Though the score was closer and the team showed improvement, football head coach Pete Mangurian did not give in to the notion of a moral victory in the wake of Columbia’s 24-10 loss to Lehigh on Saturday.
“The bottom line on the product is you win or you lose,” Mangurian said. “I can promise you, there are a few, but there aren’t many guys in our locker room right now who are taking any solace in the fact that it was closer, because that’s not what we talk about, and that’s not what we work for.
“We’re all smart enough to see there was improvement,” he added. “But that’s a trap around here—degree of losing. Like degrees of death—you’re either dead or alive. You’re not half-alive.”
The Lions held the No. 14 Mountain Hawks to just 24 points on the day, after surrendering 50-plus points in two of their first three games. Lehigh came in averaging 35.2 points per game.
But the brightest spot was senior running back Marcorus Garrett. The co-captain put up 150 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown to lead the Light Blue offense. The mark advanced him to third place on Columbia’s all-time rushing list with 1,664 yards.
“Marcorus brings it every day to practice and every meeting, and every captains’ meeting he’s in, and everything he does,” Mangurian said. “I challenged the players after the game and said, ‘Look at the mistakes that each of us made, and ask yourself if there was one moment in the week when you could have worked a little harder on that specific mistake and avoided it.’ Marcorus will have to look awful hard for a down where he didn’t work as hard as he could.”
The Lions got Garrett going from their first possession, using a balanced attack to drive 69 yards in 14 plays and get on the board with a field goal. Columbia had five first downs on the drive—equaling the amount of first downs from the entire Princeton game—and Garrett had eight rushes for 41 yards to help give the Light Blue the early lead. The senior credited offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo for the successful offensive strategy.
“I really liked the game plan Coach Elizondo put in,” Garrett said. “A lot of the guys up front really liked it based on what we saw from them, and it worked out.”
Based on the rushing numbers, the Light Blue’s approach in that area worked well. And when a player puts up the kind of day Garrett did, the other sideline takes notice.
“He has power, and he’s fast,” Lehigh defensive lineman Tim Newton said of Garrett. “He’s a great running back. He’s smart, and he makes good cuts.”
Still, the Light Blue offense could muster only 10 points. Once again, the Lions’ lack of a passing game contributed to its lack of points. Sophomore Trevor McDonagh began the game under center and played the first two offensive possessions before first-year Kelly Hilinski came in to replace him in the second quarter. McDonagh came back in to start the third quarter, but left the game after the Lions’ first offensive series with an apparent injury. Hilinski would play the remainder of the game.
McDonagh finished the day 3-7 for 28 yards, while Hilinski completed six of 14 passes for 43 yards.
“I’m feeling more comfortable running the offense and playing under center and being out at the head of the offense. But we didn’t play well enough, obviously,” Hilinski said. “We didn’t execute on passes when we needed to, so that’s why we came out on the short end.”
As the Lions head into the thick of Ivy play next week with Homecoming, they’ll need to continue the upward offensive trend.
“I care about playing better, but I don’t care about close any more than I care about far,” Mangurian said. “Worried about by how much you lose—that’s a product of losing a lot. When you’re around programs that win, there’s no degree of losing—it all feels the same. And that’s what I want to be here.”