Sports | Football
Football: Harvard 32, Brown 22
If one measure of a good football team is being able to win tough conference games on the road, then the 2016 edition of the Harvard Crimson took a step toward being a good football team this past Saturday at sun-splashed Brown Stadium. Using a balanced attack spearheaded by the rushing of quarterback Joe Viviano ’17 and running back Semar Smith ’18, Harvard (2-0) outlasted Ivy rival Brown (1-1) 32-22 in the league opener for both teams. The victory was Harvard’s sixteenth in a row away from home—the longest road-winning streak in the Football Championship Subdivision. (The last loss away from home came on November 10, 2012, a 30-21 defeat at Penn.)
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“It was a typical Brown game: nothing came easy,” summed up Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “We made a few more plays than they did.” Many of those plays were made by Viviano, who rushed for a net of 76 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. (He was sacked for 22 yards’ worth of losses.) He also completed 17 of 31 passes for 205 yards. Unlike most of today’s quarterbacks, who are primarily passers, Viviano acts almost like an old single-wing tailback, who will pass or run depending on the design of the play or his whim. With his loping stride, he is very hard to stop—and a fearsome weapon for whom opposing defenses must account.
Even though the total offense numbers for each team were frighteningly similar—394 for Harvard, 390 for Brown—the Crimson cashed in on each of its five trips to the so-called red zone (inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line), while the Bruins saw potential scoring drives blunted by interceptions by reserve Harvard defensive backs Tanner Lee ’18 and Wes Ogsbury ’19. After the game, Brown coach Phil Estes pointed to the turnovers—“They hurt us”—and lauded the Harvard defense, which limited the Bruins to 74 net yards rushing. “Up front I think they’re exceptional,” said Estes, referring to Crimson defensive linemen DJ Bailey ’19 and three members of the class of ’17: James Duberg, Doug Webb, and Miles McCollum.
This was the first Harvard game played using an Ivy League experimental rule under which the ball is kicked off from the 40-yard-line rather than the 35. The object is to promote boots in which the ball is kicked into or out of the end zone, thus curtailing kick returns, the plays on which the most concussions occur. On Saturday the collateral damage was done to the kick-return career of Harvard’s star Justice Shelton-Mosley ’19, who is a threat to take the ball back all the way any time he gets his hands on it. Shelton-Mosley watched two kicks by Brown’s strong-legged Jake Wilner sail deep into the end zone for touchbacks; another three were either onside kicks, or squibs that permitted limited runbacks. (Of the 11 kickoffs in the game, four resulted in touchbacks, and only three provided conventional runbacks.) Asked afterward if he was frustrated, Shelton-Mosley said he wasn’t—but the smile on his face showed he had been thinking about it. The safety-oriented Murphy was unmoved. “It’s a good rule,” he said.
Wilner supplied the only points of the first quarter with a 27-yard field goal at the end of a nine-play, 41-yard Bruins drive. The Crimson’s first score came at the end of a seven-play, 49-yard drive, highlighted by a 12-yard pitch from Viviano to H-back Anthony Firkser ’17 (four catches, 78 yards) and a slick 21-yard draw by Viviano himself. The final two yards were covered by the workhorse Smith (89 yards on 22 carries, two touchdowns). Jake McIntyre ’20, who appears to have supplanted Kenny Smart ’18 in this role, kicked the extra point. Harvard 7, Brown 3.
The defense forced the Bruins into a three-and-out, and Harvard got the ball on its 39. Six plays later the Crimson again was in the end zone, launched by another Viviano-to-Firkser hookup, this one for 29 yards. Viviano ran the final seven yards for the touchdown. Then came one of Murphy’s signature pieces of fakery. Harvard lined up to kick the extra point and the ball was snapped to the holder, backup quarterback Cam Tripp ’19. Instead of placing it down for McIntyre to kick, Tripp picked it up and rolled to his right. There was not a Bruin in sight as Tripp cantered into the end zone for a two-point conversion. Harvard 15, Brown 3. Afterward Murphy gave credit to assistant coach Ryan Crawford for spotting the opportunity provided by a particular Brown shift that would leave the right side uncovered.
The Crimson was not done. On Brown’s first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, defensive back Kolbi Brown ’17 picked off a toss by Bruins quarterback Kyle Moreno and ran it back 25 yards to the Brown 20. The Crimson advanced to the Bruins 4 but was unable to ram the ball into the end zone. Instead, McIntyre kicked a 20-yard field goal. Harvard 18, Brown 3.
The game had potential to turn into a rout, but Brown came back with a gritty 11-play drive highlighted by some chicanery of its own—a fake punt on which nominal linebacker Will Twyman rambled 18 yards for a first down. In the end, Moreno hit Troy Doles crossing to the left 20 yards for a touchdown, and Wilner kicked the extra point. Harvard 18, Brown 10.
It took only 2:18 for Harvard to restore its more comfortable advantage. Firkser figured in again, snagging a 26-yarder. The biggest play came on third-and-four from the Brown 34. Viviano lofted a bomb down the right side. A streaking Shelton-Mosley beat tight coverage, stretched—and grabbed the ball. He was down at the 2. On the next play Viviano, on a keeper, rolled right into the end zone. McIntyre kicked the extra point. At halftime, it was Harvard 25, Brown 10.
Toward the end of the third quarter, Brown cut the deficit again, when Moreno hit Doles on the left for another score, this one covering 24 yards. But Wilner’s point-after attempt slid to the right. Harvard 25, Brown 16. The ensuing kickoff was an onside kick—but it didn’t go the requisite 10 yards before the Bruins recovered. “The ball went nine-and-a-half yards instead of 10,” lamented Estes afterward. “If we can execute it, it’s an easy steal.”
Instead, Harvard took over at the Brown 49. On the first play, the Crimson ran a reverse to Shelton-Mosley. The play went to the right; with Viviano out front blocking—is there anything this man can’t do?—Shelton-Mosley ran for 32 yards. Three Smith rushes later, the ball was in the end zone. McIntyre kicked the point. Harvard 32, Brown 16.
In the fourth quarter Brown kept knocking on the door. First, the Bruins reached the Harvard 19. On third and 8, Moreno flipped one down the middle—but Lee picked it off and ran it back to the Harvard 23. On its next drive, Brown reached the Harvard 44. This time it was Harvard’s Ogsbury who filched a Moreno pass. Finally, on the next drive, Brown scored, on an eight-yard pass from Moreno to Garrett Swanky. That made it 32-22; almost four minutes remained, and a successful two-point conversion would have drawn the Bruins within a touchdown and another two-point conversion of a tie. But Anton Casey dropped Moreno’s pass in the end zone, for all intents and purposes ending the game.
That made it two nice wins in 2016. Now back home for two games—including a matchup on October 8 against suddenly resurgent Cornell.
Cornell 27, Yale 13
Lehigh 42, Princeton 28
Fordham 31, Penn 17
Dartmouth 35, Holy Cross 10
Georgetown 17, Columbia 14
Coming up: On Friday evening, Harvard returns to the Stadium to face Georgetown. Kickoff: 7 p.m. (The game will be broadcast on WXKS 1200 AM, 94.5 FM-HD2 and WHRB-FM 95.3, and televised on ESPN3.) The Hoyas, a member of the Patriot League, are 3-0. Harvard leads the series 2-0, including a 45-0 victory last year in Cambridge.
The score by quarters