Crimson to Grapple With Lions in Grid Opener
Buckley to Start at QB
All those who remember Marty Domres please raise their right hand.
That's right, the legendary (as much as that is possible for any Baker Field athlete) all-time Columbia passing leader, who led the Lions to consecutive 2-7 seasons in 1967 and 1969.
Don't snicker at the record, or at his subsequent career of uninterrupted mediocrity with the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers; the guy could play. Yet Domres symbolized the plight of the Columbia football player, those beefy residents of Morningside Heights, who last won more than three games in 1963. They are expected to lose-they do.
And consider Bob Conroy, Boston native and current quarterback for the Lions, a talented signal-caller who will lead Columbia today in the season opener at Harvard Stadium (1:30 p.m.). He will probably lose today, as is the rule with Columbia quarterbacks. The New Yorkers have a new head coach, Bob Naso, 21 years an assistant at Rutgers, a new offense and a new defense. However, they also have the tradition, the legacy of losers that shows no sign of abating.
So that's good news for coach Joe Restic's chargers, who begin the search today for their first winning season in Cambridge since 1976. The omens are good, the talent is there, but the questions remain. The biggest question, the quarterback, seems to have been answered in the person of Brian Buckley, the senior who served as Larry Brown's '79 back-up and heir apparent until eligibility problems side-lined him last year. The good news is that Buckley has a tremendous arm and years of experience with Restic's Multiflex offense, at least on the practice field. The bad news is that's where most of Buckley's experience has been; outside of a 20 for 40 half against Colgate in 1977, Buckley's varsity experience is thin.
A backfield equally deep in potential and question marks will stand behind Buckley. Senior Paul Connors, a two-year starter, will be side-lined with a pulled muscle, so junior Paul Scheper will fill in at fullback. Senior Tom Beatrice and junior Jim Callinan, Harvard leader in yards per rush and Stillman Infirmary time last year, will set up as half-backs.
Look for excitement to come from the wide-receiver spot, where Ron Cuccia, also a back-up QB, will be making his varsity debut. The high school All Everything from Los Angeles creates excitement wherever he goes and in Restic's stream of consciousness offense, he could make a considerable nuisance of himself. Regarding the possibility of the quarterback-turned-split end throwing from that position, backfield coach Lawrence Glueck would say only, "You know this offense is made for razzle-dazzle." So keep your eye on number seven.
Solid experience in the offensive line and especially the defensive front should make the Crimson dominant in the trenches. The outstanding senior trio of captain Chuck Durst, Dave Otto and Tim Palmer will have to keep steady pressure on Conroy to protect an inexperienced secondary.
All the way down the line Harvard looks like the favorite, as it did in 1978, when the Lions cruised into town and won their first game here since 1961. Go figure Ivy League football. I'll give it a try. On to the predicts. HARVARD 22, COLUMBIA 7: Just gotta win the opener. Columbia should have trouble with Naso's new systems, and there isn't that much talent there in the first place. Harvard has the experience and an exciting crew of sophs, any one of whom could explode. The score is for old time's sake, Nov. 17, 1979. CORNELL, 20, PRINCETON 17: This is a toughie, two teams struggling to get into the thick of the Ivy race. Give it to the Big Red; Cornell is always tough on DARTMOUTH 31, PENN 3: And somebody might get hurt. Dartmouth is celebrating its 100th football anniversary and probably has the most talent in the Ivies, led by Jack Kemp balanced budget offense. Penn has nothing or next to it. Take cover. YALE 17, BROWN 6: This is the game Brown is supposed to win every year but never does. The Bruins aren't even supposed to win this time and there is no such thing as a bad Carm Cozza team.