Colorado, Michigan and Texas A&M may have been the highest-profile teams to be derailed last Saturday, but perhaps the most stunning fall was that of Penn, which lost to Columbia 24-14, thus ending the NCAA's longest winning streak at 24. In the process, the victory established the Lions, who are 2-0 in the I-AA Ivy League, as a top contender to win their first conference title since 1961. By ending the Quakers' run, Columbia may have also buried forever the unsavory memory of another streak: its 44-game losing skein from 1983 to '88.
The win over Penn is a coup for Columbia coach Ray Tellier, who has done a Herculean job of rebuilding the Lion program. The Lions practice and play their games at a stadium—albeit an exceptionally attractive one—located more than six miles from the campus. Before George Rupp was appointed as the school's president in 1993, Columbia's faculty and administrators had given no more than token support to rebuilding the football program. "There's the New York City factor, too," says Tellier, referring to out-of-towners' fear of the Big Apple. "I've had mothers tell me when they saw the Columbia address on letters we sent to their sons, they would just throw the letters in the trash."
Most of Tellier's players were not recruited by Division I-A schools, and many were even overlooked by the other Ivy League schools. Take Rory Wilfork, a junior All-Ivy linebacker from Miami who entered Columbia at a Gumby-like six feet, 185 pounds and had never done any weight work. "Even the kickers were outlifting me when I got here," he says. Wilfork has since grown two inches and put on 43 pounds. Against the Quakers he had 16 tackles, four for losses.
Even more unheralded was senior quarterback Mike Cavanaugh, who threw for 147 yards, ran for 92 and scored two touchdowns on Saturday. "Nobody else really recruited me but Columbia," says the 6'1", 195-pound Cavanaugh. Then he breaks into a grin and says, "Well, for a week Penn expressed some interest but decided I was too small. I guess I've gotten my revenge, huh?"
No Rush to Judgment
As the most successful September in a decade unspooled at Michigan, Wolverine athletic director Joe Roberson came under mounting pressure from alumni to give interim coach Lloyd Carr permanent status. But the Wolverines' 19-13 loss to Northwestern last Saturday demonstrated why Roberson has been slow to make a decision. While there are good reasons, among them Michigan's 5-1 record, to recommend Carr for the job, the Wolverines' propensity for midseason melt-downs has forced Roberson to prolong his evaluation.
And he has no need to rush his decision making. Contrary to some newspaper reports, the uncertainty about Carr's future should not affect Michigan's recruiting efforts. Despite back-to-back 8-4 seasons in 1993 and '94, the Wolverines remain one of a handful of teams whose reputation alone assures an annual harvest of blue-chip recruits. "I can say very candidly that no one could have asked more from Lloyd Carr than what he has given us," Roberson said before the game against Northwestern, "but I think most recruits understand that, whether it's Lloyd or somebody else, Michigan will have a topflight coach in place next fall."
Adds the coach of a Top 10 team: "All the talk about the blue-and-maize tradition might sound outdated, but it carries weight with high school players. There's still a mystique about Michigan."
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