Saturday brought another game, another loss, and another dismal performance from the football team’s offense.
Columbia (0-6, 0-3 Ivy) has been terrible on offense all season long, averaging 176.0 yards of offense per game—ranking dead last in the 122-team Football Championship Subdivision—and Saturday’s 56-0 loss at Dartmouth (3-3, 2-1 Ivy) featured yet another litany of discouraging numbers. The Light Blue posted only 95 yards of total offense, converted just two of 14 third down attempts, and managed only five first downs.
“You run out of fingers sometimes,” Columbia head coach Pete Mangurian said on Saturday. “There’s too many holes in the dike, and you get overwhelmed.”
The Lions started first-year Kelly Hilinski at quarterback for the second straight game, but the 6-foot-6 signal caller was once again unable to jumpstart Columbia’s offense. Hilinski had only 53 yards on 9-of-23 passing before getting benched in favor of sophomore Trevor McDonagh.
“Kelly just wasn’t seeing it,” Mangurian said. “It’s one thing to see it and not be able to hit it, but when you’re not seeing it, there’s really no place to go with that.”
Hilinski’s most promising drive came early in the first quarter, on Columbia’s second possession of the game. A pass interference call and a 16-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Scooter Hollis put the Lions into Dartmouth territory, and Hollis caught another ball to advance the ball the to Dartmouth 40. But the offense stalled after a pair of incomplete passes, and the Light Blue was forced to punt.
Later in the first half, with the Big Green up 21-0 following a big touchdown run by running back Dominick Pierre, Hilinski made one of his biggest mistakes of the afternoon. Linebacker Will McNamara picked off Hilinski’s pass on third and three, taking it back all the way to extend Dartmouth’s lead to 28-0.
Columbia finally benched Hilinski when McNamara intercepted Hilinski for the second time in the fourth quarter, once again returning it for a touchdown.
McDonagh was also not able to do much besides connecting with senior tight end Hamilton Garner on an 11-yard pass in his one series at quarterback.
In addition to suffering from shaky quarterback play, the Lions’ offense was also without senior running back Marcorus Garrett for much of the game due to an apparent injury. Even prior to being taken out of the game, Garrett’s impact was limited. The First Team All-Ivy back was held to a net of just five yards on eight carries.
“You don’t really shut a guy like that down, but really limit what he did and force them to go to other areas, throwing the football and what not,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said of Garrett. “I though our guys played very, very physically against him. It was a key factor in the game.”
In Garrett’s absence, first-year Alan Watson and sophomore Cameron Molina split rushing duties for Columbia. Neither was able to give the offense much of a boost, as the two young backs combined for a total of just 30 yards on 11 carries.
The Lions entered Saturday’s game desperately searching for a spark on offense. Fifty-six unanswered points later, it’s safe to say they’re still looking.