LORETTO – If the first 5 minutes of Saturday’s game had any indication of what was about to happen on the field between St. Francis University and Columbia University, the fans would be in for a treat.
Three touchdowns, two of which went for over 65 yards, had DeGol Field buzzing. But, much like the offense of the home team, both sides cooled off and Columbia imposed its will up front on its way to a 31-14 win.
Columbia, playing in its first game of the season in Week 4 due to Ivy League rules, looked a little sloppy early on. A St. Francis interception on the second play of the game led to the first score – Avery Milner’s 7-yard scamper around the outside.
After a couple of three-and-out series, Columbia answered with a 65-yard burst by Ryan Young through the middle of the St. Francis defense.
“We got caught in a shift defensively … It was just a good play call by them (Columbia),” safety Nick Rinella said.
The theme of big plays continued for the Red Flash as quarterback Jason Brown found E.J. Jenkins in a one-on-one situation and heaved it downfield. Jenkins, at 6-foot-5, made the over-the-shoulder catch and broke a tackle on the way to a 74-yard touchdown.
That was the last time St. Francis found the end zone. For the next 55 minutes of play, Columbia shut out the Red Flash and outscored them 24-0 with Ty Lenhart knotting the score at 14-all with a 4-yard run.
The Lions took the lead for good when a 1-yard run by Mike Roussos capped an 80-yard scoring drive. Alex Felkins booted a 50-yard field goal late in the third to expand the Columbia lead to 24-14.
The rest of the game saw six three-and-outs by the offense, and only three of their final 11 drives go for more than 10 yards.
“Last week we did a great job of converting on third down, this week it was bad,” St. Francis coach Chris Villarrial said.
Not converting third downs and not winning the special teams battle can be a recipe for disaster. Drew Schmid, a second-team all-Ivy League punter, continuously pinned the Red Flash deep in their own territory, putting four punts inside the 20-yard line.
“I thought their special teams, especially their punter really made the field position battle difficult for us and our offense,” said senior Zach Campbell, who was thrust into punt-returning duties.
Rinella, the usual punt returner, was injured and missed last week. As a precaution, the St. Francis coaching staff did not allow Rinella to return any punts or kicks against Columbia.
Villarrial, straight-forward in showing his disappointment with his team’s effort, did not mince words about the special teams play,
“We went punt-safe to try and give our guys a chance to make a play, but (Columbia was) able to get right down there and make plays when we couldn’t.”
In a scary situation, late in the third quarter, Brown went down on a sack as he was twisting and turning to avoid defenders. The sophomore left the game and was seen on crutches leaving the field. Redshirt freshman Justin Silowski stepped in and made some good throws, but ultimately did not score.
“He showed great poise coming in. We asked him to throw the ball and anytime you have a backup come in and try to get a rhythm, it’s a tall task,” Villarrial said. “If he’s the guy we have to go with, then he’s the guy moving forward.”