Updated at 9:01 p.m. on Nov. 19.
On the final carry of his collegiate career, senior running back Alan Watson clinched a 31-13 victory over Brown with a 69-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
It was Watson’s only touchdown of his senior year, and was also the exclamation mark on yet another impressive offensive performance from Columbia.
“It’s unbelievable, honestly,” Watson said. “It’s kind of like a dream… Getting this last win on the road against a good team, it’s a blessing.”
The Light Blue leaped out to a 21-6 halftime lead, with junior quarterback Anders Hill and first-year wide receiver Josh Wainwright leading the charge. The duo connected four times for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone, helping the Lions overcome an early special teams gaffe.
“[Brown] just gave us a lot of man coverage,” Wainwright said. “I think we know as an offensive unit––not just me––that we can get open against them, and the ball just found me on those plays.”
The gaffe came on Columbia’s opening drive, as Brown blocked senior punter Cameron Nizialek’s attempt. The Bears recovered the ball on the Columbia two-yard line and looked set for an early touchdown, but the Light Blue defense forced two consecutive losses and drew a penalty. Brown lost 22 yards on the drive and had to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Ben Rosenblatt.
The rest of the first half was all Columbia. The Lions answered Brown’s field goal with an 80-yard touchdown drive that featured five different ball carriers. First-year running back Tanner Thomas scored a one-yard touchdown on the 14th play of the drive to give the Lions a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Hill and Wainwright took over from there, hitting on two passes of over 40 yards en route. For the game, Hill finished 13-for-20 for 222 yards with two touchdowns and one interceptions. Meanwhile, Wainwright caught five passes for 150 yards along with those two scores.
“We knew going into the game that Brown was a huge pressure team,” Hill said. “They love to bring the blitz, so I think our offensive line just did an amazing job of holding up.”
The lone blemish came when Hill overthrew Wainwright over the middle, gifting an interception to Brown linebacker Will Twyman and setting the Bears up in the Columbia red zone. However, senior cornerback Denzel Hill, making his first career start at cornerback in place of fellow senior Jared Katz, came up with an interception of his own on Brown’s first play from scrimmage.
The pace slowed significantly in the second half, as Columbia’s offense stagnated. Brown made a quarterback switch to begin the third quarter, inserting Nick Duncan in place of Thomas Linta. Duncan made a series of impressive plays with his feet and led a 61-yard touchdown drive late in the third quarter. Livingston Harriott scored an eight-yard touchdown with 2:16 left in the quarter to draw the Bears within one score at 21-13.
“It’s hard [when] they shift gears,” head coach Al Bagnoli said. “They go from an uptempo spread passing attack to an in tight, read-option run game, and you’ve got to flip gears right in midstream.”
However, Brown would get no closer. A 31-yard field goal from Oren Milstein stretched Columbia’s lead to 24-13, and Brown came away empty on the ensuing drive. Duncan overthrew a wide open Troy Doles in the end zone, and Rosenblatt’s subsequent 34-yard attempt was wide right.
Watson took over from there, delivering the Lions’ first win in their last five meetings with Brown. That 69-yard touchdown run also clinched Columbia’s third win of the year—the most since 2012.
“It took us ten weeks, but we finally played a complete game,” Bagnoli said. “We finally buckled down [and] overcame a little bit of adversity early.”