The Game After (1961)
Rutgers very Alabama-esque helmets, circa 1961 (CREDT: The Helmet Project)
Game of the Day (Day 64)
Nov. 25, 1961
Rutgers 32 Columbia 19
Columbia's Ivy League championship-clinching win over Penn at home sent the crowd into a frenzy. But there was still one more game to play in 1961, a big match against their oldest rival Rutgers in New Brunswick.
The Scarlet Knights had embarrassed the Lions 43-2 the year before at Baker Field, so there was a revenge factor in play. More importantly, Rutgers came into the game undefeated and was looking to avenge a 40-28 loss to Columbia in 1947 which ended up being the Scarlet's only loss of that year.
25,500 fans jammed Rutgers Stadium and even overflowed to the grassy areas behind the endzones. The rain didn't discourage anyone from seeing the area's two best teams go at it.
Columbia scored first after Ed Little deflected a pass into the waiting arms of teammate Lee Black at the Rutgers 21. Tom O'Connor kicked a field goal after the drive fizzled for a 3-0 Lion lead.
Rutgers answered back with a 79-yard drive capped by a three-yard run and took a 7-3 halftime lead.
Columbia ten dominated most of the third quarter. A 58-yard TD drive ended with a 12-yard TD pass when Tom Vassell's pass bounced off Little's hands and into the arms of Walt Congram for the score. Columbia went for the two-point conversion and made it to make it 11-7 Lions.
On the ensuing Rutgers possession, Mike Hassam picked off a pass at the Scarlet 32 and ran it all the way back for a touchdown. The Lions made yet another two-point conversion to grab what looked like a commanding 19-7 lead.
Then the sleepy Knights woke up. They returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to start at the Lion 26. It took seven plays, but Rutgers did get a 10-yard TD pass to get within 19-13.
A Rutgers interception at the CU 28 followed and another Scarlet TD came moments later to tie the score at 19, (Rutgers missed two PAT's in a row).
The Knights then forced Columbia to punt and took over at their 40 before marching triumphantly to the lead on 10 plays ending with another 3-yard TD run. This time the PAT was good and Rutgers had quickly gone ahead at 26-19.
Columbia's attempt to rally back failed when Vassell was intercepted on the Lions next play from scrimmage and Rutgers returned the pick 30 yards for the final score.
It was a tough way to end such a magical season for the Lions, but no one was less impressed with Columbia after it fought so hard against the favored Scarlet Knights.