The crowd knew what was coming. The Yale defenders knew what was coming. But Crimson sophomore quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick would not be denied.
Sprinting to his left on a quarterback keeper, the Harvard gunslinger rammed the ball into the end zone for the Crimson’s first touchdown at 3:58 into the third quarter.
Throughout much of the first half, yards had come at a premium for Harvard. But Fitzpatrick assumed the reigns of the Crimson offense with just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter and energized the Harvard attack, using both his right arm and his legs to lead the Crimson to three third-quarter touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick was able to spread the wealth, connecting with standout senior wide receiver Carl Morris twice for huge gains despite the blustery conditions. But Fitzpatrick’s speed also gave Harvard the option of keeping the ball on the ground instead of having to challenge the wind. The threat of a draw by Fitzpatrick immobilized the Yale defense, adding a dimension to the Crimson offense not present under starter and captain Neil Rose.
“We talked about it last night,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “With the weather report, [it was a] forgone conclusion that if we got into this type of game, [Fitzpatrick] was going to be the guy, because he gives you that extra option you don’t have with a pro-style quarterback like Neil. He’s got a knack for gaining yards.”
Fitzpatrick was not surprised he was handed control of the offense.
“I figured it was going to be a bad-weather game,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was prepared like I was going into the game. And it happened this time.”
Fitzpatrick entered after Rose struggled in the first half and failed to put Harvard on the board. Rose, the three-year starter, finished the game with 69 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
Although this game was the last for his captain and senior quarterback, Murphy did not hesitate to make the switch to Fitzpatrick.
“As much as I love the kid [Rose], my obligation is to the team,” Murphy said.
Fitzpatrick caught fire immediately after halftime, finding Morris three times for 100 yards, including a 50-yard bomb that set up Harvard’s second touchdown.
Morris, who did not have a single touch in the first half, came to life under Fitzpatrick, delivering yet again for the Crimson in his final game.
Fitzpatrick also plagued Yale on the ground, scoring two touchdowns on quarterback keepers. The danger he posed for Yale was not lost on Eli coach Jack Siedlecki, who explained the difficulty of defending against a mobile signal caller.
“If you have a running quarterback, you have an extra blocker,” Siedlecki said. “Now your quarterback is a tailback and the back in front of him can block.”
In harsh weather conditions, a mobile quarterback becomes even more valuable.
“From a recruiting standpoint, we feel we have to have at least one athletic quarterback,” Murphy said. “With the weather like it is in New England, you have to be able to do some of the things we did today.”
Fortunately for Harvard, this particular athletic quarterback will be around for another two years, meaning many more miserable Cambridge days will likely turn sunny for the Crimson.