Updated 10/14, 12:15 a.m.
Despite delivering its most promising performance of the 2013 season on Saturday afternoon, the football team fell to Lehigh 24-10.
Coming off a dismal 53-7 loss at Princeton, the Lions (0-4, 0-1 Ivy) stayed with a talented Mountain Hawks (5-1) team for much of the game. Only late in the fourth quarter, when Lehigh put together a couple of long drives and Columbia had difficulty moving the ball, did the visitors secure the win.
“I don’t even know really when we felt we had control of the game,” Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said. “Maybe right before halftime, we got up 17-3.”
Despite his team’s improved play, Columbia head coach Pete Mangurian was far from satisfied with the result.
“We lost, so I’m going to come right out and say that at the very beginning,” Mangurian said. “Everybody’s going to want to say it was closer, it was competitive, it was all those things. And this is a black-and-white business, so I don’t want to get lost in that.”
The Lions did get off to a good start offensively on Saturday afternoon. With sophomore Trevor McDonagh under center, the Lions put together a 69-yard drive on their first possession. Though Columbia was unable to come away with a touchdown, senior kicker Luke Eddy drilled a 23-yard field goal to put the home team up 3-0. The score gave the Light Blue its second lead of the season.
Lehigh countered with a long drive of its own. Quarterback Brandon Bialkowski led his team on a 59-yard drive that set up a 22-yard field goal, which tied the game at three.
A few drives later the Mountain Hawks seemed to be in position to score once again. Lehigh had second-and-goal from the Columbia 17, following a holding penalty. But Bialkowksi’s pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by sophomore defensive tackle JD Hurt.
Columbia proved unable to turn that takeaway into points.
With first-year Kelly Hilinski now at quarterback in the second quarter, senior running back Marcorus Garrett put the Lions in good position with a 29-yard run. But the drive eventually stalled, and Eddy missed a 46-yard field goal attempt to keep the game tied.
Lehigh got another chance in the red zone, and this time the Mountain Hawks did not come away empty-handed. Bialkowski found wide-open tight end Tyler Coyle in the end zone from six-yards out to put the visitors up 10-3.
The Mountain Hawks quickly got another chance to add to their lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore linebacker Max Keefe fumbled the ball and Lehigh recovered to put itself in excellent scoring position. Just a few plays later, Bialkowksi found wide receiver Lee Kurfis from 10-yards out to extend Lehigh’s lead to 17-3. The touchdown was one of two Kurfis would score on the afternoon on his way to a 130-receiving yard performance. Kurfis has had at least 100 receiving yards in every game of the 2013 season.
Neither team scored again for the rest of the half, as the 14-point margin held going into the break.
McDonagh was back at quarterback on Columbia’s first possession of the second half, but was hit hard on third down and helped off the field by trainers as the Lions went three-and-out.
Following that drive, Lehigh got into Columbia’s red zone on its next possession and threatened to make it a three-possession game.
But a holding call turned a first-and-10 from the Columbia 12 into a first-and-20 from the 22, and on the next play senior linebacker Brian East picked off a Bialkowksi pass to neutralize the threat.
The Lions got a big chance a few drives later, starting out the drive with the ball on the Lehigh 49.
Hilinksi completed a big 21-yard pass to senior tight end Hamilton Garner on a fourth-and-five, and on the next play Garrett ran it in from 12 yards out to bring Columbia within a touchdown, 17-10.
Garrett finished with 150 yards on the ground, bouncing back from a difficult outing against Princeton.
“Marcorus had a heck of a game with 150 yards rushing,” Hilinski said. “I thought our offensive line played a lot better—tremendous bounds. We’re not there yet, though.”
Lehigh got some more breathing room early in the fourth quarter, as Bialkowski and Kurfis connected for the second time on an eight-yard touchdown pass to give Lehigh a two-touchdown lead, 24-10.
The Lions were unable to score again, as Lehigh preserved the lead to pick up its fifth win of the season.