Football 2021: Harvard 44, Georgetown 9
It had been 665 days since Aidan Borguet scored a touchdown—four of them, in fact. But in the first quarter on Saturday at Georgetown’s Cooper Field, the Crimson’s sophomore running back picked up right where he had left off on November 23, 2019, during the infamous 50-43 double-overtime defeat at Yale, the last time he and Harvard had played football before the pandemic. With 1:26 gone in the 2021 season, the sophomore speedster took a handoff on third-and-one from new starting quarterback Charlie Dean, ran toward the right sideline, then cut upfield. Breaking two Hoya tackles, Borguet streaked 56 yards to a touchdown. Junior Jonah Lipel kicked the extra point. The Crimson led 7-0, and the 147th season of Harvard football was under way.
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By afternoon’s end the Crimson had outclassed its Patriot League rival 44-9. The victory not only was Harvard’s first since the 31-21 win over Holy Cross on October 19, 2019, but it also was Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach of Football Tim Murphy’s 179th in Cambridge, tying him for most by an Ivy League coach with iconic Carmen Cozza, who led Yale from 1965 through 1996. Murphy, who is in his 28th season on the Harvard sideline, had to wait longer than he would have liked for that victory, through a five-game losing streak to conclude the 2019 season and the COVID plague that wiped out the 2020 campaign. “We chased away a lot of demons of the past 22 months,” said Murphy after the game.
Since we all went away, there have been two major additions to the Crimson offense. One, as mentioned, is Dean, a 6’1”, 210-pound sophomore from Odessa, Florida, who has supplanted the longtime starter, senior Jake Smith. Allowing for the fact that he mostly spent the day handing off, Dean was solid in his debut, going 10-for-19 passing with two touchdowns—and no interceptions. The other newcomer is not really a newcomer but a returnee: running back Aaron Shampklin, a first-team All-Ivy selection in 2018 who took the 2019 season off. The two-year hiatus seemed to give Shampklin remarkably fresh legs. On Saturday the junior gained 183 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns. Altogether Harvard outrushed Georgetown 335 yards to six.
After Borguet put the Crimson ahead, the Harvard defense forced the Hoyas to punt. Dean then engineered a six-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 31-yard touchdown pass to freshman wideout Kaedyn Odermann. Harvard 13, Georgetown 0. But Georgetown blocked the extra-point attempt. The Hoyas’ Jovone Campbell scooped up the ball and returned it all the way to the Harvard end zone, giving Georgetown two points. Harvard 13, Georgetown 2.
On the Hoyas’ next drive quarterback Joseph Brunell—son of former NFL star Mark Brunell—found his rhythm. Showing some of his dad’s smoothness, Brunell completed four of six passes, including a 31-yard touchdown toss to Joshua Tomas. Besides tightening the game, this sequence raised worries for the future concerning a relatively untested Harvard secondary. Conor Hunt booted the extra point. Harvard 13, Georgetown 9.
That was the closest the Hoyas got. Dean smartly led a 75-yard drive whose key plays were a 17-yard pass completion to junior wideout Kym Wimberly and a 36-yard Shampklin touchdown bolt. On this jaunt Shampklin blasted off left tackle, cut to the middle, picked an opening in the secondary, and accelerated to the end zone. This run showed that he has lost none of his trademark patience that made him one of the Ivy League’s most dangerous backs in 2018. Lipel kicked the point. Harvard 20, Georgetown 9.
Early in the second quarter Lipel drilled a 42-yard field goal. (A successful long field goal always is heartening in the opening game.) Harvard 23, Georgetown 9. A few minutes later, on second and five from the Harvard 41, Borguet took a handoff from Dean, ran right, again squeezed through a hole, and went the distance. Lipel kicked the point. At the half, it was Harvard 30, Georgetown 9.
The first opponent turnover of the season came in the third quarter when Crimson junior linebacker Daniel Abraham snatched a Brunell pass and returned it 19 yards to the Georgetown seven. Two plays later, on second down from the five, Dean flipped one high in the air to 6’7” senior tight end Adam West, who outleaped his defender to pull the ball down. Lipel again kicked the point. Harvard 37, Georgetown 9. The final score came in the fourth quarter, when junior backup quarterback Luke Emge scored on a six-yard option run. Lipel punctuated. Harvard 44, Georgetown 9.
Murphy termed the result “a very solid effort.” It also was rather stress-free, especially because Georgetown was missing a couple of valuable defensive starters. Brown this week will be a sterner test, especially for a secondary that will have to contend with quarterback E.J. Perry, arguably the Ivy League’s best.
TIDBITS: Harvard’s record in season openers is now 120-25-2….There are new rules governing overtime in 2021. In the second overtime, a team that scores a touchdown must go for a two-point conversion. If a game is still tied after two overtimes, teams will have one-play possessions in which they may attempt only two-point conversions from the three-yard line until a winner is determined. The object is to shorten games and hence reduce possibilities of injury.
Holy Cross 20, Yale 17
Princeton 32, Lehigh 0
Rhode Island 45, Brown 24
Columbia 37, Marist 14
Virginia Military Institute 31, Cornell 21
Dartmouth 28, Valparaiso 18
Penn 30, Bucknell 6
Coming up: Friday Night Lights! Harvard returns to the Stadium on Friday for the first time since November 16, 2019, to play the first home and Ivy game of 2021 against Brown. Kickoff time: 7 p.m. The game will be telecast on ESPNU and broadcast on WRCA 1330 AM, 106.1 FM, 92.9 FM-HD2, and WHRB 95.3 FM. The Crimson leads the overall series 87-30-2 and has won the last nine against the Bears, including 42-7 in 2019 at Providence.
The score by quarters