NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Junior quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like he could barely walk. Thankfully for him, freshman tailback Clifton Dawson served as the perfect crutch in Harvard’s 37-19 victory.
With Fitzpatrick unable to scramble or call his own number, Dawson carried the bulk of the Crimson offensive load, rushing the ball 32 times for 174 yards.
“For a freshman, boy, he was a horse today,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said.
Bouncing off defenders, Dawson slipped out of backfield tackles with ease and was stopped just twice behind the line of scrimmage for losses totaling just negative two yards.
At Dawson’s peak, the only way Yale could stop him was by preventing him from seeing the field.
An inadvertent poke to the eye temporarily sidelined the first-year sensation at the beginning of the second quarter.
“That’s why he came out,” Murphy said. “He has not been injured all year. He hurts his ankle, he comes back. He gets poked in the eye quite badly, he comes back.”
Dawson returned to the game with a vengeance, plowing through the center of the Bulldogs’ defensive line time and again en route to his sixth consecutive 100-yard performance, but he was unable to rumble into the end zone for the first time in six weeks.
Already the record holder for rushing yards gained by an Ivy freshman, Dawson’s 174 yards increased his season total to 1,190.
For the second consecutive week, Harvard’s special teams executed almost perfectly, faltering only briefly after The Game was out of reach.
Senior punter Adam Kingston boomed kicks, averaging 38.3 yards per attempt while sophomore place kicker Jim Morocco nailed his only field-goal try—from 30 yards—while making four of five extra points. Only his final effort was blocked, and by then the game was already well out of reach.
And unlike past weeks, in which the Crimson return men struggled to provide decent field position, junior wide receiver Brian Edwards provided solid work on punt returns, averaging 15.6 yards per return.
Sophomore Corey Waller was even better on kickoffs.
Waller returned four kickoffs an average of 32 yards, taking the longest one back 36 yards.
“Corey Waller is a kid that we just put on that team in the last two weeks,” Murphy said. “He really, quite frankly, was a JV player, still learning the offense. He broke one in a JV game a couple of weeks ago and he’s done a great job in practice. We had not had a great return team until recently and he’s certainly a part of that.”
Captain Dante Balestracci’s rush on a fake punt set up Fitzpatrick’s touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Corey Mazza.
Balestracci loomed large over every aspect of The Game, rushing for that first down, blocking an extra point and recovering the Bulldogs’ last chance on-side kick effort.
While the Harvard defense excelled inside the 20-yard line, controlling Yale wide receiver Ralph Plumb outside the red zone proved to be the Crimson’s most difficult task of the afternoon.
Bulldog quarterback Alvin Cowan found Plumb 15 times on the afternoon for 158 yards.
Of the 64 passes that Cowan attempted, 24 were sent Plumb’s way.
Averaging first-down yardage on each reception, Plumb found seams in the Harvard coverage on every catch, as long as he was outside the 20.
Inside, his success was far less remarkable, as the Crimson secondary kept him from crossing into the end zone. And didn’t Plumb know it.
“We had 500 and something yards of offense,” Plumb said. “And how many points did we score? 19? That’s laughable. That’s awful.”
Not that he didn’t do his part.
When he wasn’t catching balls, he was throwing them.
On a reverse option pass, Plumb came from the wide receiver slot and took the handoff before finding 6’7 tight end Nate Lawrie 37 yards downfield for a first down that set up Yale’s first score, a field goal that knotted the score at three apiece.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at email@example.com.