Thursday, October 31, 2013

What We Do Now

Columbia football, an entity so many people could not believe could fall even further in status and prestige, has done just that in 2013.

The Lions are being blown out by historic margins, the statistics are galling, and now there’s even personal controversy hampering the team as its two best players have been suspended.

For fans like us who support this team emotionally and financially, some of us for many decades, we are at a new all-time low.

So what can we get for all this suffering that can at least turn it into the dues we pay for a real improvement in the future?

The answers are pretty simple and clear.

Columbia football, and Columbia athletics in general need a complete house cleaning.

We can’t just fire another coach and hope for a different result this time.

The changes must be far more far-reaching than that and definitive.

We must:

1)      Replace Dianne Murphy as Athletic Director right away
2)      Replace Pete Mangurian as Head Football Coach the moment the season ends
3)      Bring in an outside consulting/expert group to make the replacement hires and evaluate the positions and effectiveness of everyone in the athletic department.
4)      Do NOT allow anyone who has had a leadership position or position of influence in any past hiring process to participate or interfere in any way with the overhaul process.

It’s that simple. It’s that complicated.

I ask all of you to help get this done.

(sorry I accidentally deleted the previous comments on this, but I wanted to keep this post on the top of the page)

Week 10 Picks

I had a bit of a split decision last week, going 3-1 straight up and 2-2 against the spread.

Which is a bummer, because I feel like I deserve extra points for being one of the few people who picked Princeton to beat Harvard.

But there are no moral victories.

My season totals are now  36-10 straight up and 29-16-1 against the spread.

On to this week with five games on the docket:

Brown -4 ½ vs. Penn

This is the week the Penn bus finally hits the breaks brakes. The Bears are nowhere near as good as I thought they would be this season, but they’re still good enough to beat a hobbled Quaker team at home by a TD or so.

Cornell +17 ½ at Princeton

Call me crazy, but the Big Red are getting a little better and the Tigers don’t need to beat the snot out of anyone right now. I think Princeton will win this game by just a little less than the spread.

Dartmouth +13 ½ at Harvard

I still think the Crimson will win this one, thanks to some matchup advantages they didn’t have against Princeton. But the Big Green will not be embarrassed.

Fordham -20 vs. Holy Cross

The Ram train should keep on rolling Saturday. It’s getting to the point that losing to them by 20 or so isn’t even embarrassing.

Sacred Heart -1 ½ vs. Monmouth

Monmouth has got to be getting road weary by now. This should be a really great game, but I have to go with the home team this time.

In case you were wondering… Yale is favored by 27 points over Columbia Saturday

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Columbia Spectator is reporting that RB Marcorus Garrett and Punter Paul Delaney have been suspended  for the Yale game this Saturday.

These are the two best players on the team.

More details as they become available.

Scouting Yale

Victor Egu will be a dominant player in the Ivies, but he's still developing


Three weeks ago, the Elis were on the top of the world, looking good at 3-0 and coming off a stunning win over Cal Poly on the road.

Oh what a difference 21 days make.

While there’s nothing to be ashamed of by losing games at Dartmouth and Penn and falling at home to mighty Fordham, it’s the way the Bulldogs have lost and the injuries they’ve sustained along the way that has the program in severe tailspin.

But it should be noted that the three losses have not been embarrassing, as the Elis certainly fared better against Dartmouth, Fordham and Penn than Columbia has so far this year.

2nd year Head Coach Tony Reno still seems to be enjoying the general support of the Yale fan base, but if the Elis go 3-7 or 4-6 this season and lose badly to Harvard again he’ll be under massive pressure throughout the offseason.

And a loss to Columbia on Saturday would almost surely put Reno in very serious jeopardy.


Yale’s official game notes list RB Tyler Varga, QB Henry Furman, and WR Chris Smith as starters for this game.

But they said that last week and not one of them played against Penn.  And I’m hearing that it’s most likely that these players will not be ready this week either.

All of this makes scouting Yale’s offense very difficult.

But here goes:

It’s most likely that Clemson transfer Morgan Roberts will start at QB and he has had his troubles with interceptions in limited duty. Still he completes most of his passes, spreads the ball around to a lot of receivers,  and can get some points on the board.

Chris Smith, if healthy, is one of the best receivers in the Ivies and can do damage, but I doubt we’ll see him Saturday. That means WR Deon Randall is the #1 worry for the Lions defense and he has a knack for the end zone.

TE Keith Coty at one point seemed like he was a rising star, but he and the other TE’s haven’t been used as receivers this season.

Tyler Varga shredded the Columbia defense so badly last season, his expected absence this weekend has to be seen as a godsend.

But freshman Candler Rich is the real deal at RB. This could be his chance to make a real splash in Varga’s absence. I suspect he will get 30 carries or so. The concern with that will be turnovers, as the Elis are fumbling the ball away at a clip greater than two per game.

The Yale offensive line is probably the best unit on the team. It’s only allowed five sacks all season and has plowed open holes for all the running backs. This is exactly a model for Columbia to follow when it comes to rebuilding its O-line.

Just one more thought about playing offense at Yale. The best Yale teams always work to the quirks of the Yale Bowl home field. The slow grass field and swirling winds of the stadium lend themselves to a tough, grind it out, running attack.

Coach Reno is running out of horses right now to do anything other than use what he has. But if the generall good job Columbia had been doing against the run before last week does not return this Saturday, Reno will not hesitate to run the rock 50-60 times. Watch out for that. Remember, he was done to no QB's and only had Varga and another RB ready to go in last years game at CU. The result was Reno put Varga in at QB and he ran the wildcat the whole game. This is not a guy who's afraid to milk something until it doesn't work.


This may be the weakest Yale defense we’ve seen in many years. I thought that was true of last year’s Eli D, but this year’s group is worse.

Up front, senior DE and captain Beau Palin is leading a very green bunch of defensive linemen who haven’t really put pressure on anyone this season. Freshman Copache Tyler looks like he has potential at DT and senior Dylan Drake is okay, but the strength of the Yale D comes from a few linebackers and DB’s who are doing the heavy lifting a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Junior Will Vaughn and freshman sensation Victor Egu are the stars at linebacker. Egu is really standing out, (remember, he’s the famous Cal decommit), but he can’t do all the heavy lifting himself.

Sophomore strong safety Cole Champion is the star of the secondary, but the Elis are giving up a lot of yards through the air.

A big red flag for the Yale faithful has to be the 28 points the defense gave up against that hobbled Penn team last week. True, Bulldog turnovers gave the Quakers very short fields a few times in the game, but 28 points is more than Columbia allowed against a Penn team that had Billy Ragone in at QB for most of the game. He was out entirely against Yale.

Special Teams

Junior Kyle Cazzetta is a star as he handles the kicking and punting duties. He’s seven of 10 on FG’s and is perfect from short range. But he has missed three PAT’s, so that can be a concern. He’s punting extremely well with a 39 yard per punt average.

The Yale return teams aren’t making too much noise, especially with Chris Smith out of the picture on kickoff returns. BUT… freshman Robert Clemons is getting better and does have a 64 yard return this year. Deon Randall is doing the punt returning with no fanfare so far.

The Yale kick coverage teams are among the best in the Ivies. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How We Got Here

Many of the oldest fans of Columbia football and the most loyal readers of my Columbia blogs are asking the same question: How did we get back to rock bottom so fast?

The best answer is that not much of this should be a surprise. In fact, several serious red flags have been springing up for the nearly 23 months since Head Coach Pete Mangurian was hired. I documented them all pretty much as they happened. 

But I list them again below.

Red Flag #1:

-After saying she conducted a nationwide coaching search, Athletic Director Dianne Murphy announces that she’s made the decision  to hire Pete Mangurian on Dec. 8, 2011, a mere 19 days after firing Norries Wilson and a full week before her own publicly stated deadline to make a hiring decision. Alumni and fan favorite Tom Gilmore of Holy Cross is not interviewed, and neither is Greg Toal, standout coach of the Don Bosco high school powerhouse team.

Perhaps more disturbing, it’s learned that Mangurian and Murphy knew each other in the years when their tenures overlapped at Cornell. This raises questions about whether Murphy had just hired an old acquaintance as opposed to really entertaining a wider range of candidates.

Red Flag #2:

Less than three months after getting the job, Columbia offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels leaves to taking a coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jaime Elizondo is hired as the new OC.

Red Flag #3:

As Columbia opens spring practice, the Lions sole returning All Ivy offensive lineman – Scott Ward – is benched. Ward’s status is not changed as summer training camp begins and he is not used much as a starter through 2012. Why Mangurian makes this decision is never discussed or explained.

Red Flag #4:

As the Lion players prepare for summer training camp, Mangurian informs almost all of them that they will need to lose weight… even the offensive linemen. The result is an extremely lightweight team where Columbia ends up being an average of 30-40 pounds lighter than their opponents across the line of scrimmage. Mangurian never addresses questions about why he’s doing this until well after the 2012 season, where he insists he didn’t deliberately want a lighter team.

Red Flag #5:

Returning star QB Sean Brackett is told to stay in the pocket or else face extra discipline from the coaching staff. Brackett still runs occasionally, but the result of the pocket passing dictate from Mangurian is a massive amount of sacks and a physically severe weekly beating for Brackett. With defenses less worried about covering Brackett as a runner, he faces tougher pass coverage and barely completes more than 50% of his passes.  

Red Flag #6:

After playing competitively in the first two games of 2012 and achieving a 1-1 record, Columbia looks completely unprepared in a 33-6 runaway loss at home to Princeton.

Red Flag #7:

After blowing a 20-10 4th quarter lead against Penn at Franklin Field, Mangurian verbally assaults the parent of a player waiting outside the team locker room.

Red Flag #8:

After a heartbreaking 21-16 loss to Dartmouth at Homecoming, Mangurian appears unhinged at the postgame press conference. At one point he tells a reporter that he could answer his questions, but he and the others in the press room wouldn’t be able to understand his answers. Those in room agree that Mangurian is clearly not all there, at least at that moment. Mangurian is never disciplined for this extreme embarrassment of the entire program in front of the news media.

Red Flag #9:

Columbia loses to Harvard 69-0, the worst loss in Ivy League football history. As the game cascades more and more out of control an aggressive passing game plan is not changed thus allowing Harvard to continue to run up the score.

Red Flag #10:

In the moments immediately following the season-ending loss at Brown, Mangurian gets into a nasty on-the-field public shouting match with Brown Head Coach Phil Estes. Later, it’s learned that the dispute was over Estes not allowing Columbia to film the game at field level. Mangurian is never disciplined for this.

Red Flag #11:

At the conclusion of spring practice, rising junior DL Chad Washington is arrested for assaulting another student. The arrest is later reduced to a disturbance as evidence becomes clear that there was no “victim” in the incident. But the altercation gives the Columbia Spectator an opportunity to dig into the social media/Twitter accounts of several players where a number of apparently racist and homophobic statements. While Mangurian and Murphy make a well-timed and very appropriate statement denouncing the behavior, the image of Columbia football as being a disciplined and mature program under Mangurian is shattered.

Red Flag #12

Super-talented WR Isaiah Gross, who made a splash in the first two games of 2012, leaves training camp and returns home. 

Red Flag #13:

In the 2013 season opener against a much faster, stronger and bigger Fordham team, Mangurian and Elizondo continue to put Stanford transfer QB Brett Nottingham in danger well after the game is far out of reach for the Lions. As a result, Nottingham breaks his wrist while running away from yet another pass rush and is lost for the season.  

Red Flag #14:

Despite continued poor pass protection and strong success in the running game, Columbia continues to primarily pass the ball out of the pocket in an eventual 37-14 loss to Monmouth in week two.

Red Flag #15:

Columbia is humiliated again in a 53-7 loss to Princeton.

Red Flag #16:

In a surprisingly close game against nationally ranked Lehigh, Mangurian makes the terrible decision to throw with just seconds left in the third quarter and Columbia down just 17-10. The resulting incomplete pass stops the clock and forces Columbia to punt into a stiff wind. The result is a short field for Lehigh and a game-icing TD.

Red Flag #17:

Columbia suffers the third worst loss in Ivy history, falling 56-0 to Dartmouth in Hanover. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Around the League

The Penn-Brown game at Brown Stadium this Saturday will answer a lot of questions 

Looks like I jumped on the Princeton bandwagon just in time as the Tigers certainly appear to be the best team in the Ivies right now after their 51-48 triple OT win over Harvard at Harvard. They surely have the best and most effective offense, and that should make offensive coordinator James Perry a prime target for the next Ivy head coaching job. But the way he’s going, Perry may want to aim much higher.  

Getting back to the game, count me among the people who thought Princeton outplayed the Crimson better than the final score indicated. But Harvard is still a dangerous team and this coming Saturday’s game against Dartmouth sure be a good one.

After the wipe out over the Lions, what can we know about the Big Green that we didn’t know going in? It’s tempting to heap new praise on the Dartmouth secondary, but every secondary has looked good against Columbia this year. I’d say, it’s just a matter of knowing that the Big Green is still a very strong contender and Harvard should not be favored by more than one score going into this game.

Brown and Cornell also played a barnburner that also looked closer that in really was. The Bears were ahead 35-14 before Cornell got serious about a comeback and the Big Red made it interesting in a 35-28 loss.

The “Red Cross Bowl” at Franklin Field went to the hobbled Quakers over the even more hobbled Elis, 28-17. It’s actually quite impressive that Yale scored that many points without RB Tyler Varga and starting QB Henry Furman. But they lost to a Penn team without Billy Ragone.

So the big question is: can you still take a 3-0 in the Ivies Penn team at face value? The Quakers didn’t look all that impressive in the win over Columbia, but they didn’t last year either and they won the whole thing. It’s looking a lot like this is just a part of the usual Penn cycle of heating up when it counts.

The Penn-Brown game in Rhode Island this coming weekend is just as crucial, and in some ways more crucial, to the Ivy race as the Dartmouth-Harvard game. The game at Brown Stadium will be broadcast on FOX College Sports.

If Brown wins, Princeton's path to the title gets a lot easier as it heads into Franklin Field the following week. If Penn wins, the Princeton-Penn game will become an arguable Ivy Championship Game in week eight. 

Ivy Power Rankings

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

8)      Columbia

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hanover Humiliation

Dartmouth 56 Columbia 0

Why Dartmouth Won

The Big Green dominated the line of scrimmage, and scored almost at will. They played a mistake-free game against an overmatched opponent. 

Why Columbia Lost

The defense could not stop the run or pass, while the offense could not get a run or pass attack going. The Lions were physically outdone in every aspect of the game. 

Key Turning Point

-There was really only one: after Columbia went three-and-out to start the game and Dartmouth drove down field for a TD on the ensuing possession. The game was over right there. 

Columbia Positives

Another solid game from punter Paul Delaney. 

Columbia Negatives

-RB Marcorus Garrett left the game with an injury in the 1st half. 

-The generally decent defensive play of the last two weeks made no appearance at Memorial Field Saturday. 

-The offense is showing no improvement and actually seems worse. 


In my many decades of following CU football, I have never seen us as bad as this. There is simply no excuse for it. 

There's really nothing else to say. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Big Green Challenge

Columbia Lions at Dartmouth Big Green

Kickoff Time: 1:30pm

Gametime Weather: 48 degrees, partly cloudy

The Spread: Dartmouth is favored by 17 1/2 points

Lead Stories:

-There are serious questions here in Hanover about the quality of the Green after a lackluster loss to Bucknell last week and a growing worry that the win over Yale two weeks ago may not have been so impressive either. Now the injury bug is biting harder and it may be harder than expected to make a statement win over the Lions. One thing I'm sure of: if Dartmouth loses this game, Buddy Teevens loses his job at season's end. 

-The stats are so stunningly bad for Columbia's offense, that half the league seems to be more and more curious about it.  At some point, this offense should start to function a bit better, but it may not be this week or even this season   .

-This is the first real road game for the Lions all season. And this is a team that hasn't won an away game in four years. Can a Southern Californian freshman starting QB get anything going on a chilly day in New England?

Columbia Keys to the Game

1) Get Something Going on Offense

With all of Dartmouth's injuries, Columbia could have a chance in this game if it can just score 20 points or so. But without a high percentage passing package, that's going to be tough. UNLESS this is the week Head Coach Pete Mangurian decides to give RB Marcorus Garrett the ball 35 to 40 times and it works. 

2) Make Dalyn Williams Throw

Williams is a great QB, but with so many of his best receiving targets out, he may want to rely on his running ability a little more this game. Alex Park can do a good job if called upon to fill in, but containing Williams as a runner is a priority. 

3) Come Out Like Gangbusters!

For a lot of the many young players on this Columbia team, this is the longest road trip they've ever made. They need to not feel uncomfortable or at least not look that way! The last two Columbia teams that came to Hanover looked like they were playing on Mars. 

(Apologies for the low-tech nature if this post, but. I'm on the road for this game too and blogging from the Comfort Inn in White River Junction, Vermont!)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Injury Effect

Is it possible that Dartmouth will be dealing with a more significant slew of injuries than Columbia on Saturday?

The Dartmouth two-deep indicates that some key players are out.

The absence of WR Ryan McManus is not a surprise, but his fellow WR Victor Williams is missing too.

I think there’s a good chance star LB Bronson Green will play, but he’s not on the two-deep either.  He has been banged up and he missed the Bucknell game last week.

Finally, up and coming TE Cole Marcoux is also AWOL.

I’ll keep everyone updated with whatever I can report about the Big Green injury situation.

Meanwhile, the spread for the game still favors Dartmouth by 17 ½ points. 

Week 9 Picks

I had a gratifying day with my picks last Saturday, going 5-1 straight up and a perfect 6-0 against the spread.

That brings my season totals to 33-9 straight up and 27-14-1 against the spread.

With Fordham and Monmouth taking byes this weekend, I only have four games to choose from in this round:

Princeton +3 at Harvard

Well, now it’s time for me to really do a gut check. I picked Harvard to win the league, but I also have finally come around to believing in this Princeton team and what I see as an unstoppable offense.  Harvard has a lot to play for after losing a shocking game to the Tigers last year in New Jersey. But Princeton is looking for its first title in seven years and falling to rock bottom in the years in between. This should be an excellent game, but I think the Tigers will find a way to win.

Brown -10 at Cornell

The Bears should bounce back from the loss to Princeton and Cornell is really struggling on defense. Brown to win and cover.

Penn pick ‘em vs. Yale

I made the joke earlier this week that maybe this game should be sponsored by the Red Cross. It seems like key players on both sides are injured, thus there is no real line on this game. I’ll side with the Quakers on this one since they’re at home and the air is coming out of Yale’s tires right now.

Bucknell +17 ½ vs. Lehigh

This Mountain Hawk team is good, but I think this will be a lot like their game against Columbia two weeks ago, a two score win. Lehigh by 13 or 14. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

BREAKING: Columbia Two Deep Released

Here is the official release.

It looks like WR Connor Nelligan is still out.

Scouting Dartmouth

Dominick Pierre is having a strong year


I had high expectations for this Big Green team coming into the season, picking them for third and believing they had an outside shot at a title.

Well, half of that prediction still looks pretty good. Dartmouth could very easily wind up in third, but I just don’t think the Green have what it takes right now to beat Princeton and Harvard.

And the reason for all of this is the passing game. Buddy Teevens’ team isn’t passing well enough on its own and isn’t defending the pass well enough either.

Much of the offensive passing problems stem from injuries, while the defensive issue has me scratching my head because I thought Dartmouth’s linebackers and secondary were a strength of the team.

The good news for Teevens is that when it comes to finding a way to improve the pass defense, it appears playing Columbia is the best option.

But speaking of Teevens, with his team favored by 17 ½ points right now and expectations still high in Hanover… let’s just say his job is in serious jeopardy if the Big Green loses this game Saturday. I suppose Teevens is well aware of that.


In the offseason I wrote that I thought sophomore QB Dalyn Williams was still on the rise after his Rookie of the Year 2012 season, and that it would be better if he just became the QB on 80%-90% of the plays. That’s exactly what the coaches decided to do, cutting down drastically on the playing time of senior Alex Park in favor of the running and gunning Williams. For the most part, Williams hasn’t disappointed with either his running or his passing. But there have been a few moments where he hasn’t been able to move the offense and it’s hard to explain why. His sketchy 56% completion rate is probably the biggest culprit. But next to Princeton’s Quinn Epperly, Williams is the most dangerous QB in the Ivies right now.

The offensive line is a bit suspect. Pierre is a big guy who often makes his own yards, while Williams scrambles for his big yards.  The Green have allowed an unsettling three sacks per game and there are some penalty issues.

RB Dominick Pierre may be the most dangerous at his position. He’s averaging 122 yards per game and already has seven TD’s. He’s simply a load and no team had even been able to contain him until Bucknell held him to 75 yards and under four yards per carry last week. Was Pierre hurt? I’m not sure, but it’s also hard to get a handle on why he underperformed last Saturday at home.

The receiving corps has been seriously hurt by the injury to Ryan McManus. But sophomore Victor Williams has really stepped up to be the leading receiver so far this season with 316 yards so far. Bo Patterson is the man Williams and Park look for the in the end zone and he had four TD’s. TE Cole Marcoux, who was once a big QB prospect, is coming along at his new position and Pierre is also a frequent target coming out of the backfield.

In general this is a potent offense that can move the ball, but consistency is a problem.


We knew the Dartmouth defensive line was a big question mark for this team, and indeed the Green have had issues with the pass rush and they have just eight sacks on the season. But the run defense has been decent, thanks to lots of help from LB’s Michael Runger and Bronson Green. The leading tackler is actually a name I was not expecting to hear, but should have, in safety Mike Banaciski. He’s excellent at helping out with the run and has 3.5 tackles for a loss this year.

But the D-line does have some standouts, like DE Corbin Stall who has 2.5 sacks and DT AJ Zuttah, who is a load at 285 lbs. And sophomore Cody Fulleton could be a factor as he gets bigger.

The secondary is definitely suffering a bit from the lack of a real pass rush, but with senior CB Chase Womack back, (he missed one game earlier this season), there will be improvement here. In addition to Banaciski, Stephen Dazzo is a good safety. But when Dartmouth gives up a 1st down, it’s usually because of a pass.

Special Teams

This has often been a strength for Big Green teams, but not this year. Kicker Riley Lyons has missed seven of nine FG attempts and his average miss comes from 34 yards away. Lyons is a perfect 15-15 on PAT’s, however.

Freshman punter Ben Kepley is okay, but his longest boot of the year is 47 yards.

The longest kickoff return for Dartmouth this season is just 36 yards. Most of the kicks are handled by the WR Williams, whose average is well under 20 yards per return. Patterson is taking most of the punt returns now that McManus is out, and he’s been solid. The Dartmouth kick coverage has been good with no one breaking any big ones all year.


Hmm... a team with troubles staging a pass rush? Sounds like Columbia is just what the doctor ordered for Buddy Teevens. It's easy to look at this team and see that it matches up very well against the Lions. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Road Trip!

I’m heading up to Hanover this weekend for the first time in four years and I’m looking forward to seeing Memorial Field and catching up with a few friends at the game.

I know Dartmouth’s house has become a nightmare venue for Columbia the last two times the Lions visited, but that was immediately after a five game stretch, (1998, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007), where Columbia won two of those games and came very close in the other three.

The 2009 and 2011 debacles had a lot to do with injuries, (M.A. Olawale should not have started in ’09 and Sean Brackett did not play in ’11), but the Big Green really outplayed the Lions in both of those games.

I always recommend that everyone visit all the away Ivy venues at least once, and Dartmouth is really a must. Columbia used to play the Big Green every year on week eight of the season as opposed to week six now. That’s a big difference, especially when you go to Hanover and you want a better shot to avoid the coldest weather. Now, whenever the Lions head to Dartmouth it’s at the height of the fall foliage tour season and there are lots of great things to see and do with the family. (For the record, the forecast so far for this Saturday is 48 degrees and dry).

I promise I’m not moonlighting for the NH chamber of commerce, so let me throw in a little football-centric comments about Memorial Field and why it’s important for every Ivy fan to spend some time checking it out.

The stadium’s size has been much reduced in recent years, that very tall visitors side grandstand is gone. But the home side ivy-covered colonnades really serve as a calling card for the history of our league.

I’ll just let the pictures tell most of the rest of the story:

The above plaque explains it all

A majestic entrance

The old visitors stands stretched into the Heavens

Now, there are rows of more comfortable seats on the visitors side in front of the new Floren Varsity House

Monday, October 21, 2013

Around the League

The best of the best: Quinn Epperly

It’s taken five weeks for me to finally face the truth.

A team and a program that I have consistently discounted has finally won me over as a serious championship threat.

In fact, that team is now playing the best football in the Ivies.

If you guessed that I’m talking about the Princeton Tigers after their impressive 39-17 win over Brown at Brown on Saturday night... you're right. 

You could nitpick and say the Tiger defense is not exactly stellar, but it’s certainly good enough with that offense to pick it up. And junior QB Quinn Epperly has to be way ahead in the race for offensive MVP of the league right now.

The other key development throughout the league is injuries. And with Princeton looking relatively healthy right now, everything may be falling into place for Old Nassau.

Penn’s win over Columbia may have cost the Quakers a week or two of QB Bill Ragone’s services. He was seen on crutches after the game. Dartmouth is without its best receiver for the rest of the season. And Yale’s injuries are mounting at all the key positions.

That leaves Harvard as the most serious threat to Princeton’s title hopes, and the Crimson aren’t 100% healthy either with starting QB Connor Hemple on the sidelines. But Michael Pruneau is an excellent QB in his own right and if he’s the guy leading the team against the Tigers this coming Saturday at home, Harvard has a strong chance to win.

Speaking of Pruneau, he passed for 263 yards and three TD’s in a 35-16 win over Lafayette that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate.

The shocker of the weekend was in Hanover where a weak Bucknell team beat Dartmouth 17-14. I think the Green took a mental week off before getting back into the Ivy schedule for the rest of the year.

Yale was not much of a match for Fordham at the Bowl, as the Rams slammed the Elis by 52-31. There are questions about injuries at QB and the wide receiving corps is looking thin. Luckily for Yale, the Bulldogs get to take on a similarly banged up Quaker team at the Bowl this Saturday in a game that should be sponsored by the Red Cross.

Finally, Cornell was badly beaten by Monmouth in New Jersey, 48-23. It was close at the half, but QB Jeff Mathews did not have his usually strong stat sheet. He finished just 13-29 passing.


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

“Anonymous” Bloggers?

He doesn't get it

At the Homecoming football dinner Friday night, Columbia Board of Trustees Chairman and former Lion coach and captain Bill Campbell decried the “anonymous bloggers” who are bringing the football program down.

There are so many things wrong with his statement, that I think I’ll save everyone time and just list the top 5:

1)      There are no “anonymous” bloggers. I’m the only “blogger” and I’m not anonymous and never have been. I can only assume that Campbell meant to say “anonymous commenters,” (and if he, as an Apple board member, doesn’t know the difference between an actual blogger and someone who comments on a blog, I would suggest everyone sell your Apple shares right away). There are also anonymous people in the athletic department who take to the message boards to personally attack me and defend the coach, etc. Campbell may not be aware that the people surrounding him right now want something, like admission for their kids into Columbia, etc. It's time for King Lear to hear the truth. 

2)      Commenters, anonymous or otherwise, should not even be in the galaxy of the things Campbell and company are concerned about. What’s bringing the program down is yet another losing record, a clear downgrade from even the sub-par product we had last year, and a power structure around the football program that’s been much more obsessed with silencing dissent than winning.

3)      There’s another word for anonymous commenters, it’s called “fans.” And the last time I checked, fans who go to games aren’t required to identify themselves before they boo or make any comments.

4)      Campbell and co. should be grateful that there is still a passionate enough fan base that expects a winning program at some point in their lifetimes. This program does NOT lack for support, especially financial support. My sources tell me we have the BIGGEST recruiting budget in the Ivies and are way ahead of many Ivies in other areas of finance. Ask the people at Brown what they could do with the kind of cash we have.

5)      But he and the program should be embarrassed by its record, not what angry fans are saying about it. An 0-5 record with no game decided by fewer than two scores should be the only concern, complaint, and focus of every single person involved in the program, period.

If Campbell, Dianne Murphy or anyone else has a problem with the anonymous criticism they can talk about it with me. They know how to reach me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Offensive Offense


This is what the CU offense feels like

Penn 21 Columbia 7

Why Penn Won

The Quakers dominated the stat sheet, holding Columbia's offense to just four first downs, while converting an amazing 50% of their own 3rd down plays. Penn was characteristically inconsistent overall, but at their best in the clutch.

Why Columbia Lost 

Save for one spectacular sequence, the Lion offense never got going and wasted a tremendous effort by the defense. Columbia was a stunning 0 for 13 on 3rd downs and the play calling again seemed to be made by coaches who refuse to work with the personnel they have.

Key Turning Points

-With Columbia leading 7-0 and just under five minutes to play in the first half, Penn faced a tough 3rd and 12 at the Lion 17. But QB Ryan Becker was able to spot Mitchell King step-by-step in coverage with the much shorter CU corner Trevor Bell. Becker tossed the ball just out of Bell's reach, into King's hands for the TD.

-Penn got the ball back with 1:50 left in the half at their own 36 and promptly marched right down the field for the go-ahead TD. A key play on the drive was a simple roll out pass to RB Kyle Wilcox for 32 yards. Another key play was a missed interception by LB Brian East who had the ball in his hands and lots of real estate in front of him, but he dropped the ball.

-Columbia's defense kept the Lions in the game, and gave them another good chance when Jeremy Mingo picked off Billy Ragone's pass at the CU 28 just a few seconds into the 4th quarter. But on the very next play, Columbia QB Kelly Hilinski threw the ball right back to Penn on an INT by Evan Jackson. The Quakers eventually scored the icing TD on the ensuing possession.

Columbia Positives

-The defense played tough all four quarters and Chad Washington, Zach Olinger and Mingo had outstanding games.

-The flea flicker from Hilinski to fellow freshman Cameron Dunn was a pretty play that got the crowd going and set up a TD one play later.

Columbia Negatives

-RB Marcorus Garrett never had much room all day and he was held under 50 yards rushing for the game.

-The offense was inept, but not so much because of poor offensive line play. The play calling is especially egregious with a freshman QB and a mostly freshman WR corps. The coaching staff just doesn't seem to allow Hilinski to throw it short, throw screens or run out of trouble more often. Calling for longer pass after longer pass when the receivers can't get separation and the QB can't zip the ball is a recipe for diaster.

Columbia MVP

-Punter Paul Delaney was named the official John Toner MVP of the game, and I agree with that call. He was a big reason the CU defense was able to hold Penn off the scoreboard for so long.

Friday, October 18, 2013

One Game to Rule Them All

Game program from Columbia-Penn Homecoming game at Baker Field, 1950

Pennsylvania Quakers vs. Columbia Lions

Homecoming 2013

Location: Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium 

Kickoff Time: 1:30pm* (note later time)

Gametime Weather Forecast: 68 degrees, partly cloudy

The Spread: Penn by 20

How to Get to the Game

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


Broadcast live on the Ivy League Digital Network

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

Lead Stories

Pick your poison. 

Do you want to focus on the fact that Penn has defeated Columbia 16 years in a row dating back to 1996?

Do you want to focus on the fact that Columbia hasn't won a Homecoming game since thumping Dartmouth way back in 2000?

Do you want to focus on the fact that Columbia is 0-4 and has been outscored by an average of 32 points in every game?

All of the above facts just feed in to the feeling that this game presents only an upside for Columbia. A win in just this one game would be a massive positive and certainly presents the most upside of any single contest this year. 

One game to rule them all!

The other big headline is the fact that freshman Kelly Hilinski, a 6-6 freshman from Southern California is now officially the starter at QB for the Lions. 

Hilinski has a great back story, and certainly seems to have the demeanor and poise to be a QB, team leader, and media star. Now he just has to do it on the field. 

The other lead story is Penn hasn't looked all that dominant so far this year. That's not really anything new for the slow-starting-fast-finishing Quakers of the last few years. But Al Bagnoli and company need to get going this season without the appearance of much of a running attack, and there are some other injuries as well. 

Ivy fans praying for and end to the Harvard-Penn logjam at the top of the league will have a close eye on this contest for signs of hope.

Columbia Keys to the Game 

1) Let Marcorus Lead

RB Marcorus Garrett had a super game against Penn in Philly last year and I think he's a better player now. He still hasn't been given the ball more than 27 times in a game in his career and that's a shame. Dump the balanced NFL-style game plan and let Marcorus run... a lot! 

2) Throw Some Darn Screens!

You have a 6-6 QB who isn't all that ready to gun it down field and a Penn defense that wants to blast through the Columbia OL that has allowed a million sacks per week. What does that spell? It spells S-C-R-E-E-N P-A-S-S-E-S! Hilinski can easily toss the ball over the 2-3 Penn blitzers who will surely be harassing him routinely. This is a tailor made situation to use Garrett or the small and speedy Scooter Hollis to burn the blitz and give the young QB short and easy open targets to hit. It's so obvious, I worry our coaches will think it's too obvious and go another way. Here's a thought about that: JUST DO IT ANYWAY! 

3) Don't Play Patty Cake with Ragone

Penn QB Billy Ragone is really their only serious weapon on offense. He's going to scramble and make big throws on 3rd down. He's going to make yards on QB draws. He's going to wiggle out of sacks and drive you crazy with a poorly-thrown ball that still goes for a key completion. The Lion defenders need to wrap him up every time they touch him. They need to make him pay when tries to run. And they can't hang back in soft coverage giving Ragone a million throwing and running options at the same time. The only way to beat Penn is to beat Ragone. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Week 8 Picks

I had a pretty solid week with my picks last Saturday, going 6-1 straight up and 4-3 against the spread.

That brings my season totals to 28-8 straight up and 21-14-1 against the spread.

The number of games to pick from is about to get a lot smaller, but we have six games this week:

Princeton +4 ½ at Brown

Brown’s entire season rides on this game as a loss takes them out of the race. I hope the scoreboard operator fuels up on plenty of that Brown Stadium press box soup, (damn it’s good), because we may see a total score nearing the 100-point region. I think the Bears will win but not by more than a field goal.

Fordham -8 at Yale

This line opened as just a five point spread for the Rams and if I were a betting man, I would have jumped all over that action. Fordham is itching to make another statement here and I don’t envy the Bulldogs right now.

Georgetown +22 at Lehigh

The Mountain Hawks should have little trouble winning this game, but this Lehigh team just doesn’t seem built to blow people out.  This feels like a 17 or 18 point loss for the Hoyas.

Lafayette + 22 ½ at Harvard

This Crimson team also doesn’t look like it’s going to really embarrass to many teams this year. This one will be VERY close to the spread, but I think the Leopards will lost by 20 or 21.

Monmouth -4 ½ vs. Cornell

This is a tricky game because the Hawks didn’t play all that great last week in an upset loss to Saint Francis and they haven’t really faced a passing attack like Cornell. But the Big Red usually really stink it up on the road, so I’m laying the points for Monmouth.

Bucknell +21 at Dartmouth

This is another game that will be AWFULLY close to the spread, but I think the Big Green aren’t going to go all out in the final non-conference game of the year. Dartmouth by 18 or 19 here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

BREAKING: Mangurian Names Hilinski Starter for Remainder of Season

The Columbia Spectator reports Head Coach Pete Mangurian made the announcement today that freshman Kelly Hilinski will be the starter for the rest of 2013.

Scouting Penn

Billy Ragone has had a career to smile about


Penn has been playing an extremely difficult out of conference schedule in recent years, and that’s made it tough to really get a handle on how strong a team it is as it heads into full-time Ivy play.

We do know that Quaker Head Coach Al Bagnoli doesn’t make risky decisions in the early games that could jeopardize the chances for a championship.

But this year, a few bad things have happened that Bagnoli and co. don’t seem to have bargained for.

All-around offensive weapon Lyle Marsh surprised everyone by not taking his 5th year of eligibility and did not join the team this season. That deprived QB Billy Ragone of his favorite supporting character, especially in the clutch. Plan B rusher Brandon Colavita is now out for the rest of the season with an injury and WR Conner Scott won’t be back for at least another two weeks or so.

I doubt anyone is panicking at the Franklin Field offices, but no one would deny that the Quaker path to a championship repeat just got harder. And the extreme pressure on Ragone to carry the offensive load is much heavier.


Penn’s office offense has never been pretty in the Ragone era, but the Quakers just seem to get it done. Ragone is actually having a much better start this season than he did in 2012. He has six TD passes, just four INT’s, (last year at this time he was pushing 10), and is completing about 60% of his passes. He’s also been more selective about when he decides to run, a wise move after a bad ankle injury in week nine last year. He’s still far from perfect, but I don’t advise betting against him in the clutch. 

Also don't be fooled by the one or two series where backup QB Ryan Becker comes into the game. Becker is there to give Ragone a rest and cut down on his chances for injury. He has yet to really lead this team successfully even in the short term. 

The running situation at Penn is a much more serious concern. It looks like Spencer Kulcsar is the primary ball carrier now, and you could do worse. But Kulcsar isn’t nearly enough to get the job done. There is a lot of excitement about DB-turned-RB Kyle Wilcox, especially after he ran for the winning TD vs. Dartmouth two weeks ago. But Wilcox’s brief success may have been the result of the element of surprise that is now spent for good. I suspect every defense Penn faces for the rest of the season will dare the Quaker rushing game to beat them if they can.

Ragone is passing the ball better so far this year, and his primary target is WR Ryan Mitchell. But Ty Taylor is a man Ragone looks for in the end zone, (Taylor has two TD’s compared to none for Mitchell), and Kulcsar has been a good target coming out of the backfield even though he’s not as good in that role as Marsh. One final receiver to really look out for is the speedy sophomore Cameron Countryman, who I believe will be an All Ivy player next year or in 2015. This could be the week that Penn really unleashes him and puts him to more use.

The Penn offensive line is a bit of a mystery. They’ve allowed fewer than two sacks per game at seven, but much of that is the result of Ragone’s superior strength and scrambling skills. The running numbers look pretty bad overall, but much of that is the result of the Quakers losing their top two running backs. I’m going to call this a solid OL, but not as solid as we’re used to seeing at Penn.


The Quaker defense has stepped it up this season, especially in the pass rush where Penn has already netted 15 sacks. Senior DB Sebastian Jaskowski and junior LB Dan Davis are still the leaders of this defense, but the surge in sack totals is thanks to relatively new contributors like sophomore Austin Taps, senior Sam Chwarzysnki, and fellow senior David Park.

Penn hasn’t been able to reload with offensive skill players in recent years, but the Quakers are keeping up that tradition nicely on D.

That said, there has to be some concern about the Penn run defense allowing 199 yards per game. If you strip out the Villanova and William and Mary games, the Quakers are still allowing close to 150 yards on the ground per contest. The pass defense is not invincible as it is allowing about 230 yards per game, but that pass rush has negated a lot of threats so far this season.

Penn’s D has also forced 10 fumbles.


The stats for placekicker Connor Loftus are a bit deceptive. He’s only three for seven on FG tries, but most of his attempts have been from more than 37 yards away. He has a few touchbacks, but his kickoffs usually get into the receivers’ hands at about the five yard line.

Punters Max Krucar and Donald Panciello have started to split the work recently, with neither looking like a real weapon or liability right now.

Penn has two dangerous kick returners in Mason Smith and Dan Wilk. Both average well over 20 yards a return. Smith is actually a 215 pound DE, so I’m not sure how that’s working out, but it is.

Wilk handles most of the Quaker punt returns without much flash.


Right now, Penn just doesn’t look like a team that can beat Harvard and Brown on the road to secure another Ivy title. But the Quakers didn’t look that good at this time last year either. The injuries are new X factor this season, but this could be the week where some new weapons are unleashed. I’m especially looking for Countryman to be given the chance to have a breakout game.

Columbia may not be Penn’s toughest opponent. But this could be the signature game that decides what kind of season overall the Quakers will have in 2013.