NEW YORK—Columbia (2-0, 0-0 Ivy League) opens Ivy League play and plays its first road game of the 2017 football season when it travels to defending Ivy League champion Princeton (2-0, 0-0 Ivy League) on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. ET.
WHERE TO LISTEN/WATCH
Eleven Sports Network will televise the game live with Bill Spaulding (play-by-play) and Jack Ford (color analyst) calling action. Joe Valenti will produce. Jay Alter (play-by-play) and TBA (color analyst) will call action on the Columbia Online Radio Network available at www.gocolumbialions.com. Columbia’s student radio station, WKCR-Radio (89.9 FM) will also have a live broadcast.
TODAY'S TOP STORYLINES
*For the first time since 2006, Columbia opens a season and Ivy League play with a 2-0 record.
*Columbia enters its matchup against Princeton on a three-game win streak, its longest win streak since the Lions won three straight in 2010.
*Columbia leads the FCS in third down pct. defense (15%), red zone defense (50%), fourth down conversion defense (0%) and ranks second in first downs defense (26), 9th in scoring defense (14.0) and 10th in time of possession (34:23).
*Head Coach Al Bagnoli has Columbia fans more excited than ever as his 2017 Lions boast back-to-back top-25 FCS recruiting classes.
LIONS LEAD NATION IN THREE DEFENSIVE CATEGORIES
Through its first two games, Columbia leads the nation in three defensive statistical categories: third down conversion defense (15%, 3-20), fourth down conversion defense (0%, 0-2) and red zone defense (50%, 1-2). The Lions also rank among among the nation’s top-10 in a variety of other catgories including No. 2 in first downs defense (26), No. 9 in scoring defense (14.0 points per game), No. 9 in blocked kicks (2), No. 5 in fewest penalties (12), No. 1 in fewest fumbles lost (0) and No. 10 in time of possession (34:23).
The Columbia Alumni Association, Columbia Athletics and Columbia University Club of New Jersey will host a pre-game tailgate event from 10:30-12:30 p.m. for all Columbia affiliates (alumni, parents, friends). The tailgate will take place on Upper Strubing Field near Princeton Stadium. General parking is available for purchase in Lot 21 for $10 per car. A hot buffet brunch and beverages will be served between 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
COLUMBIA LOOKING TO START SEASON AT 3-0
A win over Princeton on Saturday would give Columbia three wins to start a season for the first time since 1996 when the Lions won their first six games en route to an 8-2 year.
With its two wins, Columbia begins its year at 2-0 for the first time since 2006. In 2006, the Lions defeated both Fordham (37-7 on Sept. 16) and Georgetown (23-21 on Sept. 23) to begin their year at 2-0. The Lions ended up concluding the 2006 campaign with a 5-5 overall and 2-5 Ivy League record, the last time the Lions put together a .500 or better season.
COLUMBIA ON THREE-GAME WIN STREAK
With its 35-14 win over Georgetown last week and 17-14 season opening win over Wagner on Sept. 16, Columbia claimed its third straight win after closing out last year’s season with a 31-13 victory over Brown. The last time Columbia won three straight games from Sept. 25-Oct. 16 (Sept. 25 vs. Towson, 24-10; Oct. 2 vs. Princeton, 42-14; Oct. 9 vs. Lafayette, 42-28).
A win over Princeton on Saturday would give Columbia its fourth straight victory for the first time since the 1996 season when the Lions won six straight.
The season opening victory also gave Columbia its first win on opening day in five years and snapped a four-game losing streak in season openers.
ABOUT THE LIONS
Columbia opens Ivy League play at defending Ivy League champion Princeton after winning its first two non-conference games of the 2017 season: 17-14 over Wagner and 35-14 vs. Georgetown. It also plays its first road game of the year.
Columbia returns 13 starters (seven on offense and six on defense) and 57 lettermen to a youthful and talented team that finished 3-7 overall and tied for a sixth place finish in the Ivy League with a 2-5 mark.
The 2016 Lions concluded their season with a victory at Brown, while five of their seven losses were decided by 10 or fewer points. Three All-Ivy League picks return in sophomore placekicker Oren Milstein, senior defensive back Cameron Roane and senior defensive lineman Lord Hyeamang. Additionally, Columbia returned players who accounted for 88 percent (162 of 185) of its points scored, 82 percent (1,651 of 2,014) of its passing yards, 51 percent (1,037 of 2,014) of its receiving yards, 60 percent (3 of 5) of its starters on the offensive line and 49 percent (333 of 680) of its tackles in 2016.
Columbia’s spread offense relies on second-year starting quarterback Anders Hill (Sr., 6-4, 220) who has started nine consecutive games. Wide receivers Josh Wainwright (So., 5-11, 175), Ronald Smith (So., 6-2, 190) and Christian Everett (So., 6-2, 200) all return, along with running backs Tanner Thomas (So., 5-10, 190), Chris Schroer (Sr., 6-0, 215) and Lynnard Rose (So., 6-0, 185).
Four starters are back on the offensive line, including Bewley Wales (Sr., 6-5, 300), Charlie Flores (Sr., 6-4, 300), Tyler Schonewolf (Jr., 6-3, 280) and Markham Paukune (Sr., 6-4, 290) along with sophomore tight end Rory Schlageter (6-3, 240).
On defense, Columbia’s 4-3 is bolstered by its veteran defensive line, which returns all four starters and seven of its top eight performers from a year ago including starters Hyeamang (Sr., 6-4, 285), Dominic Perkovic (Sr., 6-6, 270), Connor Heeb (Sr., 6-4, 255) and Mike Hinton (Jr., 6-4, 250). Sophomores Daniel DeLorenzi (6-2, 255) and Arman Samouk (6-1, 270) and senior Ian Tyler (6-5, 250) also return to the squad.
The Lions debut a youthful linebacker corps led by Jalen Williams (So., 6-0, 220), Michael Murphy (So., 5-11, 200), Sean White (Jr., 6-3, 240) and Parker Tobia (Sr., 6-1, 225), along with several newcomers. Columbia also returns Roane at cornerback, Landon Baty (Sr., 5-10, 195) at safety and fifth-year player Denzel Hill (Sr., 6-3, 200) at cornerback.
ABOUT THE TIGERS
Princeton enters its Ivy League opener with a 2-0 record after defeating both San Diego (27-17) and Lafayette (38-17). The Tigers are led by quarterback Chad Kanoff, who has completed 75 percent of his passes (63 of 84) for 608 yards and six touchdowns and only two interceptions. Kanoff’s two favorite targets are Jesper Horsted, who has caught 18 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns and Stephen Carlson, who has 11 receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Ryan Quigley leads Princeton in rushing with 121 yards on 28 carries, while Charlie Volker rushed for 111 yards on 20 carries vs. Lafayette last Saturday. On defense, Mark Fossati leads the Ivy League in tackles with 23 (13 solo), followed by Thomas Johnson (15 tackles), Ben Ellis (14 tackles) and CJ Wall (12 tackles and two interceptions).
FAST STARTING LIONS
In its first two games, Columbia has outscored each of its first two opponents 35-0 in the first half. Columbia’s defense has also held each of its first two opponents scoreless in the first half. In addition, the Lions have scored all 35 of their first half points in the second quarter.
Columbia and Princeton meet for the 87th time since the series began on November 14, 1874. Princeton leads the series with a 70-15-1 all-time advantage. The Tigers are 35-4-1 in games played in Princeton and have won three straight at Princeton Stadium since the Lions defeated the Tigers 38-0 on Oct. 3, 2009.
ANDERS HILL NAMED SEMIFINALIST FOR NFF’S WILLIAM V. CAMPBELL TROPHY
Columbia senior quarterback Anders Hill was named one of 37 Football Championship Subdivision semifinalists for the National Football Foundation’s 2017 William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by Fidelity Investments. The award recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation.
In leading Columbia to its first 2-0 start to a season in 11 years, Hill has thrown five touchdowns while completing 32 of 56 passes for 357 yards and 178.5 yards passing per game. He has also been responsible for 65 percent (463 of 712) of Columbia’s total offensive yards. Against Georgetown on Sept. 23, Hill threw for a career-high four touchdowns and completed 20 of 35 passes for 158 yards. In the season opener against Wagner, Hill guided the Lions downfield for a last-second, game-winning field goal, totaled 78 percent of the Lions’ total offensive yards, rushed for a career-high 89 yards and threw for 189 yards on 12 completions. Prior to the season, the political science major was elected by his teammates as one of four team captains. He is a Boulder, Colo. native.
Over his 23-game, 10-start, four-year career, Hill has thrown for 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns and completed 52.8 percent of his passes (225 of 426). He has also rushed for 528 yards and three touchdowns on 207 carries.
BAGNOLI IN THIRD SEASON AT COLUMBIA HELM
Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli is in his third season guiding the Columbia Football program. In his 36th year as a head coach, Bagnoli owns a 242-113 overall record and previously led Penn to nine Ivy League titles. He has turned football programs around at both Union College, N.Y. and Penn, where he guided the Quakers to nine Ivy League championships.
In Ivy League records, he ranks among all-time Ivy League coaches in league titles (tied for No. 2 with 9), most games overall coached in the Ivy League (No. 2 at 249), most games coached vs. Ivy League teams (No. 2 with 175), most overall coaching wins in the Ivy League (No. 3 at 154), most coaching wins vs. Ivy League teams (No. 2 with 115) and most seasons coached in the Ivy League (No. 4 at 26). Nationally and combining all NCAA levels, Bagnoli ranks No. 6 among winningest active college coaches by victories with 242. Among national FCS coaches, Bagnoli currently ranks No. 3 among winningest active coaches with 242 wins and No. 11 among all-time winningest FCS coaches by victories (242).
Bagnoli’s players have also achieved success with three former players taken in the NFL Draft, 23 have signed NFL free agent contracts, five have won the Ivy League’s Bushnell Cup Awards, eight have earned First Team All-America honors, 125 were All-Ivy League First Team selections and 203 earned All-Ivy League honors.
In his 36 years as a head coach, Bagnoli has experienced only four seasons of sub-.500 football.
CLOSE CALLS AND TIGHTLY CONTESTED GAMES
Since Al Bagnoli took over as head coach in 2015, Columbia has been competitive in almost every game. Of Columbia’s 15 losses under Bagnoli, 11 have been decided by 10 points or fewer.
Five of Columbia’s seven losses in 2016 were decided by 10 points or less, while Columbia’s average margin of loss in 2016 was 12.0. A 35-point loss to Princeton on Oct. 1, 2016 and a 25-point loss at Penn on Oct. 25, 2016 were uncharacteristic of Bagnoli’s teams at Columbia. Additionally, the Lions were competitive in every game in 2015, Bagnoli’s first season at Columbia, as six of their eight losses were decided by 10 points or less. In contrast, during its 10 losses in 2014, Columbia lost all 10 games by a combined 28.6 points per loss.
Since Bagnoli became Columbia’s head coach at the start of the 2015 season, 13 of Columbia’s 21 total games have been decided by 10 points or less. Columbia has also won seven of those contests.
COLUMBIA IMPROVES TO 2-0 WITH 35-14 WIN OVER GEORGETOWN
Senior quarterback Anders Hill passed for a career-high four touchdowns—two each to sophomore wide receivers Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith II—as Columbia registered a 35-14 Lou Little Cup victory over Georgetown Saturday at Robert K. Kraft Field. For the first time since 2006, Columbia Football begins a season with a 2-0 record as the Lions won their third consecutive game for the first time in seven years. Following the win, Columbia was presented with the Lou Little Trophy.
Columbia (2-0) built a commanding 21-0 halftime lead and for the second straight week, held an opponent scoreless through the first half. It was Columbia’s largest halftime lead since it led 26-3 vs. Wagner on Oct. 10, 2015.
Columbia struck first in the second quarter when quarterback Anders Hill found Smith for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Smith caught the ball, broke a tackle and dove into the end zone for his first touchdown of the year. The score ended a 46-yard, eight play drive that lasted 2:33 and featured the running of senior Chris Schroer (14 yards) and a key fourth-down-and-one conversion. Columbia also retained possession of the ball after it stopped Georgetown’s fake punt attempt in which first-year Carson Powell tackled a Hoya ball carrier.
Columbia went up 14-0 when Hill found Wainwright open down the middle of the field for an 11-yard scoring strike. The Lions took possession on Georgetown’s 25-yard line after the Hoyas fumbled a snap on an attempted punt. It took the Lions four plays to score.
Columbia took a 21-0 lead into halftime when Hill found Wainwright again for an 11-yard touchdown pass just seven seconds before halftime. The play capped an eight-play, 47-yard scoring drive and was setup by a 22-yard pass from Hill to Wainwright.
Columbia went up 28-0 when Hill passed for his fourth touchdown of the day when he found Smith for a nine-yard fade pass. The touchdown made it 28-0 Columbia.
Georgetown (1-2) got on the board in the fourth quarter and cut the deficit to 28-7 when Carl Thomas caught a two-yard pass from backup quarterback Clay Norris. The score culminated a 75-yard, six-play scoring drive that lasted 3:20.
Freshman quarterback Josh Bean provided an insurance score with 7:52 to play when rushed in from two yards for his second touchdown of his career. The touchdown made the score 35-7.
It was a complete performance for Columbia, which scored on five of its six red zone opportunities. On offense, Hill completed 20 of 35 passes for 158 yards and his career-high four touchdowns. Columbia’s sophomore wide receiver duo of Wainwright and Smith combined for four touchdown receptions, 16 total receptions and 140 receiving yards. Wainwright tied his own career high with two touchdown receptions and hauled in nine receptions for 74 yards, while Smith also tied a career-high with two TD catches on seven receptions for 66 yards. Schroer rushed for a career-high 93 yards on 15 carries.
On defense, the Lions held Georgetown to 257 total yards of offense and just 15 rushing yards on 22 carries, totaled 7.0 tackles for loss, limited the Hoyas to just 12 first downs and only two of 11 (18.1 percent) on third down conversions. Safeties Landon Baty and Ryan Gilbert led Columbia with six tackles apiece and middle linebacker Calvin Falkenhayn came off the bench to register five tackles and lead the Lions with 2.0 tackles for loss, including a sack.
Columbia’s special teams recovered a fumble punt attempt and forced Georgetown to miss two field goals.
COLUMBIA-GEORGETOWN POST-GAME NOTES
*With the win, Columbia is off to its first 2-0 start to a season since 2006. In 2006, the Lions defeated both Fordham (37-7 on Sept. 16, 2006) and Georgetown (23-21 on Sept. 23, 2006) to begin the year at 2-0. The Lions ended up concluding that campaign with a 5-5 overall and 2-5 Ivy League record, the last time the Lions put together a .500 or better season.
*Columbia won its third consecutive game. The last time Columbia won three straight games was in 2010 when the Lions were victorious in three straight contests from Sept. 25-Oct. 16.
*Columbia won back-to-back home games for the first time since the 2012 season when it defeated both Yale (Oct. 27) and Cornell (Nov. 10).
*Columbia led 21-0 at halftime. The 21-point lead was Columbia’s largest since it led 26-3 vs. Wagner on Oct. 10, 2015.
*For the second consecutive game, Columbia held an opponent scoreless at halftime. Today, the Lions led 21-0 at halftime. It led 14-0 vs. Wagner last Saturday. Prior to this season, the last time Columbia held an opponent scoreless in the first half was at Princeton on October 3, 2009. Columbia won the game 38-0.
*Senior quarterback Anders Hill threw for a career-high four touchdowns. The scoring passes came on 18, 11, 11 and nine yards. Hill’s previous career-high was three set two times last year: vs. Yale (Oct. 28, 2016) and vs. Cornell (Nov. 12, 2016). The last time a Columbia player threw for four touchdowns in a game was Trevor McDonagh (4) on Oct. 11, 2014 at Monmouth. Hill completed 20 of 35 passes for 158 yards. It was Hill’s third career 20-completion game.
*For the fifth consecutive game, sophomore Josh Wainwright hauled in at least one touchdown reception. He also tied a career-high with two touchdown receptions. Previously, he caught two TD receptions in last season’s finale at Brown on Nov. 19. His nine receptions ranked as his second highest game in terms of receptions.
*Sophomore Ronald Smith II also tied a career-high with two touchdown receptions. He scored on catches of 18 and nine yards. Smith has now scored six career touchdowns.
*Senior running back Chris Schroer rushed for a career-high of 93 yards on 15 carries.
*Sophomore running back Tanner Thomas rushed for a career-high 49 yards.
*Junior Kyle Castner made a career-high two receptions in his second career start. Castner has made three catches in two games.
*Senior tight end Marcus Briscoe hauled in his first catch of the year.
*Linebacker Calvin Falkenhayn registered his first career sack in the third quarter. He finished with a career-high five tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss for 16 yards and 1.0 sack.
*Senior defensive lineman Dominic Perkovic registered Columbia’s first sack of the season in the second quarter. The sack was a seven-yard loss for Georgetown.
*Senior punter Parker Thome averaged 44.8 yards per punt and placed three inside the 20-yard line.
*Sophomore placekicker Oren Milstein converted all five of his point after attempts. He is now a perfect 23-for-23 on point after attempts in his career.
*Over Columbia’s first two games, the Lions have outscored their opponents 35-0 in the second quarter.
*Columbia converted its first fourth down of the year in the second quarter on its first scoring drive.
*Columbia improved to 3-2 all-time vs. Georgetown. Today’s win snapped a two-game losing streak to the Hoyas and marked Columbia’s first vs. Georgetown since the 2006 season.
SEASON OPENER: LAST SECOND FIELD GOAL GIVES COLUMBIA 17-14 WIN OVER WAGNER IN SEASON OPENER
Sophomore placekicker Oren Milstein converted a 29-yard field goal to give Columbia a last second victory over Wagner in its season opener on Sept. 16 at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium. The win gave Columbia its first season opening victory in five years and was its third consecutive win over Wagner in as many years.
Milstein’s game-winning kick came after senior quarterback Anders Hill marched Columbia down the field for a 54-yard scoring drive and after the Lions blocked their second Wagner field goal attempt of the game.
With the score tied at 14-14, Wagner drove 56 yards in 12 plays down to the Columbia 24-yard line, where the Lions’ defense forced a fourth-and-six play with 1:38 to play. Wagner’s James Cooper attempted a 42-yard field goal, which was blocked by Columbia’s Connor Heeb and recovered by the Lions.
Columbia gained possession and Hill engineered the scoring drive by connecting with wide receiver Ronald Smith for a 16-yard gain and scrambling for a 20-yard gain. A pass interference penalty put Columbia inside Wagner’s 20-yard line and set up a third and six with five seconds to play. Milstein came in and calmly nailed the field goal as time expired.
Columbia took a 14-0 halftime lead. It was the first time the Lions held an opponent scoreless in the first half since it led Princeton 9-0 on October 3, 2009 en route to a 38-0 victory. After a scoreless first quarter, Columbia got on the board first with 13:36 left in the second quarter when Hill engineered a six-play, 62-yard drive which ended with a one-yard touchdown run by first-year Josh Bean. Columbia went up when Hill found a wide open Josh Wainwright, who shed a tackle and rambled into the end zone for a 55-yard scoring strike. The play concluded a 90-yard, four-play scoring drive.
Wagner cut the deficit to 14-7 in the third quarter when Ryan Fulse found an opening in the Columbia defense, shed a tackle and rushed for an 83-yard touchdown. Fulse tied the game at 14-14 at the beginning of the fourth quarter when he ran 21 yards for touchdown after the Seahawks’ Santoni Graham intercepted a deflected pass.
Milstein connected on his field goal after missing his first attempt from 29 yards. Last year in his first-year at Columbia, Milstein earned First Team All-Ivy League honors and consideration for the Fred Mitchell Award (FCS National Placekicker of the Year Award) after he converted 12 of 13 field goals, all 16 of his point after attempts and led the Lions in scoring 52 points. He also set a school-record with five field goals, including the game-winning field goal against Wagner in a 15-13 Columbia victory on Oct. 8, 2016. It is the third time he’s kicked a game-winning field goal in his career.
Hill led Columbia with 288 total offensive yards as he rushed for a career-high 89 yards on 19 carries and passed for 199 yards and a touchdown while completing 12 of 21 passes. Sophomore wide receiver Josh Wainwright caught four passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, sophomore Ronald Smith caught four passes for 74 yards and sophomore Tanner Thomas set career-highs for rushing yards (48) and carries (16).
Fulse led Wagner with 153 rushing yards, two touchdowns on 19 carries and quarterback Luke Massei threw for 120 yards while completing 13 of 19 passes.
COLUMBIA SECURES BACK-TO-BACK TOP-25 RECRUITING CLASSES; CLASS OF 2017 RANKS NO. 25 NATIONALLY
Columbia Football’s 31-member Class of 2021 was ranked No. 25 nationally in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision by Hero Sports as writer Brian McLaughlin comments and notes that “Bagnoli hauls in his second straight stellar class.”
It was the second consecutive top-25 recruiting class for Columbia as the Class of 2016, Bagnoli’s first full recruiting class, was ranked No. 3 in the FCS by 247Sports.com Saturday Blitz. Both of these classes represent the highest-ever ranked recruiting classes in Columbia’s football history. They will also form the foundation for Bagnoli and the coaching staff to turn around the program.
Columbia Football’s Class of 2021 is comprised of student-athletes from 18 different states including five from Florida, three each from New Jersey and California and two athletes apiece from Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee. In addition, Columbia’s Football Class of 2021 consists of 14 All-State honorees, 11 student-athletes who guided their high school teams to either a state title or state finals appearance, 19 team captains, 24 multi-sport athletes, 27 players who earned all-conference honors along with one transfer student-athlete.
SOPHOMORE CLASS MAKES IMMEDIATE IMPACT IN 2016
Columbia’s 2016 recruiting class made an immediate impact last season as 21 players out of the 41-member class earned prominent playing time as first-years in 2016. At the skill positions, Tanner Thomas and Lynnard Rose saw significant action at running back, while Josh Wainwright, Ronald Smith and Christian Everett made major contributions at receiver.
Twelve freshmen concluded the year listed on the depth chart. First-years listed on the 2016 depth chart included Smith (WR), Wainwright (WR, KR, PR), Jalen Williams (LB), Christian Everett (WR), Parker Coogan (C), Oren Milstein (PK), Tanner Thomas (RB), Lynnard Rose (RB/PR/KR), Michael Murphy (LB), Hunter Lunsford (SS), Daniel DeLorenzi (DL), Rory Schlageter (TE) and Arman Samouk (DL).
ANDERS HILL LEADS COLUMBIA OFFENSE AT QUARTERBACK
For the second straight year senior Anders Hill is back as Columbia’s starting quarterback. He returns to anchor an offense that improved with every game in 2016 and looks even more polished in 2017. It also the second consecutive year that Columbia has employed the same offensive system.
Hill has started 10 consecutive games and already in 2017 has completed 57 percent of his passes (32 of 56) for 357 yards and five touchdowns and ranks second on the Lions in rushing yards with 106 on 26 carries. He currently ranks No. 32 nationally in points responsible for per game (15.0).
Most impressive and most memorable is what Hill accomplished over Columbia’s final three games of the 2016 season against Harvard, Cornell and Brown, a period which saw him complete 60 percent (49 of 82) of his passes for 616 yards, six touchdowns and only four interceptions. In combining his previous five starts, Hill has completed 58.7 percent (81 of 138) of his passes for 973 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. Over that span, he has averaged 194.6 yards passing and 16.2 completions per game.
Hill has improved in virtually every aspect including his conditioning and strength.
COLUMBIA BRINGS THE DEFENSE
Over the last three seasons, Columbia’s defense has proved to be a team strength. Defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro has guided a unit that ranked among the nation’s best in several statistical categories in 2016 including third down conversion defense (No. 5, 29.3), first down defense (No. 7, 177.0) and team tackles for loss (No. 14, 7.6 per game). In addition, Columbia ranked a respectable No. 39 in total defense (354.9 yards allowed per game) and No. 43 in scoring defense (24.7 points per game allowed).
So far this year, Columbia’s defense has allowed just 14.0 points per game (No. 9 nationally), 282.0 yards of total defense per game (No. 17 nationally) and ranks No. 1 in third down conversion percentage defense (15%) and No. 2 in first down defense (26).
Ferraro returned six starters from the 2016 team, including all four defensive linemen: Dominic Perkovic, Ivy League Second Team pick Lord Hyeamang, Connor Heeb and Mike Hinton, along with defensive backs in Ivy League Second Team selection Cameron Roane and Landon Baty. Additionally, the Lions return seven of their top-8 defensive linemen, five linebackers with in-game experience and senior cornerback Denzel Hill, who emerged at the tailend of 2016. Most importantly, the Lions must find a way to replace the loss of three starting linebackers—Ivy League First Team selection Gianmarco Rea, Keith Brady and Christian Conway—who anchored last year’s defense by accounting for 36 percent of the Lions’ total tackles.
Success on third down was a strength of last year’s defense as Columbia led the league and ranks No. 5 nationally on third down efficiency, holding opponents to a 29.3 percent conversion rate (49-166).
Columbia’s defensive success is a carryover from the 2015 season—Ferraro’s first season at Columbia—which saw a tremendous leap in defensive efficiency, as Columbia improved from the 115th best team in total defense in 2014, to the No. 8 ranked team at 291.1 yards per game a season ago.
The Lions also yielded just 19.8 points per game which ranked as the FCS’s No. 17 best tally, while holding opponents to 13 points or less four times. It also ranked No. 2 in the Ivy League in total defense and led the conference in pass defense (186.9 yards per game). In addition, Columbia ranked No. 8 nationally in rushing defense (103.4 yards per game), No. 5 in third down conversion defense (.265) and No. 3 in first down conversion defense (148). The defense also accumulated 23 sacks for 140 yards, which ranked No. 4 in the Ivy League.
DYNAMIC DUO: WIDE RECEIVER TANDEM BACK
Columbia returns its two most productive and most dangerous wide receiver tandem in the Ivy League in sophomores Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith II. The duo entered the 2017 campaign as a bit of an unknown league-wide as most of their key performances occurred during the back end of the 2016 season.
Already this season, Wainwright and Smith have combined for 75 percent of the Lions’ receptions (24 of 32), 89 percent of their receiving yards (318 of 357) and scored 71 percent of the Lions’ touchdowns (5 of 7).
In 2016, Wainwright led the Lions in receptions (42), receiving yards (515) and touchdown receptions (5). He also caught a touchdown pass in each of Columbia’s last three games in 2016 and also finished second on the squad in all-purpose yardage with 800. He finished fifth in the Ivy League in both receptions per game and receiving yards per game, seventh in the league in all-purpose yards per game and also caught an 88-yard touchdown reception, Columbia’s longest scoring play of 2016.
In only five games and two starts, Smith led Columbia in yards per reception (16.3) and receiving yards per game (68.4) while finishing with 21 catches for 342 yards and four touchdowns. His most outstanding performance came in an 11-catch, 195-yard outing vs. Cornell last year.
DEFENSIVE LINE IS TEAM STRENGTH
Upon entering the 2017 season, Columbia’s defensive line is easily the Lions’ most experienced and deepest position group. Columbia Defensive Line Coach Darin Edwards returns a host of lineman to the squad in 2017. All four starters and seven of its eight top players return to the squad including Second Team All-Ivy League selection Lord Hyeamang, senior Dominic Perkovic, senior Connor Heeb and junior Mike Hinton. A senior, Hyeamang ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 38 (17 solo) and fourth on the team in tackles for loss (7.0-22), along with a forced a fumble in 2017. He was named one of four team captains this spring. Another defensive tackle, Perkovic started seven of eight games and contributed 31 tackles (12 solo) and 3.5 for loss while battling injuries in 2016. Both Heeb (22 tackles) and Hinton (16 tackles) started all 10 games at defensive end last year.
But it doesn’t end there. In addition to the starters, several returning players earned significant playing time last season. Those players include senior Alex Holme, sophomore Daniel DeLorenzi and sophomore Arman Samouk. Holme, who made 24 tackles in 10 games and three starts last year is basically a fifth starter, stalwart on the line and key contributor on special teams. DeLorenzi, who saw action in nine games and emerged as the season wore on, was a terror last year on third down as he led the Lions in both sacks (5-23) and quarterback hurries (seven). He also made 16 tackles, including 6.0 for loss. Samouk played in nine of 10 games last season and made eight tackles with one sack.
MILSTEIN IMPRESSES DURING FIRST SEASON AS PLACEKICKER
Unanimous First Team All-Ivy League selection and sophomore Oren Milstein returns as Columbia’s placekicker after a breakout 2016 season.
Already in 2017, Milstein converted a last-second game-winning 29-yard field goal to defeat Wagner in the season opener and scored 10 points in two games including converting all seven of his PAT attempts. The game-winning FG marked the third game-winner of Milstein’s collegiate career in only nine games played. In those nine games played, Milstein is 13 of 15 on field goal attempts and is a perfect 23 of 23 in point after atttempts.
Last year, Milstein converted 12 of 13 field goals and finished a perfect 16-16 on point after attempts. A candidate for the Fred Mitchell Award (national placekicker of the year), Milstein ranked among national leaders in both field goal percentage (No. 2 at .923) and field goals per game (No. 15 at 1.23), while leading the Ivy League in field goals (12), field goal percentage (.923) and placing second in kick scoring (5.7 ppg.). He also led the Lions in scoring (52 points) and kicked two clutch game-winning field goals in wins over Wagner and Dartmouth.
A two-time Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week dual honoree, Milstein also set school records for most field goals made (5 at Wagner, Oct. 8), and most kick scoring points scored in a game (15 at Wagner, Oct. 8).
CASTNER EMERGES AS KEY WIDE RECEIVER
The surprise of Columbia’s preseason has been the play of junior Kyle Castner, who made a position switch from quarterback to wide receiver last spring. Prior to last spring, Castner had never played wide receiver, instead spending his entire football career as a quarterback.
In two starts this year, Castner has three catches for 23 yards.
He was recruited as a QB out of Indianapolis Ben Davis High School, where as a three-year starter at quarterback, concluded his career with a 28-7 career record, 6,944 yards passing and 63 touchdowns - both school records. He spent his first two years at Columbia as a backup quarterback.
“Kyle Castner’s transition has been unbelievable,” Wide Receivers Coach Todd Gilcrist said. “It’s a situation where he never played the position before. He had a spring where he showed some flashes of some skills, worked on it this summer and came back here and positioned himself as one of the top receivers.”
YOUTHFUL LINEBACKER CORPS
Columbia lost all three of its starting linebackers from the 2016 team. All three graduated and were at least two-year starters. Those players include First Team All-Ivy League selection and middle linebacker Gianmarco Rea and outside linebackers Keith Brady and Christian Conway. A candidate for Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, Rea enjoyed one of the best defensive seasons ever experienced by a Columbia player as he led the Ivy League in tackles (108), ranked 12th nationally in solo tackles (5.8 per game), led the Lions and ranked No. 23 nationally in tackles for loss (15-46), made five sacks and six quarterback hurries. He also reached double figure tackles in nine of 10 games on the year and concluded his four-year 35-game career with 218 tackles (110 solo), 20 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks. Brady ranked third on the team in tackles (71) and totaled 9.5 tackles for loss, while Conway contributed 65 tackles (35 solo), four sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. Those three players accounted 36 percent (244 of 680) of Columbia’s tackles and comprised three of the team’s top four tacklers in 2016. Their experience will be difficult to replace.
Replacing Columbia’s trio is a talented and athletic group who all have collegiate game experience. Among those challenging for and earning starting roles and playing time include sophomore middle linebacker Jalen Williams, sophomore Michael Murphy, junior Sean White, junior Calvin Falkenhayn and senior Parker Tobia.
Last year, Williams played in eight games, made five tackles and contributed primarily on special teams. He has started each of the first two games at middle linebacker. Murphy made seven tackles in seven games and also saw action on special teams, while White saw action in nine games. That duo has earned starts in each of Columbia’s first two games. Tobia is a three-year senior who has seen action at both linebacker and on special teams. Falkenhayn came off the bench and made five tackles and a sack against Georgetown.
LIONS IN THE NFL
Three former Columbia football players saw action on National Football League teams during preseason 2017 including linebacker Joshua Martin (New York Jets), offensive lineman Jeff Adams (New York Jets) and offensive lineman Kendall Pace (Washington Redskins). Martin remains with the Jets as their starting linebacker.
Over the last 13 years, Columbia has placed 10 players on NFL rosters. Throughout its football history, Columbia has had 40 student-athletes go on to play in the NFL. A total of 12 Lions have been taken in the NFL Draft. Some of Columbia’s most notable and longest tenured NFL players include: Josh Martin (five years), Marcellus Wiley (11 years), John Witkowski (four years), George Starke (11 years), Marty Domres (eight years), Paul Governali (three years), Johnny Siegal (four years), Bil Swiacki (five years) and Sid Luckman (11 years). Columbia’s all-time highest NFL Draft picks include first-rounders Sid Luckman, Paul Governali and Marty Domres, along with second-round pick Marcellus Wiley.
COLUMBIA SIGNS TV DEAL WITH SNY
Five Columbia Football games will be televised live on SportsNet NY (SNY) this fall, Columbia University Athletics announced on Sept. 8. With the agreement, SNY will also televise Columbia men’s and women’s basketball games.
The five games that will be carried on SNY are: Wagner (Saturday, Sept. 16), Georgetown (Saturday, Sept. 23), at Yale (Saturday, Oct. 28), at Cornell (Saturday, Nov. 11) and Brown (Saturday, Nov. 18). The five games will also be simulcast live on the Ivy League Network subject to local streaming blackout rules.
With a total distribution of nearly 12 million homes, SNY is available to viewers throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Northeastern Pennsylvania for a regional reach of 8.0 million households. Combined with national coverage on DIRECTV, Verizon FiOS, Comcast Cable and AT&T U-Verse, SNY’s total distribution is 12 million homes. SNY is the official television home of the New York Mets, New York Jets and all things New York sports. As New York’s leader in local sports TV coverage, SNY delivers the most comprehensive access to all of the Tri-State area’s professional and collegiate sports teams through several nightly sports and entertainment programs.
ALL 10 COLUMBIA GAMES TO BE TELEVISED
With the addition of the five SNY games, all 10 Columbia Football games in 2017 will be aired live on a television network. As part of the Ivy League Network agreement, Eleven Sports Network will broadcast four Columbia football games including at Princeton (Sept. 30), Penn (Oct. 14), at Dartmouth (Oct. 21) and Harvard (Nov. 4). Columbia’s game at Marist on Oct. 7 will be aired on the Red Fox Network.
COLUMBIA: PUNTER U
Two former Columbia punters—2016 seniors Cameron Nizialek and Matt Panton—are now starting punters at their respective Southeastern Conference schools. Both players were given a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA, but had expired their fourth year of Ivy League football. Nizialek, who led the Ivy League in punting average and earned Ivy League Second Team honors last year, is now attending graduate school and punting for Georgia, while Panton is attending grad school at Kentucky. Kentucky plays at Georgia on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.
WHAT THEY’VE SAID ABOUT COLUMBIA IN 2016
“Columbia fans should be very proud. That program is going in the right direction with a Hall of Fame coach. Their defense didn’t give us much. It was a hard-fought, physical game. That’s a good Columbia football team over there. The future is very bright and there’s a lot of victories ahead for that team.”
- Saint Francis head coach Chris Villarrial.
“I think Al Bagnoli was sort of the Division III version of Nick Saban 30 years ago. He had a program that was perfectly designed from top to bottom, and he had great players. I think that was because he had the entire college on board with what he was trying to do.”
-Tim Layden, Sports Illustrated
“I give Columbia credit. They did some nice things, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, and got out of here with a win. So, my hat’s off to them. We knew coming in they were a team that was better than their record.”
-Jason Houghtaling, Wagner Head Coach
“I give Columbia credit. Columbia was very efficient offensively, their kicking game was solid and they played lights out on defense. They deserved to win. They shut us down offensively. Defensively, if you hold a team to nine points, you figure you’re going to win those games. It wasn’t through lack of effort, they beat us.”
-Buddy Teevens, Dartmouth Head Coach
Columbia selected four captains for the 2017 season: defensive back Landon Baty, quarterback Anders Hill, defensive lineman Lord Hyeamang and offensive lineman Bewley Wales. All four are seniors and were named captains during spring drills.
OFFENSIVE LINE FEATURES EXPERIENCED UNIT
Once again, offensive line is one of Columbia’s most seasoned and experienced position groups. The Lions return four starters from 2016. Columbia’s four returning offensive line starters are senior left tackle Bewley Wales, senior left guard Charlie Flores, junior center Tyler Schonewolf and senior right tackle Markham Paukune. These four veterans enter game three of the 2017 season with a combined 67 career starts and a combined 86 career games played.
A four-year starter, leader of the group and one of four team captains is senior Bewley Wales. Wales has started all 32 games of his career on the offensive line while playing a different position each year. As a first-year, he started 10 games at left guard, moved to center as a sophomore and started all 10 games at right tackle. In CU’s first game vs. Wagner, he starte at left tackle. In addition, Wales has started 32 consecutive games.
At left guard, Flores has made 17 career starts and played in all 22 games of his career. He missed his sophomore season due to injury. A senior, Flores has an extra year of eligibility remaining. At center, Schonewolf started all 12 of his career games. At right tackle, Paukune has started four games and has played in 17 career contests. Paukune and Flores both played on the same offensive line in high school (All Saints Episcopal in Fort Worth, Texas) and won back-to-back state titles while winning 22 straight games.
The newest member of the starting five is sophomore right guard Parker Coogan, who has made great strides in the weight room. Coogan served as Columbia’s backup center last year. He has started each of Columbia’s two games this year.
Through two games this year, Columbia has surrendered just five sacks for 13 yards. It did not yield a sack against Georgetown last Saturday.
BAGNOLI AND PENN
On October 14, Columbia will host Penn at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium for its 2017 Homecoming Game. The matchup will be the third matchup between Bagnoli and his former employer where he spent 23 seasons as the Quakers’ head coach from 1992-2014. In 23 seasons, Bagnoli guided Penn to nine Ivy League championships (1993, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010 and 2012), a 148-89 overall record and 112-49 Ivy League record. He also led Penn to three undefeated seasons (10-0 in 1993, 9-0 in 1994 and 10-0 in 2003), 12 years of seven or more victories and six perfect 7-0 Ivy League slates. Bagnoli also guided Penn on the longest winning streak in FCS history (24 wins from 1993-95).
LIONS PICKED SEVENTH IN IVY LEAGUE
Columbia was picked to finish seventh out of eight teams in the Ivy League’s annual preseason poll, voted upon by media members covering the conference and announced on August 8, 2017.
Princeton and Harvard were picked to win the league in a tie with 120 total points. Princeton finished with six first place votes, while Harvard had five first place votes. Princeton and Harvard were followed by No. 3 Penn (five first-place votes) with 110 points, No. 4 Yale with 71 points and No. 5 Dartmouth with 60 points.
Here is a look at the predicted order:
- Princeton (6 first place votes) 120 points; 2. Harvard (5), 120; 3. Penn (5), 110; 4. Yale, 71; 5. Dartmouth, 60; 6. Brown (1), 57; 7. Columbia, 38; 8. Cornell, 36.
A total of five Lions were named to the College Sports Madness preseason All-Ivy League team, headlined by senior cornerback Cameron Roane and sophomore placekicker Oren Milstein, who were both named first team selections. Earning second team honors were senior defensive lineman Lord Hyeamang, sophomore defensive lineman Daniel DeLorenzi, while sophomore wide receiver Josh Wainwright was a third team honoree.
COACHING CONTIUNITY, STAFF REMAINS INTACT
For the second straight year, Columbia’s coaching staff remains intact. Prior to the 2016 season, Running Backs Coach/Passing Game Coordinator John Audino and Quarterbacks Coach Ricky Santos joined Bagnoli’s staff. The rest of the staff arrived at Columbia with Bagnoli shortly after his hiring in February 2015. In the offseason, the Lions added Defensive Assistant Andrae Murphy.
SEASON NO. 127
This year marks the 146th anniversary of Columbia’s first intercollegiate football game against Rutgers in 1870, one year after the first college game between Rutgers and Princeton. Columbia’s first Ivy League game was against Princeton in 1874. 2017 is the 127th competitive season of Columbia football.
FRIDAY’S ON THE LAWN
Columbia continues its tradition of conducting a Friday walk-through on the university’s main campus lawn prior to home football games. The event is open to the public.
IVY LEAGUE EXPERIMENTAL RULES
For the second year, the Ivy League will use experimental rules which move kickoffs to the 40-yard line and touchbacks to the 20-yard line in an effort to reduce concussions and further promote the safety and welfare of its student-athletes. These rules will only be used in Ivy League games. The goal of the experimental rule is to limit kickoff returns, which account for 23.4 percent of concussions during games despite representing only 5.8 percent of overall plays. The League will evaluate the concussion and kickoff return data after the 2016 season.
The request was made to the NCAA as a part of The Ivy League’s overall review of concussions, which began with football in 2010 and has included eight other sports to date (men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, wrestling and rugby). As a result of this comprehensive review of concussions, the League began an all-sports concussion data collection and study in 2013. Data from this study prompted discussion of kickoffs, which led to The Ivy League head football coaches suggesting this experimental rule change. The NCAA granted The League’s request for conference games only.
This experimental rule is the latest in a series of Ivy policies and rules that are designed to limit the incidence of concussions. The Ivy League formally adopted another policy originating with the League’s eight head football coaches to eliminate to-the-ground (“live”) tackling in practices during the regular season, which will also go into effect with the 2016 campaign. Changing practice rules does not require NCAA approval. In addition, the Ivy League eliminated two-a-day practices during preseason with the 2017 season.
BILL CAMPBELL NO. 67 FEATURED ON JERSEYS
For the second consecutive year and for all of its 31 varsity sports, Columbia will wear a No. 67 patch on its uniform in honor of former Lion player, coach, confidante and friend Bill Campbell, who passed away in April, 2016 at age 75. The Lion football team will also feature 67 stickers on helmets.
A four-year student-athlete, Campbell captained the 1961 Ivy League Championship football team, which was inducted into the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 and earned All-Ivy League accolades as a senior. In 1963, Bill and a group of football and rugby alumni founded the Old Blue Rugby Club. He returned to Columbia to coach the Columbia Football team for six seasons between 1974 and 1979.
Campbell made his mark in the business world and became known as the “Coach of Silicon Valley.” He was vice president at J. Walter Thompson, an advertising agency based in New York, and then moved on to become general manager of consumer products for Kodak Europe. After Kodak, he joined Apple Computer in 1983, and rose to the level of executive vice president; he went on to found and served as president and CEO of Claris Corporation, a spin-off software developing company created and owned by Apple in 1990. Campbell assumed his role as chairman of Intuit, the maker of Quicken, QuickBooks, and Turbo Tax, in 1998 and served as its CEO until 2000. As an executive, Campbell’s marketing and strategic acumen helped build Claris, Apple, and Intuit alike into remarkable Silicon Valley success stories.
Because of his tremendous leadership and passion for Columbia Athletics, the University dedicated the Campbell Sports Center in his honor in October 2013. In fall 2014, the athletics program retired uniform number 67 – the number Campbell wore as an offensive lineman and linebacker for the 1961 Ivy League Champions - for all 31 of Columbia’s varsity teams. At the 2015 Varsity C Celebration, the athletics program introduced a new award, the William V. Campbell Performer of the Year to be presented annually to the top male and female student-athletes of the academic year.
BUBBLE AT BAKER OPENED IN JANUARY, 2017
Columbia varsity sports teams now have access to a brand-new indoor winter practice facility as the University officially opened its Seasonal Air-Supported Structure (SASS) at Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium in January 2017.
Located at Columbia’s Baker Athletics Complex (corner of Broadway and 218th Street) and adjacent to the Campbell Sports Center, the Bubble at Baker is a heated air-supported dome enclosing Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium and field. The facility also features a brand-new Field Turf Revolution 360 playing surface, which was installed in October. All seven of Columbia’s field sports teams housed at the Baker Athletics Complex (football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, baseball, softball, field hockey and lacrosse) will receive access to the new indoor practice facility throughout the winter months. Starting next year, the bubble will be inflated each winter from December through March.
Funds for the Bubble at Baker project were raised by donors to Columbia Athletics.