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Columbia Football’s Campaign Against The Touchdown

Columbia football players standing near the stands, singing with fans

Getting used to winning traditions

Senior Staff Writer Ross Chapman analyses how the Columbia football team defied all odds- and physics- to win against Dartmouth this past weekend. Is this the start of the football team’s secret plan for redemption?

Columbia football did not dominate in this weekend’s 9-7 homecoming victory against Dartmouth. The defense was thin on first- and second- down plays, and the offense only completed 12 passes. Perhaps most strikingly, though, the Lions failed to score a touchdown, even though they were past the Dartmouth 20-yard line four times. Most analysts will tell you that the Columbia football team is not a very good football team, and will point to stats like these as evidence. However, I believe that this touchdown-less game was part of a plan by Head Coach Al Bagnoli to ensure victory.

The Lions are working some obscure, often self-destructive black magic when it comes to converting points into wins. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this chart, showing the number of touchdowns the Columbia offense has scored in each of their games.

Opponent    # of Touchdowns    Result
St. Francis 1 L
Georgetown 2 L
Princeton 2 L
Wagner 0 W
Penn 1 L
Dartmouth 0 W

To summarize: when Columbia scores at least one touchdown, they lose. When they score zero touchdowns, they win. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, this is really not how football is supposed to work. According to Stats, LLC, NFL teams that score no touchdowns in a game have a winning percentage of under 9 percent. And yet Columbia has defied those odds twice in a row, pulling out victories using no tool other than freshman Kicker Oren Milstein’s foot. Between the team’s two victories, Milstein has recorded 8 field goals on 9 attempts, all of which were shorter than 40-yard attempts.

Dartmouth may be the key to our arcane kicking-touchdowning-winning-losing paradigm. The last time the Lions won a game using only field goals was October 23rd, 2004 against the Big Green, 9-6. And the last time the Lions won Homecoming was against Dartmouth, in a game in which only touchdowns were scored, a 49-21 victory. (The only other game against Dartmouth since then with only one type of scoring was in 2013, when the Lions surrendered 8 touchdowns and scored none.)

What might be affording Columbia their 0-touchdown advantage? Maybe their opponents don’t see the field goals accumulating and sneaking up on them, failing to see the Lions as a threat until it’s too late. Perhaps Oren Milstein is paying off the other teams to ensure his importance to Columbia. Maybe Coach Bagnoli is just really excited to finally have a kicker who’s reliable beyond the 15-yard line. Whatever the reason, we see this trend as an important part of the team’s identity. So the next time you go to a Lions football game, remember to root against a Columbia touchdown! It’s for our own good.

Proud Lions via the Columbia Lions Football Instagram page.

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