Saturday, November 4, 2017 | 1 p.m. ET
Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium | New York, N.Y.
Harvard (4-3, 2-2 Ivy)
HarvardColumbia
Columbia (6-1, 3-1 Ivy)

NEW YORK—In a three-way tie for first place in the Ivy League with a 3-1 league record, Columbia (6-1, 3-1 Ivy League) hosts Harvard (4-3, 2-2 Ivy League) in a key Ivy League matchup on Saturday. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium.

WHERE TO LISTEN/WATCH

 

Eleven Sports will televise the game with Bill Spaulding (play-by-play), Jack Ford (color analyst) and Seth Cantor (sidelines) calling action. Mike Cleland will handle production. The contest will also be simulcast and live streamed on the Ivy League Network. Lance Medow (play-by-play) and former Columbia player Ted Gregory (color analyst) will call action on the Columbia Online Radio Network available at www.gocolumbialions.com.

 

SATURDAY’S TOP STORYLINES

*With a 3-1 Ivy League record, Columbia is currently locked in a three-way tie for first place atop the Ivy League with both Yale and Cornell.

*Columbia’s 3-1 Ivy League record ties the school-record for best start in conference play. It also started 3-1 in Ivy League play in 1961 and 1996.

*For the first time since 1996, Columbia opened a season with a 6-0 record. Its recently completed seven-game win streak was its longest since 1935 and ranks tied for the third longest in school history.

*For the fifth consecutive week, Columbia earned votes in the STATS, Inc. FCS national poll.

*Coach Al Bagnoli is a National and Ivy League Coach of the Year candidate.

 

THE STAKES

 

With three games remaining, Columbia finds itself in a three-way tie for first place atop the Ivy League standings. Columbia, Cornell and Yale all have identical 3-1 league records. In its final three contests, Columbia will face Harvard at home, travel to Cornell and host Brown. Cornell will play at Dartmouth, host Columbia and then travel to Penn. Yale hosts Brown, plays at Princeton and closes its season by hosting Harvard. Columbia is in search of second all-time Ivy League title and first since it was co-champion in 1961.

 

COLUMBIA OFF TO BEST START IN IVY LEAGUE PLAY SINCE 1996, LOOKING TO REGISTER FIRST WINNING IVY LEAGUE SEASON SINCE 1996

 

With a 3-1 record, Columbia is off to its best start in Ivy League play since 1996. The Lions also started 3-1 in 1961 when it captured the only Ivy League championship in school history.

 

A win over Harvard on Saturday would also give Columbia its second-ever 4-1 start to Ivy League play since the conference was formed in 1956. A win also guarantees Columbia’s first winning season in Ivy League play since 1996.

 

Since the Ivy League was formed in 1956, Columbia has only completed four seasons with a .500 or better record in Ivy League play: 1961 Ivy League Champions (6-1), 1962: 4-3, 1971: 5-2, 1996: 5-2.

 

COLUMBIA VYING FOR SECOND ALL-TIME IVY LEAGUE TITLE

 

Columbia has won just one Ivy League championship in program history: 1961. In 1961, Columbia tied for the league title with a 6-1 overall record, defeating all league teams except for Princeton (30-20 loss). Coached by Aldo T. Donelli and led by captain William V. Campbell, Columbia defeated Penn 37-6 on Nov. 18, 1961 to claim a piece of the Lions’ first and only title.

 

MONUMENTAL TRIFECTA: DARTMOUTH-PENN-PRINCETON SWEEP

 

With victories over Dartmouth (22-17), Penn (34-31 in OT) and Princeton (28-24), Columbia swept all three opponents for the first time since the 1971 season. Since the Ivy League was formed in 1956, Columbia has defeated Dartmouth, Penn and Princeton in the same season only two times: 1971 and 2017. Dartmouth, Penn and Princeton combined to win each of the last three Ivy League titles.

 

BAGNOLI IS NATIONAL/IVY LEAGUE COACH OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE

 

Columbia head coach Al Bagnoli is both a National and Ivy League Coach of the Year candidate. After leading the Lions to a 3-7 record in 2016, Bagnoli has Columbia at 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the Ivy League heading into its final three contests. The Lions have already clinched a winning season for the first time since 1996.

 

Turning a program around is nothing new for Bagnoli as he has orchestrated several program turnarounds during his 36-year coaching career. At Union in 1982, he led a program from an 0-10 season to an 8-1 overall record during his first season in 1982, then sustained success throughout his tenure. At Penn, he took control  of a Quaker program that went 4-6, 3-7 and 2-8 in the previous three seasons before Bagnoli’s arrival and then went 7-3 (1992), 10-0 (1993) and 9-0 (1994) in his first three years from 1992-94. He went on to win nine Ivy League titles during his tenure with the Quakers.

 

FOR FIFTH WEEK LIONS EARN VOTES IN STATS, INC. NATIONAL POLL

 

For a fifth consecutive week, Columbia gained votes in the STATS, Inc. national poll. The Lions secured 20 points in the poll and are listed in the “others receiving votes” at No. 37. Columbia is the second highest Ivy League school in the rankings and is one of four Ivy League schools receiving votes including Dartmouth (six points) and Princeton (five points).

 

Columbia first appeared in the STATS, Inc. national FCS poll on Monday, Oct. 2 with 22 points following a 28-24 win over Princeton on Sept. 30. On Monday, Oct. 9, Columbia earned 23 points following its win at Marist. It garnered 48 points on Oct. 16 and last week, Columbia earned a season-high 115 points (Oct. 23, 2017).

The last time Columbia earned a national ranking was during the final 1947 poll where it came in at No. 20 in the Associated Press poll following a 7-2 overall record. Columbia has never been ranked since it joined the FCS.

 

COLUMBIA, LIONS PLAYERS AMONG NATIONAL STATISTICAL LEADERS IN A VARIETY OF CATEGORIES

 

Through its first seven games, Columbia ranks among the nation’s top-25 FCS teams in 15 different team statistical categories according to the NCAA. Columbia ranks

*No. 4 in third down conversion defense (27%)

*No. 4 in blocked kicks (4)

*No. 4 in fumbles lost (2)

*No. 6 in time of possession (33:33)

*No. 10 first downs defense (124)

*No. 11 in red zone defense (69.6%)

*No. 11 in third down conversion percentage (47.4%)

*No. 14 in winning percentage (85.7%)

*No. 18 in punt return defense (4.78)

*No. 20 in fourth down conversion percentage (64.3%)

*No. 20 in kickoff returns (22.95)

*No. 21 in fewest penalties (43)

*No. 21 in kickoff return defense (17.53)

*No. 22 in passing offense (262.6)

*No. 26 in scoring defense (20.0)

 

Individually, several Lions also rank among the top-25 national statistical leaders:

*Anders Hill, No. 18 in completions per game (20.7)

*Anders Hill, No. 13 in passing yards per game (262.6)

*Anders Hill, No. 16 in total offense (283.4)

*Anders Hill, No. 24 in points responsible for per game (14.6)

*Josh Wainwright, No. 17 in receiving yards per game (95.9)

*Josh Wainwright, No. 17 in receiving touchdowns (7)

*Josh Wainwright, No. 12 in receptions per game (7.0)

*Josh Wainwright, No. 16 in punt returns (10.0)

*Parker Thome, No. 11 in punting (43.0)

*Josh Bean, No. 20 in rushing touchdowns (7)

*Ryan Gilbert, No. 17 in solo tackles (5.7)

*Ryan Gilbert, No. 18 in total tackles (10.0)

*Michael Murphy, No. 11 in fumbles recovered (2)

*Connor Heeb, No. 6 in blocked kicks (2)

 

6-0 START FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1996

 

With its six wins to start the 2017 season, Columbia begins a year at 6-0 for the first time since 1996. Columbia starts its season at 6-0 for the just the second time since 1945. Columbia has started a season at 6-0 or better only six times in school history: 1903 (8-0), 1904 (6-0), 1932 (7-0), 1945 (6-0), 1996 (6-0) and 2017 (6-0).

 

With its six wins already in 2017, Columbia has already surpassed its win total of five victories over the previous four years (2013-16). The Lions went 5-35 during that span. In just two-and-half seasons at Columbia, Bagnoli has already won more games (11) than Columbia won in the previous five seasons (2010-14) before he became head coach. The Lions went 8-42 during that five-year span.

 

In 1996, Columbia won six straight games to start its season en route to an 8-2 overall record and 5-2 Ivy League record. Two of those wins were in overtime: Sept. 21 vs. Harvard (OT), 20-13; Sept. 28 at Fordham, 17-10; Oct. 5 at Holy Cross, 42-16; Oct. 12 at Penn (OT), 20-19; Oct. 19 Lafayette (Homecoming), 3-0 and Oct. 26 at Yale, 13-10. The streak ended with a 14-11 home loss to Princeton on Nov. 2.  Ironically, Columbia defeated Al Bagnoli’s Penn-coached team 20-19 in overtime in 1996.

 

COLUMBIA’S SEVEN-GAME WIN STREAK

 

Columbia’s seven-game win streak from November 19, 2016 to October 28, 2017 marks the school’s longest win streak since 1935. With its 22-17 win at Dartmouth, Columbia claimed its seventh consecutive win while closing out the 2016 season with a 31-13 victory over Brown. The last time Columbia won seven straight games was from Oct. 27, 1934 to Oct. 19, 1935.

 

The seven-game win streak ranks tied for the third longest win streak in school history. The school-record is eight consecutive wins set two different times. It won a school-best eight consecutive contests to open the 1903 season. Columbia also won eight straight games from Oct. 28, 1933-Oct. 20, 1934. Columbia’s all-time win streaks are as follows: 8, Sept. 26, 1903-Oct. 31, 1903; 8, Oct. 28, 1993-Oct. 20, 1934; 7, Nov. 19, 2016-current; 7, Oct. 27, 1934-Oct. 19, 1935; 7, Sept. 24, 1932-Nov. 12, 1932.

 

FIRST WINNING SEASON SINCE 1996

 

With its six wins, Columbia is already guaranteed of its first winning season in 21 years since it finished 8-2 overall and 5-2 in Ivy League play in 1996. Columbia has already won more games than it accumulated in its first two seasons under Al Bagnoli: 2-8 in 2015 and 3-7 in 2016. The last time the Lions put together a .500 or better overall season was in 2006 when they finished 5-5 overall and 2-5 in the Ivy League.

 

HARVARD SERIES

 

Harvard and Columbia meet for the 76th time since the two schools first played on Nov. 5, 1877. Harvard holds a 60-14-1 advantage in the series, including a current 13-game win streak dating back to a 16-13 home win on November 8, 2003. Harvard is 27-8 all-time vs. Columbia in New York City. The Crimson has won each of the last six games in New York City.

 

COLUMBIA HAS FLAIR FOR DRAMATIC WINS

 

Columbia has shown its resilience and toughness with two comeback wins against Penn and Princeton, two walk-off wins over Penn (34-31 in OT on walk-off TD) and Wagner (17-14 on walk-off field goal) and four victories that were secured in the last two minutes of regulation: Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton and Wagner.

 

Against Wagner, the Seahawks tied the game at 14-14 and had a chance to go ahead on a field goal, but Columbia blocked the attempt. Columbia gained possession of the ball back and quarterback Anders Hill drove the Lions 54 yards down the field where placekicker Oren Milstein converted a 29-yard field goal as time expired for the win.

Trailing 24-21 with 1:12 to play at Princeton, wide receiver Ronald Smith II caught a pass from Hill and raced 63 yards down the field for the game-winning touchdown. With Princeton driving on its final possession, sophomore Ben McKeighan intercepted his second pass of the day to seal the victory.

 

Against Penn, the Lions trailed 21-7 in the fourth quarter and used two interceptions to storm back, tie the game at 21-21, then take a lead 28-21 on a Hill pass to tight end Rory Schlageter. Penn sent the game into overtime with a touchdown with 1:21 to play. In overtime and after Columbia’s defense held Penn to a field goal, Hill found Josh Wainwright for a 24-yard touchdown on a third and nine play to give the Lions a 34-31 win.

 

Already, Hill has led the Lions on three game-winning drives in the early-going this year.

 

At Dartmouth, Columbia built a 22-7 lead then had to hold off a late Dartmouth comeback. On the last play of the game with Dartmouth threatening score a touchdown at CU’s seven yard line, Columbia’s Mike Hinton sacked DC’s quarterback and time expired securing a 22-17 Columbia victory.

 

PERFECT NON-CONFERENCE RECORD

 

Columbia completed its three-game non-conference schedule with three consecutive wins for the first time since the 2006 season. The Lions defeated Wagner (17-14), Georgetown (35-14) and Marist (41-17). In addition, Columbia has won four consecutive non-conference games, a streak it will carry over into the 2018 season.

Columbia has completed perfect non-conference seasons only three times since the Ivy League was formed in 1956: 1996, 2006 and now 2017.

 

ABOUT THE LIONS

 

Columbia begins its final three-game stretch with a 6-1 overall and 3-1 in Ivy League play for the first time since 1996. Columbia finds itself in a three-way tie for first place in the Ivy League.

 

It returns home to play Harvard after playing two consecutive road games at Dartmouth (22-17 win) and at Yale (23-6 loss).

 

Columbia returned 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.

 

ABOUT THE CRIMSON

 

Harvard enters Saturday’s game with a 2-2 Ivy League record and at 4-3 overall. The Crimson are coming off a 25-22 home win over Dartmouth and have also registered wins over Brown (45-28), Georgetown (41-2) and Lafayette (38-10).

 

The Crimson are led by quarterback Jake Smith, who is completing 57.4 percent (74 of 129) of his passes for 920 yards (153.3 per game). Smith’s top targets include Justice Shelton-Mosley, who has made 21 receptions for 262 yards (12.5 yards per catch), Adam Scott (20 catches for 192 yards) and Ryan Antonellis (19 catches for 215 yards, 2 TD). Charlie Booker ranks second in the Ivy League in rushing with 651 yards on 114 carries (93.0 per game. He has also scored six touchdowns.

 

Harvard is led on defense by Luke Hutton, who leads the Crimson with 54 tackles (22 solo). Following Hutton is Tim Haehl (40 tackles) and Tanner Lee (34 tacles, two interceptions). DJ Bailey leads Harvard in sacks with 4.0 for 29 yards and tackles for loss (7.5-37 yards).

 

THIRD DOWN DOMINANCE

 

Columbia continues to make plays on third down both on offense and on defense. Offensively, Columbia has converted 54 of its 114 third down conversions (47.4 percent) on the year to rank second in the Ivy League and rank No. 11 nationally in that statistic. On defense, Columbia has limited opponents to a 27.1 percent (23 of 85) conversion rate on third downs, which ranks No. 4 nationally and leads the league by a large margin.

 

Columbia has also been successful on fourth down offense with a 64.3 percent rating, which ranks No. 20 nationally.

 

LIONS DOMINATE TIME OF POSSESSION

 

Columbia has won the time of possession battle in six of its seven games this year. On the year, Columbia ranks No. 6 nationally and leads the Ivy League in time of possession after maintaining possession for 33:33.

 

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 marks the second consecutive year that Columbia has employed the same offensive system.

 

Hill has started 15 consecutive games and in those 15 starts, has guided Columbia to seven straight wins and a 9-6 record as the starter. His seven-game win streak is the longest for a Columbia full-time starting quarterback since Gene Rossides won six straight as the starter from Oct. 25, 1947-Oct. 2, 1948. Already in 2017, Hill has completed 62.5 percent of his passes (145 of 232) for 1,838 yards and 14 touchdowns and ranks third on the Lions in rushing yards with 146 yards on 79 carries and three TDs.

 

Upon entering into the 2017 season, most impressive and most memorable is what Hill accomplished over Columbia’s final three games of the 2016 season against Harvard, Cornell and Brown. The three-game span saw him complete 60 percent (49 of 82) of his passes for 616 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.

 

In his career, Hill has completed a school-record 61.2 percent of his passes (338 of 552) for 4,043 yards, 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 28 games and 15 starts.

 

Hill has improved in virtually every aspect including his conditioning and strength.

 

DYNAMIC DUO: WIDE RECEIVER TANDEM PROVES TO BE THREAT

 

Columbia has the 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. This year, both players have displayed a knack for getting open and a flair for the big play.

 

Already this season, Wainwright and Smith have accounted for 52.4 percent of the Lions’ receptions (76 of 145), 59.2 percent of their receiving yards (1,089 of 1,838) and nearly half of the Lions’ touchdowns (11 of 25).

 

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.

 

This year, Wainwright has 49 catches for 671 yards and seven touchdowns. Wainwright also leads the Lions in all-purpose yards with 774 for the year (671 receiving,100 on punt returns). For his 16-game, 15-start career, Wainwright has caught 91 passes for 1,186 yards and 12 touchdowns.

 

On Oct. 2, Smith was named Columbia’s first Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week since Oct. 4, 2010 when he set a school-record and Princeton Stadium record with a career-high 236 receiving yards on 10 receptions. He also caught the game-winning touchdown pass on a 63-yard catch and run. His 236-yard receiving game ranks 11th among single-game totals in Ivy League history and marks the fourth highest total in FCS football this year. He also tied a career-high with two touchdown receptions and caught two TD passes for the second consecutive game. He surpassed Columbia’s single-game receiving yards record of 214 yards set by Bill Wazevich vs. Princeton on October 7, 1967. His game-winning 63-yard touchdown reception marked the longest catch of his career. The performance marked Smith’s third 100-yard receiving game of his career. His previous career-high for receiving yards was 195 yards and his career-high for receptions still stands at 11 vs. Yale on Oct. 28, 2016.

 

Smith has missed each of the last two games (at Dartmouth, at Yale) with an injury.

 

For his 10-game and seven-start career, Smith has caught 48 passes for 810 yards and eight touchdowns.

 

IVY LEAGUE LEADERS

 

Columbia leads the league in two statistical categories: opponent third down conversions (27.1) and time of possession (33:33). Individually, junior punter Parker Thome is the only player to lead the league in a statistical category: punting (43.0).

 

BIG PLAY LIONS

 

Columbia now has a group of playmakers who can make big plays. It has three receivers- Josh Wainwright, Ronald Smith and Emerson Kabus- who each have a catch for over 60 yards or more and each has registered a 100-yard receiving game. In defensive back Will Allen, Columbia also has a kickoff returner capable of scoring a touchdown on any given play. The return of running back Lynnard Rose from injury gives the Lions another playmaking threat.

In seven games, Columbia has had 32 total plays gaining 20 yards or more, 15 plays gaining 30 or more yards and a whopping 13 plays of 40 or more yards. Of the 13 40-yard plays, five have gone for touchdowns including a 59-yard TD pass to Josh Wainwright, 69-yard TD pass to Wainwright, 46-yard TD pass to Ronald Smith, 63-yard TD pass to Ronald Smith and 55-yard TD pass to Wainwright.

 

OFFENSIVE QUICK HITS

*Columbia is averaging 372.4 yards of total offense per game, up from 326.5 yards per game in 2016. It is averaging 262.6 yards passing per game.

*Columbia is averaging 26.1 points per game, up from 18.5 points per game in 2016.

*Columbia is averaging 20.2 first downs per game, up from 17.7 first downs per game in 2016.

*Quarterback Anders Hill has been responsible for 17 of Columbia’s 25 touchdowns on the year (68 percent). He ranks among national leaders in four statistical categories.

*One under-the-radar statistical category that stands out is Hill’s efficiency and success on third downs. Coming into Saturday’s game, on third downs, when Hill passes, he has incredibly completed 38 of 54 passes for 441 yards and six touchdowns and has converted first downs 22 times. He has been sacked 6.0 times and thrown two interceptions.

*Each week receivers Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith are ranked among league leaders in receiving yards. This week, Wainwright ranks third in the league with 671 yards on 49 receptions and seven touchdowns. After missing the last two games (Dartmouth and Yale), Smith is now ranked No. 6 in receptions per game (5.4 and No. 5 in yards per game (83.6) and four touchdowns.

*Three receivers have totaled 100-yard receiving games: Ronald Smith (school-record 236 at Princeton), Josh Wainwright has two 100-yard games (193 vs. Penn, 104 vs. Wagner) and Emerson Kabus (114 at Marist). All three have at least one catch of over 60 yards.

*At Dartmouth, sophomore wide receiver Kaleb Pitts stepped up for the injured Ronald Smith. Pitts caught eight passes for 91 yards including a 40-yard pass from Anders Hill in the second quarter.

*Junior wide receiver Kyle Castner was the surprise of preseason. The former quarterback made a position switch to wide receiver in the offseason. In seven starts, Castner has 17 catches for 219 yards. At Yale, Castner had a career-day with six receptions for 97 yards with catches of a career-long 41 yards and 40 yards.

*At running back, sophomore Tanner Thomas ranks No. 9 in the Ivy League in rushing (40.4 yards per game). Chris Schroer has run for 240 yards on 63 carries (34.3 per game).

*Backup first-year quarterback Josh Bean has scored seven rushing touchdowns in six games played. He is used primarily in short yardage rushing situations and registered back-to-back two touchdown games vs. Penn and at Dartmouth. Bean leads the team and ranks No. 5 in the Ivy League in scoring.

*Sophomore running back Lynnard Rose saw action for the first time this year at Marist. Rose missed the first three games with an injury. He has rushed for 48 yards on 13 carries and caught a pass.

 

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 a variety of statistical categories. So far this year, Columbia’s defense has allowed just 20.0 points per game (No. 26 nationally) and it ranks No. 11 nationally in red zone defense (69.6%). In addition, opponents have converted just 27.1 percent of their third downs (No. 4 nationally) and 124 on first downs (No. 10 nationally).

 

In 2016, Columbia ranked among national leaders in 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).

 

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 returned 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.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.

 

DEFENSIVE QUICK HITS

*Columbia’s defense has held opponents to just 20.0 points per game and 348.6 yards of total offense per game. Opponents have rushed for just 143.9 ards rushing per game.

*Columbia has also held opponents to just 17.1 first downs per game.

*Columbia has shut out four of its seven opponents in the first half. The Lions have only allowed 41 first half points this year: 14 to Penn, 14 to Princeton and 13 to Yale. Through the first seven games, Columbia has outscored its opponents 110-41 in the first half.

*Columbia ranks No. 3 in the league in turnover margin at plus-2 with 13 takeaways and 11 giveaways. Ironically, after not registering a turnover in each of its first two games, Columbia has averaged 2.6 turnovers per game since and has totaled 13 turnovers (eight interceptions and five fumble recoveries) in its last five contests vs. Princeton, at Marist, vs. Penn and at Dartmouth and Yale.

*Three Lions are ranked among the top-15 league leaders in tackles: junior safety Ryan Gilbert (No. 3 at 70), senior safety Landon Baty (No. 7 at 52) and sophomore linebacker Michael Murphy (No. 15 at 40). Murphy leads the Lions and ranks No. 8 in tackles for loss with 6.0.

*Columbia has intercepted eight passes, led by senior defensive back Landon Baty, first-year linebacker Justin Woodley and sophomore defensive back Benjamin McKeighan with two apiece. Junior linebacker Sean White and sophomore safety Hunter Lunsford are the others with interceptions.

*Defensive line is a team strength as the Lions returned a deep and experienced unit. All four starters and seven of its top eight players returned to the squad including Second Team All-Ivy League selection Lord Hyeamang (17 tackles, 4.0 TFL), senior Dominic Perkovic (20 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks), senior Connor Heeb (15 tackles, 2.0 TFL) and junior Mike Hinton (17 tackles, 2.5 TFL). Other key players are senior Alex Holme (17 tackles) and sophomores Arman Samouk (six tackles) and Daniel DeLorenzi (13 tackles, three QB hurries).

*Columbia had to replace all three of its starting linebackers from the 2016 season. The transition has been seamless as this year’s group of linebackers has displayed athleticism and toughness. Sophomore Jalen Williams (24 tackles, three QB hurries), junior Sean White (36 tackles, INT, 2.5 TFL, 3 pass breakups) and sophomore Michael Murphy (40 tackles, 6.0 TFL, two fumble recoveries 1.0 sack) have all emerged as starters and key contributors. Murphy earned STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week and Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for this effort against Penn. In addition, junior Calvin Falkenhayn (10 tackles, 4.0 TFL) and senior Parker Tobia (10 tackles) have both played key roles. First-years Justin Woodley and Cameren Carter have also contributed. Woodley was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after intercepted two passes vs. Penn.

*Safety Ryan Gilbert leads the Lions in tackles with 70 (40 solo). He ranks third in the Ivy League in tackles. He has started all seven games and registered a career-high 18 tackles (13 solo) at Yale. He has registered three multi-tackle games on the year.

*Senior co-captain Landon Baty has been the Lions’ sparkplug on defense, ranking second on the squad with 52 tackles (24 solo) and registering two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He has had two games of registering a career-high 12 tackles vs. Wagner and at Dartmouth.

*Seniors Cameron Roane (2016 All-Ivy League Second Team) and Denzel Hill, along with sophomore Benjamin McKeighan (29 tackles) have seen the most action at cornerback. Roane has a team-high five pass breakups.

*Columbia has only registered eight sacks on the season, the lowest total in the Ivy League. Mike Hinton registered the most important sack of the season on the final play of the Dartmouth game. Perkovic leads the team with 2.0 sacks.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

*Columbia has enjoyed superb special teams play in 2017. It has blocked four kicks on the year (2 vs. Wagner and 2 at Yale) and recovered an on-side kick (at Princeton). Senior Connor Heeb has blocked two kicks.

*Field goal specialist Oren Milstein was named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week (Oct. 9) after converting two field goals and all five of his extra points vs. Marist. He has nailed 16 of 21 career field goal attempts, won three career games on field goals and converted 37 of 39 career point after attempts. Previously, he converted 37 consecutive point after attempts. He has earned the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week award three times and has won five total conference awards.

*Senior punter Parker Thome leads the Ivy League in punting at 43.0 yards per punt. He also ranks No. 11 nationally in the same category. On the year, Thome has placed 11 punts inside the 20-yard line and seven of his punts have gone farther than 50 yards.

*First-year kickoff returner Will Allen ranks No. 3 in the Ivy League in kickoff returns with a 23.0 yards per KOR average (20 for 459 yards).

*Junior kickoff specialist Chris Alleyne has registered touchbacks in 14 of 33 kickoffs.

*Sophomore punt returner Josh Wainwright ranks No. 16 nationally and No. 3 in the Ivy League at 10.0 yards per punt return.

 

NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE 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 246-114 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 252), most games coached vs. Ivy League teams (No. 2 with 177), most overall coaching wins in the Ivy League (No. 3 at 156), most coaching wins vs. Ivy League teams (No. 2 with 117) and most seasons coached in the Ivy League (No. 4 at 26th). Nationally and combining all NCAA levels, Bagnoli ranks No. 6 among winningest active college coaches by victories with 245. Among national FCS coaches, Bagnoli currently ranks No. 3 among winningest active coaches with 245 wins and No. 11 among all-time winningest FCS coaches by victories (245).

 

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 16 losses under Bagnoli, 11 have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Only five have been decided by 10 points or more.

 

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, Columbia has won 11 contests.