There was another two-minute miracle this Saturday on Robert K. Kraft Field, but this time it was the Lions who were working the magic, as they beat Yale for the first time in over a decade.
With 0:45 remaining in the game, junior running back Marcorus Garrett caught a pass in the end zone on a third-and-goal at the two-yard line to give Columbia a 26-22 lead. This time, the Lions (2-5, 1-3 Ivy) held on, ensuring that they would not suffer their third consecutive last-minute defeat and ending a string of nine straight losses to Yale (2-5, 1-3 Ivy).
“Obviously we’re pleased with the outcome of the game,” Columbia head coach Pete Mangurian said. “We’ve been trying to change this ending for a couple of weeks.”
The Lions’ offense came out strong and dominated time of possession in the first half, putting the team on track to snap its five-game losing streak. In the first two quarters, Columbia had the ball for 23:47, to the Bulldogs’ 6:13. The possession time gap evened out in the second half, but overall the Lions had the ball for 38:36 to the Bulldogs’ 21:24.
A lot of the Light Blue’s success came through the air. Senior quarterback Sean Brackett had one of his best games of the season, throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Brackett also ran for a touchdown on a misdirection play at the goal line early in the fourth quarter.
Brackett did a good job of spreading the ball around, allowing a number of players to make important contributions in the passing game. Wide receivers freshman Chris Connors and sophomore Connor Nelligan came up big for the Lions, making a combined 19 receptions, as did sophomore wide receiver Jake Wanamaker, who caught his first touchdown in a Light Blue uniform. Sophomore fullback Steven Silvio also saw some action, making three receptions for 39 yards. The drops that have plagued Columbia all season were fewer on Saturday than in recent weeks.
“We’ve been working hard, but today we executed when we needed to, made plays when we needed to,” Brackett said. “We had the urgency that we need to have more today. I think that’s what made a difference today in our execution.”
The Yale offense showed up as well, despite having to deal with a plethora of quarterback injuries. Sophomore running back Tyler Varga had to fill in under center for the Bulldogs, and performed admirably, rushing for 220 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m glad I don’t have to see 30 for another year,” Mangurian said of Varga. “Man, is he good. He’s a good football player. I’ve seen a few good football players, and he’s a good one.”
With Yale leading 22-19 late in the fourth quarter, it seemed like Varga was going to tear the Lions’ defense apart once again and close out the game. But immediately after moving the chains for the Elis on a big third-down run, Varga fumbled the ball on a first-down scramble, and Columbia recovered it to give its offense one more chance with 2:05 to play.
The Light Blue did not fail to take advantage of the opportunity, driving the ball up the field from its own 41 and punching through the game-winning score with less than a minute left.
Yale got one more chance, sending in wide receiver Henry Furman to quarterback. But after picking up a first down, senior defensive tackle Greg Lee came in for a game-ending sack, as the Lions closed out the 26-22 win.