Saturday. Without him in the game, the Green's chances get a lot thinner.

The other big "if" is the fact that even though Dartmouth's relative strength is the rushing game, it's still not exactly stellar. The Green average 127 yards on the ground per game and a so-so 3.4 yards per carry. That's about the same as Columbia in both those categories.

The passing game is muddled. Once again, there seems to be no real confidence behind Dartmouth's starting QB Alex Park. The UNH transfer isn't burning too many opposing defenses or giving them enough of a reason to stop keying on the run as much as possible. Freshman QB Dalyn Williams is regarded very highly by the coaching staff. No one should be surprised if he becomes the starter at some point this season, but I think that will more likely happen later in the season. 

The offensive line is a bit spotty. Its allowed 14 total sacks and hasn't quite opened enough holes for the Green to pummel more opponents. 

The receivers are led by Michael Reilly, who is ALSO questionable for the game this Saturday with an injury. If he AND Pierre are out, that would be very tough sledding for Dartmouth. 


Perception and reality are having a little battle in this department as well. Dartmouth looks pretty good in a number of defensive statistical categories, but you have to dig deeper to get to the truth.

The Big Green is third in scoring defense and actually leads the Ivies in fewest passing yards allowed. But this is also the same team that has picked off NO passes and allowed a 64% completion rate this year.

Throw in the fact that Dartmouth has sacked the QB just seven times all season and you have a recipe for some success for a QB like Sean Brackett.  

The rush defense is just okay, allowing 133 yards total per game and 3.5 yards per carry. 

Junior LB Micheal Runger has become the workhorse of this defense with 45 tackles. He hails from Illinois' Benet Academy, which is also the school where Lions Connor Nelligan and Nick Melka came from.

Strong Safety Garrett Waggoner, has helped out immensely as he is returning from an injury-plagued junior season. Thanks to him, a lot of the short completions against the Green has stayed short.

But LB Bronson Green is the leader of this defense even though he isn't logging the most impressive stats.

Specal Teams  

Here's where Dartmouth is really dangerous, especially for a Columbia team that has had trouble covering kickoffs. 

The Green are averaging 24 yards per KO return and have returned two kicks for TD's already. One of them was a fluke return by linebacker Miles Gay, but last week WR Kirby Schoenthaler had a conventional return for a 79-yard TD. 

Ryan McManus is very dangerous as a punt returner and I predict he will break one big before the season is over.

The Dartmouth kick coverage teams have performed very well. 

Kicker Riley Lyons surprised a lot of people with a 44 yard FG last week. He's not automatic, but certainly not bad. As a punter, Lyons is not quite as strong, averaging just 35 yards total per punt. 

Bottom Line

It feels like Dartmouth is stepping back a bit after making what looked like decent progress in 2010 and 2011. And if Pierre and Reilly are banged up this Saturday, this will really be a different kind of opponent than Columbia faced last year in Hanover and even two years ago at home.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halftime Report

So what do we know about the league halfway through the season?

Here are my top 5 stories of 2012 at the midway point:

1) Harvard Dominance

The 5-0 Crimson are better than expected, and that's saying something for a team that just about everyone expected to dominate the Ivies. The offense has been particularly fearsome and the defense doesn't do anything to really put the team in jeopardy. It really doesn't look like anyone is going to beat Harvard this year.

2) Princeton Resurgence

Allow me to eat a big plate of virtual crow right now because I thought Princeton was going to be the dregs of the league this season. Instead, the Tigers defense has been remarkable and the offense is at least able to stop the bleeding when it counts. At this point, it looks like Bob Surace will keep his job in New Jersey.

3) Cornell Still Not Quite There

Nothing can stop the Cornell offense... except Harvard. The Big Red are improved from last season overall, but not enough to seriously contend for the title. Even after missing last weekend's game vs. Monmouth, QB Jeff Mathews is the league MVP right now, but until they can beat the big boys Cornell will have to settle for 6-4 or 7-3 at best.

4) Brown Steps Back... for Now

The Bears 45-31 loss to Harvard, even at home, wasn't anything to be embarrassed about. But the 19-0 shutout loss to Princeton shows just how far this offense has fallen. I still think Brown has a good shot to finish in the top four, but this is the off year the Bears feared.

5) New Coaches Yet to Turn Things Around

There's no solid evidence that Tony Reno's Yale team or Pete Mangurian's Columbia squad have truly improved right now. That's not to say they aren't better, but with just two wins between them, these programs aren't jumping out of the gate. In two weeks, we'll see which new coach has made the most progress when the Elis come into Wien Stadium to play the Lions on national TV.

Other top stories in the Ivies this year...

-Harvard's RB Treavor Scales running wild on everyone

-Columbia's RB  Marcorus Garrett emerging as a star with a shot to become only the second 1,000-yard rusher in school history

-Cornell WR Luke Tasker logging 764 receiving yards after just five games.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Devastation on the Delaware

I think these guys were at Franklin Field Saturday  

Penn 24 Columbia 20

Why Penn Won

Shaking off a bad offensive start, the Quaker passing game finally got going at just the right time. Billy Ragone scrambled and short-passed his team to victory while the defense avoided making the big mistakes.

Why Columbia Lost

The Lion pass defense faltered at just the wrong time and the pressure on the Quaker QB's that was constant in the first three quarters evaporated down the stretch. With a few key assists from the refs, the Penn offense finally wore the Columbia defense down.

Key Turning Points

-After a scoreless first quarter, Penn put together a decent drive and converted on a 37-yard Connor Loftus FG to make it 3-0. But the Lions woke up after that. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Marcorus Garrett busted a 28-yard run to get Columbia in business. A pass completion on the next play and a personal foul penalty put the ball just short of the Penn 10... and then the Lions went flat. A run for a loss and a holding penalty forced the Lions to kick a long FG which Luke Eddy made from 40. Columbia had to trade a 7-3 lead for a 3-3 tie.

-Red Zone futility struck again just before the half, as the Lions got to the Penn 20 with about 50 seconds to go. But an incomplete pass, a run for one yard and a sack followed. Columbia settled for a 38 yard FG instead and a 6-3 lead at the half.

-The Quaker offense started a decent drive to begin the second half, and faced a 1st and 10 at the CU 39. On the play, the CU defense seemed to have Ragone wrapped up for a sack in the backfield, but he wriggled out of it and ran for a 31 yard gain. Two plays later, Penn had the first TD of the game and a 10-6 lead.

-Columbia went three-and-out on the next possession, but woke up the next time it got the ball. Once again, Garrett was the catalyst with a 36 yard burst of a run to the Quaker 48. Two plays later, the Lions were in the red zone and this time they did not falter. A brilliant run by Garrett after he grabbed a short pass from QB Sean Brackett was good for a 15 yard TD and Columbia was back in the lead.

-After the Lions made it 20-10 on another brilliant run by Garrett, the key drive of the game ensued for Penn. And this was the key sequence of plays that decided the game: On 1st and 10 from his own 33, Ragone threw an errant pass to the Columbia sideline that freshman DB Travis Reim somehow was unable to catch. On the next play as Ragone scrambled, Penn was clearly holding DL Niko Padilla, but it was not called. Even though Ragone's pass on that play bounced on the turf, Columbia was inexplicably called for a pass interference penalty. But Columbia's nightmares were not over. On the very next play, DB Marquel Carter appeared to pick off Ragone near midfield, but the refs called it incomplete. Penn nibbled their way down the field for 10 more plays before scoring a huge TD and making it 20-17.

-After the teams then traded three-and-out possessions, Columbia got the ball back at their own 6 with 4:09 to play. The Lions got one 1st down, but then they failed to convert another 1st down after an incomplete pass. Penn took over after the punt with 2:26 to go.

-On the winning drive, only one play really made all the difference. That was Ragone's 41-yard pass to Lyle Marsh on 4th and 7. That gave the Quakers a 1st down on Columbia 18. Four plays later it was 24-20.

Columbia Positives

-Garrett was flat out dominant. He was lethal as a runner and receiver and Penn had no answers for him. Columbia has a legitimate star and a real threat to break the 1,000 yard mark.

-Brackett had his best game of the year, thanks to more accurate passing and some well executed running. The play where the Lions empty out the backfield and he goes into an option run is particularly impressive.

-WR Connor Nelligan looked acrobatic and clutch on a number of catches.

-Some more freshmen made their presence felt in a good way. Freshmen WR Chris Connors had a break out game with three catches for 52 yards. Freshman Nick Durham made a nice run after catch along the sidelines and showed the first signs of giving the Lions something of an H-back attack. Freshman RB Cameron Molina was stellar in his brief stints giving Garrett a rest, getting 29 yards on seven carries. I also liked freshman WR Scooter Hollis getting into the mix as a option runner and wide out.

-Luke Eddy nailed 40 and 38 yard FG's  in pressure situations. His 47-yarder was blocked, but he's still a solid 7-10 on the year and perfect on PAT's.

-Alec Fisher looked pretty good returning punts, getting one for 24 yards.

-Paul Delaney had a number of clutch punts in the game.

Columbia Negatives

-The defense had no answers for the short passing game in the middle of the field right when it mattered most. The pass rush that stopped Penn for so long in the game also disappeared in the crucial moments.

-I didn't love the play calling on Columbia's third to last and second to last possessions. Allowing Brackett to run in a situation like that is like a secret weapon were not using. The pass play on 3rd down to DiNovo that fell short didn't seem like our best option at the time.

Columbia MVP

Garrett logged the best game by a Columbia offensive player in a long time. He now leads the Ivies in total yards rushing. It became obvious that he should have had the ball on every play down the stretch of the game. Perhaps from now on he'll get it.

What We Learned

I think we can all agree that criticizing the coach, without calling for him to be fired, is fair game.

On the good side, Mangurian clearly HAS changed his strategies for the better since the week three loss to Princeton. Brackett is running more for one thing, and it seems like the play calling is more aggressive.

But we're still losing. No one is giving up on this staff yet, but the losses can't be swept under the rug.

We've all waited too long for wins to be too impressed with improvements in any other area. This was a very disheartening loss, but it's as much on the refs as it is on our coaches or our pass defense.

Until then we are still waiting, and not ready to declare victory or admit defeat just yet.