NEW YORK - Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football, Pete Mangurian, has said since week one that the Lions must close out games to be successful. With one of the best second-half performances of a Columbia team in recent years, the Lions rallied from a 17-7 deficit to defeat the visiting Cornell Big Red, 34-17, securing the Empire State Bowl for the second time in three years.
As in the Lions' key win vs. Yale, the victory came with Columbia executing in all three phases of the game - offense, defense and special teams.
Trailing 17-7 late in the second quarter, Luke Eddy hit a 44-yard field goal as time expired in the half to cut the deficit to seven, making the score 17-10 at the break.
The second half belonged to Columbia. It may have taken the Lions a while to get going offensively, but Columbia's defense kept the game within reach and provided the spark to get things rolling.
The Lions forced two stalled drives by Cornell to start the third quarter, including a fumble recovery by Brian DeVeau and a huge, highlight-reel sack by Ryan Murphy, which led Columbia starting a drive at their own 14 with just 5:04 left in the third.
Just one play later, offensive was ready to make a move with Marcorus Garrett rushing 86-yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 17-17 after the extra point.
Columbia forced a turnover on Cornell's ensuing drive after a hard-hitting sack for nine yards by Josh Martin caused a fumble that was recovered by Chad Washington at the Cornell 22-yard line.
Offense did not waste the opportunity, scoring on the next play on a 22-yard pass from Sean Brackett to Hamilton Garner with 3:24 remaining in the third.
After defense forced another three and out, the Lions got the ball back on their own 44 with just two minutes left in the quarter. Brackett hit Garrett for a pass for a gain of eight and Garrett rushed for a gain of 23, taking Columbia deep into Cornell territory. Two plays into the fourth, Eddy hit a 38-yard field goal to push the lead to 27-17.
Columbia put the game away with a seven-play, 62-yard drive, which ended in a 27-yard touchdown reception from Brackett to Chris Connors.
It was a stellar game for the Lions all the way around. Garrett rushed for a season-high 187 yards and one touchdown, becoming the first Columbia running back since 2001 to have four 100+ rushing-yard games in one season. Brackett threw for 193 yards and a trio of scores, two of which landed in the hands of the first-year Connors. Connors finished with 84 yards on six catches with two touchdowns. Mike Waller led the Lions with 10 tackles (seven solo) and a sack, while Martin notched three of Columbia's six sacks, while adding two additional tackles.
The Lions (3-6, 2-4 Ivy League) close out the 2012 season at Brown on Saturday, November 17.