Harvard 34, Columbia 0
Say this for Columbia football: the players may lose game after game, but they keep fighting.
“I said to our guys coming in, this is a team that has struggled a bit, but they continue to play very hard,” said Harvard’s head coach, Tim Murphy, after his team had shut out the Lions, 34-0, at Columbia’s Wien Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“Struggled a lot” might have been more accurate. Columbia has lost every game this season, has been shut out in two of its last three games, and has been outscored, 330-57. Its leading ground-gainer has a bad ankle, and five of its offensive starters are freshmen. With a league record of 0-5 (0-8 overall), the Light Blue is tied with Cornell—also winless in league play—for last place in the Ivy standings.
Harvard (4-1, 7-1) is now alone in second place, a game behind Princeton (5-0, 7-1). At Philadelphia’s Franklin Field on Saturday, the Tigers trailed Pennsylvania at halftime, 23-17, but then scored 21 second-half points to upend the Quakers, 38-26.
The loss all but eliminates Penn (3-2 Ivy, 4-4) as a contender for the league championship.
A triple-overtime victory over Harvard two weeks ago gave Princeton a leg up in the race for the Ivy title. The Tigers could earn their first outright title since 1996 by defeating Yale and Dartmouth in the season’s last two games.
Calling Saturday’s shutout “a very solid win,” coach Murphy hailed his defensive team. With reserve linemen on the field for most of the game, the Crimson defense yielded only 49 yards rushing, and did not allow a first down in the opening period.
The Lion offense had the ball for 14 possessions, all told, but moved beyond midfield on only one of them.
That advance came with less than a minute to play in the first half, when the Columbia passing attack generated a 61-yard drive. The Lions made it to the 19-yard line, but then faltered on three pass attempts.
Harvard’s offense started off impressively, building a 21-0 lead in a span of 16 minutes. The Crimson then seemed to lose traction. “I think we got a little too complacent,” junior quarterback Conner Hempel said after the game. “Lost our intensity a little bit. We need to do a better job of applying the pressure, even if we’re up 21-0.”
Sophomore tailback Paul Stanton Jr. was the Crimson sparkplug at the outset. On Harvard’s second series of the game he broke off a 54-yard gain before being tumbled at the Lion one-yard line. Hempel scored on a quarterback sneak one play later.
On Harvard’s next series, Stanton took the ball on a halfback draw and dashed 22 yards for a score. Having gained 78 yards on three carries, he got to rest for the remainder of the game.
The Crimson scored again after an 11-play drive, with Hempel diving into the end zone for another one-yard touchdown as the second quarter began.
After a scoreless third quarter, Harvard added points with fourth-period field goals of 29 and 33 yards by junior Andrew Flesher.
Since week five of the season, when he stepped in for the team's injured all-Ivy place-kicker, David Mothander, Flesher has kicked seven field goals—including a game-winning 23-yarder against Dartmouth on November 2—and has made good on 18 of 18 point-after attempts. For those efforts, he has twice been named Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.
Backup quarterback Michael Pruneau relieved Hempel early in the fourth period, running the offense effectively on the team's last two scoring drives. The game’s final touchdown came on a one-yard run by reserve tailback Tyler Caveness.
Hempel completed 19 of 32 passes for 185 yards, and was intercepted once. Pruneau completed three of four pass attempts and was not intercepted. Senior wideout Ricky Zorn led the Crimson receivers with six catches.
Bo Ellis, a quick freshman, and junior Andrew Casten did the bulk of the ball-carrying while Stanton took his ease. Ellis finished with 50 yards rushing on 14 carries, while Casten had 39 yards on 10 carries.
Sophomore linebackers Eric Medes and Matt Koran led the defense with seven tackles each.
The Lion quarterback, Trevor McDonagh, completed 18 of 45 passes for 160 yards. He was sacked three times by Harvard defenders, and intercepted once.
Not since the last game of the 2008 season, a 10-0 victory over Yale, has the Crimson won a game without recording at least one scoring pass.
Harvard has now won 10 straight over Columbia, and has scored 103 unanswered points in the last two meetings with the Light Blue. The Crimson shut out the Lions, 69-0, a year ago, scoring 42 points in the game's first half.
Harvard holds a 57-14-1 lead in a series initiated in 1877.
In other Ivy games: Princeton’s 38-26 victory over Penn kept the Tigers at the top of the Ivy standings. With 19 seconds to play, Yale scored a touchdown to beat Brown, 24-17. Dartmouth downed Cornell, 34-6.
Next week: Penn comes to the Stadium for a 12 o’clock game. The teams have split in their last dozen encounters, with six wins apiece. NBC Sports Network will air the game.
The Harvard-Columbia scoring:
Harvard 14 7 0 13 — 34
Columbia 0 0 0 0 — 0
The season so far:
Harvard 42, San Diego 20
Harvard 41, Brown 23
Harvard 41, Holy Cross 35
Harvard 34, Cornell 24
Harvard 35, Lafayette 16
Princeton 51, Harvard 48
Harvard 24, Dartmouth 21
Harvard 34, Columbia 0