EASTON, Pa.—No first-string wide receivers? No problem.
After two straight weeks in which the Harvard football team looked desperate for receiving options, the Crimson offense found some answers on Saturday from recently silent sources.
Harvard (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) beat Lafayette (5-2, 2-0 Patriot) 24-17 behind a diversified offensive performance that included two touchdown catches by fullback Kelly Widman and a turnover-free effort from quarterback Liam O’Hagan.
The Crimson put together its best offensive showing in three weeks despite field conditions that were hardly suited for a high scoring affair. Still destroyed from over nine inches of rain and last week’s game between the Leopards and Columbia, Fisher Field resembled a mud bowl rather than a gridiron.
Junior tailback Clifton Dawson paced Harvard’s offense in the first half with 77 yards on the ground before the break en route to an even 100 for the game. O’Hagan finished with 207 yards in the air and three touchdowns. Most critically, he did not throw an interception for the first time this year.
The Crimson defense also came up big when it had to—forcing two turnovers and withstanding a late charge by the Leopards offense that brought Lafayette down to Harvard’s 28-yard-line with 43 seconds to go.
"We’ve struggled the last couple of weeks," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "To see the young kids step up...in really a must-win pressure type game was really impressive."
While the game does not hold Ivy ramifications, the victory prevented the Crimson from falling under .500 at any point since Harvard was 2-3 midway through the 2000 campaign.
After a sluggish first quarter, the Crimson put together back-to-back scoring drives that both culminated with touchdown passes to—of all people—Widman. The senior, who is better known for his lead blocking for Harvard’s ground game, proved that he can help out in the passing attack as well.
With 9:25 left in the second quarter, O’Hagan steered the Crimson downfield inside Lafayette’s 10-yard line. After two straight runs from Dawson moved the ball to the five, Harvard turned to some misdirection to get on the board.
O’Hagan took the snap from center Frank Fernandez and appeared to be set on rolling left only to stop abruptly, look back right, and find an open Widman in the right side of the end zone.
On the Leopards’ next possession, sophomore safety Doug Hewlett recovered Lafayette running back Jonathan Hurt’s fumble at the Leopards’ 36-yard line.
Seven plays later, O’Hagan was flushed from the pocket, rolled right, and again found Widman open in the endzone. This time O’Hagan lofted the ball towards the back right pylon behind the Leopards’ secondary for a 15-yard score.
"They were basically right in the same spot," said Widman of his two touchdown grabs. "The first one was something the coaches had drawn up specifically for this game...On the second one it was basically me or no one else was going to catch it."
Harvard took a 14-0 lead into halftime, but the advantage dissolved quickly after the break.