PRINCETON, N.J. —With 1:12 to play and the Lions trailing by three points, wide receiver Ronald Smith caught a pass from quarterback Anders Hill and raced 63 yards down the middle of the field for the game winning touchdown as Columbia defeated Princeton 28-24 Saturday at Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. The victory gave Columbia its first 3-0 start to a season since 1996, its first win in an Ivy League season opener since 2010 and its fourth consecutive victory and longest win streak since 1996.
Smith finished the game with a school and stadium record 236 yards receiving on 10 catches including two touchdowns and Hill threw for career-highs of 400 yards and 27 completions along with two touchdowns. Columbia’s defense also forced four Princeton turnovers including three interceptions and a fumble recovery and stopped the Princeton offense three times in the red zone.
Defending Ivy League champion Princeton (2-1, 0-1 Ivy League) battled back to take a 24-21 lead with 2:48 left in the game when quarterback Chad Kanoff’s 27-yard pass was caught by Stephen Carlson in the end zone.
With just 2:43 to go, Columbia drove 79 yards in six plays for the game-winning score. Hill began the drive with a six-yard run, then found first-year Josh Wainwright and senior Chris Schroer for receptions of 10 and 17 yards respectively. Following a four-yard catch by first-year Emerson Kabus and a holding penalty, Hill hit Smith open on a slant route and Smith beat his defender and raced down the middle of the field into the end zone.
On Princeton’s final offensive possession and with the Tigers driving down the field, sophomore defensive back Ben McKeighan picked off a Kanoff pass to secure Columbia’s first road win at Princeton in eight years. It was McKeighan’s second pick of the day.
“I’m so happy for our players and I’m really happy for our seniors,” Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli said. “It’s great for us to get a great win on the road against a tough team. Princeton is a hard team to contain. You’re going to have to have some takeaways and we did. Our players came up big when we needed to. It was really about resolve, hanging in there and overcoming obstacles. We did that today.”
“There were a lot of obstacles today, kudos to our players. This is a tough place to play against a really tough team, the defending Ivy League champions. For us, this was a huge win.
The two teams combined for 910 total offensive yards and 43 first downs.
Columbia took a commanding 21-14 lead with 12:09 left in the third quarter when first-year Josh Bean scored on a two-yard run up the middle. The seven-play, 62-yard scoring drive was sparked by a 38-yard kickoff return by Will Allen, two Smith receptions of 23 and 15 yards respectively and a 19-yard catch Kabus. It was Bean’s third touchdown run in three games.
A 26-yard field goal Princeton’s Tavish Rice cut the deficit to 21-17 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Lions’ defense held off Princeton two times as the Tigers drove deep into Columbia territory. After Princeton intercepted a pass, the Tigers drove 62 yards down to the Columbia three-yard line, where the Lions forced a fourth and goal play after forcing two incomplete passes and stopping a run for no gain. On fourth and goal, Columbia forced an incomplete pass and the Lions took over on downs. After Princeton blocked a Columbia punt on the ensuing possession, the Tigers drove 51 yards to Columbia’s three-yard line where senior safety Landon Baty stripped the ball from quarterback Kevin Davidson on a first and goal play.
Princeton grabbed a 7-0 lead on the opening possession when it took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 10 plays as Kanoff found Jesper Horsted for a nine-yard scoring pass. Columbia answered and tied the contest at 7-7 when Hill found Smith for a 46-yard touchdown pass, his first score of the day. On the play, Hill lobbed a pass over the Princeton defender and Smith hauled it in and rambled into the end zone. The score completed an 86-yard scoring drive spanning five minutes and 11 plays.
Princeton went up 14-7 with 8:21 in the second quarter when Kanoff hit Horsted for a 14-yard touchdown reception following a seven-play, 80-yard drive. The Lions tied the game at 14-14 when sophomore Tanner Thomas scored on an 11-yard misdirection run. The play followed a four-play, 50-yard scoring drive. Columbia intercepted two first half passes but could not convert on either turnover and missed a field goal as the score stood at 14-14 at halftime.
On offense, Columbia totaled 448 yards of total offense as the Lions were led by Smith’s record-breaking 236-yard, two-touchdown and 10-catch day, Hill, who completed 27 of 40 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns, Wainwright, who finished with seven receptions for 78 yards and sophomore Tanner Thomas who rushed for a career-high 58 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, the Lions forced four turnovers including two interceptions from McKeighan, a Sean White interception and a fumble recovery by Baty. Junior Ryan Gilbert led the Lions with a career-high 14 tackles, including nine in the first half, White totaled a career-high 11 tackles, Baty finished with nine tackles and sophomore linebacker Michael Murphy finished with seven tackles.
Princeton was led by Kanoff, who completed 24 of 40 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns, Carlson, who caught eight passes for 146 yards and a touchdown and Horsted, who made eight receptions for 96 yards and a two touchdowns. On defense, Princeton was led by Thomas Johnson, who made 13 tackles.
POST GAME NOTES
*Today’s weather at kickoff was 63 degrees and sunny. It rained midway through the second quarter.
*Columbia wore all white uniforms, white pants, white jerseys, white helmets.
*The win gave Columbia its first 3-0 start since the 1996 season when it won six straight games.
*The victory was Columbia’s first win to start Ivy League play since it defeated Princeton 42-14 on Oct. 2, 2010.
*Columbia won its fourth consecutive game. The last time Columbia won four straight games was in 1996 when the Lions were victorious in six straight contests from Sept. 21-Nov. 2, 1996.
*Sophomore wide receiver Ronald Smith set a school and Princeton Stadium record with a career-high 236 receiving yards on 10 receptions. He also tied a career-high with two touchdown receptions and caught two TD passes for the second consecutive game. He surpassed Columbia’s previous receiving yards record of 214 yards set by Bill Wazevich vs. Princeton on October 7, 1967. His game-winning 63-yard touchdown reception marked the longest reception of his career. It was also his third 100-yard receiving game of his career and he now has eight career touchdown receptions. At halftime, Smith had six catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. His previous career-high for receiving yards was 195 yards and his career-high for receptions still stands at 11 vs. Yale last year.
*Senior Anders Hill surpassed career-highs for passing yards (400) and completions (27). The 400 passing yards marks the sixth most in school history and the last Columbia quarterback to pass for 400 or more yards was Sean Bracket on Nov. 12, 2011 when he threw for 409 yards vs. Cornell. Hill has now thrown for at least one touchdown pass in seven consecutive games. In addition, the Columbia’s last 300-yard passing game was on Oct. 27, 2012 when Bracket threw for 328 yards. Hill’s previous career-highs were 289 yards vs. Yale last year and 24 completions (two times vs. both Yale and Cornell last year). Hill completed 27 of 40 attempts for 400 yards and two touchdowns.
*Columbia passed for 400 yards on the day. The last time a Columbia team threw for 400 or more yards was on Nov. 12, 2011 vs. Cornell (409 yards).
*Ben McKeighan finished the day with a career-high two interceptions. The last time a Columbia player intercepted two passes in a game was on Oct. 27, 2014 against Dartmouth when Trevor Bell picked off two passes. His interception in the first quarter marked Columbia’s first pick of the season.
*Columbia took advantage of four Princeton turnovers today including three interceptions and a fumble recovery. Columbia registered zero turnovers in its first two games.
*Princeton’s touchdown on the opening drive marked the first score against Columbia in the first half this season. Prior to today, Columbia had outscored its opponents 35-0.
*Junior safety Ryan Gilbert finished with a career-high and team-leading 14 tackles. He had nine tackles, including seven solo in the first half alone.
*Junior linebacker Sean White finished with a career-high 11 tackles and picked off the first pass of his career in the second quarter. He returned it 30 yards.
*Sophomore Tanner Thomas scored the third career touchdown, an 11-yard run in the second quarter following a four-play, 50-yard drive. It was his first touchdown of the 2017 season. With his 58 yards rushing, Thomas established a career-high in rushing yards.
*First-year Josh Bean scored a rushing touchdown for the third straight game. He scored on a two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He has three career rushing touchdowns.
*Columbia senior safety Landon Baty registered his first career fumble recovery when he stripped a Princeton ball carrier of the ball in the fourth quarter.
*First-year Emerson Kabus finished with career-highs of four catches for 34 yards.
*Columbia successfully recovered an onside kick in the third quarter. Junior wide receiver Kyle Castner made the recovery.
*With his four converted point after attempts, sophomore placekicker Oren Milstein has converted 27 consecutive PATs.
*Sophomore wide receiver Josh Wainwright’s five-game TD streak came to an end.