Columbia’s dominance in the run game propelled the Lions to a hard-fought 28–7 victory over non-conference foe Wagner.

After last week’s home loss to Princeton, Columbia Football (3–1, Ivy 0–1) needed to regain some momentum before heading into the thick of this year’s Ivy League campaign. Hosting winless Wagner (0–5) in the final non-conference matchup of the season, the Lions looked to pick up the easy win and set their sights on next week’s road trip to Penn.

From the early moments of the game, however, it was clear that the Lions would not walk away with an easy victory. Both offenses struggled to move the ball early, until Wagner Quarterback Nick Kargman connected with Wide Receiver Jallah Zeze for a 40-yard gain. The Seahawks, suddenly in the red zone, threatened to take the early lead with under four minutes left in the first quarter. But the Lions’ defense held, a sack by Justin Townsend (CC ’25) forcing Wagner to a field goal attempt. After a botched snap, Wagner’s ill-fated kick was blocked, Columbia taking possession on downs. The first quarter ended with both teams yet to get on the scoreboard.

The stalemate would hold until midway through the second quarter, when Columbia’s offense started to find its groove on the back of its running game. Alternating rushes from Running Backs Ryan Young (CC ’23) and Joey Giorgi (CC ’24) helped the Lions move the chains and breach Wagner territory. The anxious Columbia crowd erupted when Wide Receiver Bryson Canty (CC ’25) rose above defenders to pull down a soaring 36-yard touchdown pass from Quarterback Joe Green (CC ’24), finally putting the Lions on the board. After Alex Felkins (CC ’23) knocked in the extra point, Columbia led 7–0 with 6:30 left in the first half.

A quick three-and-out from Wagner gave possession back to the Lions, who looked to add another score with momentum now firmly on their side. The offense clicked, moving the ball down the field with time winding down before halftime. 

Then things got weird. 

A 22-yard catch by Canty brought the Lions all the way down to the 12-yard line, but the excitement was short lived. Canty fumbled the ball, ceding possession to Wagner with only 50 seconds left in the half. Things escalated when Seahawks Receiver Naiem Simmons broke free for a 57-yard game, putting Wagner in striking distance. Mere moments after it looked like Columbia would head into the locker room with a 14–0 lead, Wagner was suddenly threatening to tie the game.

This threat failed to materialize however, after Kargman’s pass was batted out of the air and intercepted by Columbia’s Joshua Powell (CC ’26). Columbia took a knee, content to take their one-score lead into the half.

Halftime Score: 7–0 Columbia

The third quarter saw smoother sailing for the Lions offense. With 11 minutes left in the quarter, Ryan Young broke free for a 22-yard gain on fourth down, setting the Lions up with a first-and-goal. Green handed it off to Young again the following play, breaking the plane for the score and putting the Lions up 14–0.

Columbia took possession again quickly just a minute later for another scoring drive. Seven straight carries from Young, Giorgi, and Ty’son Edwards (CC ’24) moved the ball deep into Wagner territory, and the Lions scored just a few plays later on an 11-yard pass to Cameron Burt (CC ’23). With 3:54 left in the third quarter, the Lions were now up 21–0, decisively pulling away from Wagner.

Wagner was able to prevent the shutout, Kargman connecting with Receiver Rickey Spruill to cut the Lions’ lead to 21–7 early in the fourth quarter. But no comeback would happen, with the final quarter passing largely without fanfare. A late touchdown grab by Wills Meyer for 22 yards solidified the Lions’ 28–7 victory.

Final Score: 28–7 Columbia

Columbia’s dominance on both sides of the rushing game secured this victory. The Lions rushed for 189 yards, led by a career-best outing for Ryan Young, who contributed 117 yards and one touchdown himself. On the other side of the ball, Columbia’s defense held Wagner to a meager 36 yards on the ground, the third time this season they’ve held opponents to under 50 rushing yards.

Other standout performances for the Lions came from Quarterback Joe Green, who went 15–21 for 188 yards and three touchdowns, and Receiver Bryson Canty, who pulled down six catches for 93 yards and a score. Fara’ad McCombs (CC ’23) led the Lions defense with seven tackles.

Columbia advances to 3–1 (0–1 Ivy) with Saturday’s victory. The Lions will make the trip to Philadelphia next week to take on a formidable opponent in the unbeaten Penn Quakers (4–0, 1–0 Ivy), resuming their conference schedule. Columbia will return to Lawrence A. Wien Stadium for the Homecoming matchup against Dartmouth on October 22.

Wien Stadium by Elijah Knodell