OBERLIN — Jay Banyasz had a better game catching the other team’s passes than he had completing his own throws.
Banyasz’s 61-yard interception return for a touchdown, on which he weaved his way between and around the other 21 players on the field, proved to be the key play in Columbia’s
14-6 defense-dominated victory over Oberlin on Friday night.
“It was a great feeling to be able to do something to help my team win,” Banyasz said. “It was the best way to make up for a big mistake by me.”
That mistake was an interception he threw as Columbia (5-1, 3-0 Patriot Athletic Conference) was knocking on the door. The Raiders had made it to the Oberlin 8-yard line before Banyasz’s pass was picked off in the end zone by Ethan Thomas.
Five plays later, with 2:07 to go before halftime, Banyasz became a hero when he made an over-the-shoulder catch of Jason Moore’s third-down bomb, circled to the other side of the field and slipped through all attempts to tackle him. It was one of two interceptions Banyasz had for the night.
It was also typical of the game. Other than Jacob Kleinhenz, who gained 149 yards on 28 carries, there were almost no offensive stars. This was an evening for defense.
“There will be a lot of defensive highlights,” Columbia coach Jason Ward said. “Defensively, we’re lights-out right now. We’re playing very physically.”
The Raiders held Oberlin running back Kalif Townsel to 78 yards rushing and 9 yards receiving, and Moore was 4-for-15 passing for 45 yards with three interceptions.
“We knew the key was stopping Townsel and Moore,” Ward added. “It’s no secret for anyone who plays (Oberlin) that they have to be shut down, and we were able to do that.”
Ward had praise for the Phoenix defense, too. Oberlin (5-1, 2-1 PAC) gave up only one offensive touchdown.
“We thought this game would be easier sledding, to be honest,” Ward said. “Their defense did a great job against us. They worked their tails off. They played a very physical defense.”
Oberlin coach Fred Howery wasn’t surprised by the low score.
“I knew we both had solid defenses,” Howery said. “We made one too many mistakes and that was the difference. Both teams had opportunities to put more touchdowns on the board and both teams failed.”
Columbia was stifled on fourth downs twice in the first half and two times in the second half. Banyasz completed two of eight passes and was sacked three times.
The Phoenix saw drives stopped three times by interceptions.
Oberlin answered Banyasz’s TD with its only score of the night, which took eight plays and a minute and 44 seconds. Mattayo Wyman’s kickoff return set up the Phoenix at the Columbia 35 before Moore ran into the end zone with 12 seconds remaining in the first half.
Kleinhenz scored on the Raiders’ second drive, with 4:51 to play in the third. Kleinhenz was the workhorse in the second half with 17 carries and 96 yards.
Columbia’s offensive line asserted itself in the second half. The Raiders ran 35 plays to only 17 for Oberlin after halftime.
ALMOST A HAT TRICK: Banyasz came close to having three interceptions. With a bit less than nine minutes to play he got his hands on one of Moore’s passes, but couldn’t maintain control as he was heading for the ground. Columbia’s other interception was by linebacker Foster Tucker with 1:18 left in the third quarter.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or email@example.com.