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-


Anonymous said...

Partial to the specials as those are my guys. Improvement in special teams and defense is the quickest path to overall team improvement and more wins. This year we tripled the number of wins from previous season. Next year we do it again. Continued emphasis on specials, both kicking/punting and returns, will yield benefits next season. Making specials a valued part of the team increases team unity as well. This is an overlooked but important past of winning games.

oldlion said...

I generally agree, but if there are two plays from last year that I could take back they'd be the blown coverage on the opening kickoff and the muffed coverage on the busted FG in the Princeton game.

Roar Lion said...

Oldlion, you are correct on those two Princeton plays, but I'd also note that against Yale we had fantastic punt and kickoff returns by Fisher and Reim that contributed greatly to the win. Overall, I agree with Jake, this was an area of real improvement.

oldlion said...

I understand that Trevor Bell was the fastest player on the team this year. I thought he showed great explosiveness on kickoff returns and on one or two occasions came close to breaking one. Next year people will start kicking away from him.

Anonymous said...

Jake, I agree with everything that you said about Ragone being the heart and soul of Penn's title-winning team, but the award is NOT designated for the most valuable player on the championship team. It's for the best player on ANY team.

I'm not saying Ragone isn't worthy; I'm just saying the Bushnell is not defined as you imply.

#1 Lion said...

Grades way too high. No Special Team post season awards, the kicking game never won games for us. What I do see, is the potential for an "A" of some sort, as well as leading the Ivies; however, they need a kicking coach and to tighten up all facests of coverage.

Anonymous said...

#1 Lion, I think your criticism of the kicking unit is overly harsh. Jake's assessment was accurate. If you break down the stats, our guys missed only one PAT all season (Harvard missed 2 PATs). On field goals, Columbia was #1 under 40 yds. with 10-11. Over 40 yds. Brown was the leader. See stats for top 4 kickers:

Under 40 yds 40-50yds Long
Columbia 10-11 3-8 44
Brown 5-6 4-5 46
Harvard 6-8 0 39
Penn 6-8 1-2 45

Last year, our kicking unit had only 5 field goal attempts. This year we had 19. Coach M and Coach Thurin are letting our kicking unit score points for the team (53 points this season). I am very optimistic about next year as our starting snapper, holder and place kicker are all returning. I also agree with Coach M, "Our kicking battery can and will improve".

#1 Lion said...

I feel as though our biggest asset IS the kicking game! Unfortunately, they didn't change, or win any games for us this year. there were plenty of chances to put points on the booard (Penn, Yale, etc.), that we chose to either punt or go for it. Great statistics above, but what is missing is the confidence to use the kickers to change the game. A kicker like Matt Pollard or tom Boccafola could cgange the dynamics of a game. I didn't see that this year. The kickers CLEARLY have the talent and the legs, they just need a kicking coach, that's all... Not a full time coach, maybe just a Spring and pre-season coach; that's it...

oldlion said...

Delaney had be great but sometimes shanks the ball at an inopportune moment. What he needs to work on is consistency. When he is on, he can dramatically change field position. But every now and then he comes up with a bad kick.

Anonymous said...


I apologize for being so tardy but I have been away for awhile and just catching up with the blog on this Hanukkah weekend.

I wanted to comment on your notation that Columbia football players continue to get snubbed for the all-Ivy selections.

I agree but think you missed naming one other player this season. This player is very humble and after a big play he quietly walks off with his head down and on to the next play. We have come to expect his high level of consistent play over several seasons. There was no publicity about a few of his achievements this season but I believe he was the only Columbia player to lead the Ivy League in a statistical category for the season. Luke Eddy quietly lead the Ivy League in Field Goals this season by a fairly significant margin of four Field Goals. Additionally, he tied the Columbia single season mark for Field goals with thirteen. Traditionally, the Ivy League Field Goal leader is named an all Ivy selection, or at least Honorable mention. Luke Eddy only missed one Field Goal under 40 yards despite having the most attempts. He has only missed 4 Field Goals under 40 yards in 3 seasons. That is the Gold Standard for college kickers.

Alumni kickers have stated that they think kicking at Wien Stadium is one of the most difficult locations in the nation to kick. The Stadium is flanked by the Hudson River to the west and the Harlem River to the north. Further swirling is added by the high rise buildings adjacent to the field. Many times you can see the flags to the left of the goal posts blowing to the Hudson River and the flags to the right of the goal posts blowing to the Harlem River!

Luke Eddy's kickoff hang times are consistently 4.0 seconds, NFL times, to the corner 2 yard line. A very difficult place to get out of for a returner. One kickoff this season was timed by coach Thurin at a spectacular 4.4 seconds hang time.

Junior Luke Eddy has more than half of all Columbia kicking records.

Most Extra Points in a Season
Most Field Goals in a Season (tied)
Most Extra points in a Career
Most Consecutive Extra Points in a Career
Most Consecutive Extra points in a Season
A few more Attempts records

The bottom line is Columbia players individual achievements will continue to be over looked until we win. Winning fixes everything!