In the second year of a 10-year series between Georgetown (3-0, 1-0 Patriot League) and Columbia (0-2, 0-1 Patriot League) on the gridiron, the Hoyas almost suffered a major collapse in front of their biggest crowd of the season on Homecoming Day.
After being up 17-0 at the end of the first half, the Hoyas allowed 14 straight points before tightening up their defense and blanking the Lions for most of the fourth quarter, emerging victorious with a 17-14 win.
The Lions outgained the Hoyas 314 to 195 in offensive yardage, but two fumbles by Columbia freshman wide receiver Josh Wainwright on punt returns and interceptions by Georgetown sophomore cornerback Jethro Francois and junior safety David Akere helped keep the Lions from completing their comeback.
“You absolutely want to force turnovers, and you work hard to get them,” Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata said. “You got to change the game with them.“
Despite the cloudy skies and cool temperatures on Saturday, Georgetown got off to a red-hot start to begin. Just three minutes into the contest, senior quarterback Tim Barnes launched a deep pass to freshman wide receiver Michael Dereus, who hauled in the 44-yard pass for his first collegiate catch and his team’s first touchdown of the day, putting the Hoyas up 7-0.
“Coach put us in the right play call, I knew I had Mike, and he ran a great route, [offensive] line did a great job blocking and it was a pretty easy throw. He had him by like five yards, so I just threw it as far as I could and glad he caught it,” Barnes said.
Francois gave his offense the ball right back when he jumped his man’s route and intercepted a pass from Columbia senior quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg.
“I saw the play watching film, and I told myself, know what the play call is and coach is going to put me in the right position to make that play. I saw [Wainwright] break down in his route and I knew then and there to jump it. The quarterback threw it and I just had to make the play,” Francois said.
However, the offense could not take advantage of the turnover, going three-and-out. Both offenses struggled to move the ball, trading punts for most of the first quarter, until Wainwright muffed his first punt return of the day.
The ball was knocked out by sophomore linebacker Matthew Deal and recovered by Francois at the Columbia 48-yard line. Georgetown failed to move the ball downfield, settling for a 48-yard field goal from senior kicker Henry Darmstadter.
The Lions had some momentum to begin the second quarter when junior quarterback Anders Hill — who rotated in with Mornhinweg — helped the offense get two first downs. But Akere snuffed out any hope they had of getting points on the board when he intercepted a poorly thrown ball by Hill and returned it 25 yards to the Columbia 43.
Georgetown managed to get its last points of the day when Barnes dove into the end zone on a designed quarterback run from nine yards out to make it 17-0 Georgetown with 8:11 left in the second half.
The reenergized Lions came out of halftime and started the second half with a 54-yard kickoff return by Wainwright. An 11-yard pass from Hill to Wainwright moved the Lions to the 22-yard line, and two plays later, junior running back Chris Schroer punched it in for the 11-yard touchdown to make it 17-7 Georgetown.
The Georgetown offense reached its lowest point in the third quarter when it failed to get a single first down.
“That was probably the toughest quarter we’ve had here in two years,” Sgarlata said.
For the whole game, the Georgetown offense had 12 three-and-out drives. Georgetown senior punter Harry McCollum often found himself punting from the back of the end zone, and punted 14 times on the day, for a total of 526 yards.
Things got tense when Columbia inched closer on a rushing touchdown by Hill just five seconds into the fourth quarter, but the Georgetown defense only allowed a total of three first downs the rest of the way.
After another three-and-out from the Georgetown offense, McCollum punted to Wainwright again with 2:55 remaining. Sophomore linebacker J’V’on Butler raced in and knocked the ball away from Wainwright again, and senior defensive lineman Phil Novacki recovered the ball to put an end to Columbia’s comeback bid. The Hoyas ran out the rest of the clock and punted the ball away with five seconds left, escaping with a nail-biter of a win to remain undefeated.
“I’m really proud of the way the kids played in the fourth quarter. In the third [quarter] I could probably burn the film, but I’ll take it,” Sgarlata said. “The kids fought their tails off and that’s how they got the win.”