After being able to use that “W” word to start off the season last week, the football team (1-0) will head back out to Baker on Saturday to take on Fordham (2-1).
Light Blue head coach Pete Mangurian started off his Columbia career with last week’s 10-9 win over Marist, but he said he recognizes that there is plenty of room for improvement based on that game.
“There’s a lot of things we need to get better at,” he said. “Our defense kept us in the game early on—especially in the first quarter with over 10 minutes of possession time for them. That’s a tribute to how hard they’ve worked conditioning-wise to be able to withstand that and still play at the level they did.”
One of the areas in which Mangurian would like to see improvement is the run game, although Lions junior running back Marcorus Garrett had his first 100-yard game last week, as he carried the ball 30 times for 115 yards.
“Our running game needs to be more consistent—too many zero and minus runs,” Mangurian said.
But Garrett believes that the Lions have a plan to sustain a successful running attack this weekend.
“Just working on it in practice every day,” he said. “O-linemen trying to make sure their assignments are right, make sure I’m reading my keys and hitting the holes hard. Wide receivers have to do their job and Sean’s got to make the right alert calls. So everybody’s got a little piece of it.”
As for Fordham, Mangurian has seen plenty on film , and said that this game is not going to be a cakewalk.
“It’s going to be a physical game,” he said. “They challenge you defensively. Play a lot of man-to-man coverage, get up in your face and pressure you.”
Last week, the Rams took it to a familiar Ivy opponent at Cornell. Although the Big Red’s star junior quarterback Jeff Mathews was able to throw for 489 yards and three touchdowns, he paid for it in the form of three sacks and four other quarterback hits.
“The kid at Cornell, they hit him,” Mangurian said. “They beat him up, they hit him a lot.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions will have their work cut out for them against a Rams offense that gained 470 yards last week.
“I think these guys are really explosive offensively,” Mangurian said. “They’ve got big play capability. This team scores a lot of points. They score fast, they score quickly.”
Senior running back Carlton Koonce helped lead the way for the Rams, amassing 176 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns.
“He’s a good player, he’s a productive back,” Mangurian said. “He’s good within the system. These guys can not only run it with the running back, they can run it with the quarterback. They’ve got a lot of ways to do what they do. He’s no more important to them than the quarterback is or those four receivers are or anybody else.”
And that’s why the Lions can’t just focus on the run game. The Rams’ offense is very much a balanced attack with receivers like sophomore Brian Wetzel, who had eight catches for 153 yards and a touchdown last week against the Big Red.
With so many weapons, it’s going to be a tall task for the Lions to keep all those Rams at bay. But junior linebacker Zach Olinger, week one’s Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week, believes the Lions are up to the task.
“I think we just have to stick to our scheme,” Olinger said. “Our scheme will cover everything, so if we just play our scheme and play our assignments, we should be able to play well on Saturday.”
Although a victory would give the Lions a 2-0 start for the first time since 2006, the team is taking everything one game at a time.
“It would be big for the program,” Olinger said. “But every week, we focus on that week. We focus on that game. We’ve kind of put last week behind us. So I feel like we’re going out to go 1-0 again.”
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Baker Field.