Updated 9/30 at 12:45 a.m.
Football's offensive woes continued on Saturday, as the Light Blue struggled much of the game in a 37-14 loss to Monmouth.
The Lions committed several key turnovers and were unable to establish a rhythm on offense. In his first collegiate start, sophomore quarterback Trevor McDonagh—replacing the injured junior Brett Nottingham—faced constant pressure and had trouble kickstarting the Lions’ offense. McDonagh went only 12-34 with one interception, and the Lions went 0-12 on third-down conversions.
But the game started in Columbia’s favor. After Monmouth took the lead with an early field goal, the Lions responded on their first drive with a touchdown by running back and co-captain Marcorus Garrett to make the score 7-3. The senior took a handoff 41 yards for the score—the first of two rushes of 40-plus yards he had on the day.
“We really felt the running back was the key to their offense, and I’d like to say when we came in the plan was to stop him, but in the first quarter he rips off big runs, and he’s in the end zone,” Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan said.
Garrett ended up being one of the few bright spots for the Lions, as he finished with 152 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
“He gets our offense starting,” first-year offensive tackle Kendall Pace said of Garrett. “Knowing that we have a great running back in the backfield makes us, as offensive lineman, want to work for him.”
But the Hawks regained the lead late in the first quarter when Monmouth wideout Thaddeus Richards took a reverse eight yards in for a touchdown. They would tack on a field goal late in the second quarter to enter halftime up 13-7.
The Lions went three-and-out to begin the third quarter, and the Hawks capitalized on their good field position on the ensuing drive to take a 20-7 lead thanks to a Julian Hayes 17-yard touchdown run.
Columbia made it a one-possession game with Garrett’s nine-yard touchdown run with 5:04 left in the third quarter. The score came after Garrett took a handoff 43 yards to the left to get the ball to the Monmouth 17.
But that would be all the scoring the Lions could muster. On the next offensive drive, McDonagh dropped back for a play-action pass on first down at the Columbia 19 and was strip-sacked eight yards deep. The Hawks recovered the fumble but ended up with only a field goal to make it 23-14.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the floodgates opened. It began with an 11-play drive, finished off by a 13-yard touchdown pass to make the score 30-14. The Lions then attempted a fourth-down conversion with just over four minutes left from their own 26. But McDonagh skipped a pass in to sophomore wideout Ryan Flannery over the middle of the field to turn the ball over on downs. Three plays later, Monmouth running back K.B. Asante ran it in from 13 yards out to make it 37-14.
Though Asante and Hayes mostly split the rushing load, Hayes finished with 128 yards on 34 carries and a touchdown. Asante ended up just shy of the century mark, with 97 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown.
“I don’t want to say so much it’s simple, but when you’re doing the right things, and doing things the way you should be doing them, then it looks smooth,” Hayes said. “When everybody’s clicking together, then that’s when things are going good.”
With so many carries, the Hawks dominated the time of possession, 38:33 to 19:29.
“We just wore them down a bit after a while,” Callahan said. “We started to get the upper hand physically in the second half a little bit.”
Though McDonagh struggled to hit receivers—he was just 11-33 for 108 yards and an interception—the Lions’ receiving corps, which dropped a fair number of passes, did not make his day any easier.
“You can’t turn the ball over, you can’t have penalties, you can’t drop the football when it’s thrown, and you’ve got to hit the receivers when they’re open,” Light Blue head coach Pete Mangurian said.
“We’ll play better at the quarterback position a week from now. It’s the first time for him,” Mangurian added. “I think he showed flashes of what he can do. I’ve seen him throw the ball effectively, and I think he’ll do that.”
The Light Blue’s pass protection, which struggled last week against Fordham, proved once again to be one of Columbia’s biggest problems. The Lions allowed six sacks, several of which helped stop key drives in the second half.
“We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to prepare better, and we’ve got to play better,” Mangurian said. “Trust me, I will evaluate every single thing that happened, starting with myself. But it takes everybody to do this, and it’s time that everybody take responsibility for all the things we’re doing.”