A Promising Start
Football kicks off against Holy Cross, Brown, and Lehigh
Once again—for the third time in four years—Harvard started off as the preseason favorite to capture the Ivy League football trophy. Coach Tim Murphy’s squad cleared the first hurdle in its Ivy opener: a showdown between Harvard and Brown, the league’s defending co-champions, in a Friday night bout at the Stadium in late September. The Crimson prevailed, 24-21, surviving a dramatic Brown rally in the final minute of play.
Brown had the best of it in the game’s first half, thanks in part to Harvard defensive misplays. The Bears punched in two second-period scores—aided both times by pass-interference calls—and led, 14-10, at halftime. But Harvard controlled the second half, taking the lead after a 92-yard drive midway through the third quarter. The game’s biggest plays came at the start of the final period, when senior linebacker Jon Takamura intercepted a pass at Brown’s 33-yard line. Quarterback Collier Winters did the rest, bringing his offense to the 15-yard line and rifling a high end-zone pass to six-foot-six-inch wide receiver Matt Luft ’10 for what would prove to be the decisive points.
Leading 24-14 with just over three minutes remaining, Harvard appeared to have the game locked up. But as the Stadium clock wound down, Brown quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero led an 80-yard drive that produced a touchdown with 34 seconds to play. When Brown recovered an onside kick, Newhall went back to work. With the seconds ebbing away, he brought his team to the Harvard 25, but three last-gasp end-zone passes were batted away by Crimson defenders.
Collier Winters, making his second start at quarterback, had a hand in each of Harvard’s three touchdowns. He threw scoring passes to Luft and tight end Nicolai Schwarzkopf ’11, and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a three-yard keeper. He hit on 18 of 27 pass attempts for 223 yards and was the game’s leading rusher, gaining 66 yards on 13 carries.
A junior from Claremore, Oklahoma, Winters holds the position vacated by Chris Pizzotti ’08 (’09), the 2008 Ivy League Player of the Year. Sidelined by injuries a year ago, Winters saw only spot duty in 2007, when he was sent in to run the ball in goal-line offenses. He earned the starting assignment in training camp and played creditably in this fall’s opening game, a 27-20 loss to Patriot League behemoth Holy Cross at Worcester’s Fitton Field. Lining up in shotgun formation, Winters displayed poise and agility under pressure, showed good speed when he carried the ball, and completed 22 of 37 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. His second scoring pass was a 46-yard heave to wide receiver Chris Lorditch ’11, who made a spectacular diving catch in the end zone late in the game.
Tidbits: The Ivy League’s preseason media poll had Harvard beating out Penn, Brown, and Yale (in that order) for a third consecutive Ivy title. The 2007 Crimson squad went undefeated in league play, while last year’s team (6-1 Ivy, 9-1 overall) shared the crown with Brown. No team has managed a “three-peat” since Dartmouth did it in 1990–92.
Payback: Harvard has bested Brown in nine of the teams’ last 10 match-ups. A year ago, the Bears capitalized on missed extra points to eke out a 24-22 win at Brown Stadium. Losing only to Yale, Brown finished the season with an Ivy record of 6-1 (9-1 overall).
Yellow flags: Harvard incurred 11 penalties for 92 yards in the Brown game. Not since November 2007 had a Crimson team yielded so much penalty yardage. “We have a tremendous amount to work on,” said coach Murphy after the game. “Traditionally, we’re a team that doesn’t beat itself.…We were not a polished Swiss watch tonight, but we played with a lot of emotion and found a way to win.”
Photosynthesis: Harvard remains unbeaten in nocturnal play. The Stadium’s first night game was a 24-17 defeat of Brown that drew 18,898 spectators in September 2007. Last fall, with 20,462 in the stands, Harvard came from behind to nip Holy Cross, 25-24. The attendance at this year’s Brown game was 17,263.
Aerial circus: The passing attack looks like the offense’s trump card. All of last fall’s gifted receivers—Luft, Lorditch, Schwarzkopf, Mike Cook ’10, Marco Iannuzzi ’11, Levi Richards ’11, and Adam Chrissis ’12—are back this season.
Saturday’s hero: Senior tailback Cheng Ho, who had touched the ball only once in the first two games, rushed for 132 yards and scored twice as Harvard beat winless Lehigh, 28-14, in the second road game of the season. An all-Ivy rusher as a sophomore, Ho was hurt for much of the 2008 season and saw limited action. Starting in place of Gino Gordon ’11, who was nursing an injury, Ho galvanized the Crimson offense. “I knew this might be my only shot,” he said afterward, “and I just had to take advantage of it.”… The defensive unit forced five turnovers—four interceptions and a fumble recovery—and had four quarterback sacks in the Lehigh victory.
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