Sports | Football

Football looks for win in first home game

Coming off a win over Fordham to bring the Liberty Cup back to Columbia, the football team will take aim at its third consecutive win at home when it takes on Central Connecticut State University this Saturday. Despite last Saturday’s victory, head coach Norries Wilson knows that there’s more his team can do to get better.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Wilson said. “We won the football game, but it wasn’t perfect by any means.”

One of the facets of the game that Wilson wants to see improve is the defense, which he said was carried by the offense and special teams during some parts of the Lions’ win at Fordham. The Blue Devils are a team that likes to run the ball and control the clock, which they did very successfully in their season-opening win against Lehigh. CCSU’s backfield is led by senior James Mallory, who has racked up 173 yards and three touchdowns in two games this season.

“I hope that we improve greatly on defense this week and stack up better against what’s coming at us,” Wilson said. “A team that’s running the football kind of plays into what we hope is our strength—stopping the run.”

The task for the Lions’ defense will be a little tougher this weekend, as it will be without sophomore defensive tackle Owen Fraser, who Wilson said will not play due to a bad hamstring. Regardless, the Light Blue’s goal will be to make the Blue Devils throw the ball, which William & Mary did against them to secure a win. To complicate things for Columbia’s defense, CCSU uses two quarterbacks, seniors Hunter Wanket and Aubrey Norris, and can run or pass with either—or both—in the backfield.

On the offensive side of the ball, Columbia set the bar high by putting up five touchdowns on the road at Fordham. Columbia’s senior quarterback M.A. Olawale was involved in four of those scores, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for two more, and he was honored as the Liberty Cup MVP as well as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week.

“Millie did a lot of good things, [though] he did have the one turnover,” Wilson said. “There’s a couple reads where we thought he should have handed the ball off where he didn’t hand it off. Occasionally he’ll try to do too much, but I thought he did a good job trying to execute the game plan that the offensive coaches came up with.”

Olawale wasn’t the only offensive star against Fordham, though, as senior tailback Ray Rangel ran for 118 yards and tight end Andrew Kennedy led the team with four catches for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Running the ball effectively was the key to the Lions’ win against the Rams and they will attempt to follow that same game plan against the Blue Devils.

“We’re going to play our game. We want to run the football,” Wilson said. “We might be out of there in an hour and 10 minutes if both teams run the football and the clock keeps rolling.”

Columbia hasn’t started 2-0 since Wilson’s first season as head coach in 2006, but the Light Blue will try to change that on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Robert K. Kraft Field. With a tough slate of home games this year, Wilson and his team are looking to get off on the right foot.

“We want to hold serve at home. I know down the road we’ve got some pretty good programs coming in here as well as this one coming in here on Saturday. It’s the first game, it’s always our hope that the stands are packed, but if five people show up we’re going to show up and play at 12:30.”

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