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columbia 21, harvard 20

Harvard football had its chances but falls short against Columbia on late missed field goal

It appeared that the Columbia football team would knot the score at 20 headed into the waning minutes of the fourth quarter as Lions kicker Alex Felkins put a point after through the uprights with 9:11 to play.

But Harvard’s Riley Jenne was offside.

The Lions got aggressive and elected to go for 2, as the ball was moved to the 1-yard line. A creative play call resulted in Ryan Young sneaking across the line to catch a pass from quarterback Caden Bell, making it 21-20 and giving the Lions (4-4, 1-4 Ivy League) their first win at Harvard Stadium since 1995.

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“I don’t think you can be scared in big moments,” said Columbia coach Al Bagnoli. “You got to show some confidence in your kids and you want to take an aggressive mind-set when you have an opportunity to.”

With 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, Harvard coach Tim Murphy had a similar decision with the Crimson (5-3, 3-2) down by 1 with the ball on the 25 on fourth and 1. Rather than gamble like Bagnoli did, Murphy elected to kick the field goal despite two earlier field goals attempts being blocked.

This one from Jonah Lipel was tipped at the line and knuckled into the left upright before falling to the ground, concluding an afternoon of missed opportunities for the Crimson offense.

“When you have an opportunity like that it’s hard to turn it down if you believe in your guys,” said Murphy. “Could I have gone for it? Sure. Was it a conservative call? Probably, but that’s something we should be able to handle.”

While the defense held strong, nabbing four takeaways on three interceptions and a fumble recovery, the Crimson couldn’t capitalize.

After missing last week’s game with an injury, Harvard quarterback Charlie Dean (17-for-29 passing, 220 yards, TD) was without his top two receivers, Kym Wimberly Jr. and Ledger Hatch. He established some rhythm throwing to the next men up, but it wasn’t enough.

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Harvard running back Aidan Borguet (23 carries, 108 yards) eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season in the fourth quarter. He added the second Crimson touchdown on a 1-yard run but had to work for his yards against the best rushing defense in the FCS, allowing just 60 yards a game coming into the matchup.

The Crimson offense looked more impressive than Columbia’s, but huge defensive stands on third down kept the Lions in the game. The Crimson were 2 of 13 on third down and 0 for 1 on fourth down despite putting up totaling 408 yards of offense.

“The reality is that we had our opportunities,” Murphy said. “The game of inches part of it was there today. It just looked like we could get the first down [but] we don’t get the first down … just really one of those days where it came down to a play here or there.”


Eamonn Ryan can be reached at eamonn.ryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @eamonn_ryan41.