Fourth-Quarter Heroics Help Football to Inaugural Empire State Bowl Victory Over Cornell, 20-17

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Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Gene Boyars

NEW YORK - In dramatic, come-from-behind fashion, Columbia defeated Cornell 20-17 on a diving one-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Sean Brackett with just 37 seconds left to play.  Columbia improves to 4-5, 2-4 Ivy League and also wins the inaugural Empire State Bowl, a new trophy etched with the new moniker for the annual Columbia-Cornell matchup.

The Lions scored the final 17 points of the game, all in the fourth quarter, and came back from a 17-3 deficit at the start of the final period.

"It was the epitome of perseverance," said senior captain Matt Moretto.  "We just pushed through it and once we got on a roll, three-and-out, three-and-out, you can see the look on their faces.  The focus on our faces.  It's totally different.  And I'm proud of my defense and the offense.   We just kept pushing on."

In what seems to be a trend for the 2010 season, Columbia came alive late in the third quarter.  Trailing 17-3 and starting a drive on their own 30, the Lions got a completion for 23 yards from Brackett to Kurt Williams for a first down. Brackett then rushed for three first downs to make it first and goal at the Cornell three-yard line to end the third quarter.  Brackett hit Andrew Kennedy in the back of the end zone to make it 17-10 with 14:51 left to play.  It was Brackett's 18th passing touchdown of the season and Kennedy's eighth touchdown reception this year.

After a three-and-out drive by Cornell, Columbia got the ball back on the Columbia 43.  Brackett rushed three times and picked up two first downs.  Nick Gerst rushed for 13 yards and took Columbia down to the Cornell five-yard line.  After a gain of three yards and two incomplete passes, Luke Eddy kicked a 20-yard field goal to cut the lead to four with just under 11 minutes to play.

Columbia had to punt twice, as did Cornell.  On the Big Red's fourth drive of the fourth, Jeff Matthews hit Anthon Ambrosi for a big first down at the Cornell 20 yard line, but Columbia forced a punt three plays later at the Cornell 28.

The punt put Columbia at its own 41 with 2:37 left to play, needing a touchdown to win.  While it was a complete team effort, Brackett was certainly the face of the team.  On a third and 10 from the Columbia 41, Brackett dodged two tackles for a 16-yard gain and first down to keep the drive alive. 

Brackett then hit Williams for 10 yards and Gerst for six yards to set up second and four from the Cornell 27 with time ticking away.  Brackett then scrambled and found Ian Cummins for a 15-yard gain to take Columbia to the Cornell 12 with just over 45 seconds left to play. On third and seven from the Cornell nine, Columbia found Nico Gutierrez for a six-and-half-yard gain, to make it fourth and inches.  Brackett kept for two yards to make it first and goal from the Cornell one. 

With four plays to move one yard, Columbia spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock.  On second and goal, Brackett took two steps from the shotgun and dove over a pile of linemen to put Columbia ahead for good.  Eddy tacked on the extra point for the final 20-17 margin.

With 29 seconds left, Cornell still had time to make a comeback, but on the squib kick, Cornell's Dempsey Quinn fumbled and Columbia's Ryan Murphy recovered. 

Senior captain Alex Gross, a William V. Campbell Trophy finalist, led all players with 14 tackles, including nine solo and three pass breakups.   Calvin Otis added nine tackles with seven solos and Adam Merher added seven total tackles.  Murphy had a huge game with four tackles, two sacks, three TFLs, and one fumble recovery.

On special teams, Greg Guttas has seven punts for 273 yards with two inside the 20.  Eddy finished with two PATs and two field goals.  His two extra points give him 26 consecutive PATs give him both the Columbia consecutive extra point record and the record for the most PATs in a single season.

Offensively, Brackett's line reads impressively.  Brackett threw 19-41-1 for 204 yards and touchdown and added 151 net yards rushing with a touchdown.  His 151 rushing yards was more than double Cornell's team total (74).  His 2421 yards of total offense for the year ranks him fourth in Columbia history in a single season.

Columbia heads to Brown next Saturday, November 20 for the season finale for both teams, slated for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.

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