Sports | Football

Roundtable: Wrapping up football's season

What were your impressions of Saturday’s 31-13 demolition of Brown? Where does it rank as far as overall performances for you this season?

Dylan: At risk of sounding hyperbolic, I’d say it was the best overall game Columbia has played in the Al Bagnoli era. Brown wasn’t a team of world-beaters by any means, but they were a disciplined squad on both sides of the ball, and this game was a bit closer than the final score might indicate. The Lions weren’t flawless, but the way they responded to their miscues was particularly impressive. 

Austin: While I was unable to attend, the Brown game—from my understanding of the superbly-thorough and sometimes humorous live blog—was such an uplifting note to end on. The defense did what was expected of it all season: It shut down a mediocre Ivy offense. The offense did what it has surprisingly done ever since it woke up from a months-long slumber in the fourth quarter of the Yale game: It actually moved the ball down the field. 

Dan: It was as convincing a performance as I’ve seen in some time, especially in the first half. I don’t know if I ever felt relatively comfortable about Anders Hill before Saturday, but I’m (slowly) becoming a believer. In the last four games combined, Hill finished 73-for-128 for 805 yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions. And that includes an underwhelming afternoon against Harvard. Not too bad from someone who began the year as the backup quarterback. 

Clara: This was the third live Columbia football game I’ve ever seen, and the first from the press box, thanks to the generosity—and blind trust—of Austin and Dan. The team was markedly different than the one I remember seeing my first year at Homecoming: Columbia turned the ball over just once, you saw pocket presence from junior quarterback Anders Hill (yes, I learned this phrase from Dylan), and there was an impressive flow to the action. Bottom line: If games were always this exciting, I’d go way more often. 

What is your lasting memory from the season?

Dan: I was impressed by how Bagnoli could compartmentalize throughout the week. He could simultaneously speak optimistically about the future of the program and then honestly assess the shortcomings of his own team. What that means is, you get a real sense that Bagnoli does have a clear blueprint to turn Columbia around. Though even that necessary dose of patience—amid a rebuilding process—takes a backseat after a tough loss. 

Dylan: I’m going to have to go with the entire Cornell game. Just think––when was the last time we saw a bona fide shootout at Baker? Hill, Smith, and Josh Wainwright went toe-to-toe with the Big Red, answering nearly every big play with a score of their own. In the moment, it was a disappointing loss, but if the Lions are successful next year, we may look back on Nov. 12 as a turning point for Hill and company.

Austin: Senior wide receiver Scooter Hollis’ 37-yard trick play pass to wide receiver Smith during the Cornell game was poetry in motion. Hollis was a top-three receiver for the Light Blue for some time and saw his targets drop slightly with the influx of talented first-year receivers this season. I saw that pass from the former high school QB to Smith, who posted the fifth-most receiving yards in a game that day, as a metaphorical “passing” of the torch from one generation to the next. And, oh, it was the best ball thrown all season—a glorious finish for Hollis’ legacy and his “From the Lion’s Mouth” series.

Tj Givens / Senior Staff Designer

If you’re giving out awards for the year, who gets Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, and Rookie (First-year) of the Year? 

Dan: First-year kicker Oren Milstein is my MVP choice. He won two games—against Wagner and Dartmouth—by himself with that iron right leg of his. The first-year also led the Ivy League in field-goal percentage after missing just one kick all year. As for Defensive Player of the Year, I am going with the senior linebacker trio of Christian Conway, Keith Brady, and Gianmarco Rea. They were fantastic all year, picking up the slack after the departure of that vaunted defensive line from a year ago. Finally—Rookie of the Year should naturally go to Milstein—my MVP—but to be different, I’ll pick wide receiver Josh Wainwright. 

Austin: Of course, Oren “Money” Milstein gets the nod for MVP. As Dan mentioned, the enigmatic and taciturn Floridian won us two games—uncertain W’s had Bagnoli never opted to start the first-year. And I’m not going to give a cop-out answer (*cough* Dan *cough*) for Defensive Player of the Year: It’s got to be Gianmarco Rea. The senior led the Ancient Eight in tackles per game with 10.9, way more than anyone else, and anchored the best Columbia unit on either side of the ball—tempting me to put him down as a dark horse MVP. I’m going to combine the first-year award with that of the most improved player. Nobody knew who Ronald Smith II was when he trotted onto the field at Penn, Columbia’s fifth game of the season, but now he’s looking like he’ll be one of the Light Blue’s best receivers going forward.

Dylan: I’ll go against the grain of this thread––but not of most football award voters––with my pick of Anders Hill for MVP. Hill was up and down throughout the year, but as Dan noted above, the junior finished the year on a tear and sparked the Light Blue offense for a series of impressive performances. On defense, I can’t muster any disagreement. Rea was perhaps Columbia’s most consistent player and rarely failed to make an impact in both the run and pass games. I can’t very well go through an awards section without mentioning Milstein, so I’ll put him down for Rookie of the Year. Rain, wind, and pressure were trifles to Milstein, who made big kick after big kick to bail out Columbia’s offense in the red zone. | @CUSpecSports


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