Lafayette 35, Harvard 18
An error-prone Harvard team takes a nonleague loss.
With Halloween still two weeks away, hobgoblins were at play in Harvard Stadium on Saturday. Taking full advantage of early Harvard turnovers, dropped passes, and penalties at critical junctures, a determined Lafayette squad built a 28-3 halftime lead and returned to Easton, Pennsylvania, with a 35-18 win.
Harvard hadn’t lost to Lafayette since 1996, and hadn’t lost at the Stadium since the final game of the 2006 season. Lafayette (5-1, 1-0 Patriot League) had previously defeated three other Ivy League teams: Penn, Yale, and Columbia.
Harvard (3-2, 2-0 Ivy) is currently tied with Penn at the top of the Ivy standings, ahead of Brown, Yale, Columbia, and Cornell (all with league records of 1-1). A lopsided loss to a nonleague opponent won’t directly affect the Crimson’s quest for a third consecutive Ivy title, but Harvard didn’t look like a championship team on Saturday.
On the initial play of the team’s first possession, quarterback Collier Winters ’11 whipped a sideline pass to receiver Chris Lorditch ’11, but Lafayette cornerback Carlos Lowe jarred the ball loose and the Leopards recovered at Harvard’s 27-yard line. After just two handoffs to speedy halfback DeAndré Morrow, they were in the end zone.
The Crimson failed to make a first down on its next three possessions, the last one cut short when a Lafayette linebacker gathered in a tipped pass at the Harvard 47. This time the Leopard offense needed four plays to get Morrow back into the end zone.
A 51-yard Harvard drive, capped by a 30-yard field goal by Patrick Long ’10, put Harvard on the scoreboard as the second period started. Less than a minute later, an interception by linebacker Jon Takamura ’10 gave the ball back to the Crimson. But when an into-the-wind punt carried only five yards — hobgoblins at work again —Lafayette punched in another score, following a 58-yard drive that was kept alive by two damaging Harvard penalties.
As the half came to an end, a pass-interference call against Harvard extended another Lafayette drive, and the Leopards scored on a short pass with five seconds left on the clock.
Harvard’s defense kept Lafayette off the board in the third quarter, and in the final period the offense at last mounted a touchdown drive, covering 87 yards and ending with a 14-yard pass from Winters to Marco Iannuzzi ’11. But Harvard couldn’t recover an onside kick, and Lafayette scored again on a pass play that widened the Leopard lead to 35-10.
The Crimson managed one last score. With just over half a minute to play and facing a fourth-and-23 situation, Winters hit Lorditch with a 47-yard desperation pass. A two-point conversion by freshman back Treavor Scales made the final score of the game just a shade more respectable.
“When we win, we do so by minimizing mistakes,” Harvard head coach Tim Murphy said at his postgame press conference. “Those turnovers, we gave it to them. We really didn’t make them earn anything.”
True that. But Lafayette’s success was also the result of a superior game plan. When the Leopards had the ball they repeatedly fooled the Harvard defenders with screen passes to running backs and misdirection plays that had Leopard backs darting through gaping holes in the line and onto turf not patrolled by the Harvard secondary. The Lafayette defense pressured Winters and confined the Crimson’s league-leading rushing attack, which had averaged 173 yards per game, to 74 yards. Harvard's offense had 16 third-down conversion opportunities, but the Leopards stopped all but two of them.
Winters was sacked four times by the blitzing Lafayette defense. He still had a good passing day, completing 19 of 36 passes for 233 yards (the highest yardage total of his five-game career as a varsity starter), and both Harvard touchdowns. “We just didn’t give him enough help,” said Murphy.
Blown away: Four Patriot League teams engaged Ivy squads on Saturday, and three were victorious. While Lafayette was drubbing Harvard, Fordham sank Cornell, 39-27, and Holy Cross smothered Dartmouth, 34-14. Yale was the sole Ivy team to escape unscathed, scoring a touchdown on a 40-yard fake-punt breakaway to edge Lehigh, 7-0.…Harvard returns to the Ivy League wars on Saturday, hosting Princeton in a noon game at the Stadium. With Ivy losses to Columbia (38-0) and Brown (34-17), the Tigers are tied with winless Dartmouth for last place in the league.
Meanwhile, in the NFL…Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 will start at quarterback when the Buffalo Bills face the Carolina Panthers next Sunday. The former Harvard captain rallied the Bills to an exciting 16-13 overtime victory over the New York Jets last weekend, after starter Trent Edwards went down with a first-half concussion. Wearing his old Harvard number, 14, Fitzpatrick threw for 116 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown pass that helped erase a 10-point deficit.…Fitz led his Crimson team to a 10-0 season in 2004, when he set a Harvard career record for total offense and was named Ivy League player of the year. Drafted by the St. Louis Rams, he saw two seasons of backup duty before being traded to Cincinnati in 2007. In his second season with the Bengals he started 12 games and was the third-ranking rusher among NFL quarterbacks. He signed with Buffalo as a free agent last winter, but had not played a down until his dramatic debut on Sunday. (Earlier "Cleat" coverage of Fitzpatrick as a Crimson star can be accessed here for 2003, here for early 2004, and here and here for the quarterback's senior year.)
Lafayette 14 14 0 7 - 35
Harvard 0 3 0 15 - 18