Columbia football (0-6, 0-3 Ivy) will head back out on the road for Saturday’s game against Yale (3-3, 1-2 Ivy).
Both the Lions and the Bulldogs could play this game without two of their best players. Yale quarterback Hank Furman and running back Tyler Varga did not play last week due to injury. Columbia senior running back and co-captain Marcorus Garrett and senior punter Paul Delaney will both sit out this week for violating team rules, head coach Pete Mangurian said on Wednesday.
The rest of the team will play in New Haven, where Yale is 1-1 on the season. Although he was benched in favor of sophomore Trevor McDonagh towards the end of last week’s game at Dartmouth, first-year quarterback Kelly Hilinski will be back under center to begin Saturday’s contest.
“Kelly’s our quarterback,” Mangurian said. “We’re definitely not going into the game thinking that we’re going to split time or do something like that. You only can play one quarterback at a time in this system. And if Kelly’s not performing, then we’ve got a guy that we think we can put in.”
Hilinski has completed 33 of 80 passes this season for 313 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions.
“We’ll continue to count on his improvement and his continuing to get better with more game experience,” Mangurian said. “Hopefully learn from the mistakes he made last week and progress. But I feel comfortable with the depth we have at the position. And if the situation calls for it, then we’ll do something.”
On defense, the Lions will have their hands full against a strong running game, regardless of whether Varga is on the field or not. Yale ranks third in the league with 214.8 rushing yards per game, and Varga’s backup, first-year Candler Rich, ran 20 times for 97 yards last week against Penn.
“The young kid [Rich] who’s playing behind him [Varga] is awfully, awfully talented, so they’ve got a great one-two punch regardless of who’s healthy,” Mangurian said.
And though Varga may not play, the 2012 first-team All-Ivy back can pose significant problems for any defense. Despite sitting out last week, he is still second in the league in rushing with 607 yards on 120 carries, fitting well within the Elis’ zone-read offense. Only Dominick Pierre of Dartmouth has more rushing yards in the Ancient Eight, with 770 yards through six games. Varga also started as quarterback against Columbia last year when Yale’s signal-callers were hit hard with injuries.
“He’s an established, big powerful back with big-time speed,” Mangurian said. “Those kind of players don’t show up in this league all the time—at least from what I know of it.”
Though Columbia has had plenty of problems on both offense and defense, Mangurian believes that these issues can only be solved with better performance.
“There’s nothing that we’re doing that we don’t do in practice,” he said. “When we get in the game, we don’t do it. And until we learn to do it the results will not be what we want them to be.”
“The only answer to poor execution is better execution,” Mangurian added, saying he challenged the players to work harder and come in for extra coaching this week. “This is a matter of making a decision that this is important enough that it requires the extra concentration and commitment to get it done. That’s the truth.”
While the head coach praised Yale for its efforts on the field all season long, he reiterated that Columbia must go out and play its own game to be competitive.
“This is completely about how we go and how we play,” Mangurian said. “Until the preparation is reflected in the execution, none of this is going to happen.”
Kickoff is set for noon at the Yale Bowl on Saturday. The game will be televised on the YES Network.