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Junior tailback Clifton Dawson didn’t put up his customary huge numbers, failing to reach the century mark in rushing yards for the third time this season.
“We actually took Clifton away, I thought,” Columbia coach Bob Shoop said.
In fairness to Dawson, it’s more accurate to say that Harvard coach Tim Murphy took him away. The All-American back racked up a touchdown, 52 yards rushing, and 22 receiving in the first quarter alone.
Dawson was pulled once the game became a blowout, netting 124 total yards. He had 60 yards on the ground, averaging six yards per carry.
Dawson’s sidelining left a gap in the backfield that a few supporting players stepped in and stepped up to fill.
Junior Neil Sherlock led the team in rushing, racking up 70 net yards on 11 carries as well as returning a kickoff 22 yards. Sophomore tailback Charles Baakel had six carries for 31 yards, including a 13-yard rush.
Sophomore quarterback Liam O’Hagan scrambled for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Columbia’s running game really hasn’t gone anywhere all season, but against Harvard, the Lions’ rush was exceptionally anemic.
On 27 attempts, Columbia netted minus-14 yards, averaging a half-yard loss per carry.
Columbia’s scoring offense is last in the league, averaging less than 12 points per game, and its rushing offense is just as ineffective.
Before getting blanked by the Crimson, the Lions averaged a mere 57 yards on the ground per game, and its rushers had crossed the goal-line only once.
Sophomore quarterback Richard Irvin led the team for much of the second half, making a short but competent campaign for the starting job that was once his. On the ground, Irvin slipped into the endzone on an eight-yard rushing touchdown. In the air, Irvin was 4-of-7 for 43 yards and a 13-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Matt Lagace.
A fresh face took a few snaps in the end of the game as well. Freshman quarterback Jeff Witt lined up behind center in the fourth quarter, when Harvard had already put its 55 points on the board. Witt wasn’t passing, but he rushed three times for seven yards, although a sack and a fumble took him backwards into negative net yards for the game.
The Columbia offense found a nemesis and a nightmare in senior Crimson linebacker Rob Balkema, whose performance on defense helped anchor the nearly omnipotent Crimson defense.
Balkema contributed in nearly every facet of the defense. Behind enemy lines, Balkema was credited with two sacks for a combined loss of 34 yards. Against the run, he forced two fumbles, the recovery of one of which led to a Crimson touchdown. He returned an interception eight yards for a touchdown, and he had three tackles on the day, two solo.
A FEW GOOD PLAYS
Harvard couldn’t manage to blank Columbia—a shutout would have been the widest margin in a Crimson victory since 1973. The Lions offense congealed sufficiently well for a moment in the second half to put points on the board.
With Joe Winters in at quarterback, Columbia’s only successful drive was unmarred by turnovers. Starting at the 20-yard line, Columbia rushed for a net minus-three yards on the drive, but its passing attack was sufficient to wreck the Crimson’s perfect scoring defense. On fourth-and-six from the Harvard 37-yard line, Winters completed a 16-yard pass to Pete Chromiak and converted on third-and-goal with a 21-yard pass to the back of the endzone for Columbia’s first touchdown in three games.
Winters was 5-of-9 for 88 yards and a touchdown.
—Staff writer Samuel C. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
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