Just For Kicks
NEW YORK--After driving a little more than 85 yards on the first possession of Saturday's 23-6 Harvard win, the Columbia offense stalled just two feet from six points. On third down the Harvard defensive line, with end Kevin McHugh leading the charge, rose up to crush Lion halfback Joe Cabrera for no gain. With fourth and one staring him down, Columbia head coach Bob Naso elected--the chagrin of both his players and their fans notwithstanding--to be certain of first blood with a safe 18-yd. field goal. Except that a Columbia field goal is about as safe as a late night walk through Spanish Harlem.
Anyway, Naso sent in the field goal union, including sophomore placekicker Richard Cory, to give it a shot. While the Lion cheerleaders (you had to be there) thought the attempt was good, everyone else clearly saw it float wide to the right. Sorry, girls.
It was not until early in the third quarter that Columbia again established any sort of offensive drive. Taking the ball on their own 42 after a Harvard punt, the Lions worked short passes--their only real successes on the day--for gains to the Harvard 26. Faced with a fourth and two, and losing only 3-0 at this point, Naso went against his well-wishers' wishes once more, opting for another field goal try.
In kicker Cory's place was junior Miro Lovric--a somewhat confusing development. A Columbia scribe in the press box explained: "Cory kicks straight on and Lovric kicks soccer style. So they bring in Lovric for the long ones because he has the distance, while Cory has short-range accuracy." Laughter had to be suppressed, as Cory's 18-yd. fiasco--a mere chip shot--was remembered.
The best laugh, however, was saved for last, when Lovric's 43-yd. attempt traveled approximately 23 yards forward and 15 yards to the left. The long and short of it is that Naso has no one for the long or the short.
On the other side of the playing surface, Harvard coach Joe Restic appeared to have no such field goal worries. He's got a guy who can kick the short ones and a guy who can kick the long ones. Without substitutions. Without switching back and forth between straight-ahead and soccer style. For in his varsity debut, sophomore placekicker Jim Villanueva filled both roles with case.
Against Columbia, Villanueva accounted for nearly half his team's total points, booting field goals of 40, 29 and 28 yards and adding two extra points. He was five-for-five in his placekick attempts, and he also punted six times for a 35.8-yd. average. Cory-Lovric he ain't.
Those who live by the "like father, like son" rule will be pleased to know that Villanueva is the son of former National Football League star Danny Villanueva, who placedkicked for both the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys. But there's more than family reputation to back up Harvard's new kicker.
On last year's undefeated freshman team, Villanueva finished second in scoring with 25 points. And at Palisades High School in Los Angeles, where he played both football and soccer, he set an L.A. record of nine field goals in a season, including kicks of 47, 48 and 49 yards. His 40-yarder on Saturday had plenty to spare as it split the uprights.
Actually, Villanueva's longest field goal, which came with 8:22 remaining in the first half and gave Harvard a 3-0 lead, appeared to be all the Crimson would need to win on this day. As Ron Cuccia, Jim Callinan, Jim Acheson and Scott McCabe began to run circles around the Lion defenders, and cornerback Rocky Delgadillo began relieving Columbia's intended receivers of the ball, it looked like the Crimson was on its way to a shutout.
But with one second on the clock and the stands nearly emptied, Lion reserve quarterback Pete Rappa found wide receiver Tom Holoka free in the end zone. Holoka's diving catch put Columbia's first points of the season on the board.
With no time left and his team trailing by 23-6, Naso decided to bypass his Cory-Lovric team and try for a two-point conversion.
The attempt was, fittingly, no good.