First-year wide receiver Josh Wainwright’s second fumble of the game ended Columbia’s comeback attempt and sealed a 17-14 loss to Georgetown on Saturday afternoon.
Trailing by a field goal with less than three minutes left, Wainwright fielded a punt, and as he headed towards the turf, the ball squirted loose. Georgetown (3-0) took over, and ran out the clock to hand Columbia its second loss of the year.
“Until we correct some of those self-inflicted [mistakes], we’re going to have the same results,” head coach Al Bagnoli said. “We’re not that talented where we’re going to overcome four turnovers.”
That fumble overshadowed an inspired second half from the Light Blue (0-2), which trailed 17-0 after two quarters.
Junior quarterback Anders Hill opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 46-yard touchdown drive, which cut the deficit to 17-7.
Georgetown tried to respond, but Columbia’s defense was suffocating after the initial drive of the afternoon. In the second half, the Hoyas didn’t manage a first down until 7:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, as quarterback Tim Barnes routinely had nowhere to go with the football.
Hoyas running back Alex Valles couldn’t find much room to run, either. He entered the contest averaging 7.1 yards per carry, but finished with just 17 yards on 12 carries.
“We really came together as a defensive unit [in the second half],” senior linebacker Gianmarco Rea said. “We weren’t as tight as we wanted to be in the first half...In the second [half] we just focused and locked it down on all downs.”
The Lions finally capitalized on the string of Georgetown three-and-outs, courtesy of a 50-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter. Hill capped it off with a nine-yard touchdown run around the left end, breaking a couple of tackles to bring Columbia within three.
After another defensive stop, the Light Blue took over on offense and looked primed to avenge last year’s 24-16 home loss to the Hoyas. But that drive stalled near midfield, which prompted senior punter Matthew Panton to trot onto the field and pin the hosts deep in their own territory.
The Hoyas went three-and-out, and opted to kick the ball back to Columbia, which set up the Wainwright fumble to all but seal a tale of two halves.
The Lions struggled out of the gates in the first quarter, as Georgetown received the opening kickoff, and promptly marched into Columbia territory. Barnes then punctuated a 70-yard scoring drive with a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Dereus.
“We had chances to get off the field on third down,” Bagnoli said. “If a team is converting third downs, they’re going to get into four down territory [and] they’re going start taking some shots.”
Columbia took over on its own 35-yard line on the ensuing possession, but its first series lasted just two plays. Senior quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg’s pass over the middle was intercepted near midfield.
The Hoyas looked to capitalize, but the Lions’ defense held firm, forcing a string of punts from the opposition. It wasn’t until after Wainwright’s fumble in the opening quarter that Georgetown added a 47-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Hill relieved Mornhinweg on the next possession, and despite a string of completions, he threw an interception to cap the final drive of the quarter.
In the second quarter, Georgetown tacked on another touchdown courtesy of Barnes’ nine-yard quarterback keeper. Darmstadter added the extra point to hand the Hoyas a 17-0 lead.
The Light Blue responded with a 16-play, 66-yard drive, as Mornhinweg finally found a rhythm. He found Hollis on a couple of screens, while fellow senior wide receiver Toure Douglas caught two passes for 28 yards.
“We came into the game trying to spread them out,” Hollis said. “[We wanted] the option to both throw the ball on the perimeter and also run it up the middle… We were trying to keep them off balance.”
The drive reached the Georgetown 17-yard line before it stalled. Senior kicker Cameron Nizialek trotted out to try and trim the deficit to two touchdowns, but his 34-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left with just 1:35 left.
That miss prompted Bagnoli to turn to first-year kicker Oren Milstein in the second half, and ultimately loomed large in a three-point loss on Saturday afternoon. The Lions have now dropped the last two installments of the Lou Little Cup.
Columbia will open Ivy League play next Saturday at home against Princeton at noon.