In what may go down in the annals of Harvard football history as one of the most devastating losses it ever suffered, the Cornell Big Red scored 29 unanswered second-half points on Saturday, defeating the Crimson 29-28 in front of 9,270 at Harvard Stadium. Cornell (2-2, 2-0 Ivy) sealed the win when co-captain Joe Splendorio blocked Harvard's last-second 27-yard field-goal attempt to end the game.
"Obviously, we didn't handle prosperity very well," Harvard Coach Tim Murphy said. "We've never been ahead in a game, so this was kind of new territory for us."
With Harvard's once mighty 28-0 lead, whittled down to 28-23, Cornell junior quarterback Ricky Rahne took over at his own 12-yard line with 4:01 to play. Back to-back first down completions brought the Big Red to midfield. But on fourth-and-five from the Crimson 48, Rahne found Tim Hermann wide open on a post pattern and Hermann took it all the way to the end zone, for a stunning 29-28 lead.
Cornell missed the two-point conversion, setting up a potentially game-winning drive for Harvard with 2:45 left.
Junior quarterback Neil Rose took over at his own 26-yard line. He promptly connected with junior wideout Dan Farley for 8 yards to begin a near textbook two-minute drill. Sophomore split end Carl Morris had two critical catches on this drive. He caught a 9-yard slant on fourth-and-1 from the Crimson 35. Two plays later, he had a 36 yard reception over the middle, which brought the ball to the Cornell 20 with 1:19 remaining.
Instead of continuing the air attack, Murphy was content on letting sophomore tailback Matt Leiszler run three times up the middle to set up first-and-goal at the Cornell 10 with 37 seconds on the clock and one timeout.
At this point, Murphy made a highly controversial decision to have Rose take a knee, call the Crimson's final timeout and let freshman placekicker Robbie Wright decide the outcome of the game with a 27-yard field goal attempt. Splendorio tipped it wide right as time expired.
"I thought real hard about [taking a shot in the end zone]," Murphy said. "But I'd have killed myself if we turned the ball over when we had a chip shot field goal to win the game."