Absent from the field for the Crimson’s first offensive series, Dawson returned to action for the subsequent drive but seemed at less that full strength all day, tallying 59 yards on the ground. Although he did gain 60 more yards receiving, including a 52-yarder, the Lehigh front line successfully loaded the box to keep the All-American in check.
"They contained him," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "They controlled the line of scrimmage most of the game and the result was not a great day for our tailback. I’d say he’s probably 85-90 percent."
A surefire sign that Dawson was not his usual self came when he lost a fumble at midfield on the opening drive of the second half, registering only the third turnover of his collegiate career and the first since last year against Penn.
Dawson’s sporadic effectiveness and playing time meant more carries for reserves junior Nick Sherlock and sophomore Charles Baakel, who picked up seven and 17 yards on the ground respectively.
The most incisive statistic of the game, though, came as much courtesy of starting quarterback Liam O’Hagan’s fleetness of foot as Dawson’s travails. It was the first time in nine games that Dawson was not Harvard’s leading rusher.
"Coming in all week long we knew if we shut down Dawson, that’s a big part of their offense," Lehigh middle linebacker Anthony Graziani said. "He’s a great running back and I don’t know if he was a little banged up or what."
The lack of a big day from the record-breaking runner is a substantial blow to his Payton Award candidacy. Dawson’s no-touchdown performance is likely to push him down in the running for the award, bestowed to the top player in Division I-AA.
CAPTURE THE FLAG
After amassing a surprising 13 penalties versus Brown last Saturday, Harvard cut down its infractions to five for 55 yards against the Mountain Lions.
"That was certainly a primary goal," Murphy said.
The troubling side of the five penalties, however, was their insertion at critical junctures in the game, sapping the Crimson of momentum on several occasions.
Perhaps the most deflating, and an omen of a disappointing afternoon, was a roughing-the-punter call on Sherlock in the opening frame. The 15-yard personal foul extended the Lehigh drive that eventually led to the Mountain Lions’ first touchdown.
In contrast, Lehigh picked up only one penalty—for pass interference—over the course of the game.
Nevertheless, Mountain Lion coach Pete Lembo was not satisfied.
"We expect to have no penalties," Lembo said. "Games like this you have to be poised. It was certainly encouraging that we didn’t have some of those critical penalties that can really stem momentum on drives."
Fans who criticize the Ivy League’s exclusion from the I-AA postseason turned with keen interest toward this weekend’s clash between Harvard—defending Ivy League champs and winners of 13 straight—and Lehigh, a playoff-caliber squad from the Patriot League.
The 11th-ranked Mountain Lions moved to 3-1 with the victory, their lone defeat coming at the hands of top-10 team Delaware in overtime.
Saturday’s loss marked the second time in recent history that Lehigh has snapped a double-digit Crimson winning streak. In 2002, Harvard saw an 11-game run ended by the Mountain Lions.
FOURTH AND FOUR
Liam O’Hagan’s two rushing touchdowns marked the first pair of running scores for a Crimson signal-caller since Ryan Fitzpatrick found the endzone twice Oct. 4, 2003...Freshman Alex Breaux’s 135 yards in the air were the most by a Harvard receiver since Corey Mazza went for 195 since last season against Cornell...Dawson recorded two solo tackles for the game...Official attendance for the game was 9,339. That comes one week after the Crimson’s showdown with Brown brought 11,134 to Harvard Stadium.
—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.