Football 2023: Harvard 48-Howard 7

The Crimson rolls over the Bison; Princeton is next.

Harvard football player runs with ball as Howard players try to stop him

SURROUNDED Harvard’s Charles DePrima tries to break out of a box of Bisons. On the day the elusive Crimson junior quarterback ran for 65 yards on 11 carries, including a 29-yard ramble.

In football parlance, a “chunk play” is one in which the offense gains a chunk of yardage—at least 15 yards rushing or 20 passing. On Saturday at the Stadium Harvard was exceedingly chunky in a stress-free 48-7 rout of Howard. The victory moved the Crimson, who entered the game ranked No. 18 in the Football Championship Subdivision, to 5-0 overall (2-0 in Ivy League play); the Bison dropped to 2-4. The Crimson is one of two unbeaten teams in FCS, the other being No. 1 South Dakota State (6-0).

Four of Harvard’s five leading ground gainers ripped off chunk runs (two of which were for scores), and junior wide receiver Scott Woods II added a 30-yard catch for a touchdown. The most valuable player might have been a collective: the Crimson’s offensive line, which blew open huge holes for the backs to run through. “Our o-line is insane,” lauded running back Isaiah Abbey, for whom this game was a coming-out party: the sophomore bruiser amassed a game-high 120 yards on the ground on 16 carries, including a 52-yard touchdown jaunt. Harvard rolled up 341 yards rushing—an eye-popping 7.1 yards a carry—and amassed 469 yards of total offense.

“One of the games where the planets are moving and the stars all came together,” said Tim Murphy, Stephenson family coach for Harvard football. (Murphy might also have invoked that day’s solar eclipse.)

Harvard player runs with ball as Howard player tries to tackle him
OPPOSITE NUMBERS Harvard’s No. 22, freshman running back Xaviah Bascon, beats Howard’s No. 22, defensive back Cam Dyson, to score the Crimson’s second touchdown on a seven-yard pass from quarterback Charles DePrima.

The hope had been that Howard would provide a sterner test. The Bison, of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, had just come off a narrow 23-20 defeat at Northwestern, a member of the mighty Big Ten. Moreover, the Crimson was without three key players—junior running back Shane McLaughlin, sophomore wide receiver Cooper Barkate, and sophomore defensive back A.J. Lopez—who were held out in preparation for upcoming games, all of which are against Ivy foes. It’s very possible, however, that Howard’s tough battle the week before softened them up. It didn’t help the weary Bison that the Crimson continually rotated in fresh troops, using depth to wear down the foe.

Howard was never in the game. The pattern was established on Harvard’s first offensive series. The Crimson went 77 yards in 12 plays, with junior quarterback Charles DePrima mixing runs (including two of his own, totaling 19 yards) and passes. DePrima connected twice with Woods, each for 11 yards. When Harvard was in range at the Bison four, the bruising Abbey took the ball twice and on the second carry blasted over the goal from the one. Senior Cali Canaval kicked the point. Harvard 7, Howard 0.

On the next series the Bison drove 39 yards to the Crimson 25. But the foray was blunted when Harvard junior defensive lineman Jacob Psyk came from the blind side and sacked Howard quarterback Quinton Williams, who fumbled. Junior defensive lineman Nick Yagodich recovered. The Crimson immediately took advantage, rolling 71 yards in 14 plays that covered the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second. DePrima hooked up twice with senior tight end Tyler Neville, each play gaining 14 yards. Then, from the Bison seven, the Harvard quarterback flipped to freshman running back Xaviah Bascon for a touchdown. Canaval booted. Harvard 14, Howard 0.

There would be no letup. Pressured by junior lineman Brandon Svets, Williams threw a pass that was picked off by Crimson junior linebacker Eric Little at the Howard 30. On the next play DePrima faked a handoff, rolled right, then turned and spotted Woods on the left—all alone. DePrima threw, Woods caught and stepped into the end zone. Canaval again converted. Harvard 21, Howard 0.

Harvard player with ball runs into the end zone for a touchdown
ABBEY ROAD Harvard’s Isaiah Abbey rumbles into the end zone for his second score of the day. The sophomore Crimson running back would add another on a 52-yard dash. | PHOTOGRAPH BY Nicholas T. Jacobsson/THE HARVARD CRIMSON

The Crimson capped the first half with an 11-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Neville made a sensational 16-yard catch on which he pivoted deftly to pluck the ball from behind him. Three plays later DePrima glided away from the Bison rush and sped for 19 yards. Two plays after that, from the eight, Abbey ran through an enormous hole for a touchdown. Canaval punctuated with the extra point. Harvard 28, Howard 0.

By all accounts the spiffy Howard University Showtime marching band easily won the halftime. When the teams got back on the field, would the Bison mount a comeback? Against Northwestern, Howard scored two second-half touchdowns to make the game tight. Not this week. On the first play of the Crimson’s second possession, Abbey took a handoff from DePrima, barreled through another gargantuan hole, then tightroped along the left sideline all the way to the end zone. The play covered 52 yards—a large chunk indeed. Abbey appears to be the latest in the endless stream of talented Crimson running backs. Canaval added the point. Harvard 35, Howard 0.

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Harvard’s next two scores came via Canaval field goals. DePrima set up the first one with a dandy scramble in which he eluded the pass rush and rambled for 29 yards. When the drive stalled, Canaval made a 32-yard field goal. Harvard 38, Howard 0.

On the next series Williams was again intercepted, this time by sophomore linebacker Caleb Phillips, who returned the ball four yards to the Howard 26. At this point DePrima’s day was done. He was 11-of-17 passing for 126 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. (He has thrown only two all season.) On the ground, DePrima gained 65 yards on 11 carries. He was replaced by junior Conor Easthope. As the fourth quarter began, Easthope directed the Crimson to Canaval’s second field goal, a 39-yarder. Harvard 41, Howard 0.

When the Crimson next got the ball, yet another running back made a statement: junior Malik Frederick, who blew through a gaping hole on the right side and dashed for 37 yards. Two plays later, Easthope showed that he also had legs by taking the snap, cutting left, and barreling up the middle for a 19-yard score. Canaval provided the Crimson’s final point. Harvard 48, Howard 0. The shutout was broken with 3:36 left when the Bison’s Tony Bedell scored on an eight-yard run. Dylan West added the point after touchdown to account for the final score.

So concludes a splendid first half of the season in which performance has exceeded expectations. There was one spectacular win (Holy Cross), two that were worthy as well as important in title terms (Brown and Cornell), and two walkovers (St. Thomas, Howard). Now for the real proving ground—the major Ivy tests.

TIDBITS Harvard is 5-0 for the tenth time under coach Tim Murphy….The Crimson has won 47 of its last 58 games against non-Ivy opponents.


Weekly Roundup

Brown 28, Princeton 27 (OT)

Bucknell 21, Cornell 13

Colgate 27, Dartmouth 24 (OT)

Penn 20, Columbia 17

Yale 31, Sacred Heart 3


Coming up: On Saturday the Crimson travels to New Jersey to face traditional Ivy rival Princeton. Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET. The game will be telecast on SNY/NBC Sports Philadelphia, streamed on ESPN+, and broadcast on WRCA 1130 AM and 106.1 FM. The Tigers are 2-3 overall and 1-1 in league play. In a series that began in 1877, Princeton leads 59-48-7, and the Tigers have won the last five, including last year’s 37-10 victory in Cambridge. Harvard coach Murphy will be going for his record-breaking 136th Ivy League win.




















Attendance: 7,678


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

Week four: Harvard 41, Cornell 23

Read more articles by: Dick Friedman
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