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Columbia Gave Good Ole College Try in Loss to Fordham

Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Mike McLaughlin

Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Mike McLaughlin


The Columbia Lions started their 2015 Football season visiting Fordham in the Bronx. It was understood that winning there would take some doing. Fordham, champions of the Patriot League last year, was undefeated at home a season ago, among them a 49-7 shellacking of the Lions. But, Columbia would not be facing that juggernaut and the celebration of the 60th season of Ivy League Football can inspire young players to rise to the occasion. Add in the Liberty Cup which has been contested between these two teams since 2002, commemorating those who lost their lives on 9/11 and you have a recipe for surprise meals. Columbia also saw this year as marking the 145th anniversary of the first intercollegiate game against Princeton in 1870 and its 125th season of competitive football.

In the end, the Lions came out on the short end of a 44-24 score, but the score does not tell how competitive this contest was. This was the mindset instilled by new coach Al Bagnoli, who after 23 years at Penn, doesn’t lose easily.

Columbia was quite inspired coming in as Fordham was 1-1 coming in showing weaknesses. They defeated Army 37-35 but were finally clipped at home last week by Villanova 14-7, snapping the home streak and giving Columbia reason to hope.

Columbia came out to play as their defensive front, led by defensive end Hunter Little and defensive tackle Dominic Perkovic (1.5 sacks each) were able to put pressure on Fordham’s new signal-caller Kevin Anderson. Keith Brady had eight stops, but it was the play of free safety Matt Cahal that shone, as he made ten tackles and a first quarter interception that kept things close initially.

Anderson is different from his predecessor, Mike Nebrich. Anderson is more of a runner-passer, but Fordham, we learned, has a talented trio of freshman wide receivers and Anderson utilized them to the tune of 22 completions in 30 attempts for 330 yards and five touchdowns. Phazahn Odom started it when Anderson found him on a post pattern from 28 yards out with 3:50 left to finally break through a defensive dominated first quarter.

Columbia was not intimidated. They meticulously drove down the field in the second quarter. They worked it down through ten plays until they arrived at the five. It was there where quarterback, Skyler Morninweg, (21-25, 187 yards in the air), took over in the first from Hill, adding 17 yards on the ground, including five which he kept and scored from to tie matters.

Anderson kept finding new targets, especially Austin Longi, who made catch after catch. Fordham took ten plays to reach the Lion three and Anderson found Longi after a play action, over the middle to make it 14-7. But Columbia drove back running ten plays covering 61 yards until the Fordham defense stiffened and held them. Columbia Kicker Cameron Nizialek hit a 31 yard Field Goal to make it 14-10. Then a senior wide out emerged as Robbie Cantelli started making catches and scored on a pass from Anderson from seven yards out splitting two defenders in the center of the end zone closing out the half with Fordham up 21-10. Cahal explained why Fordham was so successful in the air. “We did a good job early on and we just let them get behind us,” he said, “The good thing is that they’re mental mistakes, so we’ll build on that and get in the film room and get better for next week.”

The only weapon Fordham did not use often, running back Chase Edmonds, was unleashed in the second half. Chase would finish with 127 yards on only 13 carries. They took only two plays to add to their lead as Edmonds busted out for a 71 yard run before being corralled at the one. He scored on the next play and at 28-10 it appeared to be another rout. But then there was Alan Watson.

Columbia focused a lot of their offensive plays through Watson. In the first half they went to him on pass plays, end arounds, some successful, some not. But when he received the kickoff on his two, he showed his game breaking ability, running through the storm of special teamers to run 98 yards and suddenly it was 28-17. “It was a huge hole.” Watson said, “It was hard for me to miss.”

Columbia front line started to get through again and holding penalties lost Fordham all they gained in the drive. Skyler found new targets and Scooter Hollis was the catalyst making crucial catches in a long 18 play drive. Then Mornhinweg launched a 40 yard bomb to Tight End John Hunton. After mixing in completions to Cameron Dunn and Ben Kaplan, they had covered 80 yards of Coffey Field real estate and Mornhinweg snuck in from the one to close the deficit to 28-24 after three and we had a whole new ball game.

But the wheels came off in the fourth as Fordham outscored the Lions 16-0. Chase Edmonds was running free again and he added a second touchdown by grabbing one from Anderson from the three but Fordham kicker Makay Redd saw his extra pointer blocked keeping making it a ten point game.

Columbia could not stop Phazahn Odom, who emerged as the new top receiver on this day and after six more plays Anderson found him from 41 yards out with under eight minutes to play and at 41-24 it was now essentially over, but Columbia remained stubborn. Skyler found a ray of light as his deep spiral intended for Watson fell through his hands at the 50 with full daylight ahead. “You always want to win the game, so we’re disappointed,” Skyler Mornhinweg shared afterwards, “But we played from the standpoint that we did some really good things.”

Fordham rode the back of Edmonds, whose 26 yard run brought it to the Columbia 20 leading to a field goal and a 44-24 lead. Though hopelessly behind, the Lions reached the Ram 20, but the Ram defense, who took their lumps today, was excellent in one area, the secondary. They batted away passes at major points keeping Columbia from passing them this afternoon. They bent but rarely broke. They closed the show when cornerback Marcus Fulmore snatched one near the line to complete the wInner’s highlights for the day.

The Columbia Lions (0-1) have a lot to look forward to. They have a nice option attack and talented receivers and Skyler Morninweg can find them. The defensive line is big and will be a force all year long in the Ivy. Coach Bagnoli is looking for something more though. “I don’t want our kids to feel like this is any kind of moral victory,” he said, “If they’re going to be good, they’ve got to eliminate some of these self-inflicted mistakes and make guys earn it.” Columbia will play their home opener next Saturday against Georgetown.

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