Columbia suffered a 27-13 loss against Penn at the Homecoming football game at Baker Field Saturday, Oct. 17. Turnovers played a major part in the final outcome: the Lions finished with seven giveaways while the Quakers only had three.
“Not many football teams are going to win when you turn the ball over seven times, even if your defense gets three turnovers,” head coach Norries Wilson said. Wilson believes the turnovers were “a function of not paying attention to detail...that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”
The first turnover of the game took place with 8:32 left in the first quarter, when senior quarterback Millicent Olawale rushed for a loss of four yards before fumbling. Penn scored on the ensuing drive to take a 7-0 lead.
For much of the first quarter, the turnovers seemed to come in succession, with alternating errors by both teams. With 5:45 remaining, Penn quarterback Keiffer Garton’s pass was intercepted by Columbia free safety Adam Mehrer. Once Columbia had the ball with the chance to even the score on first and goal, Olawale was pressured into throwing up an interception. Then, in Penn’s last drive of the quarter, Garton threw an interception straight to Columbia linebacker Matt Moretto.
Penn also committed the first turnover of the second quarter when junior wide receiver Matt Tuten fumbled the ball and Columbia recovered it. The Lions made the Quakers pay with their first score on the afternoon.
When the next turnover occurred, the score was 14-13 Penn. Olawale was forced to fumble again and Penn capitalized with a touchdown, giving the Quakers a 21-13 advantage. The Lions fumbled again with just over 60 seconds remaining in the half, and headed into the break with an eight-point deficit.
After a quiet third quarter, the Lions became sloppy again in the fourth. On their first drive of the quarter, they marched 59 yards before Olawale was picked off again. The Columbia defense forced Penn to punt on the ensuing possession, and senior Austin Knowlin was the victim of a controversial call on the return. Penn recovered the punt after a ruling the it bounced off Knowlin, though the wide receiver would later deny touching the ball. The play was ruled a fumble in the end.
Fittingly, Columbia’s final drive also ended with a turnover. With just 1:30 remaining, Olawale was intercepted again, and the Quakers went home with a convincing 27-13 victory.
Olawale blamed himself for the interceptions. “I think our line did a pretty good job,” he said. “I just held onto the ball way too long on some of those picks.”
In a game between two teams of similar talent, the match seemed to devolve into a competition of who committed the fewest mistakes, and that team ended up being Penn.
The Columbia offense hopes to guard the ball more carefully when the team visits Dartmouth next weekend.
“We have to take it one game at a time, but I’m completely confident in my team,” Knowlin said.