NEW YORK—A fourth quarter 72-yard touchdown reception and 220-yard rushing performance from Marcus Bagley proved to be the difference as Saint Francis U (Pa.) defeated Columbia 13-9 in its season opener Saturday at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence Wien Stadium.
Saint Francis went up 13-3 when quarterback Zack Drayer found Kamron Lewis for a 72-yard touchdown pass. Lewis tipped the ball in the air, then caught it cleanly and proceeded to accelerate past the Columbia defense for the score. The scoring drive capped 98-yards in five plays. Saint Francis improved to 1-2 on the year, while Columbia dropped to 0-1.
Columbia cut the deficit to 13-9 when quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg found Cameron Dunn for a three-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left in the game. That was as close as the Lions came as Saint Francis fielded the ensuing onside kick and closed out the game.
“Columbia fans should be very proud,” Saint Francis head coach Chris Villarrial said. “That program is going in the right direction with a Hall of Fame coach. Their defense didn’t give us much. It was hard-fought, physical game. That’s a good Columbia football team over there. The future is very bright and there’s a lot of victories ahead for that team.”
For Columbia, it was turnovers that contributed to the loss. The Lions drove deep into SFU territory two times in the second quarter only to end drives with turnovers. It also had several other opportunities to score, but couldn’t take advantage.
“We made a couple of mistakes in the first half,” said Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli, “We had them on the run in the first half. We had our chances to score and take a lead. Emotionally there’s a huge swing. We go from first and four at the goal line and thinking we’re going to score to going back on defense.”
“But there’s also an awful lot of positives from today,” Bagnoli continued. “We’re disappointed in the fact that we know we’re a pretty good football team. That’s where it starts. The days of just trying to keep a game close are over. Now, we want to win, expect to win and we are disappointed when we don’t win and that’s what causes the frustration. It’s a whole different mindset. We’ll be fine. There’s enough good things from today and enough areas of improvement from week one to week two that if we can pay attention to detail, we’ll be okay.”
On the first drive midway through the second quarter, Columbia advanced the ball to the SFU 35-yard line, taking advantage of two penalties, including a 15-yard targeting call. The drive stalled when Mornhinweg was hit from behind, the ball popped into the air and into the hands of SFU defensive end Shawn McCord for an interception.
On Columbia’s next possession, the Lions drove to the SFU five-yard line before the Red Flash forced a fumble by Da’Jon Lee which was recovered by Solomon Leaeno. A 26-yard punt return by freshman Josh Wainwright set up the drive. Wainwright wove in and out of the Saint Francis defense for a spectacular return. Skyler Mornhinweg scrambled for a 11-yard run, followed by a seven-yard run by freshman Tanner Thomas. Chris Schroer then rambled 26 yards through the SFU defense before the turnover.
Columbia’s defense yielded 397 total offensive yards, but made it difficult for Saint Francis when it counted. Christian Conway led the Lions with 15 tackles, Keith Brady finished with 14, Gianmarco Rea added 11 and Brock Kenyon contributed 10. On offense, Chris Schroer ran for a career-high 73 yards on 14 carries, Mornhinweg completed 15 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown and ran for 43 yards on 13 carries and Scooter Hollis led the Lions with five catches for 31 yards.
Columbia cut the deficit to 6-3 on a 38-yard field goal by senior Cameron Nizialek following a seven-play, 35-yard scoring drive in the third quarter. The Lions methodically drove the ball deep into SFU territory using a 15-yard targeting call, an 11-yard pass from Mornhinweg to Scooter Hollis and an eight yard Mornhinweg scramble.
Saint Francis held a 6-0 lead at halftime on two field goals from Lance Geesey (28-yarder and 48-yarder).
For Saint Francis, Bagley finished with 220 yards rushing on 33 carries, 146 of which came in the first half. Drayer completed 11 of 23 passes for 124 yards and a 72-yard touchdown. Leaeno led the Red Flash with 10 tackles.
Columbia is back in action next Saturday when it travels to Washington D.C to take on Georgetown for the Lou Little Cup. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. on the Patriot League Network.
POST GAME NOTES
•Columbia was represented at the coin toss by its three 2016 captains: seniors Scooter Hollis (WR), Skyler Mornhinweg (QB) and Christian Conway (LB). Captains were selected by the team earlier in preseason.
•Today’s weather at Robert K. Kraft Field was a perfect 75 degrees and sunny with winds SSW at 8 mph.
•Columbia wore black anthracite uniforms with white helmets. All 31 Columbia varsity sports will honor the late Bill Campbell with a No. 67 uniform patch. The Lions wore 67 patches on their uniforms and helmets.
•Columbia and Saint Francis U met for the first time in football. With the loss, Columbia dropped to 2-3 against Northeast Conference members. The Lions also play at NEC member Wagner on Oct. 8.
•On offense, Columbia started Skyler Mornhinweg at quarterback, John Hunton at tight end, four wide receivers including Scooter Hollis, Cameron Dunn, Tre Gabriel and Josh Wainwright and offensive linemen Kendall Pace, Charlie Flores, Tyler Schonewolf, Nathan Gibbs and Bewley Wales. On defense, Columbia started Connor Heeb, Dominic Perkovic, Lord Hyeamang and Mike Hinton on the defensive line, Christian Conway, Gianmarco Rea and Keith Brady at linebacker and Cameron Roane, Landon Baty, Brock Kenyon and Jared Katz in the secondary.
•Six Lions started for the first time in their career: Tre Gabriel (WR), Tyler Schonewolf (C), Connor Heeb (DE), Lord Hyemang (DT), Mike Hinton (DE) and Landon Baty (SS).
•Freshman Josh Wainwright earned his first career start. He was the only freshman to start today. He made his mark on special teams as he returned a punt 26-yards and a kickoff 27 yards.
•A total of 10 freshmen saw action in their first career collegiate game today. Wainwright was the only freshman player to start the game. Tanner Thomas and Lynnard Rose each registered carries, while Thomas caught a pass. Arman Samouk played on defense. Christian Everett caught a pass. Van Neils, Jonathan Webster, Max Mullaney, Rory Schlageter, Kyle Baskin. Columbia’s 39-member 2016 recruiting class was named as the nation’s No. 3 ranked FCS recruiting class.
•Running back Chris Schroer ran for a career-high 73 yards on 14 carries and totaled a career-high 108 total yards.
•Columbia had three linebackers register double figure tackles in Christian Conway (15), Keith Brady (14) and Gianmarco Rea (11).
•Christian Conway finished with a career-high 15 tackles.