Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Game After (1988)

The flags were flying in the Bowl that day

Game of the Day (Day 61)

October 15, 1988

Yale 24 Columbia 10

People who think sports enthusiasm died on Ivy campuses sometime in the 1960's do not know about what happened at Columbia in 1988. But I know, because I was there. I was a freshman at Columbia in 1988 and I wish every student on Morningside Heights could enjoy some measure of the joy that covered the student body that fall.

Football talk was everywhere as everyone was paying attention to the record losing streak the team was suffering under for going on five years. There were definitely a few students actually enjoying the streak, but they were actually trying to be funny. I have a sinking feeling that today, students in favor of the losing streak would be the angry type that also protests the Columbia expansion, capitalism, and decent oral hygiene.

When the team finally won in week 4 against Princeton, the campus exploded in genuine joy. Anyone who says otherwise, just wasn't there... or isn't all there. The administration gave out free pizza and beer, (and I don't remember Dean Pollack asking for my ID either), people were hanging out of windows, and there were lots of newspaper and TV reporters milling about.

I kept wondering how the football team was keeping its focus. Beating Princeton, the preseason favorite to win the league that year, meant that Columbia was at least a possible contender. The next opponent was an 0-3-1 Yale team that seemed to be reeling. (As it turned out that was a false impression. Yale was actually just having a slight off year on its way to another Ivy title in 1989. And the '88 Elis still whipped the Crimson at Harvard Stadium to finish strong).

Columbia had the full week of campus partying as an excuse for looking like they were hung over, but Yale wasn't exactly crisp either. The Elis did cash in on CU quarterback Bruce Mayhew's opening series fumble. Five plays after recovering it they had a 7-0 lead.

But Yale couldn't add to that lead and at halftime it was 10-3 Elis and still a game. Then Columbia WR/kick returner Terry Brown returned the 2nd half kickoff 84 yards for a TD and it was tied at 10-10. Brown was an unsung hero in his years at Columbia, as he often put together super returns just when the Lions needed them. He's still the Ivy League's all-time leader in single game and career kickoff return yardage. But this time, Columbia couldn't capitalize further.

With the score still tied at 10 in the third quarter Mayhew fumbled it away again, this time at the Yale 8. Columbia never threatened again as Yale senior Buddy Zachery got TD runs of 32 yards and 35 yards to put the game away.

Another factor was penalties. I can't remember a game where there were so many penalties called against either team. The Lions were flagged for holding on what seemed like every other offensive play, especially in the second half.

After the game, Columbia Head Coach Larry McElreavy said he felt like refunding everyone's money.

Sometimes you can party too hard.


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