Game 1: Columbia vs. Fordham

Sometimes, you have to give the people what they want. Or, in this case, what they definitely don’t want. I’ll be posting some thoughts and analysis after each Columbia football game I attend this year.

The Game, in One Word: Inevitable.

The Game, in Four Words: Columbia 7, Fordham 49.

Four Things I Know I Think

1. In the battle of offenses, Columbia was the Model T to Fordham’s Ferrari. The Lions found no success either on the ground (59 yards on 18 carries) or in the air (106 yards on 16 completions, 32 attempts) — and most of those 165 yards came on a 78-yard drive which ended the game! Meanwhile Fordham piled up over 600 yards of total offense and, using a tempo offense with lots of option football, seemed to move the football at will.

2. The Lions front seven was the standout unit of the game (for CU, as all units were inferior to Fordham), putting a surprising amount of pressure on Fordham QB Mike Nebrich. Roy Schwartz had a huge sack when the score was still 14-0, dropping Nebrich twelve yards behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-ten play. Credit is also due for a blocked field goal in the third quarter.

3. Columbia’s secondary, however, was atrocious. Nebrich completed 66% of his passes, and the incompletions were more on throws or receivers than on the defensive backs. The cornerbacks don’t attack the ball in the air — in fact, often they didn’t turn around to see it — and were unable to defend many passes as a result. The tackling was also awful — on one touchdown, the receiver caught the ball at the two with a defender ready to make the tackle, but a quick cut-back from the receiver and the defensive back completely overshot the play.

4. The much-maligned offensive line held their own today, allowing no sacks of Brett Nottingham. Though he was under pressure a few times, the Rams were largely kept at bay. This doesn’t apply to the running game, as there was little space for anyone to run, but Nottingham had the sort of pass protection he’ll need to stay upright all season.

Coaching Questions

Pete Mangurian and Jaime Elizondo’s offensive game-plan continues to be about as aggressive as a baby sloth being cuddled by its mother, and it has to change. The Lions must occasionally be aggressive — it’s a long field! take a shot down it! — in order to prevent opponents from simply stacking the box and playing their safeties close to the line.

A little bit of faith on fourth downs might help as well. Down 28-0 in the third quarter, the Lions faced a fourth-and-one. Seeing this, Mangurian immediately called timeout… then sent Nottingham out to draw the defense offside. As everyone in the stadium knew this was the plan, it did not work, and the Lions simply accepted the five-yard penalty and punted. THERE’S NO HARM IN RUNNING A PLAY HERE YOU’RE LOSING BY FOUR TOUCHDOWNS DURING YOUR HOME OPENER WITH ONE YARD TO GO WHY ARE YOU JUST GIVING UP! (If a man yells on a blog, does it make a sound?) Not coincidentally, that final Lions drive included a huge fourth-down conversion on a pass to Isaiah Gross. When you’re struggling as much as the offense was, it’s hard to justify repeatedly playing it safe.

Is Brett Nottingham Injured? 

Not as far as we know, which is a huge relief. The ballyhooed transfer looked like a man who hadn’t played much football in a few years, which is understandable — and there were flashes of promise. The final drive of the game may have come against Fordham’s second-string, but that’s the caliber of opponent CU is likely to face going forward. His receivers, though, need to catch a ball every now and then when it hits them in the hands.

Was It At Least A Nice Day For A Football Game?

Yes, and then some. Baker Field remains a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, particularly when that afternoon is 75 degrees and sunny.

Best CUMB Joke of the Game

“US News and World Report has once again issued their college rankings, which we all know are an arbitrary metric we use to feel superior to everyone lower on the list and inferior to everyone higher on the list. And sadly, despite the total meaninglessness of the list in general, it does give 58th-ranked Fordham a lot of schools to feel inferior to.”

After watching this game, are we cautiously optimistic or aggressively fatalistic?

Neutral. Some units put in strong performances, and Fordham is the best team the Lions will play this year — but at the end of the day there were still six touchdowns and five hundred yards between the Lions and their opponents. More will be known after last week’s away clash with Albany.

Stray Thoughts

  • The pre-game atmosphere remains outstanding. The band was in full force, the sun was shining, and there were a vast assortment of goodies. I picked up a draw-string bag, schedule magnet, schedule poster, and — in a nice touch — a special scarf given out to all season-ticket holders.
  • (The beer was better than last year, too.)
  • Attendance wasn’t bad, either, with over 4800 turning out, compared to 3800 and 4400 for Columbia’s last two season openers. Nice to see also was a particularly vocal group of students, largely freshmen, including a group with their chests painted spelling out “FOOTBALL?”
  • (The question mark, I thought, was pretty hilarious.)
  • Fordham’s “patriotic” uniforms remain a crime against fashion, taste, and patriotism — but they’re better than last year’s edition, which paired red and blue with maroon. At least this year’s white kits only clashed with the helmets. Columbia, as always, was resplendent in blue and white.