Update: Harvard versus Lehigh

A stunning defensive play was the game-saver in a 27-24 win over Lehigh at the Stadium on October 18. A late drive had brought the visitors to Harvard’s 14-yard line. With a first down and 46 seconds...

A stunning defensive play was the game-saver in a 27-24 win over Lehigh at the Stadium on October 18. A late drive had brought the visitors to Harvard’s 14-yard line. With a first down and 46 seconds to play, sophomore quarterback J.B. Clark set up to pass, then lit out for the goal-line. Defensive end Peter Ajayi managed to grab the back of Clark’s jersey, and the football flew into the hands of Crimson linebacker Glenn Dorris. Game over.

Harvard had held a 24-10 lead at halftime, profiting from two big turnovers—a fumble recovery by freshman cornerback Matt Hanson, setting up a 26-yard scoring pass from quarterback Chris Pizzotti to wide receiver Matt Luft, and a 21-yard interception-and-runback by Dorris. But Lehigh had owned the second half, thanks largely to Clark’s spot-on passing and the fast feet of tailback Matt McGowan, who wound up with 105 yards rushing. No opposing back had broken 100 yards against Harvard since September 2005.

The Crimson currently ranks fifth in the nation in passing offense, and the aerial game is its most potent weapon. Against Lehigh, Pizzotti hit on 21 of 43 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, with Luft contributing stellar catches on both. The six-foot-six junior ended the day with seven receptions for 111 yards.

Ouch: Lehigh (2-4, 1-0 Patriot League) had previously lost to Princeton and Cornell on the final play of each game. On their home field a year ago, the Mountain Hawks had eked out a 20-13 win over Harvard with a 27-yard fumble return with 30 seconds to play.… Lehigh had won its last four encounters at Harvard Stadium, a streak going back to 1989.

Hosting Cornell at the Stadium on October 11, Harvard took the field with three of its top four receivers sidelined by injuries. Not to worry. On the third play from scrimmage, untried freshman Adam Chrissis caught a screen pass from Pizzotti and sprinted 67 yards for a touchdown. The second quarter brought a 21-yard touchdown catch by another newcomer, sophomore Levi Richards, along with Chrissis’s second score of the day, a 22-yard scamper on a reverse that helped Harvard to a 28-7 halftime lead. A short-yardage touchdown by tailback Cheng Ho, Patrick Long’s 35-yard field goal, a short pass from Pizzotti to tight end Jason Miller, and Long’s five points-after completed the scoring in an impressive 38-17 win. Matt Luft had four receptions—one a 66-yarder that led to Harvard’s fifth touchdown—for 139 yards. The Crimson amassed 423 yards in total offense, diversifying the passing attack with end-around plays and the slick reverse that produced Chrissis’s rushing touchdown. “Our whole philosophy is to have a big cookbook and use a lot of things from game to game,” said coach Tim Murphy afterward.

The defense put heat on quarterback Nathan Ford, one of the league’s top-rated passers. He hit on 32 of 53 attempts, but was intercepted twice and sacked twice. The sacks were the first allowed by the Big Red line this season. Cornell had entered the game with a 3-0 record; as noted in “Bumps in the Road,” its three wins included a victory over Ivy League co-favorite Yale.

For early season coverage, see "Bumps in the Road."

With league records of 1-1, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, and Yale are currently a notch below Brown and Penn—each 2-0—in the Ivy standings. Harvard travels to Princeton this weekend and has another road game at Dartmouth (o-2) the following week. The nonleague victory over Lehigh brings the team’s overall record to 4-1.

~“Cleat”

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