Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Publicity Tip

Does Columbia want to generate some INTEREST in the upcoming season or not?

I just don't get why the department hasn't yet pushed out some kind of canned interview with Brett Nottingham for the New York news media to chew on BEFORE the Ivy media day next week floods the markets with material.

Maybe they have, but I doubt it. 

I'm sure someone will cite some arcane rule about not allowing incoming players to speak to the media, but honestly... WHO CARES???

Maybe Nottingham isn't the savior for CU. Maybe lots of other players deserve more attention.  Maybe Columbia has lost all hope of ever getting local sports' fans attention.

But I say a transfer QB from a Top 10 BCS program, who suddenly decided to come to an Ivy school in New York City is a DAMN good story that still has not been told to just about anyone who doesn't read this blog or the Ivy sports chat board. 

I don't care if highlighting Nottingham makes Head Coach Pete Mangurian skittish, (and I have no evidence that it does). 

I don't care if focusing on Nottingham makes some of the other players feel left out, (and I doubt any of them are that thin-skinned). 

I don't care if the athletic department office people like to take a few more weeks off.

We need to generate some buzz about this team and Nottingham is the ticket for that until we start winning regularly. 

So let's get this done.

TV Guide

My Quick Takes on the NBCSN Ivy League Schedule:


-Thank goodness Columbia made it on the schedule this year and thank goodness no other Ivy team was completely excluded like CU was in 2012.

-The Brown-Harvard game in week 2 getting televised is a BIG deal for fans. Yes, the game was going to be available online. But this very crucial game so early in the season usually gets overlooked and now there’s less chance of that.

-Love them or hate them, the Penn-Harvard game is essential viewing just about every year. It’s a good bet to televise it and I commend NBCSN for keeping it on the schedule.

-The fact that the first game on the NBCSN schedule is a week one game is great; no waiting for content! And for Columbia fans, this will be a chance to scout two Lion opponents right off the bat.


-Six games total is okay, but only four Ivy vs. Ivy games seems a bit thin.

-Dartmouth is a legit contender this season, and I think the Big Green game against Penn early in the season is a better choice than the match against Cornell later in the year

BREAKING: CU on NBCSN on 10/12

NBC Sports Network has announced it's six-game slate of Ivy League football games this fall.

The Columbia game hosting Lehigh on Oct. 12th will be broadcast, one of two out of conference games that will be shown, (the other is also a Lehigh game, this one at Princeton on the opening weekend of the season).


Getting to Know You...

My pre-Ivy Football media day 7-day series preparing everyone, especially the members of the media, with what they need to know about every Ivy team other than Columbia continues today with a look at Cornell.

2012 Record: 4-6 (2-5 Ivy, tied for 6th)

Coach: David Archer (1st year) 

Last Season in One Sentence: Jeff Mathews and the Big Red passing game were great, but everything else wasn't; Cornell's defense was porous and the team was clueless when Mathews was subdued. 

Four Returning Cornell Players You Need to Know: QB Jeff Mathews, WR Grant Gellatly, RB Luke Hagy, LB Brett Bueler

Big Losses: WR Luke Tasker, WR Kurt Ondash, OL JC Tretter, HC Kent Austin

Big Questions: Will new coach Archer's promise to balance the pass and the run better work? Is it even worth trying? Can the Cornell defense get better, especially against the run? Will a 28-year-old head coach make it against the grown ups? 

Jake’s Overall Take: Mathews is still a joy to watch as a passer and I expect great things from him in his senior season... but so will everyone else. Mathews had a big ol' bull's eye on his back throughout 2012, and opposing defenses will tee off on him again this fall. Archer is well versed with the Cornell program as a former captain and long-time assistant coach, but he still seems very green for the job. Kent Austin had the Big Red going in the general right direction before the CFL started distracting him with the job offers that eventually lured him out of Ithaca. A lot rides on Hagy, who Archer will ask to carry the ball a lot more, and Hagy is talented. But he'll have to work harder without the top blocking of guys like Tretter. The defense is still generally a mess. 

Moment #52: A Defensive Statement

Josh Martin, (95), lays waste to Cornell's Jeff Mathews

Columbia’s defense, under now-former defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa, was an improved unit in 2012.

It gave up 56 fewer points, almost 400 fewer total yards, and 24 fewer first downs.

But rarely was it as dominant as it was during one key stretch of Columbia’s week five game against Penn at Franklin Field.

Now leading 13-10 with about six minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Lions kicked off to the Quakers who got a great 40-yard return by Eric Fiore to start their drive at their own 49.

Penn coach Al Bagnoli decided to insert his better passing QB, Andrew Holland, into the game in hopes of cashing in on the good field position.

But those hopes were dashed as the Columbia defense came up with three dazzling defensive plays in a row to set the Quakers back on their heels.

One 1st down, Niko Padilla and Nick Melka combined to sack Holland for an eight yard loss.

On 2nd down, Holland was able to connect on a pass to RB Jeff Jack, but Josh Martin was all over him and tackled Jack for a two yard loss.

On 3rd down, Holland just gave in and slipped ahead for a two yard run.

It wasn’t the only three-and-out of the game for the CU defense, but it was the most impressive.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Getting to Know You...

With 7 days to go until the Ivy League Football Coaches Media Day, I like to help out the folks who tend to ask the questions.

90% of them have little to no knowledge of the individual teams and their players, and just a cursory knowledge about the Ivy League.

That usually ends up being very good news for the coaches who don’t want to answer the tough questions and bad news for the League’s efforts to make the event in general somewhat interesting and informative.

So for the next 7 days, I’ll be putting together a very brief overview of each Ivy team other than CU and I hope the truly lost media people  who need a refresher will find what they need to know.

Let’s start with Brown:

2012 Record: 7-3 (4-3 Ivy, tied for 3rd)

Coach: Phil Estes

Last Season in One Sentence: Brown remained a title contender and an excellent overall team, showing improvement on defense but falling off a bit on offense.

Four Returning Brown Players You Need to Know: QB Patrick Donnelly, WR Tellef Lundevall, DE Michael Yules, RB John Spooney

Big Losses: DB AJ Cruz, LB Stephen Zambetti, WR Jonah Fay

Big Questions: Will we see more of an effective running attack this season? Is the returning, (from a year running track), speedster John Spooney the #1 tailback on the depth chart? What will it take to beat Harvard at Harvard in week two?

Jake’s Overall Take: Brown is always dangerous, and Donnelly is the most underrated QB in the league with his two top 2012 receivers, (Lundevall and Jordan Evans), coming back. But the team does seem to be on a slight downward track since the final weeks of 2011. Not beating Harvard at home in week two last year put their title hopes into a death spiral and the 19-0 shutout loss to Princeton is still a head-scratcher. Now Brown has to take on the Crimson at Harvard and they haven't won there in a very long time. Losing a defensive leader like Cruz will be a blow, but in general this is still a very strong team. A game changer could be Spooney at RB, but I’m not convinced he’s really the answer… otherwise he would have had more carries in his sophomore season before he left for track in 2012. 

View from the Sky

Above is the only aerial shot of the old Baker Field, (32,000 seat, all-wooden stadium), I have ever seen. You can click on the image to enlarge.

I can't tell when the picture was taken, because even when I enlarge the photo, I can't really make out how old the cars parked along 218th Street are. 

I do think the picture predates 1955, because even though the text below it discusses the post-1955 addition to the western side of the Chrystie Field House, it does not appear to be in the picture above.  

The aerial shot comes from my 1970 Columbia media guide, (see below).

I'm still looking for any pictures of the old stadium that are out there. If you can email them here, I will post them with full credit. 

Getting back to the media guide cover, note that the illustration was one of many cartoon artist Charles McGill did for Columbia over the decades. His excellent work adorned many CU game programs and media guides. On several occasions, I've called on the athletic department to put together an exhibit of his works. 

Yes, they're that good. 

Going Camping

With week one opponent Fordham beginning its season on Aug. 29th vs. Rhode Island and week two opponent Monmouth starting its season a day earlier than that on 8/28 at Montana State, I figure both of these schools MUST be starting training camp this week. But as of yet I see no official start times posted for either of those two schools.

It’s hard to get a real solid handle on what all the extra prep time will mean for Fordham and Monmouth when they take on Columbia in late September.

On the one hand, they’ll be a lot more game ready. On the other hand, the inevitable injuries will be there as will Columbia’s ability to really read their opponents while the Lions, (especially with a new starting QB), will be a major mystery.

The other factor is that both Fordham and Monmouth are playing REALLY tough opponents before they take on Columbia.

Fordham starts on 8/29 at home vs. URI, which is a relatively easy opponent. But then it’s at home vs. Villanova and then a road game at Temple. That’s a rough road.

Monmouth has to schlep on the 28th to Montana State, a top FCS program that should beat the Hawks by… a lot. Then they have to go to Virginia to take on scrappy Liberty before hosting Patriot League power Lehigh in their home opener. The final Monmouth game before they come into Wien Stadium will be another tough contest at Holy Cross.

Columbia has a very tough schedule this season, but none of our games come close to being as challenging as road trips to Montana State and Temple.

Incidentally, Columbia’s training camp begins three weeks from today on August 20th

Moment #53: Garrett Comes from out of Nowhere

After Hamilton Garner's big 31-yard catch, the Lions found themselves with a 1st and 10 at the Quaker 16 and still trailing 10-6.

On that 1st down play, Marcorus Garrett was brought down by a hard tackle after just a one yard gain to the 15. 

At that point, Penn must have thought they had quieted Garrett down for at least a little while. 

But Garrett was still ascendant, just in another way.

Getting, unusually decent pass protection for that play, QB Sean Brackett stood in the pocket on the 2nd down and nine play and duped the Penn linebackers into thinking he was looking into the end zone.  

But Brackett was waiting for Garrett to come out of the backfield on a delayed pattern, and found him wide open near the line of scrimmage. 

Garrett made the catch, made one little move and he was into the end zone for a lead-changing TD.

For the second time in the game, the Lions had come back from what seemed like a momentum-changing Quaker score. 

And once again, it was Garrett who made it happen. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Neighborhood Place

Artist's rendering of the "Bakerfield Apartments" 1930

It occurred to me today that one thing Columbia has, and has always had, is a football stadium and sports complex in a REAL neighborhood with an incredibly rich history.

The Columbia and city-haters will say nasty things about Inwood. They’ll call it “Harlem,” (still thinking that’s a pejorative thing), or say that Columbia plays football among the tenements… stuff like that.

But Inwood is actually a very beautiful part of the city, even with the often messy Broadway dominating the landscape at times.

West of Broadway, on streets like Seaman and Academy, etc., you see a lot of beauty you don’t see anywhere else in Manhattan. I’m talking stately detached houses, beautiful views of Inwood Hill Park, historical sites, and now there are many up-and-coming restaurants and bars as well.

Unlike Washington Heights, which became almost a drug war zone by the mid 1980’s, Inwood never crashed hard as a neighborhood.

But real people, with no connection to Columbia at all have lived their lives in this area and I was touched by a Navy retiree who recently wrote down his memories of growing up in Inwood. See below:

“In no particular order…..I vividly remember when Columbia University was a powerhouse of collegiate football. Lou Little was the coach. This was back in the late thirties. While walking along Broadway with my shoeshine kit one day I heard a band and slowing coming up the street was the West Point marching band on their way to a game with Columbia (can’t recall the name of the stadium)……..Going shAopping at Lipshitz’s grocery underneath the el. Lipshitz wasn’t the cheapest, but he gave credit during the depression……a few stores away was a make shift barber shop with two barrels and a plank. It cost me 15 cents, plus I got a jelly apple too……Speaking of shoeshines, I shined shoes up to about 1939 when LaGuardia told the cops to get the shoeshiners off the streets because of the World’s Fair. Running away from cops with my shoeshine kit banging against my leg as I ran…..Attended Good Shepherd. I lived on 205th, down the street from the Hoffman Bottling plant. Across the street from me was a Hooverville…..My parents were deaf mutes and one night a cop knocked on our door and said that a neighbor saw a prowler on our fire escape. The cop looked underneath a bed and there was the culprit. He took the offender down to his patrol car and he and his partner worked him over with night sticks, no doubt discouraging him from returning to his beat……Monsignor Miller was the pastor at G.S. and he was feared! An ascetic looking guy who rarely smiled. I don’t recall if the nuns were Sisters of Mercy or Sisters of Charity…..attended Mt. St. Michael and then St. Joseph’s Juniorate in Esopus, N.Y….Joined Navy at 17 in 1946 and retired as Lt. Cdr. in 1969. Now live in Port Townsend, Wa., close to the Canadian border….Still have my health and faculties, Thank God!”

The only other Ivy football stadium located in a real neighborhood is Brown Stadium. But that’s kind of a boring, upper middle class area… nice, but just not that interesting.

Anyway, there are other memories and a lot of great photos of Inwood then and now at this site. 

Sadly, not too many of the pictures are of Baker Field, but maybe some of the readers of the site will send them in.

I plan to check back often.

Moment #54: Garner's Big Grab

Still trailing 10-6 in the 3rd quarter at Franklin Field, the Lions started to gain steam after Marcorus Garrett ran for a 36 yard play to get them out of bad field position.

Two plays later, the Lions got into scoring position thanks to one of TE Hamilton Garner's best plays of the season. 

On the 2nd and nine play from the Penn 47, Garner got open along the sideline and hauled in the pass from QB Sean Brackett for 31 yards to the Quaker 16.

Earlier in the game, Garner had caught a 32 yard pass from Brackett during a drive that ultimately led to no points. 

But things wouldn't turn out so unproductive this time.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Moment #55: Garrett Goes Again

Marcorus Garrett owned the Franklin Field turf for much of the day

Now trailing vs. Penn by a 10-6 score, Columbia went three-and-out on its first possession after the Quaker TD.

But after getting a defensive stop, the Lions took over again at their 16 with just over eight minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

That's when Marcorus Garrett started a segment of the game where he was probably the most dominant opposing player Penn saw all year long.

On 2nd and 10, he scampered for a 36 yard run before he was caught from behind by DB David Twamley at the Quaker 48.

Garrett had come through with a big play just like he had done earlier in the game when the Lions were desperately need of a boost after Penn took a 3-0 lead.

... and #23 was far from finished for that drive or for the day.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Camera Chief

Josh Martin '13 is battling for a roster spot with the Kansas City Chiefs, but all eyes were on #1 overall pick Eric Fisher as the Chiefs held their first full team practice of training camp yesterday.

Nevertheless, Martin got into two featured pictures in today's Kansas City Star, because he was being blocked by... you guessed it, Eric Fisher.

See below:

Looks like the #1 pick is holding our Josh Martin

Martin has QB Alex Smith in his sights

And for those of you still wondering about how Jeff Adams '12 is doing, the answer is he's battling for a roster or practice squad spot with the Dolphins.

Here's a recent assessmentrecent of his chances.

Moment #56: Ragone Catches Fire

Leading 6-3 at the half in their week five game at Penn, the Lions kicked off to the Quakers to start the 3rd quarter. And as soon as they got the ball, Penn looked like a different team on offense.

QB Billy Ragone took over, three of the first four plays of the drive featured two Ragone passes for a total of 25 yards and then a Ragone run for another 31.

Three plays later, Ragone found WR Conner Scott in the end zone for a 13 yard TD.

Just like that, the Quakers were back in the lead and it only took about two minutes.

The drive took a lot of wind out of the Columbia sails and would eerily foreshadow what was ahead for the Lions much later in the game.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Looking for TV Real Estate

The kickoff times for all of Columbia’s games now appear on the athletic department's website. But there is a discrepancy. We have the kickoff time for the week three game at Princeton as 12:30 and Princeton has it as 1pm.

Since the game is AT Princeton, I’m going to go with the Princeton site on this one… BUT there is a wildcard here: the NBCSN schedule.

Because while there is still no word on the Ivy schedule, NBC Sports Network has announced the 2013 slate of CAA games it will televise:

Saturday, Sept. 14: Rhode Island at UAlbany 7 p.m

Saturday, Sept. 21: Stony Brook at Villanova 3 p.m. and Rhode Island at William and Mary 7 p.m

Saturday, Sept. 28: Maine at Richmond 4 p.m. and James Madison at Delaware 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 5: New Hampshire at Towson Noon 

Saturday, Oct. 12  UAlbany at Delaware Noon 

Saturday, Oct. 19: Villanova at New Hampshire Noon 

Saturday, Oct. 26: Towson at Richmond Noon 

Saturday, Nov. 2: Villanova at James Madison 2:30 p.m. 

Saturday, Nov. 9: William and Mary at Delaware 3 p.m. 

Saturday, Nov. 16: Stony Brook at James Madison 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 23TBD: Rivalry Week Game Noon

The above schedule leaves me, and probably many of you, scratching your heads about exactly WHEN and WHERE the Ivy games will be squeezed onto the air.

It’s not that there isn’t room in other hours on the dates above, it’s just that just about every Ivy home team would have to reschedule its usual kickoff time to find its way on the air.

If I had to guess, I’d say we should see an Ivy game at 1pm on 9/28, (but it won’t be the premiere game of the day, Brown at Harvard, because that’s a much-hyped night game at Harvard Stadium), most likely Cornell at Yale.

The following Saturday, Oct. 5th, we could see another Ivy game IF the home team reschedules it to 3pm or later.  So, if the Columbia-Princeton game is an Ivy game NBCSN televises on 10/5, then BOTH Columbia and Princeton would be understandably wrong about their posted kickoff times.

October 12, 19, and 26 all have noon CAA game times, so any one of those weeks could feature a 3:00 or 3:30 Ivy game if the home team reschedules. That includes the 10/19 1:30 kickoff for Columbia’s homecoming game against Penn and the 10/26 1:30 game for the Lions at Dartmouth.

The list of possibilities go on and on, but all we do know for sure is that the CAA is out and whatever games and times the Ivy League gets on NBCSN will have to work around the CAA’s real estate.

One curious start time for the Lions is the noon kickoff for the 10/12 home game against Lehigh. It's possible that one of the regional networks that covers Lehigh has requested that start time, but I am not sure. Sure enough, the Lehigh website has this game scheduled to start at 12:30, so confusion abounds. 

I just hope that we get the NBCSN Ivy schedule sometime soon. Again, remember that it was released in early June last year. So we're almost two months late right now. 

Of course, we should be able to see just about any game we want by signing up for the league-wide digital coverage pass.

Moment #57: Eddy the Ice man

After Luke Eddy's 40-yard FG tied Columbia's crucial week five game against the Quakers midway through the 2nd quarter, the two teams traded three-and-outs, (two for Penn, one for CU), before the Lions got possession again at their 41 with 2:38 left in the half.

Just four plays. two nice passes and one run each from Marcorus Garrett and Sean Brackett, is all it took for Columbia to get to the Quaker 20, but then things started to slow down for the Lions.

The three next plays, sandwiched between four time outs, netted Columbia negative one yard... and so it was time once again to call on Eddy to make a pressure kick from 38 yards out with just six seconds remaining. 

And once again, Eddy showed no ill effects of the pressure as he nailed the kick to give the Lions a 6-3 halftime lead. 

Optimism was growing in the visitors' stands. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

BREAKING: Ivy Sports Digital Package Rolls Out

You can subscribe now for the entire league's season pass and more by clicking here.

Martin's Mission

The KC Chiefs, who signed Josh Martin '13 as a free agent, opened their training camp Monday. So Martin is now officially in the fight of his life to stay on the roster. The first preseason games are about two and a half weeks away, that's when every day he stays on the team really means something.

He may end up fighting for playing time with Princeton grad Mike Catapano, who the Chiefs drafted in the 7th round.

Martin is briefly mentioned in this recap of yesterday's training camp action. Catapano is not mentioned.

Moment #58: Eddy’s Long Kick is Good!

Luke Eddy with fellow Lion kicking great Larry Walsh '86

Trailing 3-0 but riding the momentum of Marcorus Garrett’s 28-yard run, Columbia found itself with a scoring about halfway through the 2nd quarter.

A holding penalty took away what looked like a chip shot field goal opportunity and forced the Lions to attempt a tough 40-yarder with eight minutes left in the half.

But Luke Eddy was solid as ever on the Franklin Field turf and he booted it through to knot the game at 3-3.

The drive and successful kick were a key statement by Columbia in a game that truly looked like it was swinging Penn’s way.

Eddy has had ice water in his veins  in each of the three games he’s played against Penn so far in his career.

No doubt, he’ll need to keep that up this year as well.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Photographic Evidence

Front page of the Columbia Spectator special edition, Oct. 30, 1939

Last week, I pointed the readers’ attention to the incredible treasure trove that is the growing online archive resource at the Columbia Daily Spectator site.

I have A LOT of pages to go through yet, but the number of great pictures and articles about football from the 1930’s on that I have seen are all just so great.

One issue: I’m still not finding too many great bigger pics of Baker Field. That kind of large scale photography was a lot more expensive back then and space in the older papers was precious anyway.

You rarely see many pictures of the old Baker Field stadium from the athletic department either, and I suspect that’s because it became kind of an eyesore early in its history due to the fact that it was all wood and never was supposed to be a permanent structure in the first place.

But that’s a shame because history is history, and so many glorious things occurred on that field that it would be great to have a frame-able, large scale picture of the old stadium to hang on the wall.


Speaking of those glorious things, the most glorious victory of all at the old Baker Field was the 1947 win over Army.

And the BEST thing I’ve found so far in the Spec archives is the special edition special edition the paper rolled out for game day that fateful Saturday 66 years ago.

It’s amazing how football-crazed the entire campus and neighborhood was. You can hear stories about it, but seeing the evidence in print makes a big difference.

Please click and enjoy this resource as much as possible. 

Also, here are some pics of interest I DID find from other sources that put sports at Columbia in perspective:

Below is an aerial shot of the main campus in 1926. Remember, that's just three years after Lou Gehrig left Morningside Heights to join the Yankees, so the prominence of the baseball field makes sense. (click picture to enlarge).

As for shots of the "whole" of the old Baker Field, the one below from 1944 is about as good as it gets. (again, click the picture to enlarge)

Below, you can see a slightly elevated view of the stadium from what appears to be the train tracks across the water in Marble Hill. This picture is from early 1936. (again, click the picture to enlarge)

This shot gives you a look from what was probably the press box on the east side of the stadium. Based on this shot, it appears that many of the upper rows did indeed offer the great view of Spuyten Duyvil and the Hudson River Bridge that the entire east side of the stadium can see now. (again, click the picture to enlarge)

This shot of President Eisenhower rousing the crowd give you an idea of what the west side of the stadium looked like from field level. 

This was not the last version of the scoreboard, but it stood for decades and you have to love the yard line indicator. This was all manually-operated of course:

Moment #59: Garrett Gets Going

With the Lions now trailing the Quakers 3-0 early in the 2nd quarter, the Columbia offense needed a spark.

They got one from Marcorus Garrett.

On the ensuing possession after the Penn field goal, the Lions started at their own 27. A nice nine yard pass from Sean Brackett to Connor Nelligan got things going, but the emotional jolt came on the next play when Garrett burst through the line for a 28 yard run that would have gone for a score had he not been caught from behind by the Quakers’ 2012 2nd Team All Ivy DB Dan Wilk.

That put Columbia on the Penn 36 and woke up the Lion sidelines after what had been a long offensive lull since early in the game.

Garrett’s great runs in 2012 always seemed to end with a tackler catching up with him from behind… until he finally broke that trend in week nine n what turned out to be the most thrilling moment of the season.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Looking at Monmouth

Columbia's week two and home opener foe is Monmouth.

And yes, that does pose a lot of questions since Columbia has never played the Hawks before.

(The 1942 game against "Fort Monmouth" was not against the same institution).

Luckily, Chuck Burton, who runs the Lehigh Football Nation blog is here to help and he posted this look at the Monmouth program on his site yesterday.

Enjoy... and study up!

Moment #60: Ragone gets it Done

Billy Ragone

The name of Billy Ragone has been familiar to Columbia fans almost as long as it has been to Penn fans.

Even before he started his career at Franklin Field, I paired him up with his fellow Connecticut high school star Sean Brackett ’13, as two new Ivy QB’s who were worth watching.

That thought turned out to be correct as they both would become All Ivy players and iconic team leaders.

The tough difference for Columbia fans is that Ragone currently has three Ivy League championship rings on his fingers and Brackett graduated in May with just 10 total wins as a starter.

Brackett may still be the more talented player overall, but Ragone has great physical grit especially in the clutch.

In the week five game against Penn, Columbia was forced to learn that lesson about Ragone time and again… starting with a key play early in the 2nd quarter with the game still scoreless.

Facing a 4th and one from the Lion 23, Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli took Ragone off the sidelines where he had been sitting out that offensive series in favor of fellow QB Andrew Holland. Ragone started erratically as a passer in 2012, and Bagnoli and his staff wanted to make sure they weren’t relying too much on one QB.

But when push came to shove, Bagnoli knew who he needed to rely on in a tight squeeze and that was Ragone, who calmly trotted on the field and made a two yard gain for a 1st down.

Then he trotted right off the field and handed the ball back over to Holland, who got the Quakers close enough for a 37 yard Connor Loftus field goal and a 3-0 lead.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mark Your Calendars!

Some Dates and News:

If you’re following the daily countdown/top moments of 2012 series on this blog, you already know we’re 61 days from the start of the 2013 season.

But there are some other dates to be aware of now.

August 6th is the official Ivy League football media day. That’s when the preseason poll is released and each of the eight head coaches will speak for a few minutes about their teams. Then, each will take questions.

These events always do end up breaking some news about two or three teams. Usually, that news concerns previously unknown injuries, eligible and ineligible players, and some good hints on key starters.

With Stanford transfer QB Brett Nottingham coming to the Lions, I expect Head Coach Pete Mangurian to get grilled a  lot about him and his expected impact on the team. Mangurian will be hard pressed to stick to his line about how the starting QB position is not yet decided, but I think he’ll stand firm.

I’ll be providing many updates throughout the day on the news conference and what Mangurian and the other coaches say.

August 20th is the day that Columbia players will report to training camp. But a good deal of the team has already been on or around campus for big chunks of the summer. That includes the incoming freshmen. Hopefully this means camp will be more about getting down to business and less about orienting to new surroundings in New York City.  

And another date I’ve already written a little about is August 29th.  That’s the day Columbia’s week one opponent, Fordham, begins its regular season. Yes, that’s a full 23 days before the Lions hit the field for real against the Rams in the Bronx. And I’m pretty sure that’s a record disparity for a Columbia team to face when it comes to a week one opponent's preparedness. Of course, as I have also pointed out on my Columbia blogs many times over the years, this has played to CU’s advantage many times as the Lions get to see what the other team can do but they can’t do the same to them. With a brand new QB taking over this season, that advantage may be more pronounced for Columbia this time around.

Another consideration on this matter is that while Fordham’s week one opponent is a weak-ish Rhode Island team, its week 2 and 3 opponents are very tough and could potentially put a hurting on the Rams. That week 2 opponent in the Bronx is Villanova and on week 3 Fordham has to travel to play the resurgent Tempe FBS program in Philly. 

Moment #61: 3rd and, (almost), Never

With 5:40 left in the week five showdown with Penn, the game remained scoreless as the Lions started their third possession of the game at their own 39.

After getting one 1st down, Columbia eventually faced a 3rd and one at the Quaker 39. But the ensuing run by Marcorus Garrett went for a two yard loss… and yet another 3rd down conversion failure for the Lions in 2012.

It’s been written on this blog’s pages before, but Columbia’s 3rd down conversion rate of 31% was dead last in the Ivies. And as much as that statistic tells you something, you feel the reality and importance of it all much more when you relive each of the key 3rd down failures.

Getting better on 3rd down has to be one of Head Coach Pete Mangurian's top priorities for this year. 

This particular failure ruined what looked like a good scoring chance early in the game.

And it wouldn’t be the last. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Moment #62: Murphy’s Back-to-Back Sacks

Ryan Murphy 

Despite his amazing ability and several clutch plays throughout his career, Ryan Murphy ’13 is never one of the first two or three names people mention when fans talk about the best Columbia Lions of the last decade or so.

Maybe they should start doing that.

That’s because Murphy really was one of the most effective and explosive pass rushers of the Norries Wilson era, and he didn’t disappoint despite the coaching change in his final season.

In what would become the defining game for the Lions in 2012, Murphy made the first important statement of the day when he joined with fellow senior Will Patterson to sack Penn QB Billy Ragone on the Quakers’ second play from scrimmage and then took Ragone down for another sack all on his own on the very next play.

Columbia wasn’t able to do anything with the ensuing possession, but Murphy’s two big plays so early in the game sent a message to everyone in Franklin Field that this was not going to be an easy game for Penn.

For the season, Murphy finished with an impressive 57 tackles, (third on the team), and three and a half sacks.

Whether CU fans noticed him enough or not, replacing Murphy for the 2013 season will not be easy. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Moment #63: 4th Down Failure

There were a number of times in 2012 when Columbia Head Coach Pete Mangurian played it very conservative on 4th down.

Several times, when the Lions faced 4th down situations in that gray area between the opponent 35 and 29 yard lines, Mangurian elected to punt.

Many times, those decisions were agonizing for fans. But when you consider Columbia's success rate on 4th down in 2012, you have to admit Mangurian had good reason to be cautious.

One such example came with Columbia still trailing Lehigh 28-14 early in the 4th quarter of the week four game in Bethlehem.

After Marcorus Garrett's sweet TD run brought the Lions to within two scores, the Lion defense stepped up again and forced a Mountain Hawk punt that Columbia smothered at its own 24.

The Lions went to work from there, getting two 1st downs before the drive stalled at the Lehigh 45 on a 4th and 6.

This time, Mangurian elected to go for it and things just didn't work out. QB Sean Brackett's pass to Garrett fell incomplete and the Mountain Hawk offense used the resulting good field position to start an eight play TD drive that iced the game.

This was just one of 12 failed 4th down conversion attempts by Columbia in 2012. Overall, the Lions went just two for 14 on 4th down for the season. And yes, like Columbia's 3rd down conversion rate, that was the worst in the Ivies last year.

It's hard to believe a Lion conversion on that play would have led to a score or that a score would have changed the outcome. But it was a blow to confidence and a stark reminder that on too many occasions in 2012, Columbia's offense could not be counted on to make the clutch play.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Campbell Center explained

I urge everyone to watch the two videos found on this webpage from the "Talkitect" site.

The first video is nice artsy film showing the Campbel Center from different perspectives. The second includes very illuminating comments from the two lead architects on the project.

I know the snarkier among us will think of the building forever as the nicest subway station in NYC, but no one disputes the building was needed. I also know those who prefer rural settings to urban campus sites will never love much about Columbia, BUT you have to respect the HONESTY of the structure and how it does not try to run away from its urban surroundings.


Columbia gets three players on Phil Steele's annual preseason All Ivy 1st Team; RB Marcorus Garrett, LB Zach Olinger and Punt Return Specialist Alec Fisher.

Three more Lions made the 2nd Team; WR Connor Nelligan, TE Hamilton Garner, and Punter Paul Delaney.

If you’re keeping score, (and who isn’t?), Harvard led the league with 11 total players on the 1st and 2nd Teams combined, seven Cantabs were 1st Teamers. Penn and Brown were somewhat distant seconds with eight total players on the two teams, Brown with four 1st Teamers and Penn with three 1st Teamers.

Dartmouth was fourth with seven overall players on the two teams, but with just two on the 1st Team.

Princeton matched Columbia with six players overall, with four on the 1st Team… but that’s a bit deceptive since DB Anthony Gaffney appears on the 1st Team twice; once as a DB and once as a kickoff returner.

Trailing Columbia were Yale with five overall players, two of them 1st Teamers. And Cornell brought up the rear with just four players acknowledged, two on each team.

Of course, Cornell can take solace that one of those players, senior QB Jeff Mathews, was named as Steele’s preseason Ivy Offensive Player of the Year.

Steele rated the best players in the Patriot League and NEC, where Columbia’s out of conference opponents Fordham, Lehigh and Monmouth reside.

Steele believes week one opponent Fordham is pretty stacked. He puts nine Rams combined on his 1st and 2nd All Patriot League Teams, six of them on the 1st Team. Four Lehigh players were mentioned, two on each team.

In the NEC, week two opponent Monmouth only had two players honored and they were both on the 2nd Team.

Each FCS team gets its own special team page in the Steele preview site as well. Columbia’s is here.  

Marcorus Garrett

Moment #64: Garrett’s Pretty Run

With Columbia now trailing 28-7 late in the 3rd quarter of the week four game at Lehigh, the Lions got a little bit of a drive going and then they got a little bit of luck.

After reaching their own 49 yard line, Columbia went a little bit backwards and was forced to punt from its own 44. But the kick was mishandled and Brian East recovered it at the Mountain Hawk 26.

It didn’t take long for the Lions to cash in.

On the very first play after the fumble recovery, Marcorus Garrett broke free along the right sideline and was virtually untouched for a 26-yard TD run.

It was one of many pretty plays Garrett made last season, but it was his first 20+ yard TD run of his career.

How important is Garrett to the Lions’ chances in 2013? I think it’s hard to overstate it. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

BREAKING: Athletic Dept. Releases Video of New Uniforms

Click here to see a nicely produced video of the new uniforms, starring Seyi Adebayo, Trevor Bell, Nick Melka, Connor Nelligan, Jimmy Yukevich, Zach Olinger, Paul Delaney, 

Summer Reading

The Columbia Spectator has really started to make progress with its efforts to create online archives. 

For football fans, this has resulted in a treasure trove of reading material complete with a lot of compelling original pictures of the team throughout the decades.

Just go to the search bar at the archive site, (linked to above), and type in the name of any player and enjoy.

No matter how starved you are for the 2013 season to finally start, going through these archives will help the waiting go faster. I guarantee it.

The pictures are amazing, because they include images of players you just can't find anywhere else. 

Want to see a pic of Paul Kaliades kicking the legendary FG that shocked Dartmouth and beat the Big Green back in 1971? 

Want to see what NFL QB Marty Domres looked like when he was a very young Columbia sophomore?

I think you get the idea.

There are too many jewels that I’ve found just in the last few days to mention, but you can be sure I will linking to these archives very often from now on to highlight important or just fun pieces of football history.

More Reading

A reader sent me these very recent reviews of both Wien Stadium
 Wien Stadium and Jack Coffey Field.

In general, I have to say I strongly agree with just about all the points in these reviews and long-time readers of my Columbia blogs will see a lot of the things I’ve written about both venues repeated in them.

Here are some reviews of other stadiums where Columbia often plays:

Penn’s Franklin Field

Princeton Stadium

Bucknell’s Christy Mathewson Stadium

Towson’s Unitas Stadium


Moment #65: Letting ‘em off the Hook

After Zach Olinger’s pick six, Columbia was behind by just 14-7 and back in the week four game at Lehigh.  

On Lehigh’s ensuing possession, Josh Martin came up with a huge tackle on Mountain Hawk run on 3rd and three and the Lions D kept the momentum going with that big three-and-out.

But then, Columbia’s offense and special teams somehow conspired to let Lehigh off the hook and give back control of the game.

First, the Lions committed a silly illegal formation penalty on 3rd and one on at their own 44. That led to a three-and-out when QB Sean Brackett was sacked for an eight yard loss on the next play.

Then, Columbia failed to pounce on the fumbled punt by the Mountain Hawks and Lehigh held possession at its own 30.

But the Lion defense was still in step-it-up-mode. They forced another three-and-out, and after the Mountain Hawk punt Columbia had the ball in nice territory at its own 40.

And… you guessed it: that was followed by yet another three-and-out by the CU offense. In fact, the Lions didn’t gain a single yard.

After Paul Delaney’s punt sailed into the Lehigh end zone for a touchback, the Columbia defense kept fighting, but it was running out of gas. The Mountain Hawks put together a 14-play TD drive that gave them a 21-7 lead and Columbia never had the momentum again. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

BREAKING: New Uniforms Unveiled!

Here's the link ( to see what the new Columbia uniforms look like.

At first glance, they seem to be a nice throwback to what the Lions wore in the 1980's and 90's.

(If you can't see anything but an ad when you click on the link, it probably means you need to sign up for Instagram. It's free, but the same picture is now up on the Columbia Athletics Facebook feed if that's easier for you).

BREAKING: No Lafayette Scrimmage

Columbia will not visit Fisher Stadium this summer

I decided to contact Lafayette sports information directly to find out if Columbia is indeed going to scrimmage the Leopards on August 31st as some people reported.

As it turns out, there is NO such scrimmage scheduled and there never was one this year. 

So, the only real news we can confirm tonight is that Columbia will unveil its new uniforms at 7pm tonight! 

Stay tuned for that... 

New Uniforms Unveiled Tonight!

I just got this notification on my Facebook feed:

TONIGHT at 7 pm, the new Columbia Football uniforms will be displayed exclusively on the Columbia Athletics Instagram page, @gocolumbialions. Follow along and be among the first fans to check out the new look!!

Anybody want to make a few guesses on what we'll see?

Moment #66: Olinger’s Pick Six

Zach Olinger makes one of his 89 tackles

LB Zach Olinger burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2010 with several strong performances, especially a break out game vs. Yale at the Bowl.

He was slowed by injuries in 2011, but came on strong last year to lead the team in tackles and the defense in every emotional way as well.

One of his most important morale-building plays of 2012 came early in the 2nd quarter of the week four game at Lehigh. With the Mountain Hawks leading 14-0 at that point, everything seemed to be going wrong for the Lions.

Starting a possession on his own four yard line, Lehigh QB Michael Colvin eventually faced a 3rd and seven at the seven. Columbia got good pressure on Colvin on the play and he just let the ball loose on what looked like a blind throw into the middle of the field.

Bad idea.

Olinger was somehow  ready for the surprise gift, picked the ball off at the 14 and then trotted untouched into the end zone for a TD.

It was to be Columbia’s only defensive TD of 2012, and it gave the Lions some momentary hope with the score now 14-7 and almost three full quarters left to play.

Olinger finished the season with three INT’s, tying him with LB Mike Waller for the team lead and to go along with his team leading 89 tackles.

Keeping Olinger healthy and on his game is a crucial piece of the puzzle for Columbia in 2013.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Getting Closer

My Fordham game tickets are in hand! 

Two things just happening in the last few days have made it feel like we're speeding up the very long wait until the 2013 season finally starts:

1) Fordham Individual Game Tickets Now on Sale

Columbia starts the season on September 21 at Fordham's Jack Coffey Field.

Unlike Columbia's away Ivy opponents, Fordham is now selling all its individual game tickets for 2013. So I bought three and printed them out just now for the Lion season opener. Having those tickets in hand just makes it feel like the season is coming closer.

Speaking of having those tickets in hand, I STRONGLY recommend you buy your tickets for the Fordham game on line at this site. Fordham's small ticket booth gets overwhelmed on game day and you don't want to be stuck in the ticket line for a very long time like everyone else.

And speaking of the schedule, the Rams start their 2013 season an incredible 23 DAYS before Columbia with a home game against Rhode Island on Thursday night August 29th. The Lions will be in the midst of training camp that night, so I wonder: should Head Coach Pete Mangurian take the entire team to the URI-Fordham game as a group learning experience?  My vote would be yes!

2) Columbia Roster is Updated

The Columbia football roster is now updated to include the incoming freshmen and their new numbers.

Some of the little highlights for me:

-There are 89 confirmed members of the team for now.

-Incoming Stanford transfer Brett Nottingham gets the classic number for a QB, #12. Read into that anyway you like.

-Extremely promising true freshman QB Kelly Hilinski gets the recently-graduated Ryan Murphy's #4.

-Nobody took #'s 2 or 3.

-Freshman safety Nicolas Annabi takes Sean Brackett's old #10.

Moment #67: Garner Never Gives In

Hamilton Garner

2012 was a bit of a statistical step back for TE Hamilton Garner after he was one of the very few bright lights for Columbia in 2011.

He grabbed just about the same number of passes for just about the same number of yards, but he only caught one TD last fall as opposed to the six he had in 2011.

But Garner was no less talented, determined and “clutch” last season when it really counted. And a specific series during the week four game at Lehigh made that abundantly clear.

Trailing 7-0 with about seven minutes left in the 1st quarter, the Lions faced a 3rd and three at their own 45. QB Sean Brackett then hooked up with Garner on a pretty play for a 26 yard play to the Mountain Hawk 24.

But on the next play, Brackett was picked off by Bryan Andrews at the 19 and he took off with a head of steam for what looked like an eventual TD.

51 yards later, someone caught up with him to save the TD. It was Hamilton Garner.

Lehigh went on to score a TD a couple of plays later anyway, but anyone who doubted Garner’s desire, speed and stamina doesn’t anymore after watching that sequence.

Plays like that are the reason why Head Coach Pete Mangurian is expecting such big things from Garner in what will be his senior season this fall. 

And they're why Garner is one of just two Lions on the preseason College Football Performance Awards Watch List.