As little as a week ago, this was a different Columbia team ready to meet the Georgetown Hoyas Saturday in the 79th Homecoming Game.
Enjoying its best football in a generation, Columbia was 8-2 in 2017, its best record in 21 years and only the second eight-win season at Morningside Heights since 1933, when former Georgetown coach Lou Little led the Light Blue to a win in the Rose Bowl over Stanford. Columbia has won five straight over non-conference foes dating back to 2016, a school record. Its last loss out of conference was to Georgetown in 2016 at Cooper Field.
In its 2018 opener, the Lions defeated Central Connecticut 41-24 but lost three offensive starters to injury, two of them season ending.
With change in the air, Columbia coach Al Bagnoli will look to a trio of newcomers Saturday to maintain the momentum that has elevated Columbia above nearly imaginable plateau for what was once considered the weakest Division I program in the nation.
More on the Lions follows at the Pre-Game Report page. A game recap follows here Saturday afternoon.
Since Last We Met: Georgetown vs. Columbia, 2017
From HoyaSaxa.com, Sept. 23, 2017:
Senior quarterback Tim Barnes suffered a injury late in the first quarter, sending the Hoyas' hopes for this game into yet another tailspin, as Columbia walked over the Hoyas 35-14 at Wien Stadium today in the third installment of the Lou Little Cup game.
Georgetown started off strong in the early moments of the game, driving 47 yards in nine plays to set up Brad Hurst for a 50 yard field goal, which fell short. But after holding the Lions on 4th and one at the GU 35, Barnes led the Hoyas back into Light Blue territory, with a pair of passes keying an eight play drive that drove to the Columbia 26 before stalling and settling for a Hurst field goal attempt from 44 yards. Hurst's second attempt went wide, a pair of opportunities that Georgetown would not get the rest of the afternoon.
Following a three and out by the Lions, Georgetown started deep in its own territory late in the first, where on a third and seven, Barnes was popped with a late hit in front of the GU bench. The Hoyas got the penalty yardage, but never recovered on the field. Barnes left the game and was replaced by junior QB Clay Norris, evoking memories of the Hoyas' fall in the 2016 Harvard game after Norris replaced Barnes. While not to the same caliber as the Crimson, Columbia quickly exposed Norris' inexperience, bringing the Hoyas' game to as near a complete stop as has been seen in many years.
After the penalty, the Hoyas managed only four yards over the next three downs. On the punt, a fake was ordered for punt team member Khristian Tate, who had been a running back in high school. Tate got off to a slow start on the fake and the Lions contained him four yards short, setting up the Light Blue in Georgetown territory. Senior QB Anders Hill led the Lions on an eight play drive that saw Columbia reach the end zone on an 18 yard pass from Hill to sophomore WR Josh Wainwright, 7-0.
Norris' first full drive took the Hoyas to a net of -12 yards, the next series gained just five yards. On the ensuing punt, the Hoyas' special teams had yet another miscue, as the center snap caromed off a blocker and set up the Lions at the GU 25. Hill answered with a four play drive and an 11 yard pass to Wainwright, 14-0.
Georgetown's next two drives netted five yards. Hill answered with a methodical eight play drive to wind down the first half, finding Wainwright for his third TD with just seven seconds to halftime, 21-0. Following Barnes' injury, Georgetown finished the half with just six yards on the ground and 24 in the air.
The Hoyas needed to make a statement in the third quarter and just didn't get it. Its next two drives netted only six yards, and Columbia put the game away to end the third quarter, an 11 play drive where the Lions scored on the first play of the fourth quarter with a 12 yard run from Chris Schroer, 28-0.
With the game out of reach, Georgetown picked up a couple of late scores. Norris got the Hoyas on the board with a six play drive capped by a 56 yard pass to Branden Williams and a two yard pass to RB Carl Thomas for the score, 28-7. The Lions matched the score with a seven play drive of its own, 35-7, then Norris found WR Michael Dereus in a seam that left him alone up the middle, an 83 yard touchdown pass that was the Hoyas' longest pass play in 20 years, 35-14.
The late scores were little consolation for a Georgetown team that was outplayed from start to finish. The Hoyas were held to a net of two yards rushing in 22 attempts, and were outgained 347 to 257 overall. One key stat? In the prior two games of the series, Columbia surrendered five turnovers, including four in the narrow 17-14 loss to the Hoyas last fall. In this game, the Lions did not commit any turnovers, and scored on five of its six possessions in the red zone. Georgetown had just one red zone possession all afternoon.
The 35 points is the most scored by Columbia in a non-conference game in seven years and marks its first 2-0 start since 2006. Georgetown has now lost 10 of its last 11 dating to the 2016 season.
Homecoming Through The Years
The concept of a weekend to welcome back alumni originated at the University of Illinois in 1910. By the mid-1920's, Georgetown officials saw an opportunity at reuniting alumni around an annual football game. The Alumni Association had gone dormant after World War I and there had not been a large scale alumni reunion since the 1889 centennial. In 1925, the home game with Lehigh was designated as a Homecoming game, with a dinner-dance to follow at the Mayflower Hotel.
For the early years of Homecoming, fans could count on the big game versus either West Virginia or Maryland--15 games between 1926 and 1941 were against one of these two opponents, with Georgetown usually getting the win. Games with the Terrapins were so popular among alumni that the weekends were routinely designated as "Homecoming" even if the Hoyas were playing in College Park that season.
An excerpt from the Third Rail Blog asks the question: what are the ties that bind football to today's Georgetown students?
"As Cooper Field is more and more de minimis, the absence of a game time atmosphere and a reason for Georgetown's Generation Z to commit three hours to a football game and not to Spotify or Snapchat is even less relevant.
Say what you will about the fact that SEC schools are a different culture than blue-state DC, their games are a singular in-game experience, from the tailgates to the marching bands to those 1950-'s era pom-poms that every coed seems to wave in unison. These are the proverbial ties that bind."
They get it. Does Georgetown?
What kind of game day experience at Cooper Field will bring people not just to say hello to friends, but hello to the third quarter?"
An immigrant child at the turn of the 20th Century, little Luigi Piccolo had a way of reinventing himself.
Once known as "Little Lu" in Leominster, MA, Piccolo returned from World War I as "Lou Little", who earned an Ivy league education at Pennsylvania, and coached Georgetown to five consecutive winning seasons from 1924 through 1929. In 1930, he moved to Columbia, where Little was a fixture in the New York sports and social scenes for 27 seasons as the winningest coach in Columbia football history.