NEW YORK—With Ivy League championship implications on the line and in a tie for second place in the Ivy League, Columbia (7-2, 4-2 Ivy League) hosts Brown (2-7, 0-6 Ivy League) for both Senior Day and its final game of the 2017 season on Saturday, Nov. 18. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. ET at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium.
WHERE TO LISTEN/WATCH
Sportsnet NY (SNY) will televise the game with Eamon McAnaney (play-by-play) and Sal Licata calling action. Sol Steinberg will handle production. The contest will also be simulcast and live streamed on the Ivy League Network. Jay Alter (play-by-play) and former Columbia football players Ted Gregory and Shawn FitzGerald will call action on the Columbia Online Radio Network available at www.gocolumbialions.com.
TODAY’S TOP STORYLINES
*Columbia enters its final game in a tie with Dartmouth for second place in the Ivy League standings with a 4-2 record. The two schools sit one game behind league leader Yale (5-1). Columbia could tie for the Ivy League Championship with a win over Brown, coupled with a Yale loss to Harvard. Columbia would earn its second Ivy League title in school history (1961).
*The contest marks the final game and Senior Day for 31 Columbia football seniors. The group will be honored in a pre-game ceremony.
*A win would give Columbia its eighth win of the season, and the program’s best year since 1996 when it finished 5-2 in the Ivy League and 8-2 overall.
With one game remaining, Columbia finds itself in a tie for second place in the Ivy League standings with Dartmouth with identical 4-2 records. Yale is in first place with a 5-1 record and controls its own destiny. Columbia can tie for the Ivy League championship with a win over Brown, combined with a Yale loss to Harvard.
The final weekend schedule is as follows: Brown at Columbia, Harvard at Yale, Cornell at Penn and Princeton at Dartmouth.
Columbia is in search of its second all-time Ivy League title and first since it was co-champion in 1961.
2017 SEASON AMONG THE WINNINGEST ALL-TIME AT COLUMBIA
Columbia is enjoying one of its all-time winningest seasons in football history in 2017. With one game to go, it currently has seven wins, which rank tied for the seventh most single season wins in school history. A win over Brown on Saturday would give Columbia an 8-2 overall record and tie the team for the third-most victories in school history. The last time Columbia won eight games in a season was in 1996.
Here is where the seven wins currently stack up against other top seasons in school history:
9 win seasons-1903, 1899
8 wins-1901, 1933, 1945, 1996
7 wins-2017, 1900, 1904, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1947
6 wins-1925, 1926, 1946, 1961, 1971
FINAL HOME GAME/SENIOR DAY FOR 31 COLUMBIA PLAYERS
Columbia will honor its 31-member senior class in a pre-game ceremony. The ceremony will begin at 12:41 p.m. (22:00 on game clock). Seniors and their family members will be announced and then proceed through a tunnel set up by nearly 90 former Columbia alumni players. Seniors and their families will proceed to Head Coach Al Bagnoli at the 50-yard line.
The 31 seniors who will be honored include Landon Baty, Collin Breckenridge, Marcus Briscoe, Clay Caruso, Zach Dansby, Turner DeMuth, Pat Denny, David Donovan, Connor Heeb, Anders Hill, Denzel Hill, Alexander Holme, Tyler Holmes, Lord Hyeamang, Michael McGrath, Charles Melka, Markham Paukune, Dominic Perkovic, Bailey Popeck, Cameron Roane, Benjamin Robbins, Chris Schroer, Reid Stables, Liam Talty, Parker Thome, Parker Tobia, Ian Tyler, Bewley Wales, Greg Washington, Dylan Weldon, Noah Zgrablich. Senior co-captains include Landon Baty, Anders Hill, Lord Hyeamang and Bewley Wales.
As freshmen, this group went 0-10 in 2014. The group won two games in 2015 and three in 2016 before leading the Lions to a 7-2 record this year.
COLUMBIA OFF TO BEST START IN IVY LEAGUE PLAY SINCE 1996, LOOKING FOR FIFTH IVY LEAGUE WIN ON YEAR
A win over Brown in its season finale would give Columbia its fifth Ivy League win on the year and its most wins in league play since 1996 when it finished 5-2. Since the Ivy League was formed in 1956, Columbia has completed five 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 and currently 4-2 in 2017.
With its four wins, Columbia has already guaranteed itself of a winning season in Ivy League competition.
COLUMBIA VYING FOR SECOND ALL-TIME IVY LEAGUE TITLE
Columbia has won 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.
COLUMBIA, LIONS PLAYERS AMONG NATIONAL STATISTICAL LEADERS IN A VARIETY OF CATEGORIES
Through its first nine games, Columbia ranks among the nation’s top-25 FCS teams in 13 different team statistical categories according to the NCAA. Columbia ranks:
*No. 3 in time of possession (34:00)
*No. 4 in third down conversion percentage defense (28%)
*No. 7 in blocked kicks (5)
*No. 7 in first down defense (151)
*No. 9 in fewest fumbles lost (4)
*No. 9 in punt return defense (3.7)
*No. 12 in kickoff return defense (17.3)
*No. 13 in kickoff returns (23.1)
*No. 14 in red zone defense (70%)
*No. 16 in third down conversion percentage (44%)
*No. 19 in scoring defense (18.8)
*No. 20 in winning percentage (78%)
*No. 22 in passes intercepted (13)
Individually, several Lions also rank among the top-25 national statistical leaders in 13 different categories:
*Josh Wainwright, No. 7 in receptions per game (7.2)
*Will Allen, No. 9 in blocked kicks (2)
*Connor Heeb, No. 9 in blocked kicks (2)
*Josh Wainwright, No. 14 in receiving yards per game (97.1)
*Parker Thome, No. 14 in punting (42.7)
*Ryan Gilbert, No. 16 in solo tackles (5.6)
*Ryan Gilbert, No. 17 in total tackles (9.9)
*Anders Hill, No. 18 in completions per game (20.8)
*Josh Wainwright, No. 20 in receiving yards (874)
*Landon Baty, No. 20 in interceptions per game (0.4)
*Anders Hill, No. 22 in passing yards per game (247.6)
*Michael Murphy, No. 23 in fumbles recovered (2)
*Anders Hill, No. 24 in total offense (262.8)
*Anders Hill, No. 25 in completion percentage (62%)
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.
Hill has led the Lions on three game-winning drives 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.
2017 FCS TURNAROUNDS
Columbia’s success in 2017 ranks among the top single season turnarounds this year. Here is where the four-game turnaround ranks among other FCS schools. Note: Ivy League teams play only 10 games compared to 12 for the rest of FCS:
Turn, School, Record in 2016 to Record in 2017
+7, Austin Peay, 0-11 to 7-4
+6, Elon, 2-9 to 8-2
+5, Howard, 2-9 to 7-3
+5, Central Conn. State, 2-9 to 7-3
+5, Western Carolina, 2-9 to 7-4
+4, COLUMBIA, 3-7 to 7-2
+4, Monmouth, 5-6 to 9-1
+4, Furman, 3-8 to 7-3
+3, South Dakota, 4-7 to 7-3
+3, Dartmouth, 4-6 to 7-2
ABOUT THE LIONS
Columbia attempts to close out its 2017 season with a victory and secure and eighth win. It enters its final game with a 7-2 overall and 4-2 in Ivy League record. Columbia also finds itself tied for second place in the Ivy League upon entering the final weekend of the season.
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 BEARS
Brown enters Saturday’s season finale with a 2-7 overall and 0-6 Ivy League record. The Bears have lost six straight games including last week’s 33-10 loss to Dartmouth in a game which was played at Boston’s Fenway Park.
Quarterbacks Thomas Linta and Nicholas Duncan lead the Bears. Linta has thrown for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns and has completed 48 percent (95 of 198) of his passes, while Duncan has passed for 463 yards and two touchdowns on 51 of 103 attempts. Brown’s rushing attack is led by Darius Daies, who has rushed for 263 yards and three touchdowns on 67 carries, along with David Moodie (204 yards on 43 carries) and Livingstone Harriott (105 yards on 39 carries.
Jacob Prall is Brown’s leading receiver with 48 receptions for 556 yards on the year followed by Jaelon Blandburg (26 receptions for 292 yards and 2 TD).
Brown’s defense is led by defensive end Richard Jarvis, who leads the team with 63 tackles (40 solo), 11 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. Jarvis is followed by free safety Connor Coughlin, who has made 53 tackles and broke up six passes with one interception, defensive back Jay Williams, who has made 45 tackles with 5.0 tackles for loss and outside linebacker Jordan Anderson with 42 tackles and two fumble recoveries. Jarvis leads the Ivy League in forced fumbles.
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 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Ivy League heading into its final contest. The Lions have already clinched a winning season for the first time since 1996. In addition he has won 12 games in 29 contests at Columbia, faster than any other Lions coach since the Ivy League was formed in 1956.
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.
Brown and Columbia meet for the 82nd time in series history dating back to the first game on Nov. 8, 1902. Brown leads the all-time series 52-27-2 overall and also leads in matchups played in New York with a 25-16-1 record.
Columbia claimed last year’s matchup in Providence, a 31-13 season-ending 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.
THIRD DOWN DOMINANCE
Columbia continues to make plays on third down both on offense and on defense. Offensively, Columbia has converted 64 of its 144 third down conversions (44 percent) on the year to rank second in the Ivy League and rank No. 16 nationally in that statistic. On defense, Columbia has limited opponents to a 28.0 percent (31 of 110) conversion rate on third downs, which ranks No. 4 nationally and leads the league by a significant margin.
LIONS DOMINATE TIME OF POSSESSION
Columbia has won the time of possession battle in eight of its nine games this year. On the year, Columbia ranks No. 3 nationally and leads the Ivy League in time of possession after maintaining possession for 34:00.
ANDERS HILL LEADS COLUMBIA OFFENSE AT QUARTERBACK
For the second straight year senior Anders Hill is back as Columbia’s starting quarterback. He anchors 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 17 consecutive games and in those 17 starts, has guided Columbia to a seven-game win streak and a 10-7 total 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.
Hill has completed 62.5 percent of his passes (187 of 299) for 2,228 yards and 15 touchdowns and ranks third on the Lions in rushing yards with 137 yards on 103 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.
Over his four-year career, Hill has completed a school-record 61.3 percent of his passes (380 of 619) for 4,433 yards, 26 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 30 games and 17 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 and deep threat duo 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 on 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 50.5 percent of the Lions’ receptions (95 of 188), 58.5 percent of their receiving yards (1,304 of 2,229) and nearly half of the Lions’ touchdowns (11 of 28).
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 65 catches for 874 yards, seven touchdowns and three 100-yard receiving games. Wainwright also leads the Lions in all-purpose yardage with 1,011 for the year (874 receiving, 109 on punt returns, 3 rushing). For his 18-game, 17-start career, Wainwright has caught 107 passes for 1,389 yards, 12 touchdowns and four 100-yard receiving games.
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.
Previously, Smith missed three games with an injury (at Dartmouth, at Yale, vs. Harvard), but he returned at Cornell.
For his 11-game and eight-start career, Smith has caught 51 passes for 822 yards and eight touchdowns.
SCHROER EMERGES WITH BACK-TO-BACK 100-YARD RUSHING GAMES
With back-to-back 100-yard rushing games against both Harvard and Cornell, senior running back Chris Schroer has emerged as a key offensive weapon. Combining his last two games, Schroer has gained 308 yards on 51 carries (6.0 yards per carry average).
He continued his late season surge as he finished with a career-high 183 yards on a career-high 27 carries and a touchdown at Cornell. It marked his first rushing touchdown of the season on a two-yard run in the fourth quarter. The performance marks his second consecutive and second career 100-yard rushing game. His 183-yard game ranked as the 11th best single-game rushing total in school history. He also ran for a career-long 40-yard run in the fourth quarter and in the second half, Schroer rushed for 130 yards.
Against Harvard, Schroer rushed for 125 yards on 24 carries and caught a 14-yard pass for a touchdown.
On the year, Schroer ranks seventh in the Ivy League in rushing yards with 548 on 114 carries (60.9 yards rushing per game).
IVY LEAGUE LEADERS
Columbia leads the Ivy League in five team statistical categories: turnover margin (0.33, 18:15), interceptions (13), punting (37.8), opponent first downs (16.8), opponent third down conversions (28.2), time of possession (34:00) and onside kicks by (100%).
Individually, three Columbia individuals lead the league in their respective statistics: senior defensive back Landon Baty is the league’s interceptions leader (4, 0.44 per game), senior punter Parker Thome is the punting leader (42.7) and first-year Will Allen leads in kickoff returns (24.1).
BIG PLAY LIONS
Columbia 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 nine games, Columbia has had 44 total plays gaining 20 yards or more, seven plays gaining 30 or more yards and a whopping 16 plays of 40 or more yards. Of the 16 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 368.7 yards of total offense per game, up from 326.5 yards per game in 2016.
*Columbia is averaging 247.7 yards passing per game, up from 201.4 yards passing per game in 2016.
*Columbia is averaging 23.9 points per game, up from 18.5 points per game in 2016.
*Columbia is averaging 20.4 first downs per game, up from 17.7 first downs per game in 2016.
*Quarterback Anders Hill has been responsible for 18 of Columbia’s 28 touchdowns on the year (64.2 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 49 of 73 passes (67.1 percent) for 532 yards and six touchdowns and has converted first downs 28 times. He has been sacked 9.0 times and thrown three 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 in both receiving yards and receptions per game with 874 yards on 65 receptions and seven touchdowns. After missing last three games (Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard), Smith is now ranked No. 8 in receptions per game (5.0) and No. 5 in yards per game (71.7) and four touchdowns
*Three receivers have totaled 100-yard receiving games: Ronald Smith (school-record 236 at Princeton), Josh Wainwright has three 100-yard games (140 at Cornell), 193 vs. Penn, 104 vs. Wagner) and Emerson Kabus (114 at Marist). All three have at least one catch of 60 yards or more.
*In back-to-back games, senior running back Chris Schroer provided Columbia its first 100-yard rusher of the season and first since the Brown game on Nov. 18 when he rushed for a career-high 125 yards on 24 carries and caught a career-high seven passes for 46 yards and a 14-yard touchdown vs. Harvard on Nov. 4 and then followed that up with a 183-yard, one TD game on 27 carries at Cornell. Schroer now leads the Lions in rushing with 548 yards on 114 carries (4.8 yards per carry). He ranks seventh in the Ivy League in rushing with a 60.9 yards per game average. Sophomore Tanner Thomas has also rushed for 312 yards on 92 carries and a touchdown (3.4 yards per carry).
*For the first time since Oct. 9, 2010 vs. Lafayette (239 yards), Columbia rushed for over 200 yards in a game. Fueled by Schroer, the Lions rushed for 203 yards vs. Cornell on Nov. 11
*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. Pitt has 16 catches for 134 yards on the year.
*Junior wide receiver Kyle Castner was the surprise of preseason. The former quarterback made a position switch to wide receiver in the offseason. In nine starts, Castner has 23 catches for 273 yards and a TD. At Yale, Castner had a career-day with six receptions for 97 yards with catches of a career-long 41 yards and 40 yards.
*Backup first-year quarterback Josh Bean has totaled eight combined touchdowns (seven rushing and one passing) touchdowns in seven 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. 8 in the Ivy League in scoring at 6.0 points per game. Bean has rushed for seven touchdowns on 21 attempts.
*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 is ranked among the nation’s best in a variety of statistical categories. So far this year, Columbia’s defense has allowed just 18.8 points per game (No. 19 nationally) and it ranks No. 14 nationally in red zone defense (70.4%). In addition, opponents have converted just 28.2 percent of their third downs (No. 4 nationally) and ranks No. 7 nationally in first down defense.
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.
In 2015, 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 18.8 points per game and 329.6 yards of total offense per game. Opponents have rushed for just 134.3 yards rushing per game.
*Columbia has also held opponents to just 16.7 first downs per game.
*Columbia has shut out five of its nine opponents in the first half. The Lions have only allowed 55 first half points this year: 14 to Penn, 14 to Princeton, 13 to Yale and 14 to Harvard. Through the first nine games, Columbia has outscored its opponents 123-55 in the first half.
*Columbia ranks No. 1 in the league in turnover margin at plus-3 with 18 takeaways and 15 giveaways. Ironically, after not registering a turnover in its first two games, Columbia has averaged 3.0 turnovers per game since and has totaled 18 turnovers (13 interceptions and five fumble recoveries) in its last seven contests.
*Two Lions are ranked among the top-10 league leaders in tackles: junior safety Ryan Gilbert (No. 2 at 89) and senior safety Landon Baty (No. 8 at 62). Sophomore Michael Murphy leads the Lions and ranks No. 12 in tackles for loss with 6.0.
*Columbia has intercepted a league-leading 13 passes, led by senior defensive back Landon Baty, who has a league-leading four picks. In addition, first-year linebacker Justin Woodley, sophomore defensive back Benjamin McKeighan and junior linebacker Sean White have two apiece.
*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 (21 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks), senior Dominic Perkovic (23 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks), senior Connor Heeb (20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, safety) and junior Mike Hinton (23 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack). Other key contributors are senior Alex Holme (21 tackles, 2.0 TFL) and sophomores Arman Samouk (10 tackles, 2.0 sacks) and Daniel DeLorenzi (16 tackles, 2.0 sacks and a team-leading four 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 (27 tackles, three QB hurries), junior Sean White (41 tackles, 2 INT, 2.5 TFL, 4 pass breakups) and sophomore Michael Murphy (42 tackles, 6.0 TFL, two fumble recoveries, 1.0 sack) have all emerged as starters and key contributors. Murphy, who was injured vs. Harvard, earned STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week and Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his effort against Penn. In addition, junior Calvin Falkenhayn (16 tackles, 4.0 TFL), junior Jacob Young (11 tackles, 1.0 sack) and senior Parker Tobia (10 tackles) have played key roles. First-years Justin Woodley (15 tackles, 2 INT, 1 FR) and Cameren Carter (six tackles) 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 89 (50 solo). He ranks second in the Ivy League in tackles. He has started all eight games and registered a career-high 18 tackles (13 solo) at Yale. He has registered four multi-tackle games on the year and has led the Lions in tackles in each of the last four consecutive games.
*Senior co-captain Landon Baty has been the Lions’ sparkplug on defense, leading the Ivy League in interceptions with four, ranking second on the squad with 62 tackles (28 solo) and registering two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He has had two games of registering a career-high 12 tackles vs. both Wagner and at Dartmouth.
*Seniors Cameron Roane (2016 All-Ivy League Second Team) and sophomore Benjamin McKeighan (34 tackles, 2 INT) have seen the most action at cornerback. Roane has a team-high seven pass breakups and has made 24 tackles.
*Columbia has only registered 13 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, DeLorenzi, Samouk and Hyeamang lead the team with 2.0 sacks apiece.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
*Columbia has enjoyed superb special teams play in 2017. It has blocked five kicks on the year (2 vs. Wagner, 2 at Yale and a PAT vs. Harvard) and recovered an on-side kick (at Princeton). Senior Connor Heeb and first-year Will Allen have both blocked two kicks apiece. Columbia has also both contained and limited explosive players from other teams including Harvard’s Justice Shelton-Mosley.
*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 19 of 25 career field goal attempts, won three career games on field goals and converted 38 of 40 career point after attempts. Previously, he converted 35 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. Against Cornell last week, Milstein kicked three field goals.
*Senior punter Parker Thome leads the Ivy League in punting at 42.7 yards per punt. He also ranks No. 14 nationally in the same category. On the year, Thome has placed 18 punts inside the 20-yard line and eight of his punts have gone farther than 50 yards.
*First-year kickoff returner Will Allen leads the Ivy League in kickoff returns with a 24.1 yards per KOR average (21 for 507 yards). He has returned five total kickoffs over 30 yards and three over 40 yards with a long of 48 vs. Harvard.
*Junior kickoff specialist Chris Alleyne has registered touchbacks in 15 of 41 kickoffs.
*Sophomore punt returner Josh Wainwright ranks No. 31 nationally and No. 3 in the Ivy League at 7.8 yards per punt return.