Monday, September 30, 2013

Ivy Power Rankings

Yale stunned everyone by using the pass primarily to beat Cornell 38-23 at Yale Bowl. Henry Furman was 29 of 36 for 353 yards, three TD’s and no picks. RB Tyler Varga hardly had to do much by his usual workhorse standards, rushing for 105 yards on just 21 carries. Cornell’s Jeff Mathews had a decent game, but his two interceptions hurt. RB Luke Hagy has been a non-factor so far this season for the Big Red.

After two games, Dartmouth looks like a super offense but weak defense kind of team. Holy Cross freshman QB Peter Pujals really torched the Big Green in every way for a 31-28 win at Memorial Field Saturday night. But you know what? The Penn game this coming Saturday is really the key game and I wouldn’t get too down about Dartmouth’s defense until we see what happens there.

Speaking of Penn, the Quakers got whacked by Villanova 35-6, and unless Head Coach Al Bagnoli is holding something back I’d say they have a real problem with their running game. Of course, the thing Bagnoli may have been holding back is QB Billy Ragone’s running plays. It makes little sense to risk having him re-injure himself against a non-league opponent.

Finally, Princeton’s offense looks sharp but the defense seems iffy after two games. Slamming Georgetown by 50-22 isn’t that impressive considering how poor a team the Hoyas are these days, but the sheer execution of the Tiger offense has me impressed. Quinn Epperly is a major weapon as a runner with a pass or two mixed in.

So here are the rankings right now:

1)      Harvard
2)      Brown
3)      Princeton
4)      Yale
5)      Dartmouth
6)      Penn
7)      Cornell
8)      Columbia

Adjust Away!

After the 0-2 start and the obvious emergency situation on the offensive line, Head Coach Pete Mangurian now says he's going to make adjustments.

I’m not sure that statement is going to be enough to placate fans who are currently locked in a debate over whether he can’t or won’t make the changes necessary to win.

I’m not ready to say Mangurian won’t make the necessary changes just because he’s married to a certain type of system. I need to see how he responds to this upcoming first Ivy League game against Princeton to be more sure of that.

Mangurian has basically two choices: he can keep the playbook intact and push ahead with trying to get improved pass protection from his existing players, OR he can adjust the playbook radically to rely less on solid pass protection and emphasize more runs and QB mobility.

What’s great about our schedule is that it does allow the Lions two out of conference games every year to learn and adjust before the games that really count begin. The bad news is that Princeton is better than I thought they’d be this season and the challenge at Princeton Stadium will be tough. But… that’s why we play the games.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Monmouth 37 Columbia 14

Why Monmouth Won

The Hawks picked up where Fordham left off and harassed the Lion passing game. Monmouth sacked CU starter Trevor McDonagh six times and stripped of the ball twice with hits from the blind side. The Hawk offense was never spectacular, but it was efficient, controlling the ball for an amazing 39:51 of the game.

Why Columbia Lost

The Lion pass protection was abysmal, erasing the amazing efforts of RB Marcorus Garrett and a generally solid effort by the defense that eventually ran out of gas. Despite the lack of decent protection, the CU coaches continued to call for passing plays throughout the game.

Key Turning Points

-With Monmouth leading 10-7 late in the 2nd quarter, the Hawks missed a 39 yard FG and set the Lions up with the ball at their own 22 with 3:08 left in the half. After two quick 1st downs, Columbia now had the ball on their own 48. But on the ensuing play, McDonagh was hit by an untouched Hawk lineman who forced a fumble that officially was scored as an INT, (the ball never hit the ground). Monmouth scored a field goal on the resulting drive for a 13-7 lead.

-Columbia got the ball back after that FG with 1:23 left, but an exciting chance to take the lead at halftime was lost when Cameron Molina's well-thrown option pass to Denzel Hill fell incomplete when Hill slowed up on his route and the ball sailed over his head.

-The Lions got a jolt of momentum late in the 3rd quarter after Garrett delivered his second TD of the game, narrowing the Monmouth lead to 20-14. Then the Columbia defense kept it going by forcing a three-and-out thanks to a pass deflection by Chad Washington on 3rd down and five. But on the Lions first play from scrimmage after the Hawk punt, the coaches called for a play action pass. McDonagh was promptly stripped of the ball from his blind side. Monmouth recovered, scored a FG a few plays later and the Lions never really were in the running again.

Columbia Positives

-Garrett had a stunning game, netting 151 yards and two TD's on just 15 carries. His first TD was an especially electric 41 yard dash that briefly gave the Lions a 7-3 lead. He now has 240 yards on the season.

-The Columbia defense played very well, until the Lion lack of offensive possession time and killer turnovers finally forced them to run out of gas. LB Vinny Pugliese and DL Chad Washington has very strong performances.

Columbia Negatives

-The offensive line still seems clueless on pass protection. This remains the first, second, and last problem Columbia needs to fix before it can win.

-While mostly the result of his poor protection, McDonagh's overall performance was spotty. More time to hone the passing game in practice is definitely needed along with more time in the pocket.

Columbia MVP

-Marcorus Garrett was spectacular Saturday. One can only hope he'll get a chance to win some games in his senior year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Welcome Home

Monmouth Hawks at Columbia Lions

September 28, 2013


Kickoff Time: 12:30pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: 74 degrees and sunny

The Spread: The latest line favors Monmouth by nine points

How to Get to the Game

Here is my complete guide to getting to, enjoying, and even eating at a Columbia home football game.


(Recommended): Columbia video and audio with Jerry Recco and Sal Licata: Ivy Digital Network

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

Lead Stories

-The Lions look to bounce back after an horrific loss to Fordham in week one. Falling to a tough, top 10 ranked team was not the real problem, but the loss of two key players due to injury, (Brett Nottingham and Seyi Adebayo), was.

-Monmouth suddenly looks much stronger after beating Holy Cross in Worcester last week and almost beating a powerful Lehigh team the week before. The Hawks have two RB’s each coming off 100+ yard games. The Hawk defense suffocated Holy Cross and held Lehigh to its fewest points of the season.

-All eyes will be on new Lion starting QB Trevor McDonagh who is now the starter due to the loss of Nottingham.

-Columbia comes in to this game on a two-game home winning streak dating back to last season. The Lions have never won more than three games in a row at home since Wien Stadium was built. 

Columbia Keys to the Game


Fordham was a huge and powerful team with a relentless blitzing attack. I’m actually willing to give what looked like a poor performance by the O-line a bit of a pass. But even though Monmouth also has some big defensive players, the front five MUST do a lot better this week and going forward. The offensive line was the one area on this team that everyone agreed needed to get better. So far, there’s no evidence of that. 

2) Make Monmouth Pass

I know it will be a tall order to contain the Hawks’ dual threats of Hayes and Asante at RB. But do it they must and force Monmouth to rely on its iffy QB and pass offense. Despite Carlton Koonce’s big numbers Saturday, anyone who was at the game probably saw that the Columbia run defense was actually pretty good despite all the disadvantages. The Lions, especially DT’s Niko Padilla and Wells Childress need to build on that this game.

3) Don’t Make McDonagh Win the Game on His Own

I know McDonagh knows this system and he’s played a decent amount already, but let’s not forget that this is his FIRST collegiate start and he’s under a lot of pressure already. 

Helping him goes beyond better play from the offensive line. The Lions need to make it easier for him with more short passes to TE Hamilton Garner, more screen passes to Marcorus Garrett and more successful running plays. I would really hate to see McDonagh and this O-line put under more stress with a game plan filled with long passes and slowly developing plays that will basically result in a bull’s eye tagged on their backs. It’s time to stop with the NFL impersonation and focus on what it will take to win a game at THIS level this time. And if that means handing the ball off 45 times, so be it. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

BREAKING: Two More CU Games on National TV

Kudos to the Ivy League sports people for making another deal for a lot more coverage of Ivy games THIS fall.

The new network getting into the mix is the Fox College Sports Network, and here is the slate of games it will carry:

Saturday, Sept. 28
Holy Cross at Dartmouth, 7 pm

Saturday, Oct. 12
Yale at Dartmouth, 1:30 pm

Saturday, Oct. 19
Princeton at Brown, 6 pm

Saturday, Oct. 26
Princeton at Harvard, 1 pm

Saturday, Nov. 2
Penn at Brown, 12:30 pm

Saturday, Nov. 16
Columbia at Cornell, 1 pm

Saturday, Nov. 23
Brown at Columbia, 1:30 pm

For Lions fans who can't make that long trek to Ithaca for the week nine game at Cornell, this is a nice bonus.

And for all Ivy fans, the Penn-Brown game going national is another big deal.

The on air team will be Eric Frede and Steve DeOssie.

FUN FACTS: Eric Frede was the first sports anchor I ever worked with as a TV news producer. We both worked at WVII in Bangor, Maine in 1995.

DeOssie of course knows Ivy ball from years of watching his son Zack play at Brown.

Week 5 Picks

Last week, I went 6-2 straight up and 4-3-1 against the spread to bring my season record to 11-4 straight up and 9-5-1 against the spread.

On to this week and a slate of seven games to pick...

Yale -1 vs. Cornell

There are two really bad things about this game for the Big Red: the game is on the road and the Elis have a great running attack. I like the Elis to win this one.

Brown +13 at Harvard

This is the key game of the weekend under the lights at Harvard Stadium. Could this be the year the Bears finally break the chain of losses to the Crimson on the road? I wish the answer were "yes," because the Ivies are in such a rut these days. But I still think Harvard will pull it out. Brown to cover, Harvard to win.

Holy Cross +9 at Dartmouth

I like the Big Green to win this game, but the Crusaders should bounce back after a really poor showing vs. Monmouth last week. Dartmouth needs to keep some powder dry before its much more crucial game at Penn next weekend.

Penn + 18 1/2 at Villanova

The Quakers just can't seem to beat the Wildcats in any setting. But Penn never gets embarrassed either. This is a huge spread that has me scratching my head. 'Nova to win, Penn to cover.

Princeton -17 at Georgetown

The Hoyas look really, really bad this season and Princeton was still mostly impressive in its one-point loss to Lehigh last week. The Tigers can and should rout the home team this Saturday.

Lehigh + 6 1/2 over New Hampshire

Suffice it to say that I was really impressed with the Mountain Hawks when I saw their win over Princeton on TV Saturday night. I think Lehigh will win this game outright.

Fordham -16 at St. Francis (PA)

What the odds makers apparently don't know is that Fordham HAS to run up score this season to assure it gets an at-large bid into the FCS playoffs. That's why the Rams kept blitzing Columbia into the 4th quarter. This game could get even uglier.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Scouting Monmouth

Julian Hayes


If Brett Nottingham were still playing, we could call this game the “Battle of the Transfers,” because so many Monmouth players are transfers. But c’est la vie.

When looking at the Hawks, it’s very important to separate the team’s performance in the first two games of the season from their performance in the last two games.

That’s because opening up on the road at Montana State and then Liberty is such a rough challenge, that you just can’t glean too much from those games.

Besides, the next two games against Lehigh and Holy Cross were no walk in the park either.

So with a prejudiced eye mostly in favor of the last two weeks, here’s my take on the Monmouth Hawks.


This is a run-oriented offense with two great weapons on the ground in Julian Hayes, (105 yards per game), and KB Asante (66 yards per game, but a 6.1 yards per carry average).

In the last two games, BOTH Hayes and Assante have broken the 100-yard rushing mark. Last week against Holy Cross, they combined for 253 yards on 52 carries and two TD’s.

Clearly, Head Coach Kevin Callahan would like to see more balance in his attack, but UMass transfer Brandon Hill has been inconsistent at QB so far.

There’s a large number of talented WR’s for the Hawks, but Monmouth has passed the ball less than half the amount of times they’ve thrown it so far this year.

Still, I get the feeling the Hawks aren’t quite ready to go all Chuck Knox and commit solely to the run.

That’s because the O-line has done a super job of pass protection along with run blocking the last two weeks. Against the aggressive opponents Lehigh and Holy Cross, the Hawks allowed just ONE sack total.


The Hawk “D” is a lot harder to get a handle on, mostly likely because Holy Cross laid such an egg in Worcester on Saturday.

Against Lehigh, Monmouth did give up some big numbers on the ground and through the air, but Lehigh is a very, very, good offensive team.

Holy Cross is not a great offensive team, but Monmouth still embarrassed the Crusader run and pass attacks for most of Saturday night.

But we do know a lot about the Hawks individual weapons.

The biggest one is another transfer, LB Gary Onuekwusi from Temple. Fellow LB Dave Damirgian already has 4.5 tackles for a loss. Sophomore DL Darnell Leslie is the dangerous speed rusher from the outside who is making a big difference for the Hawks this year.

And finally, there’s ANOTHER UConn transfer in Tevrin Brandon, who is a true “shutdown corner” with two interceptions and seven total pass breakups so far this year.  


Punter/Kicker Eric Spillane is a real star. A preseason “watch list” player, Spillane has missed just one FG this year, (a 47-yarder), and is an excellent punter with a 39 yard average.  Lucas Santangelo handles the kickoffs and gets touchbacks most of the time.

The primary return man is the CB Brandon. He’s averaging a hefty 28 yards per KO return, so he’s dangerous.

The Hawk coverage teams have been very good. 

How to Get to the Game: 2013 Edition!

So it's time for my annual guide to getting to the game!

Remember this Sign...

... and remember this train!

The football home opener is THIS WEEKEND!

Time to start planning NOW!

I am here to help.

Every year, I publish my guide to getting to the Columbia home games at Kraft Field at Wien Stadium at the Baker Athletic Complex.

And this year, you REALLY need to pay attention to the guide because there are some significant updates you must know about, so read through it carefully:


Every year, the top headline is the same: if you are coming to the game from Manhattan, TAKE THE SUBWAY!

The #1 train and the A train are both great choices to get to the stadium. I have more details on that a little later.


To accommodate fans living or staying on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a FREE shuttle bus will leave from the corner of East 86th Street and 3rd Avenue at 11am on home gamedays.


In 2010, they moved the pregame tailgating/picnic area to the concourse right in front of the stadium and it worked well! It was a little crowded at times, but the crowd was lively and close-knit.

And they are still serving free soft drinks and beer!!!

What could be better???

Now, here's more on how to get there:

Step one: DON'T PANIC

Getting around New York City, and Manhattan in particular, is all about your state of mind. If you're an overly aggressive or too passive driver, you will either drop dead of a tension-induced stroke or become the victim of a panic attack, respectively. The city is fraught with double-parkers, Kamikaze cabs with no regard for life and limb, and people who routinely make right turns from the left lane.

But fear not! The road to the Baker Athletics Complex is filled with special advantages and other options that can make the whole experience livable, decent, and even fun.

The key to avoiding disappointment, dyspepsia, and dismemberment is to LEAVE YOURSELF A LOT OF TIME.

Other than the Homecoming game which starts at 1:30 this year, the Columbia home games will begin at 12:30 this season. With another season's worth of great pre-game activities in the works, (like free beverages, even some beers for those of you over 21), the best thing that could happen is that you show up an hour or so before the game and enjoy a good time in the picnic area. Is that so bad? And if you just make it in time for the game, well then you made it. Either way, going early is the way to go.

Baker or Morningside: Make Your Choice Now

Before we talk about getting to the actual game by car, ask yourself where you'd really like to keep your gas-guzzling SUV for the day. Do you want to park it up at the very tip of Manhattan, or do you want to keep it near the Columbia campus where you can spend a very pleasant morning and late afternoon/evening before and after the game? This is not exactly a rhetorical question, as there ARE things to do and see not far from Wien Stadium... but it's not exactly a culinary hotbed, in fact it's quite residential, (in the Baker Field neighborhood of Inwood there are actually a few houses... detached houses in Manhattan!). There are new choices lately. Just over the Broadway Bridge north of the stadium there's a strip mall with an Applebee's and a Starbucks!

There's also a few new food and treat options near the stadium for 2013 as I documented here. They include a sports bar and an old style drug store counter with ice cream and shakes.


You can park very close to the stadium at many of the parking garages within 1-6 blocks of Baker. Most of them are on 10th Avenue between 205th and 215th Streets. I usually use the garage right at the corner of 10th Ave. and 215th.

You can also park the car near the Columbia campus, which is only 100 blocks or so from Baker Field, There is still more to do, see, and definitely eat around there.

A path in Inwood Hill Park... yes, this IS Manhattan!

BUT definitely choose one game, and check out Inwood and its environs during the season. Parts of Inwood Hill Park are the only pieces of Manhattan that still look as they did in 1524 when the Dutch explorers arrived.

A few blocks South of Inwood is Washington Heights a very resurgent neighborhood with lots of interesting Latin restaurants and shops.

The Cloisters... an excellent "Marital Bargaining Unit" if I say so myself

One Washington Heights highlight about 30 blocks South from the Baker Field is the lovely Cloisters. Most Columbia students get sick of the Cloisters after a few years, (some classes make you go there too many times), but it's a great place for the uninitiated. It's also not a bad date spot. So, if you have a wife or girlfriend who's none too pleased about being dragged to a football game, the Cloisters can be your olive branch. No need to thank me if your lady ends up thinking you're a romantic genius; like Billy Flynn, "All I Care about is Love."

But How Do We Get to Neverland?

The directions provided by the athletic department are very good. You can use them with confidence... but don't ignore the key section of those directions for people coming from Queens, Long Island, Eastern Brooklyn via the Belt Parkway, and that includes JFK Airport and La Guardia. If you are one of those people, I'm about to save you anywhere from 45 minutes to 7 hours by urging you to never, never, even if you're a Penn fan, NEVER take the Cross Bronx Expressway!

The Cross Bronx Expressway... dear Lord, why us?

The Cross Bronx Expressway was designed by Robert Moses a brilliant but evil man whose disdain for ordinary people was well documented by Robert Caro in The Power Broker. If you live in New York, drive in New York, or are thinking about driving in New York, you owe it to yourself to read this book. One great section details how the Cross Bronx Expressway was poorly designed from the outset, destroyed good middle class neighborhoods like East Tremont, and virtually guarantees traffic jams at the drop of a hat. And the kicker is, a lot of other urban planners in the 40's, 50's and 60's emulated this man and his designs. Robert Moses is a big reason why driving in America sucks.

So avoid the Cross Bronx, take the Grand Central Parkway to the Triboro Bridge, (now named the "RFK Bridge," presumably to honor the old home of the Redskins), follow the signs to MANHATTAN, (DON'T MAKE The Bonfire of the Vanities mistake), and THEN take the Harlem River Drive North. Take the HRD to the 10th Avenue/Dyckman Street exit. Do NOT take the ramp going up to the George Washington Bridge, stay in the far right lane. Take the HRD to the end and  make the first right at the first light that will take you onto 10th Avenue. If you stay straight, (you'll be driving under an elevated subway track). 10th Avenue runs parallel to Broadway and will take you straight up to 215th Street, 218th Street, or wherever you want to go in the Baker Complex vicinity.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Harlem River Drive is officially a parkway, so if you're driving a U-Haul or a big bus of people, you can't take it. Otherwise, you and your sedan, SUV, pickup truck, etc. can enjoy it. IF YOU'RE TAKING A CAB FROM THE QUEENS AIRPORTS... MAKE SURE YOU TELL THE CABBIE TO TAKE THE TRIBORO/RFK BRIDGE TO THE HARLEM RIVER DRIVE. DON'T LET THE DRIVER TAKE YOU INTO MIDTOWN MANHATTAN!!!

Parking: The Odyssey

Option 1: Donate to CU!

Now if you're going to park near Baker Field, your options are limited, but there ARE options. Your first option is to send a fat check to the athletic dept. and grab one of the sweet spots in the Baker Field complex itself reserved for generous donors. Seriously, I can think or worse ways to spend your money, and having a spot at Baker Field is like being a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway during "Buffettstock, you get to enjoy your investment in a party atmosphere!

Option 2: Parking Garages Ahoy! They are all around the stadium now, especially on 10th Avenue. FYI: in the past, parking has cost fans about $15 for the whole game.

Option 3: Street Parking, or "The Hunt"

Of course, you can try being really sneaky and try to park for free on the residential streets around the area. This is really something for early-birds, as the spots fill up fast. In fact, there aren't a lot of spots to begin with because Inwood is really residential and the local folks like to keep their spots for the weekend. BUT, the eagle-eyed among you may be able to find a nice spot and enjoy knowing that you're a winner even before kickoff by saving a few bucks with a free spot. There are a couple of important pitfalls to avoid:

a) If you aren't really good at parallel parking, don't even think about parking on the streets of Inwood. The hilly terrain makes even seasoned parkers a little nervous, and all those scratched bumpers and fenders on the parked cars are proof of the "goofs" people make from time to time.

b) Inwood is not really a high-crime area, especially during the day, but you should never tempt fate. Lock your cars. DO NOT keep any packages or valuables in plain sight in your car, and you probably should leave them out of the trunk too if you can. This is especially true if you are driving a car with out-of-state plates.

c) Make sure to check the street signs to see if you're parking in a legal spot. Saturdays are usually immune from alternate side of the street parking rules, but not always. You cannot park within six feet, either way, of a fire hydrant, and you also need to give a lot space for bus stops. You cannot block any driveways. And if there's a yellow stripe painted on the curb, you can't park there either. A good M.O. is to eye every open spot with EXTREME SUSPICION, the chances are more than likely that the spot is there because it's not a legal spot.

d) You may be hampered even further in your quest for free parking if the NYPD blocks 218th Street at Broadway which they often do on game days. To be safe, just find your way to Seaman Avenue, which runs parallel to Broadway on the WEST and start looking for spots there. You might consider printing out a Google Map of Inwood, NY to learn to navigate the local streets better. Remember to look out for one-way streets and the occasional street fair which often pops up and further kills parking opportunities on the weekends.


Manhattan is a great and unique place. One of the things that makes it so unique is that every inch of land is super-valuable and the chances of any institution setting aside lots of space for occasional parking is not likely or even sane. Most sensible people living in all parts of Manhattan do so without a car, regardless of their economic stature. A day or two driving around here will tell you why.

That's why we have the best, (but still too expensive), public transportation system in the world. And luckily, there are a number of more relaxing and reliable ways to get to Baker Field.

Public Transportation Option 1: From Columbia Campus

You can ditch your car at one of the many parking garages near the Columbia campus, or try to find free street parking, (it's not much easier than Inwood, but doable), and then take the free shuttle bus or public transportation.

To get the subway somewhat direct to the stadium you can 1) catch the uptown #1 train at 116th Street all the way to 215th Street. Easy.

You CAN 2) walk down the hill at West 110th Street, get on the uptown C train and switch at 168th Street for the A from there. That transfer does not involve the creepy elevator and is much better, but still not ideal.

I love taking the A train from start to finish.

Getting the A directly is a lot easier from Midtown Manhattan, where most hotels are located anyway. From the Columbia campus, you can also take the #1 DOWNTOWN to 59th and then get on the A train UPTOWN from there. It's not too terrible to do that actually.

If you're in Midtown Manhattan, I recommend taking the A at the 59th Street and Broadway station. It is a VERY short ride, (less than 20-25 minutes), from there. The A train runs on the far West side of Manhattan, through Brooklyn, past JFK airport, and all the way to a neighborhood where I did a lot of my growing up called Far Rockaway. The uptown or Manhattan bound A takes you the 207th Street stop, which is the last stop. Exit at the 211th Street exit and then you can either walk the seven blocks along Broadway, (about 35% of a mile), to Baker Field or better yet, enter Isham Park on your left and enjoy a nicer trip that will take you to Seaman Avenue along the left side of the park and you will see Wien Stadium right in front of you at the end of the avenue. This is a more scenic walk and will give you a better idea of what Inwood is like.

To ride the NYC subway you will need a Metrocard. Go to the ticket booth at the station or the automated Metrocard machines and buy a two-trip card. The machines take cash, credit and debit cards.

When you get to the platform, again make sure that you are on the UPTOWN side awaiting the UPTOWN train.


If the subway isn't for you, for the last several years Columbia has been running free shuttle buses to and from Baker Field on game days. They usually run from the 116th Street and Broadway entrance, but ask the security guards at the gate to be sure. I'm not sure how long it takes for these buses to reach the stadium, but they will always be slower than the subway. (There is no faster way to get around Manhattan than the subway... none).

And, (see above), there is a new bus running from the Upper East Side this year.

A number of NYC buses, (not free, you need a Metrocard), run to the Baker Field area, but I really don't recommend using them. They are extremely slow, (what do you call it when you have sex on a NYC bus? "Joining the 3-mile-an-hour club"), and erratic on the weekends. BUT if there ever is a fire on the subway or something, it's good to know they're there.

The Marble Hill Station on Metro North

One of the most beautiful ways to get to a Columbia game is on the Metro North commuter railroad. Take the HUDSON RIVER LINE to the Marble Hill stop and simply walk over the footbridge to Baker Field. The views of the Hudson that you will get if you're coming from the North, (if you're looking to go this way from Grand Central Terminal, it's not a terrible idea, but much more expensive than just taking the subway from another station on the West Side), are just great. is the website to find the schedules for Saturdays from Grand Central to Marble Hill. Note the reliable 19-20 minute travel time and the many, many options you have for trains all the way through game time. If you are staying on the East Side of Manhattan, this is a GREAT option.

Cab Anyone?

You can always try to hail a yellow cab and tell the driver to take you to WEST 218th and Broadway, (don't say "Baker Field," there's a very good chance he won't know what you're talking about), and go that way. I expect the trip will cost about $15-$18 in cab fare not including tip... but it varies.

In NYC there are also non-yellow so-called "gypsy" cabs that may honk their horns at you and offer you a ride. The official rules in the city say that you can't take a ride with them without arranging it in advance, but I have found they are usually reliable. The price should be about the same as Yellow cab, but they don't use a meter... so make sure you agree on the fare before you get in.

What if I'm coming from New Jersey, and I want to take Public Transportation?

New Jersey Transit trains take you to Penn Station where you can get the A train, or a cab. I'm not sure about the reliability of NJT trains or buses on weekends, but perhaps some of my readers would like to chime in about that in the comments section.

Isn't the Subway Dangerous?

Not really. It's dirtier than it should be, but in general it's fine. Basically, keep your wallets and valuables secure, try to ride with or near larger groups of people, and try not to telegraph the fact you're a tourist by pulling out a map every two seconds. It's okay to ask fellow riders directions; most New Yorkers like proving they know the City.

I'm Coming from JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark Airport. What should I do?

A cab from Newark directly to Baker Field is actually not that terribly expensive. But from the other major airports, I suggest you get into Manhattan via a cab and then take the subway, unless you have lots of bags which will make the whole day a pain. In that case, try to get to your hotel first, dump the bags and then follow the directions above.

What if I get Lost?

Go into almost any store you see and ask for help. Store owners can sometimes seem surly, but they'll probably help you. Cops on the street will be good too.

Can't I Just Come with You?

I'd love the company, but I don't think that will work. I am with you in spirit, I promise.

Lineups Released

The two deeps for Staurday’s home opener vs. Monmouth are now available on the CU website. 

The changes to the lineups are to be expected: Trevor McDonagh is of course now listed as the starter at QB, Kelly Hilinski is the backup.

Chad Washington moves to the starting DE slot left open by the injured Seyi Adebayo.

Cameron Molina is still listed as the backup RB, even though Alan Watson played that role behind Marcorus Garrett last week.

Justin Aimonetti is still listed as the backup Center, even though he started ahead of Ryan Thomas vs. Fordham.

And like last week, we have no information on the return specialists. After the miscues by Trevor Bell and Griffin Lowry on a couple of returns, we may see some changes this Saturday.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mangurian Radio Spot

Head Coach Pete Mangurian will be a guest on the Kevin Callahan Monmouth football radio show tonight at 7pm.

I wonder if he'll take any questions about CU's pass protection?

Looking to Monmouth

Come on... papa needs a win against the Hawks!

Leading Off: A Big One

So on a scale of 1-10, how much do you think the Lions need a win in their home opener this Saturday?

After the devastation of the rout at Fordham and the horrifying bad luck injuries that went along with it, only a win can soothe the hurting CU nation at this point.

I get the argument that winning the following week at Princeton is even more important, but Columbia needs a win and needs it now.

Two Deeps

The latest round of two deeps should be released tomorrow.

As I expected last week, the week one two deeps were only about 80% accurate. Freshman Justin Aimonetti was the starting center and Ryan Thomas the backup, not the other way aroung.  Alan Watson was the backup RB, not Cameron Molina. WR Chris Connors was listed as one of the backups, but he was nowhere to be found on the sidelines.

Again, just always take the two deeps with a grain of salt.

Protection is Job 1

I’ll never understand how Columbia could snag a golden boy QB transfer from Stanford and then have the coaching staff send him out there with a pass-happy game plan and not enough decent protection against a bigger team like Fordham.

But let’s move on and see if the staff learns from its mistakes.

Not only does the Lion OL need to do a better job protection new starter Trevor McDonagh, but the game plan needs to get better and smarter to put our thinning QB corps less in harm’s way. The good news is that Monmouth’s defense isn’t nearly as big or aggressive as Fordham’s. The Hawks did get three sacks last week at Holy Cross, but Monmouth played with a big lead for much of that game and could afford to blitz more.

I thought every time Marcorus Garrett touched the ball Saturday it felt electric. He ran extremely well, and with very good instincts. The few times he stayed in the backfield to help protect Nottingham his pass blocking was clearly much improved. Garrett is a star and a team captain. As much as the team should rally around McDonagh, this is Garrett’s turn to really play a leadership role. I wonder if he, or any other player, is even allowed to approach the coaches and ask for more of a role. Let’s hope so.

This should also be an important game for TE Hamilton Garner, who was shut down for the most part against Fordham. He could play a big role in helping McDonagh feel more comfortable as the game begins.

But it all comes back to the O-line in the end. I’m actually for giving them a bit of a pass for Fordham considering how much bigger, stronger, and blitz-happy the Rams were. But while Monmouth is a very good opponent, the Hawks defense is much closer to the Lions level. The front five needs to step up.

Hempel/Williams Share Player of the Week Honors

Harvard QB Connor Hempel and Dartmouth QB Dalyn Williams both had big games Saturday, but I’m not sure how they won the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week award over Yale’s Tyler Varga who carried the ball 39 times for well over 200 yards in the Elis win over Colgate. Throw in the fact that both Dartmouth and Harvard were heavy favorites and Yale was an underdog, and I think you have an even stronger argument for Varga. 

Concert for Solo

(Click image above to enlarge)

After football, Solomon Johnson's '91 great passion in his professional life was music.

And so it's fitting that a benefit concert will be held for Solo's family at the Blue Room Lounge this coming October 4th. Doors open at 7pm.

And remember, you can still donate to the Johnson family fund by clicking here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Looking at the League

The Columbia Spectator website has an excellent video that shows both the injuries to Brett Nottingham and Seyi Adebayo. Excellent job by those guys.

The headline after this weekend’s games is this:

The stage is perfectly set for the crucial Brown-Harvard matchup on national TV this coming Saturday night.

Brown is always very well prepared to start the season by Head Coach Phil Estes, but the Bears’ 45-7 mauling of Georgetown was particularly impressive.

Harvard is sometime NOT that sharp in week one, but the Crimson were stellar in a 42-20 easy win at San Diego.

Here are the sub-headlines from around the league:

-Yale Head Coach Tony Reno gets it: you do what you have to do to win, screw “the system.” Thus, he had his offense hand the ball off to Tyler Varga 39 times Saturday and he responded with 236 yards on the ground in the Elis impressive 39-22 win over Colgate. I know another coach or two in this league who could learn from that performance. Varga was the best individual performer in the league this weekend.

-Dartmouth Head Coach Buddy Teevens also made the right decision, (one I’ve called for as well), to essentially make Dalyn Williams his full time starter. Williams responded with a stellar game through the air and on the ground in the Big Green’s 30-23 win at Butler. I’m not sure what to make of Butler’s late comeback, but I like Dartmouth’s chances even more than I did before the season.

-Penn looked a little better than I expected them to in  27-21 win over Lafayette. QB Billy Ragone passed especially well, but I will tell you this: the Quakers really do miss Lyle Marsh after looking bad on the ground most of the night.

-Princeton’s Head Coach Bob Surace is all about deception all of the time. And that’s on and off the field. After not listing RB DiAndre Atwater on the two deep and not mentioning his name all off season, (except when I asked him about it), Surace used Atwater early and often and he responded with 111 yards on the ground and nifty TD. But the Tigers are hurting after blowing a 22-3 halftime lead in a 29-28 loss to Lehigh. Mountain Hawk QB Brian Bialkowski was brilliant. He not only passed well, I was really impressed with his ability to avoid sacks. On the other side of the ball, I thought Princeton’s Quinn Epperly was clearly the more effective QB of the Epperly-Connor Michelsen platoon and Surace should adjust accordingly.

-Cornell’s Jeff Mathews didn’t have the kind of stats you’d expect in Cornell’s 45-10 thrashing of Bucknell. That’s because the Big Red defense returned two fumbles for TD’s and shut down the Bison passing game. Cornell still gave up a lot of yards on the ground though, and that’s very bad news for a team that has to take on Tyler Varga and the Elis at the Yale Bowl this coming Saturday. Look for Varga to get another 35+ carries.

Here are my Ivy Power Rankings after Week One:

1) Brown
2) Harvard
3) Dartmouth
4) Penn
5) Yale 
6) Cornell
7) Princeton
8) Columbia

Soldier On

Trevor McDonagh

Of all the valleys Columbia football fans have had to endure over the last 50 years, this one feels especially low.

Losing an opening game to a stellar Fordham team by 45 points was not easy, but the possibility had to be expected considering how strong a team the Rams had become.

But losing Brett Nottingham, the most significant transfer ever to come to the Lion program, for the remainder of the season seems especially tragic, even cruel.

Throw in the loss of Seyi Adebayo and it's hard for even the most ebullient optimist to find a silver lining.

But we do have a lot of questions.

Nine games of our 10 game season remain. All seven Ivy games remain. Even without Nottingham and Adebayo, is this an 0-10 team? So far, all seven other Ivy teams and the two remaining non-conference opponents all look decidedly better than CU. Can the Lions prove that to be wrong?

Trevor McDonagh is now the starting QB. Can the Columbia O-line learn to protect him?

Will the coaches adjust their game plans based on these personnel losses?

Will the fans show up in any decent numbers this Saturday vs. Monmouth?

I'll still be at all the games of course. As much as I always want us to win and cannot tolerate those who are okay with losing, the decision to go or not go to CU games for me is never decided based on whether the Lions are expected to win or not.

It's about supporting true student athletes, and watching football in a safe, friendly environment.

I don't expect that to ever change.

The athletic administration be damned. The academic administration be damned. No one comes out to the games to root for them. Whether they realize it or not, it's not about them.

So, play on.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blowout in the Bronx

Fordham 52 Columbia 7

Why Fordham Won

After a slow start in the 1st half, the Ram offense meticulously moved down the field and also took advantage of several Lion miscues. Meanwhile, the defense harassed Columbia QB's at will and created numerous scoring opportunities including a defensive TD that opened the flood gates on the 3rd quarter.

Why Columbia Lost

The Lions truly looked like a team that hadn't played in 308 days. The offense looked rusty and totally unprepared for the Ram blitzes. QB Brett Nottingham also looked like a man who had never faced that kind of pressure in his life, and he probably hasn't. Meanwhile, Columbia turned the ball over too many times to have a chance.

Key Turning Points

-With Fordham up 7-0 late in the 1st quarter, the Lions started a drive at their own 15. For four straight plays, Nottingham looked brilliant, completing passes on each play, the most impressive a 25 yard rainbow to WR Connor Nelligan. But on the next play, a 1st and 10 from the Ram 13, Nottingham threw an ill-advised pass that was picked off in the end zone to end the threat.

-Trailing 10-0 early in the 3rd quarter, the Lions faced a 2nd and eight at their own 18 when Ian Williams leveled Nottingham with a sack that forced a fumble that Fordham recovered for a TD. The game essentially ended right there.

Columbia Positives

-Not many, but the Lion defense played a very good 1st half, forcing two Michael Nebrich fumbles, (both recovered by LB Brian East), and RB Marcorus Garrett looked sharp most of the game, getting 89 yards on just 15 carries. Finally, the starting WR's Ryan Flannery and Nelligan did their jobs well. Flannery had six catches for 108 yards and a TD and Nelligan seven grabs for 59 yards.

Columbia Negatives

-Besides looking totally unprepared on offense most of the game, the Lions made some spectacular special teams mistakes and the Fordham receivers all seemed wide open all the time. Also, while it does not seems serious, DL Seyi Adebayo clearly re-injured his knee very early in the game.

Also, Columbia's coaches fell into the same stupid trap every other team that's played the Rams have fallen for: they didn't run the ball enough. The Ram run defense was shaky again today, but Columbia came out passing way too much. This was a failure game plan by OC Jamie Elizondo and Head Coach Pete Mangurian. 

But the main problem was the lack of pass protection, last year's biggest problem as well. The lack of improvement in that area is egregious, UNLESS Fordham is basically an FBS team and this wasn't a fair test of the OL.

I haven't been one of those fans calling for Columbia to drop Fordham from our schedule, but I may have just converted today.

Columbia MVP

-Ryan Flannery was the most consistent Lion weapon all day, and it was fitting that he scored the lone TD.

Final Takeaways

-The players need to shake this one off, and fast. The whole season can't be lost because of this one really bad loss.

-If the OL doesn't get better at pass protection, the season IS lost. But if they improve slowly, it would be a good idea to try to keep our QB's alive with some more running plays for Garrett.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Let's Get it Started

The Lions last hoisted the Cup in 2009

Columbia Lions at Fordham Rams

Liberty Cup XII

September 21, 2013

Location: Jack Coffey Field 

Kickoff Time: 1pm

Gametime Weather Forecast: 76 degrees and partly cloudy

The Spread: The latest line favors Fordham by 20 ½ points

How to Get to the Game

Directions are here, and I highly recommend using the Bronx River Parkway route. Also remember that Fordham's campus is directly across the street from the New York Botanical Gardens. So any directions and signs to that location are good too.

If you are in Manhattan this weekend, the best choice is to take the Metro North to the Fordham station. 

Here is the Metro North schedule for the trains to Fordham from Grand Central Terminal for this Saturday morning. 


Free video, (but subscription required): Patriot League Digital Network

Columbia audio with Jerry Recco and Sal Licata: Ivy Digital Network

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

Lead Stories

-Fordham is just about the hottest team in FCS football at 3-0 and coming off a win at FBS Temple last week. The offense looks unstoppable with an All American RB, a super accurate passing and running QB, and more than a handful of receivers who can burn a defense. Fordham is now in year four of a football athletic scholarship program meant to elevate the team, the school's name, and I'm convinced, get the Rams a home game or two at nearby Yankee Stadium in the coming years.

-Columbia boasts the single biggest FBS transfer to FCS football this off season in new starting QB Brett Nottingham from Stanford. Many fans will be watching very carefully to see if the former 4-star high school recruit will live up to the hype.

-Fordham comes in as a huge favorite, the Lions are an unknown to the pundits, but they're erring on the side of disrespecting CU as much as possible. 

-In their defense, Columbia hasn't won a road game since 2009, a 12 game losing streak right now. 

Columbia Keys to the Game

1) Don't be Afraid to Shoot it Out!

Fordham can score a million different ways and in a hurry. The defense needs to at least make the Rams work for it. But if the offense just tries to slow things down every time it gets the ball it could backfire. Columbia has a great passer and lots of great receivers. Go for it. A few quick strikes might make the crowd a little less into the game in what will be a spirited atmosphere on Rose Hill. 

2) Defend the Edges

With new starters at the outside linebacker positions, I expect the Rams to attacks Columbia's edges with lots of runs by Carlton Koonce to the outside and lots of passes to the outside as well. Brian East and Vinny Pugliese need to have solid games for Columbia to have a chance. 

3) Test the Ram Run Defense

Fordham is giving up 230 rushing yards per game and that's not because of just one bad game; all three Ram opponents have run well against them. With everyone focused on Nottingham and his passing skills, (especially if the Lions come out throwing), Columbia may have an opportunity for a little misdirection by running it a lot too and not just with star RB Marcorus Garrett, but with some of the backups like Cameron Molina and Alan Watson as well. 

Videos and Pictures

Head Coach Pete Mangurian has some super positive things to say about QB Brett Nottingham in this video released last evening.

Nottingham himself speaks out in this video put out by the Columbia Spectator.

Fordham Head Coach Joe Moorhead is interviewed here.

Fordham will be wearing special patriot uniforms for the game, (see above).

So now the Lions will have to beat the super hot home team on Homecoming, AND the good old Red, White and Blue.

What's next, motherhood and apple pie?

Week 4 Picks

Last week, I went 1-1 straight up and 0-2 against the spread to bring my overall record to 5-2 straight up and also 5-2 against the spread.

On to this week with a whopping EIGHT games to pick:

Brown -16 over Georgetown

Don’t expect too many cobwebs in the Bear offense as QB Patrick Donnelly is back for his 5th year and he’s throwing to a big WR he’s been playing with since high school. Georgetown looks really weak right now and Brown usually plays very well in the early season games.

Colgate -11 over Yale

I expect Yale to improve a bit this year, but Colgate really needs this game at home and I think they’ll play their best game of the year so far.

Cornell -3 over Bucknell

This will be the Big Red’s best chance for a win all season, and new Head Coach David Archer knows it. Jeff Mathews also begins his final campaign for NFL attention. It’s a big homecoming weekend for Cornell.

San Diego +12 vs. Harvard

I still think Harvard will win this game, but the Crimson have a few kinks to work out before I can say they’ll beat USD by more than 10 points on such a long road trip. Harvard to win, San Diego to cover.

Lehigh +3 ½ at Princeton

Lehigh is hurting a bit after those player suspensions and some actual injuries. But I still think this team is better than the Tigers. I like the Mountain Hawks to win.

Dartmouth -7 at Butler

I really like the Big Green this year and this game should prove it. They may start slow after making the long trip, but I think Dartmouth wins by 10 or so.

Lafayette +11 at Penn

The Quakers never seem to play very well against Lafayette and I think the offense will have some issues to work out early in the season just like last year. BUT the Leopards are weaker than usual this season and I think Penn will pull it out. Penn to win, Lafayette to cover.

Holy Cross -7 ½ over Monmouth

I’m a big believer in Crusader Head Coach Tom Gilmore. This is a 10 or 11 point win for Holy Cross. 

Moment #1: Kept Out

With the score now Brown 22 Columbia 6 at the start of the 4th quarter, the Lions did not show any signs of giving up.

A Mike Waller interception just before the 3rd quarter ended got Columbia going on a drive that began at the CU 35.

QB Sean Brackett moved the team mostly by spreading his passes to four different receivers on an 11-play march that set the Lions up with a 1st and goal at the Bear two.

But a run for two lost yards, a holding penalty, and a sack pushed Columbia into a 4th down situation at the Brown 17 .

The Lions decided to go for it, but Brackett’s pass to WR Chris Connors fell incomplete.

That ended CU’s best TD threat of the day.

This final moment in the 100 Moment Countdown is fitting, because it embodied the core facts about Columbia football in 2012.

The team had good talent, improved play calling, and a good spirit. But too often when it really counted, it couldn’t cross the goal line.

Thank you for taking this 100 day journey with me as I recounted all the big moments of last season.

Now it’s on to this season and what we hope will be a lot more great memories of 2013.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

48 Hours to Go...

Cole Marcoux, when he was a super-hyped QB recruit

Dartmouth’s two deeps have been released and they don’t have too many surprises. But fans will most likely note that the once very highly touted QB Cole Marcoux is getting the start… at tight end. And he’s getting that start over Dean Bakes, who many thought was the definite front runner.

Another highlight is sophomore AJ Zuttah getting the start at nose guard. He’s looking like he could be a very special player.

This means Brown is the only Ivy team yet to release its two deeps. Is there a Phish concert or something in Providence that’s slowing things down up there?

UPDATE: Brown just released its two deeps here. No real surprises that I can see there.

Our Story

As far as our two deeps, I’d say about 70% to 75% of the info there is true. I question the accuracy of some of the secondary players listed, and the WR’s and DL’s also seem a bit iffy.

Whatever advantage the coaches think they’re getting by not listing fully accurate two deeps is beyond me. I sure hope it works.

I am relieved that no funny business was connected to naming Brett Nottingham as the starting QB.

But again, the starting team that actually goes out onto the field Saturday will differ a bit from what we see in the release.

Fordham & Rankings

Fordham’s game notes are out and the only tweak from last week is that star LB Stephen Hodge may not start because of a probable injury. Hodge is listed as the “OR” co-starter with freshman George Dawson.

Fordham is ranked as #21 in the oficials FCS poll, but the Dunkel Index puts them at #37. That’s still 71 spots ahead of Columbia, but we’ll take it.

Incidentally, the only other Ivy ranked below Columbia on the Dunkel Index is Yale.

Josh Martin Update

After being put on the inactive list for the first two games of the season, Josh Martin '13 is on the active list for tonight's Chiefs vs. Eagles game on the NFL Network!

UPDATE: the final inactive list just came out and Martin IS INACTIVE after all... oh well... maybe next week!