Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Report Card: Coach Mangurian

During the season, I took time out to post pieces on how I felt Pete Mangurian was doing in his first year on the job.

They're all available in the archives and free to all to check out.

Now that the season is over, I have to say the jury is still out. It's not because we don't have enough information, it's just that so much of the information is contradictory.

The most important stat is wins, and we got two more of those, including one over a Yale team Columbia had not defeated since 2001 and another against a Cornell squad that looked like it could roll up 50+ points easily on the Lions just a few days before.

Going from one win to three is encouraging, even if it only met most of our most sober expectations. 

But there was also a statistical dropoff on offense that was truly disappointing, the trio of lost games that could/should have been wins, and that gut-wrenching 69-0 loss at Harvard.

There were great strides in communication with Coach Mangurian's blog and Facebook/Twitter posts, but there were also bizarre interviews on WKCR and a terrible performance at the news conference after the Dartmouth game that made everyone in the room feel like they might want to call a shrink.

The simple fact is, as much as this will anger his biggest supporters and detractors, Pete Mangurian as a a Head Coach at Columbia is still a work in progress. No one can really say whether he'll work out or not. 

Here's what was good:

-Morning practices

-Good assistant coach hires, especially DC Kevin Lempa

-Improved running game

-Better discipline

-Willingness to change despite words to the contrary. Columbia's offensive schemes DID change as the season went on, mostly for the better. 

Here's what wasn't good:

-Crazy experiment on the offensive line that didn't have to be as crazy as it was. I guess we'll never know why Scott Ward wasn't even invited to training camp, let alone not given the leadership role the team needed him to take. 

-Two losses after grabbing late leads against Ivy foes. The Penn loss should haunt this coaching staff for years to come. The Dartmouth loss should too. The loss to Fordham was also a result of coaching lapses, especially on offense.

-Jekyl & Hyde like behavior. Great comments and enthusiasm online, berating fans/parents in person. 

Mangurian faces a tough series of tests in year 2. The schedule will be tougher with just five home games and there are no cupcakes on the slate. Of course he had our support and we will always come to the games and cheer the team... ALWAYS. 

But in the meantime, we also want to see improvement and won't stay quiet in the offseason like the athletic department wants. 

This is all about accountability.

Overall Grade: C 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Bushnell and our Special Teams

Last year's winners

First, a quick note on the four finalists for the Bushnell Cup, (players of the year awards):

The two offensive finalists are Harvard QB Colton Chapple and Cornell QB, (and 2011 winner), Jeff Mathews.

The defensive finalists are Princeton DL Mike Catpanano and Brown DB AJ Cruz.

The defensive choices are good ones and I think that Catapano will probably win. 

But I have to say that the true MVP of the season isn't even named above and that's just plain wrong.

As much as we Columbia fans might hate to admit it, Penn's Billy Ragone was the heart and soul of his Ivy championship team. And I think it's really puzzling why he isn't even a finalist for the top award.

Think about it: in the key moments against Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, and Harvard, Ragone was the difference between winning and losing. 

Usually, he did it with his feet. But Ragone also had some clutch completions and the Lions know all too well how much better he performed when the Quakers were backed into a corner. 

Since Cornell finished with such a disappointing record, I assume Chapple will win the Bushnell. As good as he was, he wasn't a champion. Ragone is.

Special Teams Report Card

After years of subpar and even downright scary play, the Lion special teams in 2012 showed the most improvement of any unit on the team. 

The stats spell out some of the story. Columbia improved in average kickoff return yards, average punt return yards, punting yards, kickoff yards, field goal percentage and PAT percentage.
But the stats can't show the complete shot in the arm the special teams gave the program, often at key times in games.

It started in week one, when Wells Childress' blocked an extra point to win the game against Marist 10-9. 

It continued with several great kickoff returns by Trevor Bell and Travis Reim and a number of exciting punt returns by Alec Fisher.

Punter Paul Delaney had a breakout year. He nailed 10 punts of over 50 yards and had a number of clutch kicks along the way. He even had a 73-yarder.

Kicker Luke Eddy cut down on his inconsistency and seemed to revert to his impressive 2010 form. 

Everything was not perfect. Kick coverage wasn't the best, and the kickoff return for a TD to start the game against Princeton was a killer. 

Using Seyi Adebayo on punt coverage in week two against Fordham resulted in a season-ending injury. That's not completely something you can blame the coaches for, but hopefully they'll reconsider using key defensive starters like that too often.  

But in general, there was improvement across the board here. The unit gave Columbia an advantage in games, not a disadvantage, 

Kickoff Returns: B+

Kickoff Coverage: C

Punt Returns: A-

Punt Coverage: A-

Punting: A-

Kickoffs: B

Field Goals: B+

PAT's: A-

Overall Special Teams Grade: A-

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Cheer

Thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, this blog will be free going forward.

I want to send a special thank you to the many, many people who paid for subscriptions beginning just about a year ago. It meant more to me than I can say that so many of you were willing to pay for something that had been free. I hope I met your expectations.

I know many of you are sometimes disturbed by the comments we see in the comments section, but I want to maintain my policy of total free speech there within standards of decency, (no vulgarities or personal threats, etc). I know it irks the administration and the athletic department that this blog exists as a constant check on their movements, but that's what it should be. 

I'll be back tomorrow to regular blogging with a 2012 report card on the special teams.

Until then, here's the link to the Pete Mangurian blog on his plans going forward. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Report Cards; Defense

There's no denying the Columbia defense truly did improve in 2012. In fact, when one really looks at how much the offense did to contribute to opponent scores, the improvement is even more impressive.

First, there are the stats. The Lions allowed fewer points, fewer passing yards, fewer rushing yards, held opponents to a lower completion percentage, intercepted more passes and netted more sacks.

Second, there were also great individual performances especially from Zach Olinger, Josh Martin, and Mike Waller. 

The Lion D turned in herculean efforts in the wins over Marist and Cornell, and gave Columbia every chance to win the game against Fordham they eventually dropped. And in the losses to Penn and Dartmouth, the defense only faltered after more than 3 1/2 quarters of stellar play that should have been enough to give Columbia more comfortable leads.

Finally, in the debacle 69-0 loss against Harvard, the Crimson scored five touchdowns off turnovers.

I thought the hiring of Kevin Lempa as defensive coordinator was the best news of the 2011-2012 offseason and I stand by that assessment. If he stays on the staff, the improvement will continue.

Our very young linebackers coach Mike Cooke did a great job with that unit and may only get better with more experience.

But now, let's go position by position:

Defensive Line: B

After the first two games, this unit looked like it was in for an "A" season. But after Seyi Adebayo was lost for the season during the Fordham game, there was a clear dropoff in quality. Columbia still gave up too many rushing yards and was consistent enough in the pass rush. But the improvement in this group was clear compared to 2011, and there is a lot of returning talent coming back in 2013 if Adebayo takes a 5th year, Nick Melka recovers from the injury that sidelined him almost all season, and players like Niko Padilla, Chad Washington and Wells Childress continue to improve.And don't sleep on Brooklyn's Toba Akinleye, who started to make a decent impact towards the end of the season.

Linebackers: A

When the top three tacklers on your football team are your three starting linebackers, that says a lot. Olinger, Waller and Murphy each put in their best seasons of their respective careers. Olinger returns in 2013, but Waller and Murphy are graduating. Other than Brian East, there weren't a lot of backup LB's who stood out, but it was hard to get on the field considering the way the starters were playing.

Secondary: C-

Inconsistency really plagued this group. There were games were players like freshman Travis Reim starred, and games where he was burned in coverage. There were games were the safeties like junior Marquel Carter was making play after play, and games where tackles were missed. Lempa may have bitten off more than he could chew by overseeing this unit in addition to being the overall defensive coordinator.

Overall Grade: C

Last year's defense was basically an F, so this is a true improvement. But had this group been able to play B or even B- level football in 2012, we would have seen one or even two more wins.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Report Card Time!

First off, let me write about how thrilled I was to listen to the Columbia win over Villanova last night on my iPhone.

I bought the new upgraded ap that gives you the audio for CU games wherever you go and it's well worth it. 

Getting back to the win, it was an impressive game and WELL-FINISHED considering the fact that Lions BBall under Coach Kyle Smith has had some horrific blown leads in key games in his short tenure. 

Well done! 

Now back to football...

Today begins the very long dissection and study of the 2012 season.

I want to grade every part of the team starting now with the offense. 

On one hand, you could get excited about the fact that the Lions finally got a good running game going this year. You could jump for joy that QB Sean Brackett got back over the 50% completion rate mark and established a short passing attack with multiple weapons like Connor Nelligan and Chris Connors.

But the real numbers don't lie: Columbia's touchdown and total points scored numbers fell hard and the sacks allowed figure was... a disgrace. 

Most of this was because of the offensive line. Head Coach Pete Mangurian's "Grand Experiment," (my title), to go with a lighter, faster offensive line just didn't work. Perhaps the players didn't implement the plan properly, but it's hard to see how they could have been effective with the size disparities they faced week in and week out. There is chatter out there that Mangurian went with taller players as recruits in the hopes of getting them to put on weight between years one and two. If that's the plan, we have to give it an incomplete for now.  

But the offense was certainly more exciting, and the play calling improved as the year went on. That's compared to the same bad play calling we saw for the six years prior to 2012. 

And the development of a deep and talented wide receiving corps was a major success. WR Coach Wendell Davis gets a big thumbs up for a job obviously well done. 

I would do the same for RB Coach Chad Nice, but I'm not sure he can get the credit for RB Marcorus Garrett getting healthy. We also didn't see a deep bunch at all in the RB corps like we did from the receivers. But Nice deserves some kudos for helping Garrett hit the 900+ yard mark with that O-line. 

Breaking the Offense down by unit:

Quarterback: B

Brackett had his problems, particularly earlier in the season with his accuracy, but he still had a lot of good moments and executed nicely under tremendous pressure in several contests like the Penn game, the Yale game, and of course the Cornell game. One can only wonder how well he could have done with less of a constant rush.

Running Backs: B+

Garrett's season was A- or even a A in quality, but he was too alone in carrying the running load to give the entire running unit that high a mark. I liked what I saw briefly from Cameron Molina in the Penn game, and I had predicted he would make an impact as a freshman. But we all need to see more.

Wide Receivers: A

There some cases of the dropsies early in the year, but how can you complain about what was the strongest unit on the team? Consider the fact that all the leading WR's from 2011 graduated, but there was so much new talent developed this season, who noticed? It will be very interesting to see if the crew of Nelligan, Connors, Gross, Jake Wanamaker, Louis DiNovo and even guys like Ryan Flannery and Scooter Hollis can gel as well with a new QB in 2013. TE Hamilton Garner took a bit of a step back this season, but mostly because there were a lot more guys to throw to. He could still have a big senior year as a receiver too. And fellow TE Nick Durham also looked good as he got a lot of playing time as a freshman. 

Offensive Line: D-

The only reason this unit doesn't get an F is because there was at least enough coherence here to get Garrett a strong season. Otherwise, you could point to almost every one of the Lions' seven losses and pin them on the front five. It's not that they showed no skill, but the offensive linemen just weren't big enough or experienced enough to get the job done. The experience part will improve by next year, but will these guys get better? 

This year, anyone who didn't already know learned the hard way that nothing really works on a football team without a decent offensive line. It does feel like this season was sacrificed slightly in order for the Mangurian regime to create the building blocks on the offensive line. One HAS to think that allowing returning two-time All Ivy honoree Scott Ward to play more could have helped the Lions win more games. Hopefully, Mangurian knows what he's doing and the future will be packed with a lot more wins to justify moves that were so questionable to the outsiders', (and even a lot of insiders'), eyes.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All Ivy 2012: Snubbed Again

The following players were just named to the All Ivy teams. Columbia players are in bold:

Dalyn WIlliams, Dartmouth (Fr., QB - Corinth, Texas)

Nathan Bernstein, Brown (Sr., OL - Charlotte, N.C.)
Cole Hooper, Brown (Sr., OL - Oklahoma City)
*J.C. Tretter, Cornell (Sr., OL - Akron, N.Y.)
Rob Bathe, Dartmouth (Sr., OL - Plymouth, Minn.)
John Collins, Harvard (Sr., OL - Hull, Mass.)
Jack Holuba, Harvard (Sr., OL - Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J.)
Joe Bonadies, Penn (Sr., OL - Leonia, N.J.)
Colton Chapple, Harvard (Sr., QB - Alpharetta, Ga.)
Marcorus Garrett, Columbia (Jr., RB - Marietta, Ga.)
*Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard (Sr., H-Back - Medina, Ohio)
Treavor Scales, Harvard (Sr., RB - Stone Mountain, Ga.)
Tyler Varga, Yale (So., RB - Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)
*Luke Tasker, Cornell (Sr., WR - East Aurora, N.Y.)
Michael Reilly, Dartmouth (Sr., WR - Denver)
*Cameron Brate, Harvard (Jr., TE - Naperville, Ill.)

Josh Martin, Columbia (Sr., DL - Aurora, Colo.)
Zach Hodges, Harvard (So., DL - Atlanta)
Brandon Copeland, Penn (Sr., DL - Sykesville, Md.)
*Mike Catapano, Princeton (Sr., DL - Bayville, N.Y.)
*Caraun Reid, Princeton (Sr., DL - Bronx, N.Y.)
Stephen Zambetti, Brown (Sr., LB - Germantown, Tenn.)
Michael Runger, Dartmouth (Jr., LB - Lisle, Ill.)
*Joshua Boyd, Harvard (Sr., LB - Hyde Park, Mass.)
Daniel Davis, Penn (So., LB - Norman, Okla.)
*A.J. Cruz, Brown (Sr., DB - Lake Forest, Calif.)
Garrett Waggoner, Dartmouth (Sr., DB - Sarasota, Fla.)
Sebastian Jaskowski, Penn (Jr., DB - Moorestown, N.J.)
Anthony Gaffney, Princeton (Fr., DB - Columbus, N.J.)

Special Teams
David Mothander, Harvard (Jr., PK - San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)
Jacob Dombrowski, Harvard (Sr., P - Gaylord, Mich.)
Scott Lopano, Penn (Sr., P - Southlake, Texas)
Anthony Gaffney, Princeton (Fr., RS - Columbus, N.J.)

Anthony Fabiano, Harvard (So., OL - Wakefield, Mass.)
Christopher Bush, Penn (Jr., OL - Westwood, N.J.)
Michael Piniciotti, Penn (Sr., OL - West Chester, Pa.)
Spenser Huston, Princeton (So., OL - Summit, N.J.)
Roy Collins, Yale (Sr., OT - Carbondale, Ill.)
Jeff Mathews, Cornell (Jr., QB - Camarillo, Calif.)
Dominick Pierre, Dartmouth (Jr., RB - Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Lyle Marsh, Penn (Sr., RB - Bethel Park, Pa.)
Tellef Lundevall, Brown (Sr., WR - Highland Park, Ill.)
Grant Gellatly, Cornell (Jr., WR - Iaaaquah, Wash.)
Conner Scott, Penn (Jr., WR - Kenilworth, Ill.)
Roman Wilson, Princeton (Jr., WR - Broken Arrow, Okla.)
Mark Hayes, Princeton (Sr., TE - Tulsa, Okla.)

Ross Walthall, Brown (Sr., DL - Carmel, Ind.)
Michael Yules, Brown (Sr., DL - South Dartmouth, Mass.)
Teddy Reed, Dartmouth (Sr., DL - Boxford, Mass.)
John Lyon, Harvard (Sr., DL - Durham, N.C.)
Nnamdi Obukwelu, Harvard (Jr., DL - Brockton, Mass.)
Zach Olinger, Columbia (Jr., LB - Hoover, Ala.)
Bronson Green, Dartmouth (Jr., LB - Los Angeles)
Alexander Norman, Harvard (Sr., LB - Lewisville, Texas)
Andrew Starks, Princeton (Sr., LB - Plainfield, Ill.)
Emory Polley, Brown (Jr., DB - University Heights, Ohio)
Norman Hayes, Harvard (So., DB - Tucker, Ga.)
Chris Splinter, Harvard (Jr., DB - Middleton, Mass.)
Dave Twamley, Penn (Sr., DB - Princeton Junction, N.J.)
Dan Wilk, Penn (Jr., DB - Bethlehem, Pa.)

Special Teams
Alexander Norocea, Brown (Jr., PK - Hermosa Beach, Calif.)
Joe Cloud, Princeton (Sr., P - Edwards, Ill.)
A.J. Cruz, Brown (Sr., RS - Lake Forest, Calif.)
Tyler Varga, Yale (So., RS - Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)

Daniel Austin, Brown (Jr., OL - Franklin, Tenn.)
Patrick Lahey, Dartmouth (Sr., OL - North Andover, Mass.)
Wes Gavin, Yale (Jr., OL - San Diego)
John Oppenheimer, Yale (Jr., C - Menlo Park, Calif.)
Billy Ragone, Penn (Sr., QB - Chesire, Conn.)
Mordecai Cargill, Yale (Sr., RB - Cleveland)
Ryan McManus, Dartmouth (So., WR - Mendota Heights, Minn.)
Grant Sickle, Harvard (Sr., DL - Jupiter, Fla.)
Adewole Oyalowo, Brown (Jr., LB - Bowie, Md.)
Mike Waller, Columbia (Sr., LB - Wayne, N.J.)
Brett Buehler, Cornell (Jr., LB - Dublin, Ohio)
Bobby Schneider, Harvard (Sr., LB - Grapevine, Texas)
Tim Kingsbury, Princeton (Sr., LB - Palos Park, Ill.)
D.J. Monroe, Harvard (Jr., DB - Columbia, S.C.)
Phillip Bhaya, Princeton (Jr., DB - Haddonfield, N.J.)
Collin Bibb, Yale (Sr., DB - San Antonio, Texas)
Connor Loftus, Penn (So., PK - Villa Park, Calif.)

There's a lot to go at here, but here are my first few thoughts:

-Columbia had the FEWEST players honored with just four in total.

-The list, (compiled by the coaches), shows just how much disdain the coaches had for the 2012 Lions, Yale finished dead last in the league and had six players honored, (Tyler Varga made the team as a RB and a special teams specialist). 

-Mike Waller only getting Honorable Mention status feels like an insult.

-Connor Nelligan easily deserved at least and Honorable Mention and it hurts to see him snubbed too.

-I would have liked to see Paul Delaney honored in some capacity as he is easily the toughest punter in the Ivies. 

-On the positive side, it was good that Marcorus Garrett and Josh Martin were recognized for 1st Team All Ivy. Garrett is one of just three non-seniors on the offensive 1st Team. 

-Proper respect for our individual players won't come until the Lions win more games. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

... with a Whimper

Brown 22 Columbia 6

Why Brown Won

The Bears defensive line stifled the Lions, getting five sacks and holding Columbia to just 74 yards rushing. On offense the Bears were efficiently lethal, converting almost 50% of their 3rd down plays and converting two 4th down situations into touchdowns.

Why Columbia Lost

After a decent start on offense, the Lion O-line started getting pushed around. In addition to all the sacks, Columbia couldn't get much of a push in the red zone resulting in no TD's despite three chances during the game. The defense was generally solid, but got burned twice on long pass plays for scores. 

Key Turning Points

-Leading 3-0 late in the 1st quarter, Columbia began a possession at the Brown 45. Two plays later, RB Marcorus Garrett's best run of the day set the Lions up with a 1st and 10 at the Bear 18. Two more decent Garrett runs set up a 3rd and 3 at the 11, but the resulting play was one of many instances where the Lion O-line was swamped and a Sean Brackett run went for a loss of two. Columbia had to settle for another FG and never scored again.

-On Brown's ensuing possession, the Bears never faced a 3rd down until they had already moved 40 yards to the Lion 36. One play later, it was 4th and 2 from the Columbia 29. Brown QB Patrick Donnelly calmly handled the situation with a 29-yard TD pass to Jonah Fay. The Bears never trailed again. 

-On Columbia's ensuing possession, the Lions moved the ball well again all the way to the Brown 30. But on THEIR 4th and 2 opportunity, Brackett was rushed again and was forced to throw incomplete. The contrast on back-to-back 4th down chances was stark, and it was the theme of the game. 

Columbia Positives

-In his final game, Brackett kept his composure and completed 19 passes to six different players. He was so harassed all day that it's amazing he avoided throwing more than one interception. 

-Brown's offensive numbers were big as far as yardage, but the Lions defense played well enough to give Columbia a chance to win. Senior LB Tim Waller especially provided the opportunities with two takeaways on back-to-back Bear possessions late in the game.  

Columbia Negatives

-The Lions pass protection picked up where it left off in the Harvard debacle, never giving Brackett enough time. The run blocking in the red zone also broke down. Job 1 for Head Coach Pete Mangurian this winter has to be to beef up that O-line. 

-Columbia made the same mistake more than once "covering" Fay along the sideline and allowing him to get free on crucial downs. The pass rush the Lions used to beat Cornell was not evident as Columbia finished with no sacks.

Columbia MVP

Mike Waller was all over the field in his final game. He went out strong and was the most consistent performer all day. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Last Dance

Columbia Lions vs. Brown Bears

November 17, 2012

Location: Brown Stadium 

Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: 48 degrees and mostly sunny

The Spread: Brown is favored by 15 1/2 points

How to Get to the Game

Directions to Brown Stadium


You can get free audio on the SideLion PassJerry Recco and Sal Licata have the call. 

Brown is supplying video of the game for $8 if you click here. 

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

Lead Stories

I wrote at the beginning of the season that three wins were the baseline expectation for this team, and I predicted they would go 3-7. Most of the other experts agreed. 

That means a win against Brown makes this a successful season that exceeded expectations. 

It would also be an impressive feat against a solid program that has once again produced a winning season despite the loss of several key players to graduation and injury. 

The teams's goals are the most important, but another big story is the individual numbers several Lions could achieve.

The two biggest records to watch are: 

1) RB Marcorus Garrett could become just the second Columbia player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, but he needs to net 99 yards against a stingy Brown run defense. 

2) QB Sean Brackett needs 140 yards passing to pass Craig Hormann '08 and grab second place all time in team history. 

On Brown's end, a big story is the revenge factor as the Lions embarrassed the Bears for their only win last year in the thrilling double OT game in New York. The loss made a very, very good 2011 Brown team look bad in the eye of Ivy League watchers, and unfairly so. 

Some of the players who figured in that game last year both positively, (Tellef Lundevall), and negatively (Jonah Fay), will get their chance to settle scores.

A win would also clinch a 4-3 winning Ivy conference record for Brown, while a loss sends them to the other side of the ledger at 3-4. 

Columbia Keys to the Game

1) Harass Donnelly

Brown's running game continues to be hobbled by injuries and the Bears will need to rely on the pass to score. If the Lions can come close to doing to Brown QB Patrick Donnelly what they did to Cornell QB Jeff Mathews, Columbia can win this game.

2) Use the Pass to Establish the Run

The Bears' run defense is strong, period. But the good short passing attack Columbia has established in recent weeks could help loosen up Brown's front seven just enough to allow some good runs after a while. And if Brackett, in the final game of his career, is finally allowed to run like mad all over the Bears, this game could get really interesting. 

3)  Play Loose

It won't be too cold at game time anyway, but the Lions should come out of the locker room looking like they're having a ball in the sun. The crowd won't likely be too large and the home field advantage CAN be taken away in that environment. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Week 10 Picks

I was 2-1 against the spread last week to bring my season's record to 17-20-2. But I was a disappointing 1-2 straight up to bring my overall record to 21-18.

I still have no real explanation for my bad performance this season, but I have to keep trying!

Dartmouth +8 at Princeton

Princeton's defense is still very strong and they proved it against Yale last week. But with the injuries piling up, I don't think the Tigers will rip the Green by more than one score. Princeton to win, Dartmouth to cover.

Cornell +6 vs. Penn

Billy Ragone is the heart and soul of the Quakers and I don't think he'll be able to play Saturday, at least not anywhere near 100%. Without Ragone, Penn is not very good. Cornell to win. 

Yale +31 1/2 at Harvard

By all rights, Harvard should slaughter Yale by MORE than 32 points Saturday. But this is The Game, and I think the Elis will get a score or two and lose something like 38-10. 

Brackett Speaks! 

Check out this radio interview with QB Sean Brackett!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scouting Brown

The Miracle Worker: Phil Estes

There may be no greater evidence of the talents of Brown Head Coach Phil Estes than the 2012 season.

Estes and the Bears lost dynamite QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero and a host of great receivers to graduation. He lost RB Spiro Theodosi four games into the season to yet another injury. His team has lost deflating games to Harvard, Princeton, and Penn and bounced back each time with wins the following weeks. 

In a word, Phil Estes perseveres. 

He perseveres despite weak administration support and the poorest facilities in the Ivies. 

How is he doing it this year?


First, he's getting a pretty good season out of QB Patrick Donnelly who's throwing for 226 yards per game and has a decent 12 TD's to 9 INT's ratio. 

He's getting a great season from big WR Tellef Lundevall who's grabbing more than seven passes a game for a 10-yard average per catch.

He's getting a super season from an offensive line that has allowed just 11 sacks and has somehow helped the Bears average 138 rushing yards per game despite the lack of a star runner. 

Not too shabby. 

No, the 21 points per game average is not the kind of number we're used to seeing from the juggernaut Brown offense. But it's solid.

The running back who appears to be the go-to guy on the ground these days is senior Jeffrey Izon, who has been getting eight or nine carries per game since Theodosi went down. But don't sleep on Jordan Reisner who exploded against Cornell for 193 yards a few weeks ago. 

The other big offensive weapon is WR Jonah Fay, a senior who averages a healthy 13.7 yards per catch and has three TD's. He may be especially motivated Saturday to make up for a crushing drop against the Lions last year that probably cost Brown a TD. 


This is a much improved unit and it's not like last year's Bear defense was bad. 

Brown has the second best rushing defense in the league, despite giving up a ton of yards to Dartmouth's Dominic Pierre last week. 

The stars on the defensive line at Michael Yules and Ross Walthall, who have 23.5 tackles for a loss between them and Yules has five sacks. 

The Brown linebacking crew is the real deal. Steve Zambetti, Adewole Oyalowo, and sophomore rising star Daniel Giovacchini who has 56 tackles and 12 tackles for a loss.

The Bear defensive backs are not too shabby either. AJ Cruz is finally a senior and still one of the best if not the best DB in the Ivies. He has help from Reed Watne and Anthony Franciosi who are also seniors. 

In short, if this team has the Brown offense we've been used to seeing the last several years, the 2012 Bears would probably be 8-1 and playing for a title. This defense has done little to let the club down.

Special Teams

Kicker Alex Norocea is probably the best in the Ivies. He's a perfect 24-24 on PAT's and 9-11 on FG's with a 46-yarder and a 4-5 mark on kicks of 40 or more. 

But after that, the usually fearsome Brown special teams aren't very special this season.

Punter Nathaniel Meyer is just average, kickoff specialist Grant Senne usually doesn't kick it inside the 10, and the punt and kick returners haven't really lit up the field this year. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Perfect 10

Sean Brackett: 11/13/10

The newer version of the highlights from the Cornell game are now live on the Columbia athletics web site. I HIGHLY recommend you check them out. 

And yes... they include footage of the Zach Olinger INT off a Cornell's player's butt! Those of you who did not believe will now see the truth!!

The 10 Win Club

Sean Brackett has joined the sadly non-crowded club of Columbia starting QB's with 10 wins as a starter.

I hope he makes it 11 with a win at Brown Saturday, but I'd like to say a few words about Brackett's top three games in his Columbia career. Each one would have earned him a special place in Lion Lore, but the fact that he has made so many of his 10 wins so memorable really says something special.

3) Nov. 21, 2009: Columbia 28 Brown 14

This was Brackett's first real win because the victory the week before at Cornell was really won by M.A. Olawale '10 in relief. Brackett had his best rushing day of his career, with 171 yards on 20 carries. He only had 10 completions, but they were all effective especially a beautiful 37-yard slant pass to Austin Knowlin '10 for a TD to ice the game. 

2) Oct. 2, 2010: Columbia 42 Princeton 14

This was Brackett's best day as a passer by far. He went 18 of 24 for 273 and a team record-tying five TD passes to four different receivers. He did not throw an interception. It was this game that more than any other clinched him his status as a 1st Team All Ivy honoree at season's end.

1) Nov. 13, 2010: Columbia 20 Cornell 17

This was the game where Brackett's heart was on display, and what it showed was darn impressive. Playing with a very painful shoulder injury and an injured leg, Brackett dragged the Lions back from a 17-3 4th quarter deficit with his feet and his arm... even though both were hurting. On the final three scoring drives of the game, Brackett made spectacular run after spectacular run and key pass after pass. He won the game, appropriately, with a leap into the end zone with 37 seconds left. He finished the game with 204 yards passing and 151 yards rushing. 

Let's hope next week, we'll have to add another game to this top three!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Winners Circle


GREAT showing for Columbia's finest in the weekly player awards just announced. DE Josh Martin was named co-Defensive Player of the week and WR Chris Connors was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week. 

Around the Ivies

Of course the other HUGE story this weekend is that Penn is now alone atop the Ivies after the Quakers' surprising win over Harvard on Saturday. Unlike the Princeton game where the Tigers stole the game from the Crimson with an impossible 4th quarter rally, Penn really was the stronger team throughout the contest. 

The running game was the difference as RB Lyle Marsh and QB Billy Ragone beat Harvard time after time. On the flip side, Ragone did leave the game with a badly injured ankle and he will almost surely not play in the season finale at Cornell. If he can't go and Penn can't handle the Big Red in Ithaca as a result, there's a chance Harvard and Princeton jump back into a three-way tie for the title. How wild would that be?

Honestly, I think Harvard is still the best team in the Ivies. But they clearly just weren't as disciplined as they needed to be. After throttling Columbia 69-0 last week, the Crimson weren't ready for a real challenge and that's a level of immaturity you don't expect from a Tim Murphy-coached team. 

With the talent level they have this year in Cambridge, even if they do get a share of the title this has to go down as one the biggest wasted opportunities in league history.

Some other points about the Ivies:

-Brown did it again. The Bears parlayed their superior passing game just enough to clinch a winning league and overall record with a nice comeback win over Dartmouth Saturday. I'd point out Brown's decent run defense, but the Big Green ran the ball just fine overall. This is just a scrappy program that finds ways to win tough games. 

-Princeton dominated defensively in the 29-7 win over Yale. The Bulldogs had to play without Tyler Varga. Will he be ready for The Game this Saturday at Harvard Stadium? My bet is he will be.

-This is really going to be a wide open race for the Bushnell Cup awards. Who would YOU pick for offensive and defensive MVP's? Suffice it to say that the final week's outcomes will play a big role in deciding who wins.

More Thoughts post Columbia-Cornell 

-The win Saturday was the fifth straight year that Columbia has won on Senior Day, (wins over Cornell in 2008, 2010, and 2012, and over Brown in 2009 and 2011). Maybe we should make EVERY game Senior Day and honor a different group of seniors. Who's with me?

-ESPN's Sports Center kept showing the amazing 4th quarter TD catch by Chris Connors as a tease for the plays of the week. But when they actually ran the segment, they never showed it. It was still nice to see that play though.

-I only mentioned the play briefly yesterday, but Zach Olinger really DID intercept a Cornell pass that landed on a Big Red player's buttocks in the 4th quarter. More polite folks out there will say the ball landed on the player's back, but I saw it myself and that's where the ball was lying when Olinger made the heads up, (or should I say "bottoms up"), play to grab it. Come to think of it, why was THAT play not on Sports Center????

-With one game to play, RB Marcorus Garrett is fifth all-time in Columbia history for single season rushing yards with 901. He could easily finish next weekend's game vs. Brown at #2, because he needs just 67 yards to surpass the 967 yards Johnathan Reese '02 achieved in 2001. Reese is of course, the #1 all-time single season rusher with 1,330 yards in 2000 and the all-time career rusher with 3,321 yards. 

-But getting those yards will tough against Brown's generally good run defense and the slow grass field at Brown Stadium. If Garrett somehow beats the odds and nets 99+ yards to become Columbia's second-ever 1,000-yard rusher, he should be named the team MVP right away.