From the sideline of Georgetown’s Cooper Field, one could tell Columbia was nervous.
For the first three quarters of play, the offense had reliably managed to move down the field and get within scoring range. All the while, the defense had held the Hoyas scoreless. It was 23-0 at the end of the third quarter, and the Georgetown offense looked stagnant, disjointed, incapable of putting up big plays.
Columbia was primed for a dominant victory until they weren’t. First it was a Georgetown touchdown, then a two-point conversion, and then another touchdown. 23-14.
Suddenly the Hoyas were on the cusp, only nine points away from achieving a miraculous comeback. Their kicker lined up for the point after, made direct contact with the ball, and shanked it wide right.
From the sideline of Cooper Field, one could see injured junior kicker Oren Milstein bounce up off the ground, spin around, and shout to anyone within earshot: “They don’t have a Chris!”
Chris is, of course, senior kicker Chris Alleyne, who, in Milstein’s absence, has had a nearly perfect season through the five games thus far. He has completed 9 of 10 field goal attempts—giving him the highest percentage in the Ivy League on the second-most attempts. While doing so, he has also remained perfect on point-after attempts, nailing 13 out of 13 sterling shots between the uprights.
In that game against Georgetown, Alleyne accounted for 11 of the Lions’ 23 points. Three field goals, two PATs—all perfectly made and, ultimately, the only things keeping Columbia from losing. The next day he was named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.
His ability to impact the game has not wavered in any of the Light Blue’s three wins this season. Against Georgetown, he accounted for nearly half of the offense’s total points, with 11. In the first game of the season against Central Connecticut State, Alleyne again accrued 11 points, though by a slightly different measure: two field goals, six PATs—all, once again, perfectly made. Against Marist, Alleyne wavered only slightly, making four point-after attempts and two of three field goals.
It is worth noting that the only field goal Alleyne kicked which did not result in Columbia points was blocked by the desperate lunges of Red Fox defenders.
Sophomore punter Drew Schmid summarized Alleyne’s consistency and its effect on the offense.
“There’s always guaranteed points anywhere 55 and in with him,” Schmid said.
In a year marked by difficulty and turnover on the offensive side of the ball, a year where the Lions primary playmakers—junior wide receivers Josh Wainwright and Ronald Smith II, sophomore quarterback Josh Bean—have all gotten injured at one point or another, the most dependable source of scoring for a team ranked third-worst in the Ivy League in points per game has been the kicker.
More impressive than junior running back Lynnard Rose’s two rushing touchdowns, or first-year specialist quarterback Ty Lenhart and his six, is that Chris Alleyne has left the deepest impression on the Columbia offense.
He has scored 40 points through five games, giving him an average of eight per game. The Lions, as a complete unit, average 23.6. Take out Alleyne and the Lions are averaging 15.6—still good enough to beat last-place Brown (averaging 15.4)—but altogether horrendous.
Alleyne downplays his accomplishments, as one might expect a leader would. He attributes his production to the rest of the offense.
“They drive down the field and put me in an easy position to make field goals and do my job,” Alleyne said. “I’m just trying to do as much as I possibly can for the team. Nothing else to it.”
Yet, to reduce his success to his teammates would be doing Alleyne a profound disservice. The Lions have flexibility and confidence because of him. He has been tasked to kick the ball from over 40 yards out on five different occasions this season. Four of those times, he made it. The other, he was blocked. The offense isn’t required to fight deep into the red zone for Alleyne. They simply need to make it across midfield.
Alleyne did not come into Columbia as the next great special teams star. He came in as a project. Special teams coordinator Justin Stovall described him as much.
“When he came in it wasn’t like he was the guy,” Stovall said. “He had to work really hard at it.”
Stovall noted that Alleyne had a lot to work on his first year—perfecting the act of kicking off the ground as opposed to a block, in particular. Because of this, Alleyne rarely saw the field. By the time he started making progress, Milstein had already emerged as an ace.
Stovall credits this dynamic, as well as Alleyne’s unrelenting confidence, as the key to the progress he has made.
“It hasn’t been Chris sitting there saying, ‘oh well Oren’s just gonna be the kicker,’ and not keep working and getting better each day. That’s what he’s done the last two years,” Stovall said.
Coaching hardly had a role. Alleyne has always prepared himself to take over the mantle if need be. When describing his preparation and his mindset, Alleyne returns to the idea that everything is practice. That, if you approach every kick with the same approach, the same physical fundamentals, the results should stay the same even in high difficulty situations.
“That’s all been his preparation,” Stovall said. “He’s really kind of that motto: Be ready for opportunity when it comes your way. He’s the model example of that.”
At one point in that Georgetown game—Alleyne’s most dominant of the season—Columbia was up 10-0, and after failing to convert in the red zone, the Lions called on him for the second time to deliver the expected. He jogged out to center field as the offensive line bunched together around the point of scrimmage. Schmid got into position, kneeling down to where the ball would be snapped.
Alleyne walked towards the 50, away from the action, and squatted, placing his hands in a pyramid in front of his chest. He turned back, raised his left hand, and fired off a practice kick which, by every technical estimate, looked pristine.
“You just go out and do the same thing every single time,” Alleyne said. “Just trust that you’re gonna get it right. Just like practice, you know.”
The ball was snapped, Alleyne executed the same formation, and it sang through the uprights. 13-0, Lions.
There’s something more than methodical watching Alleyne in the moments before he is meant to kick. He gives off an energy that Schmid characterizes as vibration.
“I can feel the vibration on him,” Schmid said. “From the moment I feel his ball come off the hold, it’s got very consistent vibrations, very consistent contact.”
Stovall calls it attitude; Schmid, vibrations.
But by the way Alleyne speaks, it’s clearly confidence. When he says that he, Schmid, and senior long-snapper Patrick Eby make up the best unit in the country, it sounds honest. Nothing functions as a barrier outside of those things he just can’t control.
When asked how far he can kick a field goal, Alleyne takes a moment to seriously think.
“It’s all up to the wind conditions,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll push one over 50 this year.”