Archie Roberts rolls out
The Columbia Athletics Web site is posting periodic training camp updates from Coach Wilson. This is a great development and should help quench our neverending thirst for news about the team.
Columbia alum and New York Times reporter Warren St. John has written a fascinating book about what makes us football fans. He's seen football fandom from both ends of the spectrum as this article relates.
Game of the Day (Day 29)
November 30, 1963
Columbia 35 Rutgers 28
When President John F. Kennedy was shot, the Ivy League didn't make the same mistake the NFL made and it cancelled all the football games scheduled for the following day... including the Harvard-Yale game at the Bowl.
That pushed the date for the final weekend of Ivy games to November 30, 1963, and it looked like it might delay the impressive momentum Columbia QB Archie Roberts was building up in his junior season.
The weekend before the assassination, Roberts was dominant in a 33-8 win over Penn at Baker Field to finish out the Ivy schedule with a 2-4-1 record. But the cross-river rivalry game at Rutgers remained, and those who braved the week's delay and the cold on the near-December day in New Brunswick really got their money's worth.
At first, it was all Columbia. The Lions went 77 yards after the opening kickoff and got the touchdown on a 36-yard Roberts pass to Bob Donahue.
Later in the first quarter, Roberts intercepted a Scarlet Knight pass, (Roberts was an excellent safety in the two-way playing days), and that gave the Lions the ball back at their own 46. On that drive, Gene Thompson broke off two tackles and rumbled to a 23-yard TD run to make it 14-0.
But it was about to get better in the second quarter. Jerry Hug recovered a Rutgers fumble at the Scarlet Knight 25 and Roberts took it in from the one moments later for the 21-0 lead.
Later in the quarter Roberts took the air again, hitting Donanue with a 34-yard pass and then Ed Malmstrom with an 11-yarder for Columbia's fourth TD.
It was 28-0 at the half and it seemed over.
But it wasn't.
A penalty on the opening kickoff in the third quarter gave Rutgers the ball at the Lion 36 and it only took five plays for the Scarlet Knights to cash in with a TD. The two point conversion failed.
On the second play of Columbia's ensuing possession, the Lions fumbled away the ball at their own 34. It only took two plays for Rutgers to get another TD, and with the second straight unsuccessful conversion it was now 28-12.
The Lions turned it over on downs on their own 35 when Roberts failed to get a yard on a sneak. Three passes later and a successful conversion made it 28-20.
Columbia and Rutgers traded a few turnovers, (one of them an interception by Roberts and another an interception THROWN by Roberts), before Rutgers got it going again in the fourth quarter. A 56-yard screen pass highlighted a 62-yard drive and another successfull two-pointer incredibly tied score at 28-28.
The Lions decided to stick on the ground for their next possession and it paid off. After four decent gainers, Roberts kept the ball for a 38-yard TD run and Columbia was back ahead 35-28. But there were still seven minutes left to play.
Rutgers got the drive going and milked the clock until they had a 3rd down at the Lions 10 with just over a minute to go. The 3rd down pass was deflected at the line by Harvey Rubin.
But the 4th down pass went off cleanly and was headed straight for an open receiver in the end zone when it was suddenly broken up by... Archie Roberts! His near interception saved the game.
Those kinds of heart-stopping performances must have prepared Roberts for his later life, when he became one of, if not the top heart surgeons in the world.
Roberts is now giving back to his beloved sport with the Living Heart Foundation project I've written about here in the past.