Sports

Columbia's lone touchdown from last weekend's Princeton game

Last week, I looked at two plays that were rather unsuccessful. And, to be frank, the tape from this week doesn’t look much better—Columbia was unable to get the running and passing game going, managing a feeble five first downs against Princeton en route to a 53-7 defeat.

Thanks to the magic of ESPN3, I actually have a little bit more game footage to work with this week. So let’s take a look at one really successful play—Columbia’s only touchdown, which came with 1:37 to go in the first half.

After the most recent Princeton touchdown, which put the Tigers up 29-0, Columbia got the ball back at their own 27 with 2:03 to go. At this situation in the game, it’s absolutely essential that Columbia pick up some points before halftime, so the team went into the “no-huddle”—essentially, rather than taking their time to call plays, the offensive team moves straight up to the line and runs plays based on barked signals from the quarterback.

The first two plays didn’t go great. Freshman quarterback Kelly Hilinski demonstrated his mobility by escaping the Princeton rush to pick up three yards, then the second down pass attempt was incomplete. The Lions would need a big play on third down.

Here’s the formation. It should look pretty similar to the two plays from last week—the Lions love this formation and personnel grouping. It’s three receivers, one running back, and a tight end (this is called “11” personnel) with the quarterback in “shotgun” (standing about five yards behind the line). This gives the quarterback a better chance to see the defense and spot the opening.

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The structure of the play is straightforward. The design is to get the slot receiver, Scooter Hollis, open while running at full speed parallel to the line of scrimmage. Because Hollis is really really fast, this should create room for him to run after the catch. (The Philadelphia Eagles are fond of running similar plays with the hyper-fast DeSean Jackson.)

In order to create this additional space, tight end Hamilton Garner will run a “go” route, streaking down the middle of the field and hopefully taking a defender or two with him. The receiver on the opposite side of the field is going to run something like a post route (it’s hard to see on the video), but again the idea is to drag defenders away from where Scooter Hollis is likely to end up with the ball.

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You can see from this shot that Princeton is “blitzing” two of their linebackers (trying to get to the quarterback), leaving poor #94 to guard both Garner and Hollis. He eventually decides to follow Hollis, but Hollis has a head of steam.

Hilinski makes a great throw—the first completion of his college career!—and hits Hollis in stride. The Lions get a helpful pick from the referee, who takes the trailing Princeton defender out of the play, and Hollis is off to the races.

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There’s no defenders nearby, and no one is going to catch him; he’s just too fast. It’s a 70 yard touchdown for Columbia.

This is good! Unfortunately, the good has been hard to come by for Columbia so far this year. The defense surrendered a touchdown immediately after this play, negating its effect and deflating the offense. Generally, the success of this play was an anomaly for the Lions on Saturday. Hilinski is expected to make his first career start at quarterback against Lehigh on Saturday, and hopefully he will be more successful moving the ball than Trevor McDonagh was against Monmouth and Princeton.

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