Previewing Marist Football’s Clash With Columbia

Two weeks ago, the Marist Red Foxes hoped to wither away any doubts about the team in their season opener against the Georgetown Hoyas. Instead, people have come away from the game with more worries. 

The three phases of the game all fell apart, and they clearly couldn’t match up with a more talented roster in Georgetown. After an early bye week, the Red Foxes will have to go up against another tough and skilled Columbia Lions team on Saturday, making it that much tougher for Marist to figure out their turnaround. 

There is hope that this game will feature a lively crowd as it’s the only home night game of the season (6 p.m. kickoff), so let us give you a scouting report on Columbia. 

How did Columbia fare last season? 

2021 was a solid season for the Lions as they went 7-3, including a 3-0 record against nonconference opponents. They only went 4-3 against conference opponents, so they placed fifth in the Ivy League standings. One of those nonconference wins came at home against the Red Foxes in what was Marist’s season opener. Columbia blew out Marist by 23 points, winning 37-14. 

The Lions didn’t feature an explosive offense, but they were consistent. They featured a rushing attack that ranked third in the Ivy League with 158 rushing yards per game. They didn’t boast a heavy passing attack, instead deciding on being conservative with the football which resulted in only three interceptions thrown by their quarterback group. There was a lot of grit and grind with this group last year. 

On defense, Columbia excelled at taking the ball away. They forced 12 interceptions and 4 fumbles, accumulating 16 total takeaways during the 2021 season. This was second-best in the Ivy League, behind only Harvard. They were prone to giving up the big play and teams were able to pass on them, giving up 231.5 throwing yards per contest last season. 

How do the Lions look for this season? 

Columbia features a squad that returns many of its key players from last season on both sides of the ball. 

On offense, they return Ivy League Freshman of the Year winner Joe Young at quarterback, as well as his best friends, an entire senior-loaded offensive line. Last year, that group protected Young like he was a precious piece of jewelry, only allowing 11 sacks for the season. This was a program-low in the long, fabled history of Columbia football. 

The anchor of the offensive line is senior left tackle Stew Newblatt, and if that last name sounds familiar, it’s not a coincidence. Newblatt is the brother of Marist star volleyball player Jordan Newblatt, so expect some sibling tensions to unfold on Saturday. 

The question with Columbia’s offense this year is how well they will run the ball after losing their top rusher, Dante Miller. They return their second-leading rusher in Ryan Young who was an All-Ivy League honorable mention last season, so expect to see him in an expanded role. 

The Lions’ defense returns a majority of their front seven, with the exception of their edge rushers. This will be their biggest question mark, so expect to see a heavy rotation from Columbia as they still look to find players who will take up those mantles. This might bode well for Marist’s pass protection. 

Columbia will also have some first-time starters at cornerback, which will be another area of intrigue to Marist offensive coordinator Jake Dembow. 

If one thing is for certain with Columbia’s defense, it’s that senior linebacker Scott Valentas will be all over the field. Valentas was the squad’s leading tackler with 56 in eight games last season. Watch for him to rack up a lot on the stat sheet. 

Two key matchups 

Against Georgetown, Marist struggled to stop the run. They gave up 237 rushing yards against the Hoyas, a team that only averaged 83.8 rushing yards a game last season. The Red Foxes better be on top of their game this week, as Columbia averaged almost double that number last season. 

Look to see if the Marist edge rushers set the edge better to prevent big runs to the outside. Marist also typically plays with a three-man front, making them more susceptible to runs between the gaps. Take a look at how Mike Arrington and the linebackers play the runs. They might be crashing a lot more this week to try and bust the run. 

After a subpar performance against Georgetown, expect the Marist quarterbacks to come back better for this game. Brock Bagozzi played the entire second half with the exception of the last few minutes when the game’s fate was already decided, so expect to see him start on Saturday. With first-year starters in Columbia’s secondary, it might just be the right opportunity for Bagozzi to boost his confidence and pick apart inexperienced corners. This would be a great morale boost heading into PFL play against Drake on September 24.

Breakdown and prediction 

Just like the game against Georgetown, Columbia features players who are on football scholarships, so there will definitely be some sort of talent imbalance. Marist and Columbia have only played each other five times in the past, including the aforementioned 37-14 loss last season. Marist has lost all five of those meetings, so they will be motivated to achieve a program first. 

The Red Foxes are now on a 10-game nonconference losing streak, and with Columbia being so much better than Georgetown across the board, I don’t see any change to their fortunes. This won’t be representative of how they perform on their PFL slate, but expect a blowout. 

If it stays close, it’s because the passing game took advantage of a new Columbia secondary, but I still see this as extremely unlikely. 

Columbia 35, Marist 10

Edited by Jonathan Kinane

Photo from Kira Crutcher

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