By John Jeansonne, page B19.
Apocalypse Now: Columbia Goes 5-0
There is a lot of truth in those nutty
Columbia University halftime shows.
Yesterday, the Columbia band did its tribute
to "the world in which we live: The Yankees
in the World Series, a Democratic
Presidential Candidate leading in the polls,
an undefeated Columbia football team - and
other signs of the Apocalypse."
But the band should also have mentioned
The weather was Biblical, the weather was
cataclysmic. The weather was thoroughly
dominant: Only the rain was driving
Neither Columbia nor its Homecoming
opponent, Lafayette, ever made more than one
first down in a possession. Only the wind
was moving up and down the field. Columbia
averaged 1.74 yards per play, Lafayette
The weather was unprecedented and,
simultaneously, symbolic. When's the last
time a game was played in a storm so big it
should have had a name? Old Columbia heads
couldn't remember. Just as another Columbia
grad marveled: "I don't believe I've seen a
3-0 Columbia win in my lifetime."
Now he has. Yesterday, Columbia beat
Not only that, but the victory makes
Columbia 5-0 this season. When's the last
time that happened? "I think this is the
first time any of us has ever been
five-and-oh," said senior center Mike
Senior defensive end / emergency tailback
Marcellus Wiley raised his hand to
interject: "Pop Warner!" he said.
The last time Columbia was 5-0 in
football, in 1945, Pop Warner the coach was
still coaching. But that was before most
people were born. That was so long ago that
parents could scare their kids with tales of
terrible evil winds and rains.
Like yesterday. Both coaches decided very
early that they should just play defense and
hope to get a fairly close field-goal try
with the wind behind the kicker.
"The conditions were terrible for trying
to do anything - hold the ball, hold your
blocks," said Lafayette coach Bill Russo.
"And the poor punters. The poor punters had
to be scared to death all day long that they
could have a kick blocked or get a bad snap
that would turn the game. With the wind,
maybe the toughest thing was the snaps for
Lafayette fumbled 12 times, most of them
on center snaps, and lost three of them.
Columbia - is this another sign that the
end is near? - recovered all four of its
own fumbles and, as coach Ray Tellier
pointed out, had "zero turnovers. Zero! On a
day like this, that's phenomenal."
Field goal attempts from 52, 49 and 40
yards, even with the wind, really were too
much to ask of Lafayette's Brian Menecol. So
it was still 0-0 with 7:43 to play when
Columbia's Roy Hanks returned another short
punt 15 yards to the Lafayette 33. And
Tellier suddenly produced his own little
Tellier ditched his two-back offense
featuring 5-7 sophomore Jason Bivens and
went to the three-back wishbone, calling
the 6-5, 270-pound Wiley over from his
defensive end spot to play tailback.
Wiley bulled off guard for three yards,
then swept left end, hurdling a defender, on
a 19-yard run that was Columbia's longest
play of the afternoon.
That put Columbia on the 11-yard line.
Three plays later, snapper Jennings and
holder David Ramirez were set for
placekicker Matt Linit's dramatic 24-yard
field goal to win the game with 5:06 left.
"Waiting for that snap was the most
nervous I've ever been," said Ramirez, a
senior receiver who has caught 88 passes
during his Columbia career. "That was the
biggest catch I've ever made."
"I just tried to get it back there in the
general vicinity," Jennings said.
"It was so cold and so windy I couldn't
have made it to overtime," Linit said. "So I
just aimed right for the middle and kicked."
It's the world in which we live: Another
clockwork Columbia victory.