ITHACA, NY—It’s a long ride from Cambridge to Ithaca, and for the Harvard football team the return trip must have seemed interminable.
The Crimson came to Cornell with the goal of rebounding from a loss last week to Lehigh that knocked it out of the ranks of the Division I-AA elite. Harvard limped home with a 27-13 loss to the Big Red that raises serious questions about whether the Crimson can even compete with the best of the Ivy League.
On a cold and rainy day when the temperature didn’t creep above 50 degrees, the Harvard offense spent the entire day searching for a rhythm it never found. The Crimson finished the day with only 226 yards of total offense—120 of it during a largely inconsequential fourth quarter.
The Cornell defense once again had an answer for All-American running back Clifton Dawson—holding the junior to just 39 yards on the ground. The Big Red has held Dawson to an average of 58 rushing yards in the teams’ three meetings during his career.
Even more discouraging for the Crimson, after a week when coach Tim Murphy stressed ball security, Harvard came out and committed five turnovers—four in the first half alone.
Sophomore quarterback Liam O’Hagan, who hoped to improve upon a three interception performance against Lehigh, matched that number against the Big Red and managed only 95 yards passing. Playing with a decimated receiving corps, O’Hagan routinely dropped back to pass only to look downfield and find nobody open.
With the Crimson’s top three wide receivers—senior Rodney Byrnes, junior Corey Mazza, and senior Ryan Tyler—all out with injuries, freshman Alex Breaux and sophomore Joe Murt took over starting responsibilities and combined for only one catch.
Right from the opening kick, Harvard looked outmatched. The Crimson’s Neil Sherlock muffed the opening kickoff only to recover it and have Dawson fumble on Harvard’s opening play from scrimmage, forcing O’Hagan to fall on the ball and save the possession.
After a three yard run by Dawson, O’Hagan attempted his first pass of the game and found Cornell defensive back Kevin Rex for the Crimson’s first turnover of the game.
On Cornell’s first offensive play, quarterback Ryan Kuhn found Bryan Romney for a 21 score.
After a converted extra point, the rout was on.
“If you look at it from a momentum stand point there was a huge momentum shift in the first quarter,” Murphy said.
O’Hagan would add two more interceptions before the half and Steven Williams lost both a fumbled kickoff and a fumbled punt for the Harvard’s other two turnovers.
Harvard added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but by then the game was all but over.
-Staff writer David H. Stearns can be reached at email@example.com.