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Harvard 52, Holy Cross 3

9.29.12

Levitation on a rainy night: Harvard receivers celebrated after a 35-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate (87) in the opening period of the Crimson’s 52-3 rout of Holy Cross. Quarterback Colton Chapple threw two scoring passes to Brate and one each to Ricky Zorn (5) and Kyle Juszczyk (44) in a 49-point first half.

If college football had a mercy rule, Friday night’s game at the Stadium would have been called at halftime.

In a driving rainstorm, Harvard scored on all of its first-half possessions and led Holy Cross, 49-3, at the close of the second quarter. Senior quarterback Colton Chapple, directing the Crimson attack, had passed for four touchdowns and had run for another.

The scoring extravaganza began just two minutes into the game, with Chapple throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ricky Zorn ’14.

On the team’s next drive, Chapple found tight end Cameron Brate ’14 uncovered downfield and hooked up with him for a 35-yard scoring pass.

The defensive unit got into the act when sophomore linebacker Connor Sheehan blocked a punt at midfield and cornerback D.J. Monroe ’13 ran it in for a 23-yard touchdown.

At the start of the second period, Chapple fired a 14-yard scoring strike to tight end Kyle Juszczyk ’13. On the team's next series, Chapple found Brate again, this time for a 19-yard score.

When another Crimson drive advanced the ball to the Holy Cross 3-yard line, Chapple ran it in on a keeper.

A 51-yard pass from Chapple to Juszczyk set up Harvard’s final touchdown, a four-yard carry by backup tailback Rich Zajeski ’13 with two minutes left in the half.

Harvard sent in the reserves in the second half, with an untried sophomore quarterback, Conner Hempel, relieving Chapple. The Crimson still managed to score on its first possession of the half, adding three more points on a field goal by David Mothander. The junior place-kicker had a busy night, booting seven extra points and seven kickoffs before making his 39-yard field goal.

The Holy Cross offense had one brief, shining moment, early on: a long pass from sophomore quarterback Ryan Laughlin to tight end Nate Stanley, on the Crusaders’ first offensive play of the game, that covered 65 yards and put the visitors on Harvard’s 12-yard line. But two passing attempts misfired, and Holy Cross recorded its only points of the game on a 27-yard field goal by John Macomber.

From then on, the Crusaders’ play was a farrago of fumbles, dropped passes, slipping feet, and missed tackles. “Harvard executed consistently,” said Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore after the game. “We didn’t execute. We made too many mistakes.”

The steady rain notwithstanding, Harvard had an almost mistake-free night on both sides of the ball. Maintaining what Chapple later called “100 percent ball security,” the offensive unit did not lose a fumble or an interception. “We’ve held practices in the rain,” noted head coach Tim Murphy. “We take pride in being able to play in any kind of conditions.”

Running backs Treavor Scales ’13, Paul Stanton Jr. ’16, and Zajeski helped balance the Crimson’s robust passing attack, combining for 194 yards rushing. Scales, who entered the game as the nation’s top-ranked back in scoring per game, had 15 carries for 86 yards.

Freshman Stanton, in his varsity debut, made a strong impression. Subbing for kick-return specialist Seitu Smith II ’15, who’d broken his hand at Brown the previous weekend, he took the opening kickoff and returned it 42 yards, priming the offense for its first touchdown drive. As the tailback in two later scoring drives, Stanton picked up 76 yards on eight touches, for an average of nine and a half yards per carry.

The Crimson defense held the Holy Cross rushing attack to a net four yards and three first downs—as against 18 for Harvard—in the game’s opening half. Quarterback Laughlin was sacked three times. He finished the game with nine pass completions in 24 attempts, for a total of 105 yards.

Harvard’s Chapple was on target from the start, completing 13 of 18 pass attempts for 260 yards. A year ago, as a junior, he stepped in for the injured Collier Winters ’11 (’12) and threw two touchdown passes in a rain-soaked 24-7 victory over Brown. He went on to establish himself as the most productive backup quarterback in Crimson annals, throwing 12 scoring passes in 13 quarters of play and becoming the first Harvard passer to throw at least four touchdown passes in consecutive games. But Winters returned at midseason, and his understudy went back to taking snaps for the place-kicking team. Now Chapple’s the boss—a confident field general and lethal passer who can also run the ball.

The team’s 49-point outpouring set a new Harvard record for first-half scoring, eclipsing the high of 41 achieved in a 55-7 victory at Columbia in 2005.

Harvard (3-0, 2-0 Ivy League) now has a 12-game winning streak, the longest among NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams. The Crimson hasn’t taken a loss since a 30-22 defeat at Holy Cross in the opening game of the 2011 season. 

Holy Cross (0-4) came into this weekend’s game with a record of 0-2 against Ivy opposition, following a 24-21 loss to Brown and a last-second 13-10 loss to Dartmouth.

Harvard holds a 40-24-2 lead over the Crusaders in a series begun in 1904. Holy Cross had taken three of the previous five meetings with the Crimson, but has not won at the Stadium since 2000.

In other weekend action: With a five-game winning streak on the line, Dartmouth (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) lost to Penn (1-2, 1-0), 28-21, while Princeton (1-2, 1-0) downed Columbia (1-2, 0-1), 33-6. In nonconference games, Yale (1-2, 0-1) lost to Colgate (2-3), 47-24, and Brown (2-1, 0-1) beat Georgetown (3-2), 37-10. Cornell (2-1, 1-0) edged Bucknell (1-3) in a night game, 15-10.

Coming up: Harvard hosts Cornell at the Stadium next Saturday at 1 p.m. The Big Red lost its opening game to Fordham, but then rocked Yale, 45-6. Cornell is led by record-setting quarterback Jeff Mathews, last season’s Ivy League offensive player of the year. Three of his receivers have ranked in the top 10 nationally in receptions per game.

The Harvard-Holy Cross score by quarters:

Holy Cross     3    0    0   0  —   3
Harvard        21   28   3   0  —  52

Attendance: 10,215

The season so far:

Harvard 28, San Diego 13
Harvard 45, Brown 31
Harvard 52, Holy Cross 3

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