The story on Columbia this season has been fairly straightforward -- as Johnathan Reese goes, so go the Lions. And in the third quarter of Saturday's 43-25 Penn victory, Johnathan Reese went. Penn and Columbia played a tight game through the first half, the Lions moving the ball on the ground via running back Reese, and the Quakers through the air on the strength of quarterback Gavin Hoffman's arm. Two crucial Columbia turnovers assured a precarious 23-19 Penn lead at halftime. But a swift five-play, 76-yard scoring drive at the start of the second half brought Penn the momentum and an 11-point lead. Down two scores, the run-driven Columbia offense stalled, opening the door for a Quakers runaway victory. Penn's defense came up big in the third quarter, stifling Reese, the Ivy League's second-rated rusher. Reese had carried the ball 20 times in the first half for 84 yards and two touchdowns. But in the third quarter, Reese only managed 13 yards on four touches. With Reese rendered ineffective, Columbia had to turn to uncomfortable territory -- the passing game -- and the results were even worse. Junior quarterback Jeff McCall went 2-for-5 for six yards in the third period, leading the Lions to only one first down and an anemic 19 yards of total offense. By contrast, Hoffman and the Quakers OO' picked up right where they left off, scoring 14 third-quarter points and opening up a 37-19 lead by the quarter's end. Penn's offense was on the field for more than 10 minutes in the third quarter, nullifying Columbia's run-driven, clock-eating offensive attack. "I thought we were right in the game, and then they just whipped us in the third quarter," Columbia coach Ray Tellier said. "We just couldn't continue to generate offense. They did a better job defensively and continued to do a good job on offense." But Tellier and his Lions were hard-pressed to explain just what happened at the start of the second half. "We got our ass kicked," Tellier said. "We didn't execute -- call it what you want." The Penn defense buckled down in the third quarter, forcing rush-happy Columbia into third-and-long situations. On their three first downs in the third quarter, the Lions managed to gain 1, -1 and 0 yards. "In [Columbia's] offense, you keep giving the ball to Reese, who's a pretty good player, and sooner or later they're going to find a crease," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "It wasn't until we were able to get out in front by two-plus scores that you took him out of the equation a little bit." In the end, Penn held Reese to a season-low 28 carries and 113 yards rushing. Reese, however, is still on pace to be Columbia's first-ever 1,000-yard rusher. Reese needs just 270 yards in the Lions' five remaining games to pass the 1,000-yard threshold. And any hopes 2-3 Columbia has for finishing the season on a winning note lie squarely on the junior tailback's shoulders. In Columbia's two wins, Reese gained an average of 186.5 yards rushing. In its three losses, however, Reese rushed for a less impressive average of 119 yards per game. Reese has powered Columbia to the Ivy League's second-best rushing offense this season. But with the Lions passing game mired at the bottom of the Ivy standings, Columbia can ill afford to have Reese shut down.Comments powered by Disqus
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