Game 3: Columbia vs. Princeton

The Game, in One Word: Fumbled.

The Game, in Four Words: Columbia 6, Princeton 38.

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

Emphatically, no. The heavy rain started well before kickoff and continued through much of the first half, though things mostly cleared up after halftime. Columbia’s FieldTurf surface prevented the game from turning into a mudbowl, but there was a lot of ugly football for the small, covered-up crowd.

Four Things I Think I Think

1. The first half was the best the Lions looked all year. They played tough defense, forcing two turnovers, and moved the ball well through the ground and the air. Cameron Molina played well, with over 100 yards receiving and another 45 on the ground. The Lions even had their first lead of the year! But the offense couldn’t find paydirt — one drive stalled at the Princeton 29, leading to a missed field goal, and the Lions couldn’t breach the end zone after either Tiger turnover.

2. Princeton’s last drive of the first half broke the Lions, as they moved 98 yards in just two minutes to take the 10-6 lead. Agonizingly, the drive continued despite a fumble by Princeton jack-of-all-trades Quinn Epperly which bounced in and out of the arms of several Lion defenders. Epperly also scored the touchdown, punching it in from the 2 as the clock expired — not without controversy, however, as it was extremely unclear whether the Tiger talisman ever actually made it into the endzone. Traditionally, that is a prerequisite to scoring a touchdown, a point made quite loudly by Pete Mangurian as the officials walked past. The Tigers would pile on four more touchdowns in the second half.

3. The lack of a stud wide receiver is really killing Columbia right now. Brett Nottingham must wonder whether his guys ritually coat their gloves in butter before each game, because many of his best throws were simply dropped. The receivers aren’t getting any separation from the cornerbacks, which leads to turnovers — Nottingham’s two picks weren’t great decisions on his part, but they were both the result of plays where receivers failed to come open for him. Whatever injuries are bothering Connor Nelligan and Isaiah Gross, hopefully they heal very soon.

4. I continue to be baffled by the cornerback play of this team, as they too often let their receivers go free without turning back to the ball. On Princeton’s last TD pass of the third quarter, sophomore defensive back Jared Katz completely lost his man in the end zone. From my vantage point, it looked like Katz tried to shove the receiver out of bounds, and believed he had been successful — of course, the receiver simply reset and hauled in the easy catch. (Another interpretation would be that the receiver pushed off, but from my angle that didn’t seem to be the case.) The Lions were marginally better in pass defense today, coming up with a few good break-ups, but this is still the weakest part of the team.

The Norries Wilson Memorial “When Will Pete Mangurian Be Fired?” Watch

Fourteen straight losses must weigh on a man, and we saw the first real flashes of anger from Mangurian today. After the above-mentioned touchdown, Mangurian let the officials have it, relentlessly, until he was assessed a personal foul penalty. Now, I don’t think this is a bad foul to take — it cost the Lions nothing, as the kickoff was likely to be a touchback anyway, and seemed to reject some of the passivity the head coach has shown all year.

But, once again, this passion didn’t come out in the game plan. The Lions were huge underdogs, but Mangurian again and again refused to go for it on fourth down, try any trick plays (or moderately creative ones), etc. The incredible writer Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball on Twitter) and others have talked about “David strategies” vs. “Goliath strategies” — basically, the idea that a heavy underdog can and should attempt strategies that have more risks but the possibility of a big payoff, because otherwise it will be nearly impossible to get a win. Mangurian appears to believe the opposite. (And, on defense, I can’t remember the last time this team did anything interesting schematically.)

I still think it’s unlikely that Mangurian is fired before season’s end. But, if Dianne Murphy were to pull the plug, it would almost certainly happen after the Penn game (week 5) or the Dartmouth game (Homecoming, in week 6). The pressure of Homecoming, where the Lions haven’t won since 2000, might push Murphy to make a move immediately before or immediately afterwards, if it seems necessary to placate an embarrassed fan base. The Lions must be competitive in the next two games to take that option off of the AD’s table.

Best CUMB Joke Of The Day

“Princeton’s most selective eating clubs: The Cap and Gown, The Tiger Inn, The Pastel Sweater.”

Is Brett Nottingham Injured?

No.

Phew. So, are we feeling optimistic after the game?

Not really. It’s hard to sit through a good first half, played in the rain, and watch it all come crumbling down so quickly. Columbia still seems very far away from being a competitive team. These next two weeks — both on the road — will take us to the halfway mark of the season. If they still haven’t scored more than ten points in a game by then, perhaps it would be better to burn Baker Field to the ground than suffer through another Homecoming disaster.

Stray Thoughts

  • I didn’t see my good friend Roar-ee today! Maybe he doesn’t like the rain very much.
  • Nothing particularly interesting in the uniform matchup. The Columbia coaches wore black instead of their usual light blue, which would make a great alternate uniform for the Lions. (Such a thing wouldn’t be unheard of in the Ivy League — Penn has both red and gray alternates, while Dartmouth actually has an alternate helmet.)
  • Props to new placekicker Noah Zgrablich for his lime green kicking shoes, which if I have to guess are borrowed from the other kind of football.
  • I enjoyed the Princeton Band’s second-half renditions of music from The Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed nothing else about the Princeton Band.
  • If you — yes, you! — are actually reading these posts: firstly, thank you. Secondly, feel free to offer some feedback on what you like (or don’t like) about these recaps and I will do more (or less) of those things! Leave a comment here or “tweet at me” @pfandrews.
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One comment

  1. Cathy Lanctot · October 4, 2014

    Sounds like a miserable game all round. Our rain stopped by 9:30, enabling us to go on boring mission to select deck materials.

    >

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