When Coach Norries Wilson came to Morningside Heights in January of 2006, my first thought was “now there Is a man who will restore a sense of pride to the football program.” At the time, I didn‘t know how right I would be. Aside from the team improving In each of the last two years only slightly record wise, The team and It’s players have grown up in maturity as well as skill improvement. In 2006 the Lions won 5 games with a graduating class of 15 seniors from the prior coaching staff. The next two years saw the team win a total of three games, but In the 2008 season the Lions defense made major progress towards improvement by winning two late season contests, the highlight of which was a rainy early evening contest against Dartmouth.
In that contest we saw the coming out so to speak of now Senior Quarterback M.A. Olawale. His development has continued this year, and It is no surprise to this observer of football talent that he has been helped by a mostly senior and junior offensive line, and three seniors at the skill positions. Coming Into this week (10/17) he is 50 of 88 for 670 Yds.- 6 TD’s. RB Ray Rangel (#4) was almost an afterthought In offensive coordinator Vinny Marino’s scheme 2 years ago. Now he Is leading the Ivy in rushing (64-398 3TD’s 6.2 Ypc). Receiver Taylor Joseph Is now a deep threat down the middle (8 rec. 129 Yds), and receiver/return specialist Austin Knowlin (23 rec.- 235 Yds. 3 Td’s) has finally been recognized outside of the Ivy as someone who can possibly play at the next level (when this was mentioned to Coach Wilson after the Fordham win he turned to Knowlin and with his classic wry humor remarked “Austin, your playing Flag football next year in Van Cortland Park?”).
The Defense is led by seniors Cory Cameron at linebacker, Andy Shalbrack at strong saftey, Jared Morine at cornerback (who also leads all defenders with 45 total tackles), junior linebacker Alex Gross, who led the Ivy in tackles in 2008 with 101, and Marc Holoway who is currently second on the team with 44 total tackles.
While questions still remain, each week the Lions answer them at the same time as they answer the call to play harder against each opponent.
While there is currently a 4-way tie for second place in the standings, Columbia leads all teams with 112 points scored in all games so far this season. They also came within 13 seconds of beating what many consider to be a much better Lafayette squad last week. So where will the Lions go from here? It starts with homecoming this weekend against a Penn team that has been difficult for Columbia to put away in the past.
The Quakers have won the last twelve contests and lead the series 65-21, but the Lions are gaining national recognition. They are 4th overall in the FCS In turnover margin (+2), 25th In rushing offense (164.8 Yards per game) 29th in scoring offense (28 points per game) and 34th in scoring defense (18.5 points per game). Knowlin attained the Lions career all time receptions record last week with 180 career grabs, and now has 2,141 receiving yards. He needs just 244 yards to become the Lions all time receiving yardage leader. You can expect some fireworks on Robert K Kraft Field this Saturday.