On a Saturday full of upsets in the Ivy League, Columbia football (1-5, 0-3 Ivy) failed to pull off one of its own. The Lions came close, but once again they could not hold on to a late lead in the fourth quarter, giving up a touchdown in the final moments to lose the game.
But putting the loss squarely on the defense’s late-game downfall fails to tell the whole story of Columbia’s 12th straight Homecoming loss, this one coming at the hands of Dartmouth (4-2, 2-1 Ivy). As they have all season, the Lions struggled to convert on third down for much of the game. Junior running back Marcorus Garrett also uncharacteristically failed to put up big numbers for the Lions, adding to their Homecoming difficulties.
Head coach Pete Mangurian didn’t blame the loss squarely on the last three minutes of the game, which included a eight-play, 91-yard drive that resulted in a Big Green touchdown.
“There’s any one of 10, 15, 20 plays that could’ve gone another way and changed the outcome of the game, but that’s the way the game is played,” Mangurian said.
The offense had one of its toughest days statistically. The first quarter was especially poor for the Lions, as their 14 plays accounted for only eight total yards, with just one first down. Garrett, who came into the game leading the league in rushing yards, ran the ball three times for just six yards in the first period. Senior quarterback Sean Brackett had a tough time as well, completing just three of his eight passes for six yards.
Although the Light Blue was able to put together a seven-play, 47-yard touchdown drive at the end of the half to go up 10-7, the numbers still weren’t pretty. Even though Brackett had a much better second quarter—he went seven-for-10 for 89 yards, including a touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Chris Connors—Garrett couldn’t find any room to run. The running back finished the second quarter with just 14 yards on eight carries.
“When we’re doing well offensively, we’re making plays,” Brackett said. “That was the biggest thing, just make plays. It wasn’t doing anything special.”
But the Lions just couldn’t make enough of those plays. They finished the day with just 14 first downs and 220 total yards—80 on the ground and 140 through the air. Garrett ended the day with 72 yards on 20 carries, an average of 3.6 yards per carry. It was just the third time all season the running back had been held to under 100 rushing yards in a game. Through three quarters, though, he had just 26 yards on 13 carries, and his longest run to that point was four yards.
“He’s a great back,” Dartmouth linebacker Bronson Green said of Garrett. “We knew that going in, and something we stressed as a defense was stopping the run. Make them beat us over the top, make them make some plays through the air—we have got to stop the run.”
One of the consequences of Dartmouth stopping the run was it put Columbia in third-and-long situations. On the day, the Light Blue made four of its 15 third down chances. But the Lions only converted on one of their nine third-down plays where they had seven yards or more to go.
“That’s huge. That’s the out down,” Green, who had 10 tackles on the day, said of Dartmouth’s defensive fortitude on third down. “Third-and-short or third-and-long, you have to be ready to make plays. And we were lucky enough to get them off the field on third down, which I think is huge.”
Third down has been a problem all season for the Lions, as they currently rank last in the league in third-down conversions. They’ve made just 24 of their 93 attempts, a rate of 25.8 percent.
Mangurian credited the Big Green’s defense for its effectiveness on Saturday, saying that the Light Blue’s inability to stop Dartmouth’s defensive front four hurt the home team.
“There’s certain things you need to do to beat this team,” he said. “And if you don’t execute and do those things properly, you’re not going to beat them. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what your style of play is. For us to beat that team, we had to play a certain way, and we didn’t do that consistently enough.”