Football 2023: Harvard 41-Cornell 23

The Crimson stays unbeaten as Murphy ties a record.

Harvard football player tackles Cornell linebacker who has the ball

THE STOPPER Harvard’s Matt Hudson (49) corrals Cornell’s Ean Pope. The hard-hitting senior linebacker, a consistent player all season, had a game-high nine tackles. | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DYLAN GOODMAN/COURTESY OF HARVARD ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

Three if by land, and three if by…air. With apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, LL.D. 1859, that’s the capsule description of the performance of Harvard’s Charles DePrima on Friday night at Harvard Stadium. The Crimson’s dual-threat junior quarterback ran for three touchdowns and passed for three more, keying a 41-23 victory over Ivy League rival Cornell. The triumph lifted Harvard,which entered the game ranked No. 19 in the Football Championship Subdivision, to a 4-0 overall record and 2-0 in Ivy play; the Big Red is now 2-2, 1-1. (Two weeks before, Cornell had conquered Yale 23-20 in New Haven.) Along with South Dakota State and Southern Illinois, the Crimson is one of three remaining undefeated teams in the FCS.

The triumph also was the 135th Ivy League win for Tim Murphy, Stephenson family head football coach of Harvard football. That ties Murphy with Carmen Cozza for the most victories in Ivy play; the hallowed Yale coach amassed 135 Ivy wins from 1965 through ’96. Murphy’s first attempt to vault over Cozza will come on October 21, when the Crimson visits Princeton.

“The big key for tonight was our explosive plays,” said Murphy. While Cornell played a ball-control offense and dominated in time of possession, 35:19 to 24:41, the Big Red could muster no big plays. Credit the Crimson defense, which held Cornell to 354 yards of total offense, its lowest total of the season. By contrast, DePrima and his mates were ever a threat to strike quickly from anywhere on the field. The upshot was that Harvard rolled to 452 total yards—243 on the ground. DePrima gained 152 of those yards, on only 16 carries—a startling 9.1 average. (It’s worth noting that Cornell’s best defender, linebacker Jake Stebbins, is out for the season with a knee injury.)

Harvard player runs with ball with teammates behind and Cornell players falling back
THERE HE GOES AGAIN With Cornell’s Mason Yacovelli (55) already a step behind, Harvard’s Charles DePrima sets sail for the goal line. The senior quarterback scored on runs of one, 42 and 58 yards. | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DYLAN GOODMAN/COURTESY OF HARVARD ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

The pattern commenced on the Crimson’s opening offensive series. Facing a third and 16 at the Harvard 46, DePrima dropped back and fired a pass down the middle to senior tight end Tim Dowd. The play went for 28 yards and the Crimson was in gear. Four plays later, from the Big Red 16, DePrima lugged the ball down to the one-yard-line. On the next play, he made a dandy fake handoff to sophomore running back Isaiah Abbey, then waltzed left into the end zone. Senior Cali Canaval kicked the conversion. Harvard 7, Cornell 0.

Late in the first period the Big Red drove to the Crimson 36. Facing fourth and one, Cornell coach David Archer chose to go for it. Quarterback Jameson Wong attempted a sneak, but fumbled the snap and was halted by junior defensive end Jacob Psyk. Harvard ball! DePrima completed one short pass to senior tight end Tyler Neville and two to sophomore wideout Cooper Barkate. The quarter ended with the Crimson at the Cornell 42. On the first play of the second quarter, DePrima took the snap and juked a Big Red rusher in the backfield. Then DePrima ran left, spied running room and blasted into the secondary, long legs flashing all the way into the end zone. This time, Cornell blocked Canaval’s extra-point try. Harvard 13, Cornell 0.

Harvard player leaps up to catch the ball in the end zone with Cornall player in pursuit
HIGH HOPS Leaving Cornell’s DJ Hooker in his wake, Harvard’s Tyler Neville leaps to snag a touchdown toss. It was the third touchdown of the season for the Crimson senior tight end. | PHOTOGRAPH BY ANGELA DELA CRUZ/THE HARVARD CRIMSON

The Big Red got on the board by being maddeningly methodical. A 75-yard, 15-play drive that took 7:39 produced a one-yard touchdown lunge by Wang and an extra-point kick by Jackson Kennedy. Harvard 13, Cornell 7.

On the next series, in less than half the time (3:01) and fewer than half the plays (seven), the Crimson drove 75 yards to get the points back, plus one. DePrima threw a short pass to junior power back Shane McLaughlin, who spun away from a tackle and rumbled for 20 yards to the Cornell 39. Two plays later, from the 36, the Harvard quarterback took advantage of broken defensive coverage and found junior wideout Scott Woods II all by himself at the 16. Woods caught the ball and beat two Cornell defenders into the end zone—a welcome return for the junior wideout, who had been out with an injury. This time the Crimson went for two and made it when DePrima threw a shovel pass to Neville, who dragged Big Red tacklers over the goal. Harvard 21, Cornell 7. On the final play for the half, Kennedy booted a 43-yard field goal to draw the Big Red to within 11.

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Any Cornell hopes that momentum would carry into the second half were dashed early in the third quarter when Harvard executed another lightning scoring drive—four plays, 83 yards, 41 seconds of playing time. First, DePrima found Dowd on a right-to-left crossing pattern for 45 yards. McLaughlin rushed for six. DePrima rambled for 15. Finally, DePrima found Neville all alone down the middle for a 17-yard score. Canaval added the point. Harvard 28, Cornell 10.

The Big Red did not fold. The gritty Wang mounted an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that consumed 6:06 and culminated in Wang’s four-yard touchdown run. Kennedy kicked the point. Harvard 28, Cornell 17.

After three-and-outs for both teams, a 16-yard Kennedy punt handed the Crimson the ball at its 42. On first down, DePrima took the snap, made a jab step to the left, saw a hole and bolted through it. He ran 58 yards to the goal line. There, in perhaps his only hint of hubris, he made as if he were breasting the tape in a track meet. Hard to blame him! Canaval’s conversion try again was blocked. Harvard 34, Cornell 17. The evening’s two stifled conversion kicks are a potential worry for down the line.

DePrima had one more magic moment. Early in the fourth quarter, he led a four-play, 40-yard drive. The first three plays were runs by McLaughlin and DePrima. Then, at the Big Red 19, DePrima dropped back and fired to the end zone. There, junior wideout Ledger Hatch (like Woods, also returning from injury) was tightly covered. But the ball was thrown perfectly, dropped right into Hatch’s hands for a score. Canaval kicked. Harvard 41, Cornell 17.

Harvard player runs with the ball with other players in pursuit
YARDS AFTER CATCH Harvard’s Tim Dowd barrels upfield on a 45-yard pass-and-run play. The senior tight end had two receptions totaling 73 yards. | PHOTOGRAPH BY ANGELA DELA CRUZ/THE HARVARD CRIMSON

DePrima’s passing is the damnedest thing. The motion is funky but the ball gets there. In this, he is reminiscent of former NFL quarterback Joe Kapp. But we will see if future opponents try to stack their defenses against his runs, to bottle him up and dare him to pass.

Now we were in mop-up time. Sophomore Jaden Craig replaced DePrima and showed that he could run a bit, gaining 17 yards in four attempts. (His only pass was incomplete.) Directed by second-string quarterback Luke Duby, the Big Red tacked on a late touchdown but the two-point conversion attempt was batted away by senior defensive back Phillip Smitherman, accounting for the final score.

While DePrima and the offense received most of the headlines, the defense was its usual marauding, hard-hitting self. Senior linebacker Matt Hudson and sophomore safety Ty Bartrum tied with a game-high nine tackles each; junior defensive back Gavin Shipman had eight, and defensive tackle/captain Nate Leskovec had six. Sophomore defensive back A.J. Lopez, the previous week’s FCS National Defensive Player of the Week, had four tackles and three pass breakups, all while making a general pest of himself.

Of the 4-0 start, we would say that hardly a man is now alive who remembers when the Crimson had most recently been unbeaten at this juncture, except that it also happened two years ago.

TIDBITS: Harvard’s record in night games at the Stadium is now 19-3, and its record on Fridays is 8-2….The Crimson has beaten Cornell 11 straight times at the Stadium…The all-time series now stands at Harvard 51 wins, Cornell 34, and two ties.

Weekly Roundup

Rhode Island 34, Brown 30

Columbia 16, Marist 0

Penn 42, Georgetown 39 (OT)

Lafayette 12, Princeton 9

Yale 31, Dartmouth 24

Coming up: On Saturday the Crimson concludes a two-game home stand as it faces Howard. Kickoff: 1 PM ET. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on WRCA 1130 AM/106.1 FM. The Bison, a HBCU from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, is 2-3 overall and has yet to play a conference game. On Saturday Howard gave Northwestern, of the Big Ten, all it could handle before falling 23-20. The schools have met twice with Harvard winning both times, including 41-25 last year in Washington, D.C.

 

THE SCORE BY QUARTERS

Cornell

0

10

7

6

 

 

23

Harvard

7

14

13

7

 

 

41

 

Attendance: 10,050

 

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

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

Week two: Harvard 34, Brown 31

Week three: Harvard 38, Holy Cross 28

Read more articles by: Dick Friedman
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