As the football team makes the trip to Providence on Saturday to take on Brown, the Lions find themselves yet again matched up against a very strong offensive team led by one of the Ivy League’s best quarterbacks: Patrick Donnelly.
Last weekend, the football team put the screws to Cornell to get its second Ivy League victory. This was due largely to the supreme effort of the Lions’ pass rush and secondary, led by Ivy League Co-Defensive Player of the Week, senior defensive lineman Josh Martin. Columbia was able to apply constant pressure on the most productive offensive player in the league, junior quarterback Jeff Mathews, and holding the Big Red to 17 points and eventually knocking Mathews out of the game.
But this weekend, Light Blue head coach Pete Mangurian said that Donnelly and the Bears offense pose a different kind of threat than the Big Red.
“I think it’s a little different philosophy than what we just faced, so your priorities change,” Mangurian said. “They know how to spread you out and do all those things. They can spread out and throw it with anybody. But their attitude is created in their running game.”
With that run-first philosophy, the Bears lead the league in time of possession. And Donnelly not only leads his team in touchdown passes with 12, but also sits atop rushing touchdowns, with four on the season. So although Brown’s junior quarterback does not put up quite the same numbers as Mathews, he has the protection of a better offensive line and the ability to scramble to gain some yardage on the ground when he needs to. Given that, it will be incredibly difficult for the Lions’ defense to repeat its six-sack, four-turnover effort against Cornell.
Donnelly was named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his outstanding performance in a come-from-behind victory over Dartmouth last Saturday. The quarterback went 20-32 through the air for 233 yards and two touchdowns, and had a pair of touchdowns with his feet as well.
“Last week was a great win for our team,” Donnelly said in an email. “We showed resiliency in mounting a fourth quarter comeback so it was definitely a memorable moment for us but it is hard to remember just one highlight from such a long season.”
The Bears entered the fourth quarter staring down the barrel of a 10-point deficit, but Donnelly led the offense to a steady, well-executed assault in the final period.
With 6:39 left in regulation, Donnelly found the end zone via a three-yard run to bring his Bears to within a field goal. After a defensive stop, Brown’s offense found itself planted on its own 20-yard line with 3:30 to go. Donnelly executed a flawless drive, going 6-6 on his throwing attempts for 77 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jonah Fay which proved to be the game winner.
“Offensively we remained confident in ourselves the whole time even when we were down in the fourth quarter,” Donnelly said. “I reminded everyone that our own self-inflicted mistakes were the only thing holding us back and that if we just cleaned up the penalties we would be fine.”
But Donnelly says the Light Blue’s defense poses certain challenges for him.
“Columbia has a very solid team with an experienced quarterback and a very athletic defense highlighted by their front four,” he said. “We have to really stayed disciplined to the game plan in order to be successful on Saturday.”
In order to stop Donnelly on Saturday, the Lions will have to play smart, disciplined defense, constantly keeping an eye on whether the quarterback will pass or tuck the football and scramble for yardage. Though stopping the run will have to be a top priority against a team like the Bears, the entire defense will have to play together in order to contain Donnelly and keep points off the scoreboard.