STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.—Freshman placekicker Oren Milstein converted a school-record five field goals and senior running back Alan Watson ran for a career-high 107 yards as Columbia posted a 15-13 come-from-behind football victory over Wagner Saturday evening at Wagner College Stadium.
With Columbia trailing 13-12, Milstein kicked a 36-yard field goal to give Columbia a 15-13 fourth quarter lead. The field goal concluded a seven-play, 44-yard drive that lasted 2:42 which was bolstered by a 28-yard run from quarterback Anders Hill and a 21-yard run from Watson.
Milstein, whose five field goals came at 18, 33, 39, 18 and 36 yards, set school records for field goals made (five) and most points scored by kicking (15). His five field goals surpassed the previous record of four set by Nick Rudd (vs. Princeton, 2003) and Howard Miller (vs. Wesleyan, 1915) and his 15 points set Rudd’s kick scoring record of 13 points in 2003. Milstein’s first field goal of the evening marked the first of his career.
Wagner (3-2) had one last drive which started with 2:28 to go. The Seahawks converted on a fourth and 10 when quarterback Alex Thomson threw the ball up for grabs and landed in receiver John Williams’ hands for a 25-yard gain. Thomson completed two more passes and drove Wagner down to Columbia’s 35-yard line. On a third and five play, Columbia linebacker Gianmarco Rea sacked Thomson for a seven-yard loss and a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
“There’s a lot of good to take out of it,” Patricia & Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli said. “Bad weather game, comeback, a resilient group of guys, we really played well in the second half, overcame some injuries. We can take a lot of positives out of it. We’re still a work in progress. We’ve got to figure out ways to score touchdowns. We had two long passes that should’ve been touchdowns, two incompletes. We’re inside the two-yard line numerous times and couldn’t punch it in.”
“That was a great program win," Bagnoli said. "It was a spectacular performance by Oren under duress. He’s a freshman playing in his third game and he goes 5-5 in rain and everything else. That was really good to see. I want our guys to enjoy it, but I also want them to know that we can play much better.”
Columbia’s defense played a key role allowing no points, three first downs and only 63 yards in the second half. Two of those first downs came on Wagner’s final series. The defense forced and recovered a fumble early in the game, totaled 9.0 tackles for loss for 39 yards, five sacks and forced nine quarterback hurries. Rea, who ranked No. 3 nationally in tackles, led the Lions with 10 tackles, senior Keith Brady finished with nine tackles and senior Brock Kenyon made eight tackles.
“For us to be successful, our defense is going to have to play well,” Bagnoli said. “There’s a lot of pressure on them to do that. I thought last week was very uncharacteristic for them. This week against an offense that scored 45 points last week, our kids knew that we’d be challenged with Wagner today. They were, they responded and fortunately for us, they shut them down when we needed to.”
Offensively, Columbia outgained Wagner 291-270 in total yardage and outrushed the Seahawks 162-121. The Lions were a perfect 3-3 on fourth down conversions and were a perfect 5-5 in the red zone. Watson finished with 107 yards on 23 carries, Hill ran for 59 yards on 23 carries and completed 16 of 29 passes for 129 yards. Wide receiver Josh Wainwright caught a career-high 10 passes for 81 yards.
Columbia (1-3) won its second straight over Wagner. The victory gave the Lions their first win of the 2016 season and first since a 17-7 win at Yale on October 31, 2015.
Columbia gained the momentum before halftime when it drove 59 yards in 14 plays and cut Wagner’s lead to 13-6 on a Milstein 33-yard field goal with three seconds left. On the drive, Columbia converted two fourth downs including a fourth and one at its own 34-yard line and a fourth and five in which Hill scrambled for a 13-yard gain. The drive was highlighted by a 21-yard pass play from Hill to Wainwright.
Columbia continued that momentum in the second half and cut the deficit to 13-9 when it forced Wagner to punt on its opening possession, then went on a 43-yard drive which ended in a Milstein 39-yard field goal, his third of the night. On Wagner’s next drive, Columbia drove the Seahawks back with a key team sack on third down. The Lions gained possession of the ball and promptly drove it 31 yards in 10 plays which ended in another Milstein’s fourth field goal, which cut Wagner’s lead to 13-12.
Wagner took a 10-3 lead with 9:07 left in the second quarter when Matthias McKinnon caught a screen pass from quarterback Alex Thomson and wove through the Columbia defense for a 47-yard touchdown reception. The play occurred on a third and long situation and culminated a seven play, 74-yard drive. Wagner’s James Cooper made it 13-3 on a 32-yard field goal.
Columbia took an early 3-0 lead after Milstein converted his first career field goal, an 18-yard kick. Columbia’s defense set up the play when lineman Lord Hyeamang stripped the ball from Wagner’s Thomson and lineman Connor Heeb recovered at the Wagner 12-yard line. Wagner came back with a field goal of its own when James Cooper converted a 38-yarder following a five-play, 54-yard drive.
Columbia is back in action when it returns to Ivy League play against Penn on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Franklin Field. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. for a OneWorld Sports broadcast.
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).
· Today’s weather at kickoff at Wagner College Stadium was 66 degrees, cloudy with light rain.
· Columbia won its second game in as many tries against Wagner. The two schools met for the second time in series history. In the series’ first meeting last year, Columbia defeated the Seahawks 26-3.
· For the second straight game, Columbia scored first on an 18-yard field goal. It led 6-0 last week against Princeton.
· Senior running back Alan Watson registered career-highs in rushing yards (107) and rushing attempts (23). He became the first Columbia player to rush for 100 or more yards since Cameron Molina ran for 174 yards against Brown on Nov. 20, 2015. He also made his first career start.
· Freshman wide receiver Josh Wainwright caught 10 passes for 81 yards, including a long reception of 21 yards. His 10 catches were a career-high. Previously he caught seven passes at Georgetown earlier this year.
· With his five field goals, freshman Oren Milstein set a single game school record for most field goals (5-5) and set a school record for most kicking points (15). He also became the first Columbia player to convert four field goals in a game since Nick Rudd at Princeton on Oct. 4, 2003. With his third field goal, Milstein also became the first player to convert at least three field goals since Luke Eddy achieved the honor on Nov. 16, 2013 at Cornell. Eddy was 3-3 that day. Milstein converted his first career field goal in the first quarter on an 18-yard kick. The play gave Columbia a 3-0 lead.
· Freshman Lynnard Rose returned his first punt of his career, a 22-yard return in the fourth quarter.
· Columbia’s 14-play, 59-yard drive ending an Oren Milstein 33-yard field goal in the second quarter marked its longest drive in terms of plays on the year.
· Columbia’s defense registered three straight three-and-outs in the second half. Wagner registered its first first down of the second half midway through the fourth quarter.
· Columbia outrushed an opponent for the first time this season. The Lions outrushed the Seahawks 162-121 yards.