NEW YORK, NOV. 7 -- It was yet another loss for the Columbia football team, the 39th straight. But this defeat was unlike any before it during the nation's longest-ever major college losing streak: the Lions almost won.

Kurt Dasbach missed a 35-yard field goal -- he was wide left a foot -- with 19 seconds remaining, assuring Dartmouth's 12-10 victory. Columbia is 0-8, Dartmouth 2-6.

"It felt good when I hit it, and I didn't know it was wide until I saw the Dartmouth players jumping up and down," the Silver Spring resident said later, his eyes filled with tears. "I don't feel like I choked. It was either the wind, a full moon, the tides or gravity."

Columbia Coach Larry McElreavy blamed an illegal motion penalty three plays earlier.

"The first thing I thought of when it missed was that five-yard penalty," he said. "The kick was shanked left by a half a yard. If we had been those five yards closer, then I would be a happy man right now. But I'm reeling inside. For the first time since I've been here {he became the Lions coach before the 1986 season} we should have won a game."

The Lions' 10-9 halftime lead appeared as if it might hold up. Time and again, their defense held. On Dartmouth's eight possessions before the game-winning drive, it punted five times. Two times the Lions intercepted quarterback Chris Rorke.

But when the Big Green needed a score, it got it. The winning drive began at Dartmouth's 18 with 5:16 left. The big play was a personal foul against Columbia tackle Matt Sodl. He hit split end Craig Morton on the head. Instead of third and one from the Dartmouth 46, it was first and 10 from the Columbia 39. On the next play, tailback Chris Pollard (29 rushes for 101 yards) went up the middle for 15 yards. Five plays later, kicker Carl Romero was summoned.

"I just told myself to put it through cleanly," he said. "I had missed one earlier in which I wasn't prepared, and I didn't want that to happen again."

It didn't. He put a 32-yard field goal cleanly through, giving Dartmouth what appeared to be a sure victory with 1:45 to go.

But Columbia's Terry Brown took the ensuing kickoff 45 yards to midfield. A personal foul put the Lions on the Dartmouth 35.

In the next eight plays, including a penalty on each team, Columbia moved to the 18. With 19 seconds left, Dasbach came on the field.

"I was so confident Dasbach was going to make it," McElreavy said. "He has been in pressure situations before {he played four years on Columbia's soccer team}. If I had to do it over again, I would do it without blinking an eye."

But No. 39 was in the books. Afterward, Columbia players walked to the locker room crying.

"It's not one person's fault," said Sodl, who played nearly flawlessly (12 tackles, four assists) with the exception of his personal foul. "It's the whole team's fault. If we play next week {at Cornell} the way we did today, then we're going to {win}. Nobody is going to give up. I'm a senior, and I'll be damned if I'm going out of here without a win."

"If we had been beaten, fine," McElreavy said. "But because we lost makes it hurt. It makes me bitter and upset. If I was a karate expert, this table {in the press room} would be in nine pieces. But as it is, I'd just break my hand."