Although Columbia officially began its 1950 football campaign with a 42 to 12 victory over Hobert last week, today's game with the Crimson at the Stadium will be the real "season's opener" as far as Coach Lon Little is concerned.
Little, who is in his twenty-first season as head coach of the Lions, has a already gone on record as rating his present club superior to last year's. The victory over Hobart didn't give Little much indication as to how good his team really is.
Last week, the Lions found the going awfully easy. Without discrediting Hobert, whose biggest mistake was in stepping out of its class, Columbia had trouble keeping the score down. The Light blue tallied on the first play of the game, on a 47-yard pass play, and rolled to a 35-0 halftime lead. All 43 of the players who dressed for the game saw action and be passing just once in the second half, Columbia limited itself to just one more touchdown.
With this in mind, today's game shapes up as one which will answer many questions for Little as well as for Lioyd Jordan, who will be fielding his first Crimson eleven. On the surface, Little's evaluation of his present squad might be taken as a prediction of victory, since practically the same club defeated the Crimson last year for the first time in history, 14-7, at Baker Field.
As far as personnel goes, Little has gained a great deal of strength in the backfield in the person of an 18-year-old sophomore, Mitchell Price. In addition, his entire club has had the benefit of a year more of experience and seasoning.
Price, a westerner with a deadly passing arm, bids well to beat out veteran Kermit Tracy for the starting quarterback post when pre-season practice got underway. Little got around this superfluity of talent by shifting Price to left halfback where his running and passing ability could be utilized without losing Tracy's experience and cool field generalship.
Completed Six of Seven
Price had a field day against Hobert, completing six out of seven passes for 142 yards including one for a touchdown, and Price the rare compliment of rating him a better passer than Gene Rossides was during the same stage in the latter's brilliant career.
Completing the Lions' backfield will be Fullback Howie Hansen, a rugged 290-pounder, and Vern Wynott, at right half. Whynott is remembered by Crimson followers as the speedster who tied up last year's contest by returning a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
On the line, the Lions will average about 202 pounds per man. Sparkplug of the Light Blue forward wall is Gerry Audette, a junior guard, who rated mention as an All-Eastern performer last season and who may gain national honors this fall. Audette, who weighs 195 pounds, will be pairer with Don Trevisano, a star performer on the Lions' freshmen team last season. Trevisano weighs 190.
At ends, Little will probably start Westely Bomm, a junior, and Don McLean, who was the Lions' third best pass catcher last year. Bomm, who weighs an even 200, is surprisingly fast for a big man and scored the Lions' first touchdown against Hobert on a 47-yard pass from Price on the opening play of the game. Gorry Cozzi, who was playing ahead of Bomm in pre-season practice, missed the Hobert contest because of a leg injury and is not expected to see action today.
Mile Durovich, another sophomore, is expected to start at left tackle, although he will probably share the game with George Vitone, a junior, who saw limited service last season. The other tackle slot will be filled by Bill Wallace, the biggest of the Lions' starters, who weighs in at 215 pounds. John Wagner, who started against the Crimson last season, will probably open the game at center.
The Lions are also well-set in the important extra point department. Al Ward a sophomore who is listed as an end, converted six times in six times against Hobert. Ward is accurate enough to be a field goal threat anywhere inside the 30-yard line.
Because the Hobart game was in the nature of a runaway, Little was able to keep his offense well under wraps. The Lions run from the winged-T, a Little innovation, and on defense use a straight five a six-man line. Harvard scouts could learn little about the Lions last Saturday except that the Light Blue has good all-around team speed and a especially potent passing threat in Price and Tracy.
Conversely, Little has limited knowledge of what the Crimson will flash this afternoon in the way of offense since it will be the season's opener for Jordan's squad.
Little may also remember the last time he brought a favored Columbia team into Soldiers Field. That was in 1948, when the Crimson was inaugurating a new season under a new coach, just as this year. The favored Lions, despite the presence of Gene Rossides andw Lou Kusserow, suffered a stunning 33 to 24 defeat. The spectre of history repeating itself may well occupy a place in Little's thought as he sends his club into action today.