Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Miracle on 218th Street

Kaliades kick just cleared the crossbar

Game of the Day (Day 33)

November 7, 1971

Columbia 31 Dartmouth 29

If there was ever a Columbia-Dartmouth game that deserved to be played at a massive stadium, it was the 1971 classic that ended in dramatic fashion.

Dartmouth came into the game with a 15-game winning streak and had humiliated the Lions the year before in Hanover by a 55-0. Of course, the Indians, (and they called them the Indians back then), were monsters in 1970, winning almost every game by shutout and getting the Lambert Trophy as the top team in the East, (beating out Penn State!). It looked like more of the same at Dartmouth in 1971 despite the graduation of some key seniors.

Columbia was riding the wave of a Cinderella season where every game the Lions had played had been decided by three points or less. The previous week they had nearly defeated undefeated Cornell and Ed Marinaro in Ithaca before falling 24-21.

The game started on a sour note for Columbia as the Indians' Tim Cooper ran back a punt 58 yards for a TD and the Lions fumbled away the ensuing kickoff at their own 30-yard line.

But Dartmouth failed to score on that possession, missing a long field goal, and then Columbia settled down. Late in the quarter, Dartmouth fumbled at its own 36 and the Lions slowly marched to the tying score on a 2-yard run by Steve Howland.

It looked like the first quarter would end in a 7-7 tie, but two plays after the TD Indian QB Bill Pollock hit Sam Watkins for a 68-yard TD pass and it was 14-7 visitors.

Another huge Dartmouth fumble, this time at their own eight, helped turn the momentum again. A few plays after the recovery, Lion QB Don Jackson completed a six-yard TD pass to Rick Assaf to tie it again.

The Lions defense dug in after that and Columbia had the time to put together a 77-yard TD drive ending with another Howland short run for a TD and the 21-14 halftime lead.

Columbia seemed to have complete control in the third quarter after John Sefcik returned an Indian punt 52 yards to the Dartmouth 25 and Jackson eventually capped the possession with a two-yard TD pass to Jesse Parks.

But Dartmouth and legendary Coach Jake Crouthamel weren't giving up. Crouthamel replaced Pollock with backup QB Steve Stetson, who immediately led the Indians on a 76-yard 14-play drive for a TD. Dartmouth went for the two-point conversion and got it to make it 28-22 at the end of the third quarter.

Stetson threw an interception on the next Indians possession, but he shook that off and threw the go-ahead 63-yard TD pass to Tyrone Byrd with a little more than eight minutes to go.

Dartmouth's defense started looking like the 1970 squad after that, smothering the Lions for the next five minutes. But with 3:46 left, Columbia got the ball back and one more chance from the Lion 23.

Jackson coolly marched the Lions down to the 17, where Paul Kaliades set up for a 34-yard field goal. Everyone who was there will swear the kick cleared the cross bar by about an inch, if that, but the kick was good and the Lions had a 31-29 lead with about 30 seconds left.

Incredibly, the Indians were able to run off six plays in those final seconds and got as far as the Columbia 27 when John Leondis finally tackled Chuck Thomas as time expired.

The 18,319 fans at Baker Field went wild.

Dartmouth went on to defeat Marinaro and Cornell the following week to claim a share of the Ivy title. Columbia won its remaining two games to finish 5-2 in the league.


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