NEW YORK—For Columbia, it was a game of lost opportunities as Harvard registered a 21-14 win over the Lions before 7,011 fans Saturday at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium. The loss drops Columbia into a four-way tie for second place in the Ivy League with Harvard, Dartmouth and Cornell, all with identical 3-2 records. Yale remains in first place with a 4-1 record.
Two games remain for Columbia (6-2, 3-2 Ivy League): next Saturday at Cornell (3-2 Ivy League, 3-5) and at home on Saturday, Nov. 18 against Brown (0-5 Ivy League, 2-6).
Columbia’s offense drove deep into Harvard territory six times during the game, but couldn’t take advantage of its opportunities. The Lions had one last opportunity trailing 21-14 with three minutes to play when senior quarterback Anders Hill drove Columbia 40 yards in 12 plays where it faced a first-and-goal from the Harvard 10-yard line. After a sack and three incomplete passes, the Lions turned the ball over on downs. Another Lions drive stalled at the Harvard four-yard line in the third quarter.
In the first half alone, Columbia intercepted four passes, but found itself trailing 14-7 at halftime. The Lions drove into Harvard territory three times in the first half, but came up empty. On one drive to Harvard’s 26-yard line, Columbia failed to get off a field goal attempt. It was forced to punt the ball after reaching Harvard’s 39-yard line and following junior safety Ryan Gilbert’s interception, drove to the Crimson 34-yard line but failed to convert on a fourth down play.
Columbia outgained Harvard 302-269 in total offensive yards, finished with 22 first downs to the Crimson’s 12 and dominated time of possession (36:02). But the Lions converted a season-low 1-12 on third downs and converted just 1-5 of its fourth down plays.
“If we were able to generate a few more points, the game might have had a different outcome,” Patricia & Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli said. “Credit Harvard. We had a field goal taken back because of a penalty, we didn’t convert on fourth-and-goal and we just didn’t capitalize on turnovers and good field position. I give our players a lot of credit. They acquitted themselves very well. It’s a process getting used to playing in big, meaningful games, how you handle the moment and how you handle the ebb and flow of everything. I thought our seniors did a nice job in the third and fourth quarters of keeping us in the game and giving us a chance right down to the very end.”
“The game was decided in the first half. We should have had more than seven points and we didn’t and that ultimately came back to bite us.”
Columbia took a 7-0 lead when first-year quarterback Josh Bean hit junior Kyle Castner for a one-yard scoring strike with 8:23 left in the first quarter. The passing play marked Bean’s first career touchdown pass and Castner’s first-career touchdown catch. Sophomore linebacker Michael Murphy set up the score when he intercepted the first pass of his career and returned it 47 yards down to the Harvard 25-yard line.
Harvard cut the deficit to 7-6 when quarterback Joe Viviano connected with Henry Taylor for a 65-yard touchdown pass with 1:58 left in the second quarter. First-year Will Allen blocked the point after attempt to keep the Crimson at six points.
Harvard gained possession of the ball deep in Columbia territory when Cole Thompson intercepted a pass and returned it 14 yards to the Lions’ 27-yard line. Four plays and 27 yards later, Harvard scored when Viviano ran up the middle for a one-yard touchdown run. Viviano’s pass to a wide open Jack Stansell gave Harvard a two-point conversion and a 14-7 lead.
Harvard went up 21-7 with 10:35 left in the third quarter when Viviano found Jake Barann for a two-yard touchdown pass following a 27-yard, five play drive. Harvard’s Charlie Walker set up the play when he intercepted a Columbia pass deep in Lions territory.
“That was the difference in the game,” Bagnoli said. “When they caused turnovers, they capitalized. When we caused turnovers in the short field, we didn’t necessarily capitalize. At the end of the day, that was what decided the game between two fairly evenly matched teams. It’s just taking advantage of opportunities and when you get them and convert those opportunities into points.”
Even still, Columbia had chances to win the game until the very end.
On the ensuing possession, Columbia marched 72 yards on 10 plays down to the Harvard four-yard line, but on a fourth-and-two-play, Hill was sacked.
With 10:15 left in the game, Columbia cut Harvard’s lead to 21-14 when quarterback Anders Hill found Schroer for a 14-yard touchdown pass following an 88-yard, 10-play scoring drive. Schroer caught the pass at the line of scrimmage and bulled over two Harvard defenders as he rambled into the end zone. The score was setup by a 25-yard pass from Hill to first-year wide receiver Emerson Kabus.
That set up Columbia’s final drive.
Columbia was led by Schroer, who finished with career-highs of 127 rushing yards on 24 carries and seven receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Josh Wainwright finished with seven catches for 63 yards and Hill completed 21 of 36 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. Junior safety Ryan Gilbert led the Lions with 10 tackles (four solo) and an interception, senior defensive back Cameron Roane finished with a season-high seven tackles and two pass breakups and Baty and first-year Justin Woodley each registered six tackles apiece.
Columbia is back in action next week at Cornell. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. ET on SNY/Ivy League Network.
POST GAME NOTES
*Columbia was represented at the coin toss by its four 2017 senior captains: Landon Baty, Anders Hill, Lord Hyeamang and Bewley Wales. Also representing Columbia was Thomas E. O’Connor, Jr., captain of the Lions’ 1962 team. O’Connor played on Columbia’s 1961 Ivy League championship team. Harvard won the toss and deferred to the second half. Columbia started off with the ball.
*Today’s weather at kickoff was 54 degrees and sunny.
*Columbia wore all blue uniforms with white helmets.
*For the second consecutive game, Columbia trailed at halftime, this time 14-7. Columbia drops to 1-2 when trailing at halftime.
*Columbia’s defense tied a season-high with four turnovers forced, including four interceptions in the first half, and finished with a season-high three sacks on the day. But the Lions scored just seven points off turnovers.
*Senior Chris Schroer rushed for a career-high 125 yards on a career-high 24 carries and scored his first touchdown of the season, a 14-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. He also surpassed career-highs for receptions (team-leading seven) and receiving yards (46). It marked his first career 100-yard rushing game and Columbia’s first 100-yard rushing game of the year. Columbia’s last 100-yard rusher was Alan Watson, who rushed for 158 yards at Brown in last season’s finale on November 19, 2016. His 24-yard run in the second quarter marked his longest run of the season. He also ran for a 20-yarder in the first quarter.
*Sophomore Michael Murphy intercepted his first pass of his career on a 47-yard return in the first quarter. The interception setup Columbia’s first touchdown of the day.
*First-year quarterback Josh Bean threw his first career touchdown pass to Kyle Castner, a one-yard scoring strike in the first quarter. Bean has now been responsible for eight touchdowns on the season (seven rushing and one passing). It was also Bean’s first career collegiate pass.
*Junior Kyle Castner caught his first career touchdown pass when he gathered in a one-yard scoring strike from Josh Bean in the first quarter. It took Castner, a made the transition from quarterback to wide receiver in the offseason, 19 receptions and eight games to register his first career touchdown.
*Senior safety Landon Baty intercepted the third pass of the season when picked off a long Jake Smith pass. It also marked the fifth interception of his career.
*Junior Sean White picked off his second pass of the year and his career late in the first quarter.
*Sophomore Daniel DeLorenzi registered the first two sacks of his season early in the second quarter, a four-yard sack on third down and five-yard sack later in the quarter. DeLorenzi, who has been limited with injuries, led the Lions in sacks last year.
*Ryan Gilbert picked off the first pass of his season and career in the second quarter. He led the Lions with 10 tackles (four solo).
*First-year Will Allen’s 48-yard kickoff return marked a career long return. Allen also blocked a Harvard PAT in the second quarter. It was his second blocked kick of the season.
*Sophomore Arman Samouk registered his first sack of the year. It was his second career sack.
*Senior defensive back Cameron Roane finished with a season-high six tackles and two pass breakups.
*Columbia’s defense held Harvard’s Charlie Booker to 47 yards rushing and wide receiver Shelton-Mosley to 54 receiving yards, -2 punt return yards and just 28 kickoff return yards. Shelton-Mosley entered the game leading the nation in punt return touchdowns and punt return yardage per game.
*Columbia and Harvard met for the 76th time in series history since 1877. Harvard improved to 61-14-1 overall in the series and won its 14th consecutive game against Columbia.