Football 2023: Harvard 34-Brown 31

The Crimson outlasts the Bears in an Ivy nighttime shootout.

Harvard Football player 29 runs with football with Brown players running after along with other Harvard players

RAMBLIN' MAN Shane McLaughlin romped to a 43-yard, third-quarter touchdown that put Harvard ahead 20-10. The Harvard junior ran for a game-high 152 yards and scored twice.| PHOTOGRAPH BY DYLAN GOODMAN/COURTESY OF HARVARD ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

On Friday night at Harvard Stadium, nearly 16,000 spectators witnessed a real rock-and-roller between Harvard and Brown. The game featured big plays, spectacular catches, a stirring goal-line stand and a cerebral move to clinch the outcome. When it was over and everyone could exhale, the Crimson had outlasted the battling Bears 34-31 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. Harvard, which entered the game ranked No. 25 in the Football Championship Subdivision, is now 2-0; Brown dropped to 1-1.

In the process, Harvard may have uncovered two breakout offensive stars. With Aidan Borguet ’23, last year’s Crimson All-Ivy running back, looking on from the stands, his successor, junior Shane McLaughlin, ripped through Brown for 152 yards in 16 carries—a spiffy 9.5-yard average—and one touchdown on the ground, plus another on a pass reception. Meanwhile, sophomore wideout Cooper Barkate snared a game-high 10 receptions that included a touchdown. Harvard needed these efforts, because the Crimson put itself in an early 10-0 hole and appeared it would be playing catch-up till the end.

Harvard football players celebrate on the field at Harvard Stadium
BIG SUPPORTERS  Sophomore Harvard wide receiver Cooper Barkate (2) is hoisted by tight end Tim Dowd (48) as offensive linemen senior Spencer Cassell (73) and  junior Austin Gentle (68) look on. Barkate amassed 132 yards receiving.  | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DYLAN GOODMAN/COURTESY OF HARVARD ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

“We beat a good football team this evening,” said Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football Tim Murphy, whose record in Ivy openers advanced to 24-5. The contest’s back-and-forth nature was no surprise to the veteran coach, who was ready for anything from his opposite number, offensive mastermind James Perry. “We thought it might be a bit of a shootout,” said Murphy. The victory was Murphy’s 134th in league play—one behind the record held by Yale’s Carmen Cozza from 1965-96.

Brown got the early jump. On Harvard’s first series, junior quarterback Charles DePrima had a pass deflected that was intercepted on the Crimson 40 by defensive back Ethan Royer. Eight plays later, the Bears were in the end zone, the capper being a one-yard plunge by Stockton Owen. Christopher Maron kicked the point. Brown 7, Harvard 0.

Later in the period the Bears added to their lead. A 51-yard bomb from quarterback Jake Willcox to wideout Wes Rockett (who made the grab while falling down) set Brown up at the Harvard 29. The drive petered out at the 13, so Maron booted a 30-yard field goal. Brown 10, Harvard 0.

Harvard players #16 and #91 celebrate
UPWARD BOUND Charles DePrima (16) celebrates a second-quarter score with teammates junior kicker Sebastien Tasko (91) and sophomore offensive lineman Derek Osman (55). In an effective performance, Harvard junior quarterback DePrima ran for 98 yards and passed for 203. | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DYLAN GOODMAN/COURTESY OF HARVARD ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

Barkate got the turnaround going when he took a pass from DePrima for 25 yards. DePrima, ever the run threat, rushed right for 16 yards, then threw to senior tight end Tyler Neville for 20 yards. From the Brown 14, DePrima pitched to McLaughlin, who caught the ball, nimbly spun (leaving a Brown defender grabbing air) and rumbled into the end zone. Senior Cali Canaval converted the extra point. Brown 10, Harvard 7.

On the next Bears series came arguably the game’s pivot point. With Willcox cannily mixing passes and runs, Brown advanced to the Crimson five—first and goal. In two downs they were at the one. On third down Owen was stuffed: no gain. On fourth down, coach Perry chose to go for the touchdown rather than for a chip-shot field goal. Gutsy call. Willcox handed to running back Nate Lussier, who met Crimson junior defensive tackle Brandon Svets and senior linebacker Matt Hudson. No go, no goal—Crimson ball. Besides Svets and Hudson, defensive backs junior Gavin Shipman and sophomore Ty Bartrum, and linemen junior Nick Yagodich and senior Thor Griffith had a big hand in this gallant stand.

Two series later Harvard seized the lead—or rather, DePrima did. Starting at the Crimson 44, the Crimson signal-caller rushed right for 10 yards, threw to Barkate for two, ran for 20, ran for nine, and ran for 12. The ball was at the Brown three. Harvard called timeout. When play resumed…why mess with success? DePrima started to the right, got tackled at the one, and stretched the ball over the goal line. Touchdown! When Canaval booted the extra point, it was Harvard 14, Brown 10, which remained the score at the half.

On its first series of the third quarter, the Crimson padded its lead. Helped by a Brown pass interference penalty on a DePrima toss to senior wideout Kaedyn Odermann, Harvard reached the Bears 43. On first down DePrima handed the ball to McLaughlin, who blew through a huge hole created by the right side of the Crimson offensive line, then rumbled the rest of the way to the end zone. McLaughlin is a bit reminiscent of the immortal Paul Stanton Jr. ’16—a tank with a turbocharged motor. (His power/speed combination and nose for the goal line are also the traits possessed by Christian McCaffrey of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.) But Canaval missed the extra point, wide left. Harvard 20, Brown 10.

The Bears riposted, thanks to the first truly egregious (we won’t use the barnyard epithet we uttered) penalty of the season. It occurred on the next series, when Griffith was called for unnecessary roughness after he inadvertently bumped Willcox after Harvard senior defensive tackle Tyler Heunemann had sacked the Brown quarterback. Reprieved, the Bears went the remaining 49 yards in seven plays, with Willcox throwing the final nine yards for a touchdown to Jordan McIntyre. Maron kicked the point. Harvard 20, Brown 17—and that missed extra point by Canaval was looming large.

 On the ensuing kickoff, though, Harvard’s Xaviah Bascon took the ball at the Crimson four and headed upfield. The 5-foot-9 freshman wove and dashed his way 52 yards to the Bears’ 44. DePrima used his own legs, plus passes to Barkate and blasts by McLaughlin, to get the rest of the way. The capper, a 15-yard toss to Barkate lofted with exquisite touch over the Brown defender and right into the hands of the Crimson receiver in the left side of the end zone, was DePrima’s best pass of the season so far. This time Canaval converted. Harvard 27, Brown 17.

Back came the Bears. As the third period ended and the fourth began, Willcox led Brown on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that made use of clever reverses and shovel passes that flummoxed the Crimson defense. Eventually Owen barged in for one-yard touchdown. Maron converted. Harvard 27, Brown 24.

Punch…counterpunch. The Crimson got the ball. On second down from the Harvard 27, DePrima flung a deep ball that found Barkate down the left sideline for a 42-yard gain to the Brown 31. Two plays later DePrima took the snap and spied tight end Neville free down the seam in the middle of the field. DePrima threw and Neville caught. He stopped, pivoted and ran into the end zone. Employing the tight end in scoring situations is a welcome development. Canaval kicked. Harvard 34, Brown 24.

Unfortunately, more than 11 minutes remained in the game, and the Bears showed no quit. They drove 80 yards in 11 plays, the final one being a two-yard Owen touchdown run. Maron kicked the point. Harvard 34, Brown 31.

Six minutes and 41 seconds remained. The nagging thought was that the missed extra point by Canaval in the third quarter could come into play if the Bears got into field-goal range. However, they would not get their offense on the field to make that a possibility.

For 14 plays the Crimson held the ball, mixing clutch DePrima-to- Barkate passes with steamrollering McLaughlin runs set up by the might of the Harvard offensive line, which had worn down the Bears’ defenses. Even a Crimson personal-foul penalty ended up working to Harvard’s advantage, giving them 15 more yards of territory to cover that would use up more time.

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The final four offensive plays were runs by McLaughlin. The coup de grace was one of the cleverest bits of strategy you’ll see on a football field. With less than two minutes to play and Brown having just taken its last timeout, McLaughlin busted up the middle and headed for the goal line with no defender in his way. But instead of running into the end zone, he slid down inside the one-yard line. First down and goal, Harvard—and a chance to run out the clock. Said Murphy, “At the very last second, Shane’s brain said, I’m not supposed to score here, and at the one-centimeter line he iced the game.” There was time for two more snaps. Game over.

Harvard had passed a tough early-season test. The Crimson had 464 yards of total offense—261 on the ground, 203 in the air. As a passer, DePrima showed progress, occasionally misfiring but completing 15 of 26 attempts. His 98 rushing yards in 14 attempts will be something for opponents to deal with. The defense had its hands full with the tricky and talented Brown offense. Matt Hudson had a game-high 11 tackles, followed by Gavin Shipman with 10 and sophomore Ty Bartrum—a budding star—with nine.

The next Ivy game is in two weeks, against Cornell at Ithaca. On Saturday the Big Red shocked defending champion Yale at the Bowl. We’ve played just one league weekend, and things already are topsy-turvy.

TIDBITS: Harvard has won 12 straight games against Brown, and also has beaten the Bears 12 consecutive times at Harvard Stadium….The Crimson is now 18-3 all-time in night games at the Stadium….With its second victory at home this season Harvard has now doubled its 2022 win total at the Stadium, where it was 1-4.

SAD NEWS: The game was played under a pall following the news the came earlier in the week of the death of Dartmouth coach and Murphy’s lifetime friend Buddy Teevens at age 66. Last winter, while vacationing in Florida, Teevens suffered grievous injuries in an accident while riding his bike; he never recovered. Tributes poured in, including this one by John Powers, Harvard ’70, to one of the Ivy League’s most admired figures. Teevens was Ivy player of the year in 1978 while quarterbacking the Big Green, and later was a charismatic coach who twice revived his alma mater’s football program. Teevens also was in the forefront of those in football trying to come up with ways to make the sport safer. Our condolences to his loved ones.

Weekly Roundup

Bryant 16, Princeton 13 (OT)

Columbia 30, Georgetown 0

Cornell 23, Yale 21

Dartmouth 34, Lehigh 17

Penn 37, Bucknell 21

Coming up: The season’s first road game, as Harvard ventures to Polar Park in Worcester, Massachusetts to play ancient and honorable in-state rival Holy Cross. Kickoff: 5 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on WRCA 1130 AM/106.1 FM. The Crusaders, ranked No. 6 in the Football Championship Subdivision, are 3-1 overall (their only loss was to Boston College of the Football Bowl Subdivision) and 1-0 in the Patriot League. In a series that began in 1904, Harvard leads 45-26-2, but Holy Cross won last year at the Stadium 30-21.

 

THE SCORE BY QUARTERS

Brown

10

0

7

14

 

 

31

Harvard

0

14

13

7

 

 

34

Attendance: 15,838

 

THE SEASON SO FAR: follow Dick Friedman’s dispatches.

Week one: Harvard 45, University of St. Thomas 13

Week two: Harvard 34, Brown 31

Read more articles by: Dick Friedman
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