NEW YORK—Columbia (1-0, 0-0 Ivy League) plays its second game of the 2017 football season when it hosts Georgetown (1-1, 0-0 Patriot League) on Saturday, Sept. 23 at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.
WHERE TO LISTEN/WATCH
Sportsnet NY and the Ivy League Digital Network will televise the game live with Eamon McAnaney (play-by-play) and Sal Licata (color analyst) calling action. Sol Steinberg will produce. Jay Alter (play-by-play) and former Columbia football player Ted Gregory (color analyst) will call action on the Columbia Online Radio Network available at www.gocolumbialions.com. Distribution for SNY is 12 million homes across the country and eight million households in the Greater New York City metropolitan area.
LOU LITTLE CUP
Columbia and Georgetown will compete for the Lou Little Cup, which was established in 2015. The winner earns the right to take home the Lou Little Trophy. Georgetown has claimed the trophy in each of the last two years, a 24-16 win over Columbia at Robert K. Kraft Field in 2015 and a 17-14 win over the Lions at Georgetown in 2016.
The Cup’s namesake, Lou Little, served as the head football coach at both institutions. Lou Little coached at Georgetown from 1924-30 and helped bring Georgetown football into the modern era. Little recorded a 41-12-3 record over six seasons, while also serving as athletics director. His .759 win percentage is still the highest among Georgetown head coaches who have coached more than 20 games on the Hilltop.
Little took over at Columbia in 1930 and continued his Hall of Fame career until 1956. At Columbia he posted 110 victories. His most notable win at Columbia came in the 1934 Rose Bowl, when Columbia defeated Stanford 7-0. Overall, his teams won 149 games, lost 122 and tied 11.
A pre-game event will be held at the Campbell Sports Center for alumni and former players of Lou Little. The trophy will be on display at that event. This year’s game marks the third of a 10-year series between the two schools. The trophy will be presented to the game’s winner at the conclusion of the matchup.
FAMILY DAY TICKET OFFER/FOOTBALL FAMILY 4 PACKS
As part of its Family Day promotion, Columbia is offering a Family 4-Pack, four tickets at $30 in addition to a concessions voucher priced at $6. After the game, fans will also be able to snap photos in front of the inflatable Lion.
COLUMBIA LOOKING TO START SEASON AT 2-0
A win over Georgetown on Saturday would give Columbia two wins to start a season 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 TWO-GAME WIN STREAK
With its 17-14 season opening win over Wagner on Sept. 16, Columbia claimed its second straight win after closing out last year’s season with a 31-13 victory over Brown. The last time Columbia won at least two consecutive games was in 2010 when the Lions were victorious in 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).
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 plays its second game after it opened its 2017 season last Saturday with a 17-14 home victory over Wagner. Sophomore placekicker Oren Milstein kicked a last second 29-yard game-winning field goal to give the Lions their first season opening victory in five years. With the win, Columbia is now on a two-game win streak.
Columbia return 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 will return 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-, 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 HOYAS
Georgetown enters its third game of the 2017 season with a 1-1 record after winning a road game against Campbell 16-10 in its season opener (Sept. 9), then dropping a 14-12 decision at home vs. Marist on Sept. 16. The Hoyas are coached by head coach Rob Sgariata, who is in his fourth head coaching season at Georgetown and 22nd season overall season on the coaching staff.
On offense, Georgetown is led by quarterback Tim Barnes, who has completed 35 of 68 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns, wide receiver Michael Dereus, who has 10 receptions for 168 yards (18.6 yards per catch) and two touchdowns and running back Alex Valles (64 yards on 10 carries).
On defense, the Hoyas are led by David Akere, who has 19 tackles (eight solo) and two interceptions, Cameron Seward, with 17 tackles, Ramon Lyons with 16 tackles (12 solo) and Khristian Tate, who has 14 tackles (eight solo) and leads the Hoyas with three pass breakups and 4.0 tackles for loss. Georgetown averages 14.0 points per game and 278.0 yards of total offense.
Columbia and Georgetown meet for the fifth time in football and third time in as many years. The Hoyas have claimed each of the last two meetings including a 24-16 win at Robert K. Kraft Field on Sept. 26, 2015 and a 17-14 win at Georgetown on Sept. 24, 2016. In games played at Robert K. Kraft Field, Columbia holds a 2-1 advantage.
BAGNOLI BEGINS THIRD SEASON AT 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 241-113 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 241. Among national FCS coaches, Bagnoli currently ranks No. 3 among winningest active coaches with 241 wins and No. 11 among all-time winningest FCS coaches by victories (241).
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 last 15 losses, 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 20 total games have been decided by 10 points or less. Columbia has also won six of those contests.
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-WAGNER POST-GAME NOTES
*Columbia’s 2016 recruiting class made an immediate
*Today’s weather at kickoff was 81 degrees and sunny.
*With the win, Columbia snapped a four-game losing streak on opening day. The last time Columbia won a season opener and home season opener was against Marist on Sept. 15, 2012, a 10-9 victory.
*For the second consecutive year, Oren Milstein kicked the game-winning field in a win against Wagner. Last year, he kicked the game winner and converted a school-record 5-5 field goals in a 15-13 win at Wagner.
*Columbia improved to 3-0 all-time vs. Wagner. All three wins have come in the last three years: 2015, 2016 and 2017.
*On his first career run, first-year Josh Bean scored on a one-yard touchdown run through the middle of the Wagner defense. It was his first career play.
*Fourth consecutive game sophomore Josh Wainwright has caught a touchdown pass He caught a 55-yard scoring pass from Anders Hill in the second quarter. It was the second longest reception of his career ranking behind his 88-yard TD reception last year vs. Princeton. It also marked his second career and second consecutive 100-yard receiving day as he concluded last year with a 150-yard, five catch and two TD day at Brown.
*Hill finished with a career-high 89 rushing yards on 19 carries (4.7 average). He also passed for 199 yards and a touchdown as he totaled 288 offensive yards on the day.
*Columbia blocked two field goals on the afternoon. Senior defensive lineman Connor Heeb blocked a key field goal with 1:38 to play and first-year linebacker Carson Powell blocked a field goal attempt in the second quarter.
*With his 16 carries and 48 yards rushing, sophomore Tanner Thomas finished with career-highs in both statistics. He also caught a career-high two passes for 13 yards. Last year he had one reception.
*First-year Carson Powell blocked a field goal attempt eight seconds before the half. It was his first blocked kick of his career. The ball was picked up by Ryan Gilbert. The last time Columbia blocked a kick was at Harvard on Nov. 5, 2016 when Hunter Lunsford returned a block for a touchdown.
*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.
*Junior Kyle Castner made his first career catch in the fourth quarter, a 10-yard reception from Hill. He made his first career start at receiver after switching positions from quarterback prior to 2017 spring drills.
*Sophomore wide receiver Kaleb Pitts made his first reception of his career.
*Making their first career starts today were: sophomore right guard Parker Coogan, junior wide receiver Kyle Castner, sophomore linebacker Michael Murphy, junior linebacker Sean White, sophomore linebacker Jalen Williams and junior free safety Ryan Gilbert.
*Junior safety Landon Baty led Columbia with a career-high 12 tackles (one solo, 11 assists). His previous career-high was 10 vs. Princeton on Oct. 1, 2016.
*Sophomore middle linebacker Jalen Williams finished with a career-high eight tackles. He also finished with a career-high three quarterback hurries in his first start
*Junior linebacker Sean White totaled career-highs of seven tackles (five solo) and 2.0 tackles for loss in his first career start
*Making their collegiate debuts were Josh Bean, Ryan Suitt, Cooper Wilson, Parker Thome, Emerson Kabus, Justin Hill, Will Allen, Ben Mathiasmeier, Ian VanDenBerg, Blake Wooden, Parker Tobia, Carson Powell, Justin Woodley, Cameren Carter and Kaleb Pitts.
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 BACK AT QUARTERBACK FOR LIONS
For the second straight year senior Anders Hill is back as Columbia’s starting quarterback. He is back to anchor an offense that improved with every game in 2016. It also the second consecutive year that Columbia is in the same offensive set.
Starting eight of 10 games in 2016, Hill completed 144 of 268 passes for 1,651 yards and 10 touchdowns and also rushed for 258 yards on 132 carries and two touchdowns. He ranked among Ivy League leaders in several categories including passing average (No. 6 at 165.1), passing efficiency (No. 7 at 111.8) and total offense (No. 5 at 190.9).
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. Hill, who has started eight straight games, has improved in virtually every aspect including his conditioning and strength.
COLUMBIA BRINGS THE DEFENSE
Over the last two seasons, Columbia’s defense has proved to be a team strength. Defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro led a unit that ranked among the nation’s best in several statistical categories 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).
Ferraro returns 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.
WIDE RECEIVER TANDEM BACK
Columbia returns its two most productive and most dangerous wide receivers from last year in sophomores Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith II. The duo enters the upcoming campaign as a bit of an unknown league-wide as most of their key performances occurred during the back end of the 2016 season.
In nine games, Wainwright led the team in receptions (42), receiving yards (515) and touchdown receptions (5) in 2016. He also caught a touchdown pass in each of Columbia’s last three games 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, sophomore Arman Samouk and senior Ian Tyler. 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. Tyler contributed 10 tackles last year.
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. In Columbia’s season opener last week, Milstein converted a last-second game-winning 29-yard field goal, which is his third game winner in only eight games played.
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 junior Kyle Castner, who has 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 his first action at wide receiver on Saturday, Castner made his first career start and caught his first pass, a 10-yard reception.
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 starting roles and playing time include sophomore middle linebacker Jalen Williams, sophomore Michael Murphy, junior Sean White and senior Parker Tobia. Last year, Williams played in eight games, made five tackles and contributed primarily on special teams. He is a prime candidate to replace Rea at middle linebacker. Murphy made seven tackles in seven games and also saw action on special teams, while White saw action in nine games. Tobia is a three-year senior who has seen action at both linebacker and on special teams.
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 two of the 2016 season with a combined 62 career starts and a combined 81 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 31 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 31 consecutive games.
At left guard, Flores has made 16 career starts and played in all 21 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 11 career games. At right tackle, Paukune has started three games and has played in 16 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.
THE LAST TIME: COLUMBIA VS. GEORGETOWN
Down 17-0 at halftime, Columbia battled back with renewed energy in the second half but it was not enough as Georgetown escaped with a 17-14 win to claim the rivalry’s Lou Little Trophy.
After a first half in which saw Columbia commit three turnovers, miss a 34-yard field goal and advance only one drive past the 50-yard line, the Lions were a different team in the second half. In the game’s final 30 minutes, Columbia dominated play on both sides of the ball, outgaining the Hoyas in total yardage (251-94 yards) and totaling 20 first downs to Georgetown’s three.
Trailing 17-0 at halftime, Columbia came out with energy in the second half and battled back into the game. It cut the deficit to 17-7 on an 11-yard touchdown run by Chris Schroer. The Lions made it 17-14 in the fourth quarter when Anders Hill carried the ball nine yards through the Georgetown defense for a touchdown with 14:55 left to play. The Lions had three more opportunities to score, but couldn’t convert the possessions into points. It had a fourth and four situation where it was stopped one yard short of a first down, then fumbled a punt return with 2:56 left in the game.
Georgetown grabbed a quick 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 44-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Barnes to Michael Dereus. The play capped a seven play, 70-yard drive after receiving the opening kickoff. The Hoyas took a 10-0 lead on a 47-yard field goal by Henry Darmstadter. Barnes gave Georgetown a 17-0 second quarter lead on a nine-yard touchdown run after the Hoyas drove 36 yards on three plays.
Columbia outgained Georgetown in yardage 314-195 and finished with 20 first downs to the Hoyas’ eight.
Columbia was led by Hill, who completed 11 of 21 passes for 81 yards and ran for 45 yards on 11 carries. Schroer rushed for 51 yards on 16 carries, Scooter Hollis caught eight passes for 42 yards and Wainwright finished with five catches for 36 yards and a game-high 198 all-purpose yards (52 punt return, 91 kick return, 36 receiving and 19 rushing). Defensively, Gianmarco Rea led the Lions with 13 tackles, including two for losses.
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.