Sports | Football

Lions win season opener against Marist

As the clock hit zero on Columbia football’s opening game against the Marist Red Foxes, new head coach Pete Mangurian looked up towards the stands and pumped his fist in the air. The Mangurian era at Columbia had begun on the right foot.

The Lions defense forced three turnovers and the offense did enough in the second half to earn a 10-9 victory.

Early in the first quarter, senior defensive end Seyi Adebayo sacked Marist quarterback Chuckie Looney on third down. On the ensuing punt, Marist was called for interfering with the returner and penalty gave the Lions possession at Marist’s 35-yard line.

But the Lions couldn’t get points on the possession as Marist sacked and stripped the ball from quarterback Sean Brackett.


Two plays later, Looney hit wide receiver Armani Martin for a 37-yard completion down the sideline despite tight coverage. A few plays later, the Lions looked to have forced the Red Foxes offense off the field on 3rd and 11. However, the referees called a questionable horsecollar penalty, which kept Marist’s offense on the field and put them inside the red zone. The Lions defense held stout and held the Red Foxes to a 28-yard field goal, which put Marist up 3-0 with 3:26 left in the first quarter.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Columbia took back possession at its own 11-yard line. After five straight running plays by Marcorus Garrett, Sean Brackett found freshman wide receiver Isaiah Gross on a 47-yard play action pass down the sideline. While Gross’ finger tip catch brought the Lions into Marist territory, the Lions couldn’t get points out of the possession, as Luke Eddy’s 42-yard field goal came up well short.

With under five minutes left in the first half, it appeared a passer penalty called on Ryan Murphy—which negated a Marquel Carter interception—would give the Red Foxes a golden opportunity to go up 10-0. However, just two plays later, senior linebacker Mike Waller intercepted a pass tipped by junior nose tackle Wells Childress at the Lions' own five-yard line.


Following a Lions three-and-out, it appeared Marist would have another opportunity to add to its lead when it took possession over at the Lions 40-yard line. However, the Lions defense had other plans. Junior linebacker Zach Olinger sniffed out a running play and tackled the running back in the backfield as soon as he received the handoff. On the next play, senior linebacker Ryan Murphy forced Marist’s offense back further with an 11-yard sack. On 3rd and long, the Lions defense forced the Red Foxes’ offense off the field following a declined holding penalty.

Neither offense could crack the opposing defense and Marist went into halftime with a 3-0 lead.

Columbia’s offense began the first half on offense and drove right down the field capping off a 11-play, 87-yard drive with a one-yard Marcorus Garrett touchdown, which put the Lions up 7-3 following the extra point. The Lions had the Red Foxes defense on their heels with a balance attack, which included rushes by Brackett and Garrett as well as three key passes to sophomore wide receiver Connor Nelligan.

On the ensuing possession, the Lions forced Marist to punt inside its own 10-yard line. On the punt, a low snap caused punter Jason Myers knee to touch the ground as he caught the ball giving the Lions the ball at Marist’s four-yard line.

The Lions couldn’t punch it in the end zone and were forced to take a chip-shot field goal, which extended the Lions' lead to seven points.

Marist’s offense came alive on the ensuing possession as they picked apart Columbia’s defense. Marist’s Chuckie Looney found wide receiver Mike Rios, who beat the safety down the sideline after cornerback Malcolm Thaxton was caught out of the position after faking the blitz. On the ensuing play from Columbia’s one-yard line, the Lions forced a fumble, and senior defensive end Josh Martin recovered the football with 3:38 to play in the third quarter.

Aided by a key roughing the punter penalty on fourth down, the Lions continued to drive down the field into the fourth quarter, but were forced to punt with 14:45 left in the game up 10-3.

Two penalties and a sack by Niko Padilla forced Marist to punt from inside its own end zone. On the punt, the Red Foxes special teams committed another special teams error, hitting the returner after he called for a fair catch. The error gave the Lions possession on Marist’s 28-yard line. The Lions were unable to capitalize and were forced to punt after three plays.

With relative ease, the Red Foxes drove down the field as they picked apart the Lions secondary. Marist capped off a 10-play 80 yard drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to running back Louis Cotrone. On the extra point attempt, Columbia nose tackle Wells Childress blocked the kick, allowing the Lions to maintain a 10-9 lead with less than seven minutes to play.

After forcing the Lions offense off the field, Marist took back possession at its own 24-yard line with 4:13 left remaining in the fourth quarter. One the next play, it appeared that Marist had taken the lead on a touchdown by tight end Anthony Calcagni. However, after he made the reception, Marist’s Mike Rios was called for holding, which negated the touchdown and left Marist at the Lions’ 39-yard line.


Malcolm Thaxton nearly intercepted Chuckie Looney’s pass on second down but was unable to hold onto the ball setting up a key third down. The Lions pressure forced Looney to rush and overthrow his intended screen receiver. On fourth down, Marist’s coaching staff went for it. On the play Looney tried to find a receiver over the middle, but his pass was tipped up by a Lion linebacker and picked off by linebacker Zach Olinger with just over three minutes left in the game.

On the ensuing drive, Sean Brackett scrambled for a key first down on third and five which allowed the Lions to eat valuable time off the clock. A few plays later, Garrett picked up another first down with a minute and half remaining. The run allowed the Lions to set up in the victory formation and watch the clock run down to zero.

sports@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

A Win is a Win is a Win. The entire team deserves the Win, and Coach Pete gets congratulations. To Coach Pete: Return to the beginning winning seasons of Coach Lou Little. My days as a Columbia Fan began with Paul Governali. I saw him play 60 minutes against Michigan, when as on defense, he caught up with one of the Michigan runners and tackled him from behind preventing him from scoring. Pick it up Coach Pete, and just keep going.
From Inwood Al.

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