Friday, October 30, 2015

Homecoming in Connecticut

The Bowl can be a tough place to play

Columbia Lions vs. Yale Elis 
October 31, 2015
Kickoff time: 12:30pm

: Yale Bowl

Game Time Weather Forecast:
 52 degrees and mostly sunny

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

TV/Radio: The game will be broadcast on FOX College Sports, check local listings.
Jerry Recco and Sal Licata provide superior play-by-play and audio commentary on the Ivy League Digital Network

The Columbia Spectator will again be running a live blog during the game

Columbia Game Notes

Leading Story Lines

1)     The “injury” head fake is all about relieving the pressure

It seems like all the talk this week is about all the injuries Yale has suffered. But I think the real issue in New Haven is that this is year four for Head Coach Tony Reno and he’s no closer than he ever was to finally having a team that can beat Harvard and/or win the Ivy title. Yale fans don’t want winning seasons, they want to beat the Crimson and hoist championship trophies.
It behooves Reno to make the injury issue a big talking point in the stands and at the tailgate picnics, but the savviest of Eli boosters knows his real problem is that Yale’s best chance was last year when the now-graduated RB Tyler Varga was still on the team. Making excuses about injuries might work to relieve some of the pressure on Reno to contend, but it won’t relieve the loud calls for him to be fired that are sure to come if the Elis lose this game. One of the unspoken truths about Ivy football is that for many coaches, losing to Columbia in most years is considered grounds for dismissal. If Yale loses to the Lions, I think Reno would survive but I would not be surprised to see it going the other way.
So a big question waiting to be answered is: Will the Bowl will be quiet, loud, or angry?

2)     Columbia’s banged up too, and maybe unarmed
The Lions are a lot more healthy than the Bulldogs, but this is week seven and that means a good deal of every team’s roster has some health concerns. But even without injuries, Columbia comes into this game with a big question mark about its weapons on offense… as in do they have any? The Lions are playing competent, mostly error-free offense but they don’t really have anyone who can really strike fear into an opposing defense. And the injuries seem to be curtailing the effective QB running plays and fakes Columbia used effectively earlier this year. This is another game where the coaches have to prove themselves by coming up with either a new scheme or a new player to change the script.

3)     This is Bagnoli’s Homecoming
Columbia Head Coach Al Bagnoli grew up extremely close to the Yale Bowl and must have been in awe of the legendary Eli Head Coach Carm Cozza as a kid. While at Penn, Bagnoli owned Yale. He never lost to Cozza and won his first seven games against the Elis, including his first three at the Bowl. Overall, Bagnoli is 17-6 against Yale and 7-5 at the Bowl.

5 Columbia Players to Watch

-Junior FB Jackson Conway #47 and junior LB Christian Conway #37. Are you kidding me? You haven’t heard that the Conway twins had their commitments to Yale rescinded by Coach Reno when he took over the program? Well now you have and now you know that the Conway boys might be blocking and tackling just a bit harder in this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bagnoli throws in some kind of special play or two that features the twins.
-Senior WR Scooter Hollis #19. Hollis has been neutralized in recent weeks and the Lions really need him to reemerge and give this offense a boost. Having him stand still in the flat waiting for screens has led to disaster lately, so look for him to run some routes where he can move in tandem with the QB on a rollout.
-Sophomore CB Cameron Roane #23. Yale is a passing offense and unless the Columbia run defense really falters, Roane and company are going to be tested frequently. Columbia simply hasn’t grabbed enough picks this season despite some improvements in pass defense overall. Roane needs to have a big game.
-Junior P/K Cameron Nizialek #6. Nizialek has been getting a lot of work punting and generally doing a very good job. But his field goal and extra point work needs work and could play a role if this game is another tough defensive slog.

5 Yale Players to Watch
-Senior QB Morgan Roberts #19. Roberts is under a lot of pressure now as his falling completion rate and rash of interceptions is starting to take its toll. Will he press a little too much in this game, or play it too safe and get sacked more as he hesitates not to throw another pick?
-Junior WR Robert Clemons #83. With many of his fellow receivers either out or somewhat hobbled, Clemons figures to get most of the throws coming his way.
-Junior LB Victor Egu #10. Egu is playing very well, but I’m sure most Yalies believe it’s past time for him to start dominating games.
-Freshman DB Hayden Carlson #26. A rare freshman starter for the Elis, he could be the target Columbia picks on for the Lion short and screen passing game.
-Senior RB Austin Reuland #6. Reuland had some decent numbers last week and is getting playing time because of all the injuries in front of him. Will he break Columbia’s streak of strong games against the run, or will he get flustered and fumble?

Streak Watch

Columbia has now lost 25 straight games on the road, not winning since beating Cornell in Ithaca on 11/14/2009 or 2,176 days ago. Columbia has not beaten Yale since 2012 and hasn’t beaten the Elis at Yale Bowl since 1996.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New Name and New Picks

Chris Everett

Thanks to all the fans who started emailing me before the GOP debate last night to tell me about the new 2016 commit, WR Chris Everett.

Everett is a 6-2, 200 pound player from Chicago's Whitney Young High School. He will be the first Young graduate to come to Columbia football.

His highlight reel is here.

Here's the list of our 17 known commits for 2016:

1) Parker Coogan OL/DT 6-2 270 lbs. Kingwood HS Houston, TX

2) Matt Dame QB 6-2 185 lbs. Suncoast HS Riviera Beach, FL

3) Chris Everett WR 6-2 200 lbs. Whitney Young HS Chicago, IL

4) Danny De Lorenzi LB 6-3 230 lbs. Bergen Catholic HS, Oradell, NJ 

5) John Fischer OL 6-3 290 lbs. Sacred Heart-Griffin HS Springfield, IL

6) Alex Gibson RB 5-10 195 lbs. Central Bucks High School East Doylestown, PA

7) LinDon Harris DE 6-2 215 lbs. Sidwell Friends Washington, DC

8) Ben Hill TE/DE 6-3 230 lbs. Christian Brothers HS Memphis, TN

9) Hogan Irwin RB 5-10 180 lbs. Central Cathedral HS San Diego, CA

10) Max Mullaney LB 6-2 225 lbs. Colts Neck HS Colts Neck, NJ

11) Michael Murphy LB 5-11 194 lbs. Plant HS Tampa, FL

12) Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal DE/OL  6-4 250 lbs. Central Bucks High School East Doylestown, PA

13) Hunter Petlansky QB 6-2 225 lbs. Modesto Central Catholic HS Modesto, CA 

14) Alex Robin DT 6-0 260 lbs. Vestavia Hills HS Vestavia Hills, AL 

15) Arman Samouk DT 6-2 270 lbs. Copley HS Copley, OH

16) Tanner Thomas RB 5-10 183 lbs. Farragut HS Knoxville, TN 

17) Jonathon Webster DB  6-0 180 lbs. Eastside Catholic HS Sammamish, WA

Week 8 Picks

I went 4-2 straight up and 4-2 against the spread last week to bring my season totals to 33-14 straight up and 24-23 ATS.

Dartmouth +8 at Harvard (game is Friday night)

Well, this is the big one. And with a national TV prime time slot, the excitement is only greater. I said at the beginning of the season that I thought Dartmouth was good enough to win the championship, but not if it had to beat the Crimson at Harvard. I see no reason to change that prediction, but I do think the Big Green should cover this spread.

Penn +1 at Brown

I am now a believer in the Quakers. They'll win this one.

Cornell +23 at Princeton

The Big Red will bounce back with a decent showing, but not enough to beat the Tigers.

Fordham -9 1/2 at Colgate

The Rams are getting hot again.

Georgetown +4 at Lehigh

The Hoyas are getting feistier by the week. I think they will lose this game, but not by much.

Duquesne -19 vs. Wagner

Wagner is without weapons.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Scouting Yale

Victor Egu as a frosh goes up against Kendall Pace as a frosh

If you're going to watch the Columbia-Yale game on FOX College Sports or go to the game Saturday, here are the things about the Elis you need to know:

1) They're Injured

A whopping 40 players on the Yale roster have missed games because of injury or illness. 12 of them are out for the season including starting junior RB Candler Rich, starting junior DB Foye Oluokun, and starting senior TE Sebastian Little. Rich's impressive backup sophomore RB Deshawn Salter has been injured and may not play Saturday. The much hyped, (rightfully so, I think), transfer sophomore WR Bo Hines from NC State hasn't played much at all and left the game against Penn Friday night with another injury. His status is not known. Much of the offensive line is banged up too. In short, the Eli team that started the season 3-0 is really not the team that will take the field against the Lions.

2) Morgan Roberts isn't the Same Without Varga and Randall

Senior QB Morgan Roberts still moves this offense relatively well, but without All Word RB Tyler Varga, (now in the NFL), and All Ivy WR Deon Randall, he's just "good" and not great. He's especially prone to throwing interceptions and his picks were the biggest reason why the Elis lost to Penn last week. His completion percentage is also a weak 55% in an era where the top Ivy QB's are close to 70% rates. He's running a bit more but has also been sacked 16 times and it's starting to take a toll. Yale is also passing the ball 25% more often than it's running the ball, and that's straining the O-line and the QB a lot too.

3)  The Elis still should have two good receivers

Sophomore WR Michael Siragusa is the prototype of what you want in a receiver. He's 6-3 and 205 pounds and has 418 receiving yards with two TD's. But he is probably out of this week's game too. Junior WR Robert Clemons is a 5-11 speedster just getting into a healthy groove after missing two games earlier in the season. Clemons has 254 yards in four games and three TD grabs. Hines might be back for the game against the Lions. Let's face it, Columbia would kill to have two receivers, or maybe even one somewhat banged up one, with stats like that right now.

4) The Defense is better than last year, but not much

The Elis have what I'd call a serviceable defense. It played very well in the win over Maine, but that's about it. You can run on this Yale team, evidenced by the fact that a DB and not a linebacker leads the team in tackles. The massively hyped, (including by me), LB Victor Egu who spurned a scholarship deal with Cal to come to New Haven hasn't set the world on fire. He's very, very good but a lot of people like me thought he would be dominating games by now.

5) This is only Yale's second home game all season

I expect a lot of unusual events in this game because of all the injuries and the fact that Yale has only played one previous game at the Bowl all year and that was five weeks ago. Anyone who's watched Ivy football for a while knows that the Bowl and its natural grass and weird wind tunnels is really a very different place to play. I'm not really sure even he Yale players are going to feel comfortable at first. Also, a few days of heavy rain between now and game day are expected and that will slow the already slow field down even more. This could be another low scoring affair like Columbia saw last week against Dartmouth.

6) The kicking is spotty

Junior Bryan Holmes handles the kicking and punting. He's been great at field goal kicking, even nailing a 44-yarder. But his punting numbers are weak and he's also missed three PAT's. If Columbia can get more aggressive on its punt returns, now being handled by freshman Jake Young, they might be able to get a nice field position advantage.

7) Is the fire out?

Remember last week when we Columbia fans were wringing our hands about that rough Homecoming loss and wondering if the coaches could fire up the team against this season? Multiply that by ten and maybe you're in the ballpark for what Yale's fans and donors are thinking. Sure, they don't have a cool and truly open blog like this to really air their concerns, (the New Haven Register's Portal 31 blog IS good, it's just that the Internet is  not the place where the big Yalies comment), but the frustration is there. Remember, Coach Reno wasn't brought in to turn a program around, he was brought in to beat Harvard and win championships. It really doesn't look like either will happen this year and after that loss to Penn and all the injuries there's definitely a "what's the point?" message coming from the people surrounding the program now. Returning home to the Bowl should help, but if the crowd size is weak and enthusiasm low, this could be a game where the Lions are clearly much more "up" for the contest. So, I'd watch for any signs that the Elis are dejected.

Bring the Bubble

The Columbia administration has finally made the right commitment to football and athletics by hiring new Athletic Director Peter Pilling and Head Coach Al Bagnoli.

This was the financial and heartfelt investment we've been demanding for decades. It included a key act of contrition because hiring Bagnoli from another Ivy program finally put to rest the administration's, "this is New York and the other successful Ivy program leaders couldn't do it here," excuse.

Now the football program is asking for some very specific help from us. Pilling and Bagnoli want to:

1) Build an inflatable bubble for Kraft Field for harsh weather practice. The cost will be between $5 million and $7 million.

2) Grow the "Every Player Endowment" from $300,000 to $1 million.

3) Up the annual fundraising for football from $600,000 to $1.1 million

4) Boost the dues paying membership in the Columbia Football Players Club to 300 people.

Based on the strong response for athletics in general and football specifically, I think these goals can be achieved.

I'm not giving this new regime any credit that isn't due. I am very impressed by the commitment, and I will be even more effusive when the winning starts to happen.

But donating more money now is called for based on the moves the administration has finally made. It's a very simple debt the fans need to pay right now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Inside the mind of one recruit

Alex Robin

I apologize for not providing as much content lately, but I have been deep in preparations lately for 
the CNBC GOP debate airing tomorrow night at 6pm (undercard debate) and 8pm Eastern (main event).

So please read this short piece about incoming freshman Alex Robin and discuss.

Monday, October 26, 2015

And now for the next step

Based on the way the Lions fought hard at Dartmouth Saturday, it certainly looks like Head Coach Al Bagnoli and his staff have succeeded in keeping this team motivated no matter what the circumstances or the odds.

The scrappiness Columbia showed clearly took its toll on the Big Green as a whopping ten personal foul penalties were called against them. Remember, this wasn't just the first close game Dartmouth had played against Columbia in three years, it was the first close game Dartmouth had played against anyone all year. A banged up and sickness-infected Big Green O-line played a role, but Dartmouth was clearly not emotionally prepared for the challenge. The good news for Buddy Teevens and company is there's no way they'll be this emotionally unready for the big game at Harvard Friday night. So if mental preparedness is really the biggest weakness for Dartmouth this year, that shouldn't be too much of a problem going forward.

Now it's time for Columbia's next step, and it might be tougher to achieve. 

That's the step where the coaches reach into that roster and find the one or two players who can make the difference and get Columbia another win or two before 2015 ends. 

It's clear to even casual fans that the Lions need to add a deep passing threat of some kind and soon. At least two key receivers on the roster are injured for the rest of the season, so the list of available names is shorter than it appears. It probably means that the coaches will have to take a chance on someone who in normal circumstances they would not be playing, let alone playing in crucial situations. 

Yale is a very banged up team right now and could be as emotionally vulnerable as Dartmouth was this past Saturday but without all the All Ivy players. But even with lots of players hurt, the Elis seem to score easily no matter what. That means the Lions are going to have to score more than 14 points to win.

So who will be the Columbia offensive player other than Cameron Molina who makes a difference? There are a lot of potential candidates.

Here are my Top 5 Candidates:

1) TE John Hunton

Hunton has made one or two big plays per game most weeks so far for the Lions, but I think he needs to be much more of a go-to guy to make the impact Columbia needs. He's the logical choice to lead this list however as he has shown actual flashes on the field so far.

2) FB Jackson Conway

Okay, I know the offensive side of the ball Conway twin has been a blocking back all season and has had his number called for passes maybe 2-3 times all year. But remember that the Conways had their Yale acceptances nixed by Eli Head Coach Tony Reno when he took over the program. I'd give Jackson the ball a number of times to get some mileage out of the anger I'm sure he deservedly feels against the Yale program. THEN, after that's established I'd fake one to him and see who's very open downfield. This might only work against the Elis, but why the heck not?

3) WR Tre Gabriel

Gabriel looked so fast and so sure handed in training camp that I have to think some other weird reason is why we haven't seen him line up on offense yet this season. If there's any time to give this kid a try, it seems like it would be now.

4) QB Anders Hill

Hill didn't play at all at Dartmouth, so I don't know the state of his health. But in addition to getting him to try some aggressive runs at the depleted Yale D-line, how about lining the 6-4 QB at WR on a play or two, send him in motion, and confuse the heck out of the Elis? 

5) RB Chris Schroer

Chris is a scrappy runner and something tells me he could be dangerous coming out of the backfield on screens. I'd line him up in a standard T-formation with Molina and when the defense relaxes because Molina doesn't have the ball, toss it to Schroer and see if he isn't as open as the Long Island Expressway at 3am. 

Okay, I admit some of my above ideas are stretches. But the coaches have been stretching things all year. And I'm certainly open to other suggestions. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Defensive Defeat

Dartmouth 13 Columbia 9

Why Dartmouth Won

The Big Green defense was too much for the Lions, yielding just 167 total yards to the Columbia offense. Dartmouth's offense was also stymied most of the day, but put up just enough firepower in the 1st half to win. 

Why Columbia Lost

The Lions just didn't seem to have enough offensive weapons to answer a Big Green defense that stacked the box most of the game. Columbia could not capitalize on a number of good field position opportunities provided by the Lion defense. 

Key Turning Points

-Trailing 7-0 with just under four minutes left in the 1st quarter, RB Cameron Molina slipped on a wet spot on the open field to fall just shy of converting a 3rd and three at the Dartmouth 16. On the resulting 4th and one from the 14, the Lions went for the FG instead of going for it. That made it 7-3 and left a crucial four points on the table. 

-Still leading 7-3 with just over three minutes left in the half, Dartmouth had its one short burst of the kind of offense it's displayed the entire year. Starting a possession from the Big Green 41, QB Dalyn Williams needed just three passes to get a TD. The last two went to superstar WR Victor Williams for a total of 46 yards. 

-Trailing 13-9 with just over 14 minutes to play, Columbia began a possession at its 39 yard line. On the resulting 3rd and 11 and after a time out, all the Lion offense could do was attempt a short pass to FB Mark Cieslak. The pass fell incomplete. 

Columbia Positives

-The Lion defense played its best game of the year. Columbia had six sacks and almost completely shut down the Dartmouth running game. 

-Save for a desperation pass at the end of the game that was intercepted, the Lions did not commit a turnover. 

-For once, it was the other team that got flustered and frustrated as the Dartmouth  offense committed numerous personal foul penalties out of sheer anger. Columbia was clearly the better coached team on the day, a major positive coming off the Homecoming embarrassment the previous week. 

Columbia Negatives

-It was painfully obvious throughout the game that the Lions just do not have enough offensive weapons to beat the top teams. 

-A missed extra point played a role in reducing Columbia's options at the end of the game. It forced the Lions to need a TD rather than looking at needing a FG to tie. 

Columbia MVP

-This was truly a team defensive effort, and I have to give the award to the whole unit.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Game Day Open Thread

Comment here during today's Columbia-Dartmouth game. 

Down on the Farm

-RB Tanner Thomas ran for 189 yards, including a 90 yard TD run in Farragut's 52-0 win over South-Doyle. 

-QB Matt Dame threw for 287 yards and four TD's in Suncoast's 36-31 win over Boynton Beach. 

-RB Alex Gibson had 56 yards on 13 carries in Central Bucks East's 19-7 win over Truman. 

-DT Alex Robin helped lead the Vestavia Hills defense to a dominating performance in a 15-7 win over Tuscaloosa County HS. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Toughest Test

Columbia Lions at Dartmouth Big Green

October 24, 2015

Kickoff: 3:00

Location: Memorial Field, Hanover New Hampshire

Game Time Weather Forecast: 51 degrees and mostly cloudy

The Spread: Dartmouth is favored by 34 1/2 points

TV/Radio: Video of the game from the Dartmouth side is available on the Ivy League Digital Network. Superior audio is available from Jerry Recco and Sal Licata also on the ILDN section of the site.

Key Storylines 

1) Mismatch of the year?

Just about every Ivy watcher expects this game to be over by the end of the 1st quarter. This is due to the perfect storm of Dartmouth playing the best football the program has seen in 19 years and Columbia coming off its 42-7 Homecoming debacle loss against Penn last week. 

2) Throwing in the towel?

This is possibly the game where the new Columbia coaching staff proves its worth. Most teams in the Lions position would be hard pressed to show a real fight in a game like this. 

5 Columbia Players to Watch

-Senior QB Skyler Mornhinweg #8. Mornhinweg looked a bit "off" in the game last week vs. Penn. This week he faces a much better defense. 

-Sophomore QB Anders Hill #12. Hill could get a lot more playing time this week if Mornhinweg stays cold or is banged up. 

-Sophomore CB Cameron Roane #23. Roane is the key Columbia cover man and he'll have his hands full with some of the Big Green receivers. 

-Senior DE Toba Akinleye #8 (yes, he's also #8). Akinleye and his speed will be needed to keep opposing QB Dalyn Williams honest. Akinleye has been mostly quiet this season. 

-Senior RB Cameron Molina #31. I expect Molina to be called upon regularly as a runner and a receiver. 

5 Dartmouth Players to Watch

-Senior QB Dalyn Williams #10. The all-world Dartmouth team leader is not expected to stay on the field for most of the game unless he has to. Will he be spectacular in limited duty or get into trouble by playing it safe?

-Senior RB Kyle Bramble #22. This would seem like the week to lean on the oft-injured but talented runner to keep the pressure off Williams. This could be Bramble's best shot to put up nice numbers, but the CU defense has been tough against the run. 

-Senior WR Victor Williams #1. Columbia's pass defense has been spotty at best and this is a receiver who can burn the best of them. 

-Senior Free Safety David Caldwell #41. Caldwell does it all from knocking down passes to making tackles on the edge. 

-Junior LB Folarin Orimolade #9. He's a ferocious and up-and-coming pass rusher who also disrupts the pass. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Week 7 Picks

I went 7-1 straight up last week and 5-3 against the spread to bring my season totals to 29-12 straight up and 20-21 ATS

Yale pick 'em over Penn (game is Friday night)

I like the way Yale is being resilient and I'm still not sold on the Quakers.

Harvard -22 1/2 over Princeton

I'm sticking my neck out here, but I think the Tigers are about to really crash.

Brown -12 1/2 at Cornell

Brown is starting to get it together. Cornell isn't.

Fordham -12 1/2 over Lehigh

The Rams got a scare against Holy Cross and they seem to respond well the week after losses or scares.

Bucknell -4 over Georgetown

The Bison should win this one by a TD.

BYU -49 over Wagner

This mismatch is pretty awful.

Scouting Dartmouth

I wanted to do something a little different with my opponent scouting report for this week.

Instead of going through the Big Green unit by unit, I thought I'd focus on five things fans need to watch for to enjoy or at least be best prepared for the game this Saturday at Memorial Field.

1) Dalyn Williams can set up a La-Z-Boy in the backfield

The Big Green had to replace three starters on the O-line coming in to this season and there were concerns about how that would go down. There shouldn't have been. In every Dartmouth game this year, QB Dalyn Williams hasn't really had to use his scrambling ability to avoid the rush. It's uncanny to see how much time he has to throw or decide to run. I can't remember ever seeing pass protection that good. Let's give credit where credit is due. The O-line starters are junior Dave Morrison at LT, senior Joshua Clark at LG, senior Jacob Flores, (brother of injured Columbia Center Charlie Flores), at Center, senior Niko Mamula at RG, and junior Zach Davis at RT. The Tight Ends are sophomore Cameron Skaff and junior Blake Orvis.

2) Pass defense is really pass defense 

Another thing I've never seen before in all my years of watching Ivy football is the way Dartmouth's secondary defends the pass by actually knocking down passes. It happens with such regularity, you have to wonder if the opposing QB's are really processing it. True athleticism in the secondary isn't about hitting WR's in the head or getting away with pass interference. This is what it's about and you'll see a lot of it Saturday if the trend holds.The big star here has been senior Free Safety Dave Caldwell, but senior CB Vernon Harris is a major weapon too.

3) Victor Williams could gain 200 yards

The senior WR tore up Columbia last year and is putting up crazy numbers this season. He's turned into Williams' favorite target and the passes he catches usually aren't of the short variety. He's fun to watch as long as you're not the guy who has to cover him.

4) Dartmouth's next rising star may be junior LB Folarin Orimolade. 

He's a disruptor-like player who gets sacks, forces fumbles, and defends passes. He's a factor Big Green opponents weren't making allowances for before the season. 

5) Remember when watching punt returns was fun?

Senior Ryan McManus continues a growing Dartmouth tradition of being a lethal punt returner. It's fun to see what he can do every time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Enjoy the "Specialness"

I'll have a full scouting report on Dartmouth tomorrow, but I really wanted to devote a post entirely to the Big Green's once-in-a-generation, or probably once-in-many-generations player they have in QB Dalyn Williams.

This Dartmouth team is more than just about Williams. He's simply the reason why the 2015 Big Green is a great team instead of just a good one. 

His stats are simply incredible and continue to generally improve. He almost never throws interceptions and is approaching an average of 300 yards passing per game. And his abilities as a runner are as good as they were when he came to Hanover touted as a running QB.

But this isn't about stats. Every once in a while, the Ivy League gets a player that you just know will make an impact in the NFL. Columbia had that with Marcellus Wiley 20 years ago. Harvard had that with Ryan Fitzpatrick about 10 years ago. Dartmouth had it 25 years ago with Jay Fiedler and now they have it again with Williams.

I think it would be a good move for any NFL team to draft Williams with a middle round pick. He's such a great overall athlete that he probably could be dangerous even if he's eventually switched to another position in the pros.

But if I were an NFL GM I'd draft and develop him as a QB. He's a little short for the position, but certainly taller than Doug Flutie and even more mobile. His arm is very strong and I think he could be deadly rolling out towards the sideline in a read option offense. I see a lot of positives and upside.

But for the next five weeks, a player many of us will probably soon describe as "legendary Dartmouth QB Dalyn Williams" will still be playing football. Columbia fans were robbed a bit last year when Williams was pulled from the entire game against the Lions to protect a minor injury he had suffered. I wouldn't be surprised if Williams is pulled from this game early since it is the week before the major showdown with Harvard, but I doubt he won't play for at least the first half and change. 

You don't have to stop being a Columbia fan for even a second to still appreciate Williams and his talents. And something tells me that sometime in the coming years, you won't even have to be an Ivy fan to watch him play every fall weekend.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Where We Go from Here

Games like the 42-7 Homecoming loss to Penn that revert most us back to our preseason predictions of no more than one or two victories for the Lions even though we all felt new Head Coach Al Bagnoli would improve the team more dramatically in other areas right off the bat.

But here is one very crucial area where the new and better coaching staff will prove its worth. That is, how it works with the team after it gets its hopes dashed and embarrasses itself in front of 12,000 fans.

There was about half the current level of disappointment after these Lions blew a perfectly winnable game against Georgetown in week two. Columbia's coaches and players responded nicely the following week by almost beating Princeton on the road.

This test will be harder as the Lions now have to travel much further to a better opponent and try to make the game competitive against the 5-0 Dartmouth Big Green. But in some ways, the test is easier because not many people would expect Columbia to knock off Dartmouth even if the Lions had downed Penn at Homecoming.

So, it's not so much about how the Lions play this coming week but how much visible effort and enthusiasm the players show in all the five games left in the season.

The next three weeks are going to be exceptionally tough. After the road game at Dartmouth the Lion stay on the road to take on a defiant Yale team that refused to lose at Maine this past weekend. Then it's back home to face the dominant Harvard Crimson.

But there's a silver lining to this upcoming schedule, because the reduced expectations should allow the team to really work without much added pressure.

The last time Columbia played at Dartmouth, the Lions lost 56-0. The last time they visited Yale, they lost 53-12, and the last time they hosted Harvard they lost 34-0. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict the Lions will not lose the next three games by a combined 143-12.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Penn 42 Columbia 7

Why Penn Won

The Quakers quickly identified Columbia's weaknesses and cashed in as much as possible on the many Lion mistakes. Penn QB Alek Torgerson was a quiet assassin going 19-29 for 270 and three TD's with no picks.

Why Columbia Lost

After a crisp start to the game, the Lions made mistake after mistake. All four Columbia turnovers were turned into Penn TD's.

Key Turning Points

-Leading 7-0 and taking over after a Penn three-and-out, WR Scooter Hollis fumbled as he was being wrapped up and the Quakers recovered at the Columbia 21. It did look like Hollis was already down when the fumble was called, but it was a bad looking play from the start. Two plays later it was 7-7 and the Lions momentum was gone.

-With Penn leading 14-7 midway through the 2nd quarter, Columbia punter Cameron Nizialek mishandled the snap and was tackled at the CU 13.  Two plays later it was 21-7 and the game was effectively over.

Columbia Positives

-The Lions showed some flashes running the ball, but that's about it.

Columbia Negatives

-The Lions played like they were afraid of the ball at times, and were regularly beaten on the same kinds of plays time after time.

Columbia MVP

Solely based on his tough grab of the TD pass for the Lions lone score, I give it to WR Cameron Dunn.

Lessons Learned?

We still have a long way to go, and Penn is a better team than most people thought as well.

Homecoming Game Day Open Thread

Post here in the comments section about today's Homecoming game vs. Penn. 

Down on the Farm

-RB Tanner Thomas ran for 192 yards and three TDs on 22 carries in Farragut's 38-10 win over Lenoir City. 

-QB Matt Dame threw for 389 yards and three TDs, including the game winner with four seconds left, in Suncoast's 31-27 win over Ft. Pierce Westwood. 

-Center Alex Robin helped lead his Vestavia Hills team to a 20-13 upset win over Hoover. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bagnoli Bowl I

Pennsylvania Quakers at Columbia Lions

Homecoming Weekend

October 17, 2015

Kickoff time: 3:30pm

Location: Robert K. Kraft Field at Wien Stadium

Game Time Weather Forecast: 55 degrees and partly sunny

The Spread: Penn is favored by 7 points

TV/Radio: Jerry Recco and Sal Licata provide superior play-by-play and commentary on the Ivy League Digital Network

The Columbia Spectator will again be running a live blog during the game:

Columbia Game Notes

Penn Game Notes

Leading Story Lines

There is one, and only one, story line for this game: it’s the Bagnoli Bowl! You don’t need to be a great writer to set the stage and describe the drama. The longtime and legendary coach of one team goes to his new team only to face his old team on Homecoming. There really is no sign of any bad blood between new Columbia Head Coach Al Bagnoli and his old Penn program. In fact it’s quite the opposite as everyone involved seems quite cordial.

But that’s not how it is for the fans. Columbia and Penn are in the midst of the most punishing and consistent beatdown in Ivy football history. The Quakers have defeated the Lions a record 18 straight times and there’s a bad taste in the mouths of many Columbia fans when they think about how many of those games went down. Ending that streak on Homecoming, (seven of those 18 straight Penn wins have come in Columbia Homecoming games), would be a dramatic early return on the investment in Bagnoli and provide real hope for the Lion fan base on the biggest possible stage.  Penn fans want to prove their program can thrive without Bagnoli and rub it in on Columbia at least one more time.

5 Columbia Players to Watch

-Senior DE Chad Washington #4. Washington missed the Wagner game nursing a recovering knee injury but is expected to be back against the Quakers. Columbia’s defense played well without him against Wagner, but it will need him at his best to do the same against the newly energized Penn offense. Washington particularly needs to help shut down the Quaker running attack.

-Senior RB Cameron Molina #31. Penn’s defense has been suspect just about all season long and Molina will surely be a big part of Columbia’s attempts to test the Quakers on the ground and possibly through the air. Watch for the Lions to try to take advantage of an aggressive Penn defense early in the game with some screen passes to Molina or possibly junior RB Alan Watson.

-Sophomore LB Hagen Patterson #44. Patterson impressed in training camp, won a starting job and was doing well in the Fordham game before spraining his ankle in that contest. I’m surprised to see him listed again as the starter so soon after the injury, but if he’s healthy enough to really start then he could make an important impact in this game. He may draw the key job of stopping Penn QB Alek Torgersen when he tries to run.

-Junior QB Skyler Mornhinweg #8 had a generally outstanding game last week, but he needs to be a bit more accurate with his passes against the Quakers for the Lions to win. He also needs to throw a few deep balls effectively to keep the Penn defense a little honest.

-Senior DB Travis Reim #41 should see a lot of action trying to stop a Penn offense that will be desperate to get an early lead and reverse the recent trend of the Quakers falling too far behind too early in games. If that eagerness translates into a few forced passes, Reim needs to be there to help with coverage and possibly pick those passes off.

5 Penn Players to Watch

-Junior QB Alek Torgersen #10 is back after missing last week and the 2nd half of the game two weeks ago against Dartmouth. His backup, senior Andrew Lisa did extremely well in his absence and Torgersen is going to need to prove he deserves to be the starter.

-Sophomore LB Colton Moskal #44 has made the expected big impact on this team after transferring from Syracuse over the summer. He’s surely being charged with the job of stopping the bleeding for the surprisingly porous Penn defense.

-Junior RB Brian Schoenauer #20 looks to be an emerging star after two straight solid performances. But is he the real deal or did he just sneak up on Penn’s last two opponents when the games at least seemed to be totally decided?

-Senior LB LB Tyler Drake #49 is having a monster season and he and Moskal complement each other well.

-Sophomore WR Justin Watson #5 is a rising star in the Ivies and just the kind of receiver this Penn program has lacked for what seems like decades. I expect the Quakers to use him to test the Lion pass defense more than any other player.

Streak Watch

Columbia now has a one game overall winning streak, but the Lions have not defeated Penn since a 20-19 win over the Quakers in overtime at Franklin Field in 1996. That’s 18 straight losses. 

Columbia has also lost 15 straight Homecoming games dating back to a 49-21 win over Dartmouth in 2000. 

Al Bagnoli and Penn defeated Columbia 21-7 the last time these two teams met for CU’s Homecoming in 2013. Penn and Bagnoli also spoiled Lion Homecoming games in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. 

Before Penn started the Columbia Homecoming losing streak in 2001, the Lions had gone a respectable 8-4 on Homecoming starting with the win over Princeton that ended the 44-game losing streak in 1988. That includes a 20-14 win over the pre-Bagnoli Quakers in the 1991 Homecoming game, but also a 36-7 loss to Bagnoli and Penn in the 1993 Homecoming contest.

Pep Rally and South Lawn Practice Today

Homecoming weekend officially kicks off today on South Lawn on the main Columbia campus with another final practice walk through and a pep rally! It starts at 3pm with the practice and the pep rally at 3:45.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Boomer on the Lions and "The Season" Chronicles the Win


Columbia and Al Bagnoli were the subject of one of Boomer Esiason's CBS Sports Minutes yesterday. Check it out: 10-14 Boomer Esiason CBS Sports Minute On Columbia's Losing Streak

And make sure to check out the latest edition of WNYC's "The Season" 

One note on the podcast, there's a point where the question is asked: "why didn't Columbia do something like this sooner?"
While I know the fullest commitment was not there until recently, it's important to note that Columbia DID try to hire Al Bagnoli sooner. It was 1989 to be exact, and he turned us down because he didn't think the administration was serious enough. It wasn't, but at least someone in the department at that time had good instincts. Two years later, Bagnoli did go to Penn and the rest is history.  

Week 7 Picks

I went 4-2 straight up last week but 2-4 against the spread. My overall record now is 22-11 straight up and 15-18 ATS

Brown +9 ½ vs. Princeton

The Bears win over Holy Cross last week was more impressive than many seem to realize. This should be a real shootout of a game and would be my #1 choice of a game to watch other than Columbia-Penn Saturday. I think Brown will win this game.

Central Connecticut +30 ½ vs. Dartmouth

I get the feeling the Dartmouth camp is starting to try to leave a little more in the tank each game to avoid injury. The Big Green will take a big early lead and then coast to a 24 or 25 point win.

Cornell +10 ½ at Sacred Heart

The Big Red were looking much improved before the Harvard game. My guess is they’ll get back on track and make this a close game before falling to Sacred Heart.

Harvard -33 at Lafayette

I’m through predicting that Harvard will take it a bit easier on weak opponents. Expect the Crimson to keep pouring it on.

Maine -2 ½ over Yale

Yale is being hit hard by injuries and this is a long trip for the Elis.

Holy Cross +13 at Fordham

The Crusaders will make a statement in this game and take it down to the wire. I say Fordham by one score.

Wagner +17 at St. Francis

Could Wagner really be as bad as they looked against the Lions last week? I think they’ll bounce back a bit and make this game close before falling on the road.

Colgate -2 at Georgetown

The Hoyas are much improved, but Colgate needs this win.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Scouting Penn

Ray Priore


They’ve been calling this game the “Bagnoli Bowl” for a couple of months now as Columbia’s new head coach takes on the team he coached for 23 years for the first time on the other side of the field. The drama is obvious when you connect it to a game where most of the Penn players will be facing the man who recruited them. 

But there’s more.

Penn is also still in the midst of a rare downturn for the program. The current junior class is on track to become only the third Quaker class Bagnoli ever recruited to go all four years without at least one Ivy title. Most of the chatter I’ve heard out of Penn has been very pleasant when it comes to the Bagnoli move. But there’s a quiet, but insistent voice among some Penn alums that Bagnoli somehow is responsible for the Quaker slide. It’s hard to believe the Penn players believe that, but there could be some abandonment issue anger.  

Mental issues aside, it’s very hard to get a handle on this Penn team and it’s not just because they’re playing under new Head Coach Ray Priore. Looking at the stats, this team is clearly not the sum of its parts. There’s a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but it’s not translating into wins. It could be that a lot of the best stats seem to be coming from parts of games where the outcome already seemed decided. It could be that Penn seems to start most games slow and finish fast. How can a team that lost convincingly to Lehigh and looked as awful as possible for most of the game against Dartmouth and half the game against Fordham beat an albeit injured Villanova team and almost pull off a huge upset over a healthy Fordham club with a second half comeback?

The best trend I can discern is that Penn seems to be starting slowly and finishing much better. They’ve been outscored in every quarter but the 4th, with the 1st quarter deficit at 27 points. It’s pretty easy to guess that the Penn coaches will be doing everything they can to get the Quakers to reverse this trend against the Lions. A fast start could take the Homecoming crowd out of the game as well.

But whatever is going on with the Quakers, it’s hard to tell which part of this team Columbia should worry about the most… and that worries me.


The Penn offense seemed to get a shot in the arm from the emergence of backup senior QB Andrew Lisa, who replaced the injured junior Alex Torgersen in the Dartmouth game and got the team moving. Lisa also started and finished the Fordham game and got the Quakers to put up 45 points in the near win over the Rams. It looks like Torgersen will be back this week as the starting QB, but it really doesn’t seem like the QB position or the offense generally is the problem for Penn. Both have completed almost 70% of their passes. Both have mostly kept the interceptions to a minimum. Torgersen is probably a slightly better runner, that’s it.

The O-line has done a stellar job this season, allowing just six sacks in four games and opening holes for more than one running back. So the weakness isn’t here either.

The wide receivers are led by sophomore Justin Watson, an emerging star who has 29 catches and five TD receptions already. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he’s the real deal. Speedster senior Cameron Countryman is finally getting more into the offensive mix after being one of the most highly touted incoming recruits in Penn history back in 2012. TE Ryan O’Malley is 6-6 and can be a lethal target. He hasn’t been completely silenced, but also hasn’t had a breakout game this year. With his height, he’s going to be tough for Columbia to cover.

The running back situation seems to be going through a transition as well. After starting the season with sophomore Tre Solomon getting most of the carries, junior Brian Schonauer got the ball a lot more in the Fordham game after splitting the running job evenly with Solomon the week before. But like the QB’s, both of these guys seem to be very effective. To me all of these good numbers say that the Penn O-line is really the constant force here. It’s a textbook case of how if you take care of the guys up front, everything else starts to work.


The Quaker defense has a lot of excellent linebackers and defensive backs, it’s the defensive line that’s been a little iffy.

Penn has an impressive 13 sacks so far this year, but almost all of them have come from linebackers and DB’s. DT Austin Taps seems like the most dangerous guy on the D-line, but he hasn’t made a huge impact so far this season. DE Jack Madden is probably a bigger concern for Columbia right now.  

The real force on this defense, as you would expect from a linebacker coaching genius like Priore, comes from the linebackers. Sophomore transfer LB Colton Moskal from Syracuse has energized the team and he was sorely missed when he was out with an injury for the Dartmouth game. But Senior LB Tyler Drake is racking up the stats. He has an incredible five sacks, a big number through just four games for a linebacker. And junior LB Dan Panciello is a force as well. He’s the hero of the season so far with his scoop and 90-yard fumble return for the clinching TD in the Villanova game.

The secondary is young but has some talented players. Junior Matt Henderson is a top tackler and sophomore Ephraim Lee defends the pass extremely well.

But the yardage numbers on both the run and the pass show Penn’s defense has been porous at times.  

Special Teams

Penn may not have the strongest special teams in the league, but they really aren’t weak anywhere either. Senior Placekicker Jimmy Gammill has only attempted three FG’s all season, hitting two of them including a 40-yarder. He’s 12-13 on PAT’s. Kickoff specialist Aron Morgan has one touchback, but does not have an overall good average.

Sophomore Punter Hunter Kelly is very good, but sometimes Penn has the QB Torgersen handling the punts.

Senior Eric Fiore handles most of the kickoffs and all the punt returns. He is sure-handed but not a real breakaway return threat.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finishing What He Started

The losing streak is over, but no one I know is satisfied with just one win for the season.  Another streak is still very much alive, as Columbia has not won a Homecoming game in 15 years. The last win was in 2000, a 49-21 thrashing of Dartmouth highlighted by Jonathan Reese’s ’02 breaking of the Columbia single game rushing record with 237 yards.

And guess who has the biggest hand in this Homecoming streak?

If you guessed it was  Al Bagnoli and the Penn Quakers, you nailed it.

It was Bagnoli and the Quakers who started this dry spell in 2001 with a 35-7 win over the Lions. Bagnoli and Penn would go on to win six more of the 14 straight Homecoming games Columbia has lost. The other seven losses have come to former Princeton Head Coach Roger Hughes and the Tigers (2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008), and  Buddy Teevens’ Dartmouth Big Green, (2010, 2012, and 2014).

Only one of the Bagnoli wins over CU during this Homecoming streak was really close. That was the infamous 2011 game where the Lions imploded near the Quaker goal line at the end of the game with a flurry of penalties, had to settle for a tying field goal and then watched Penn take a short kickoff to start an easy drive to win 27-20.  The average score of all seven games was Penn 35 Columbia 14.

But now the man who started this streak for Columbia 14 years ago is on our side of the field and fans of symmetry everywhere would love to see Bagnoli finish it.

Of course, Bagnoli beat the Lions 18 straight times no matter where the game was played from 1997-2014. The Penn winning streak over Columbia is the longest head-to-head winning streak one Ivy team has ever held over another, (although Dartmouth did not lose to Columbia for 26 straight years between 1972-1997 but there was a tie in the middle of that streak that kept the consecutive Big Green wins to 11 and 14 on either side of that tie). And all of those losses came against the man who has taken over the Columbia program now.

From a fan’s standpoint, Homecoming games against Penn have a different feel than against other opponents. More Penn alums seem to turn out for Columbia games at Wien Stadium than the fans of any other Ivy, except Cornell. There’s a majority of Lion fans in the stands for sure, but there’s just a good feeling about looking over to the other side of the field and seeing more than a handful of people on the visitor side.

Will there be a big crowd at the game this Saturday? The weather will play a big role and right now the forecast is for a beautiful, sunny and 57 degree day. If that holds, we should see some good numbers considering a lot of people flagged this game before the season started as the intriguing battle between Bagnoli and his former team. Plus, Columbia’s win over Wagner should coax some of the more beaten down Lions fans to check out the team again.

But the drive to get a good crowd isn’t really the battle this time. A win Saturday would be an enormous boost to the program on the biggest possible stage at this moment.