The Road to New Haven

The winner of tomorrow’s game will be assured of at least a tie for second place in the Ivy League. But if it weren’t for a disastrous trip to Ithaca and a missed tackle against Princeton, the Crimson might be playing for a repeat title

SEPT. 17, HARVARD at HOLY CROSS, 31-21

Turning point: When sophomore quarterback Liam O’Hagan, who lost the starting job to Richard Irvin, hit wide receiver Ryan Tyler for a 48-yard touchdown to erase a 21-20 Harvard deficit with 9:43 remaining in the season opener.

Cause for concern: The Crimson’s 13 penalties for 110 yards, the ugliest of which were late hits in the red zone and a facemask call that led to sophomore kicker Matt Schindel’s first missed PAT in 21 attempts.

MVP: Give it to O’Hagan. Not a bad coming-out party for the kid dubbed “Little Fitzy.” His two passing touchdowns and one rushing, over 60 yards of nimble scrambling, and leadership of a fourth-quarter comeback gave the Crimson hope of life after the graduation 2005 Ivy Player of the Year and NFL draft choice Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Rough day for: Irvin, the transfer from Tulane who earned the nod to start, who had his sixth pass attempt of the day intercepted and returned for a 42-yard score by Holy Cross’s Casey Gough. O’Hagan went in and never left.

Top performers: Harvard

—O’Hagan, 15-of-24, 1 INT, 2 TDs, 258 yards; 9 carries for 63 yards, 1 TD

—Dawson, 37 carries for 153 yards, 1 TD

—Mazza, 7 catches for 131 yards, 1 TD

Significance overall: The much-anticipated dual between Harvard’s pair of sophomore quarterbacks finally hit the playing field. Neither was perfect, but both appeared capable. Most importantly, the Crimson picked up where it left off in 2004—with a win.

Record after: 1-0



SEPT. 24, HARVARD vs. BROWN, 38-35 (2OT)

Turning point: When Schindel nailed a 29-yard field goal in the second overtime after his Brown counterpart Steve Morgan missed wide left from 42-yards out on the Bears’ possession.

Cause for concern: The No. 15 Crimson found itself staring at a 16-0 first-quarter deficit after the Bears scored on three of their first four possessions and Harvard was intercepted on two of its first four. In addition, the Crimson’s top receiver Corey Mazza left the game with what turned out to be a season-ending ankle injury in the fourth quarter.

MVP: Clifton Dawson. In a marquee matchup of the Division I-AA’s top running backs, Dawson topped Brown’s Nick Hartigan by scoring three touchdowns including a three-yard run with 15 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.

Rough day for: Morgan. The 2004 Ivy Rookie of the Year made five of his seven field goal attempts, but missed both over 40 yards—including the potential game-winner in the second overtime.

Top performer: Harvard

—Dawson, 34 carries for 189 yards and 3 TDs

—O’Hagan, 17-of-34, 2 INTs, 208 yards, 1 TD

Brown

—Schreck, 9 catches for 223, 2 TDs

Significance overall: It took the first double-overtime game in Crimson history, but Harvard pulled out a thrilling win over the eventual Ivy champion. The lesson? Harvard always beats Brown. The game was the high point of the Crimson season before injuries began to undermine the effectiveness of Harvard’s offense.

Record after: 2-0 (1-0 Ivy)



OCT. 1, HARVARD vs. LEHIGH, 49-24 (L)

Turning point: When the Mountain Hawks scored four times in the third quarter—twice off O’Hagan interceptions—to kill any second-half momentum the Crimson might have been able to muster in the absence of its top offensive players due to injury.

Cause for concern: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. The Crimson had a whopping six giveaways, including three picks by O’Hagan and two by Irvin. Add to that a fumble by the usually sure-handed Dawson, who garnered only 59 yards on 15 carries.

MVP: Lehigh quarterback Mark Borda had a monster day against the Crimson secondary, throwing for 347 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for two more.

Rough day for: The Harvard defense. The 49 scored by the Mountain Hawks were the most allowed by the Crimson since 1989.

Top performer: Harvard

—Breaux, 7 catches for 135 yards, 1 TD

Lehigh

—Borda, 39-of-25, 3 INTs, 347 yards, 2 TDs; 11 carries for 24 yards and 2 TDs

Significance overall: The loss was the Crimson’s first since Nov 15, 2003, a 13-game stretch. The Mountain Hawks exposed glaring weaknesses in Harvard’s passing game and showed the extent to which injuries had decimated the Crimson attack.

Record after: 2-1 (1-0 Ivy)



OCT. 8, HARVARD at CORNELL, 31-21 (L)

Turning point: The Crimson’s first series. O’Hagan’s first pass of the afternoon was intercepted and the Big Red scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass one play later. It set the tone for the entire game—Cornell easily capitalizing on ghastly Harvard turnovers. The Crimson didn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter.

Cause for concern: Rally-killing turnovers, again. On special teams, Steven Williams fumbled a punt and a kickoff return, both of which resulted in Big Red field goals. O’Hagan had two picks as well, each on the first play of a Crimson possession.

MVP: The Cornell defense, which for the third straight year managed to shut down Dawson more effectively than any other Ivy team. The junior tailback had only 39 yards on 24 carries.

Rough day for: Anyone in a Crimson jersey, including Harvard’s top three wide receivers—Mazza, Ryan Tyler, and Rodney Byrnes—all out with injuries. It was Harvard’s first loss at Schoellkopf Field since 1995.

Top performers: Cornell

—Siwula, 23 carries for 89 yards, 1 TD

—Kuhn, 9-of-19 for 106 yards, 2 INT, 1 TD

Significance overall: The Crimson dropped its first Ivy game since a loss to Penn in 2003, making the road to a repeat title that much harder—and Cornell is hardly the cream of the Ivy crop.

Record after: 2-2 (1-1 Ivy)



OCT. 15, HARVARD at LAFAYETTE, 24-17

Turning point: O’Hagan’s 20-yard touchdown strike to freshman receiver Alex Breaux to give Harvard a third-quarter, 21-14 lead that it would not relinquish—thanks to a final defensive stop by the Crimson with 37 seconds left in the game and the Leopards driving to tie.

Cause for concern: Harvard was held out of the endzone early, failing to push past the goal line on four tries from within the Lafayette three-yard line. The field conditions—a good six inches of mud—were a hindrance all day.

MVP: O’Hagan, who rebounded from two consecutive turnover-ridden outings to post an interception-free performance. Honorable mention to H-back Kelly Widman, who eased the Crimson’s receiving woes with two touchdown receptions.

Rough day for: The Harvard secondary, which allowed Leopard quarterbacks Pat Davis and Brad Mauer 326 passing yards, including two late fourth-and-long conversions that kept Lafayette in the game until the final seconds.

Top performers: Harvard

—O’Hagan, 17-of-30 for 207 yards, 2 TDs

—Dawson, 28 carries for 100 yards

Lafayette

—Davis, 16-of-24 for 263 yards, 1 INT, 2 TDs

Significance overall: It may have been a non-league win, but the Crimson got back on track after its two-game skid, proving that it had alternate receiving options and that O’Hagan was learning from his previous mistakes.

Record after: 3-2 (1-1 Ivy)



OCT. 22, HARVARD vs. PRINCETON, 27-24 (L)

Turning point: When Jay McCareins returned a Harvard kickoff 93 yards down the right sideline to give the Tigers a 27-24 fourth-quarter advantage, just moments after the Crimson had taken a 24-20 lead on a 52-yard pass from O’Hagan to Tyler. It was Princeton’s first win over Harvard since 1995.

Cause for concern: The inability to stop big plays. McCareins touchdown was the second; Derek Davis’ 72-yard scoring run off a reverse on the first play from scrimmage was the first.

MVP: McCareins and the Princeton defense. He had the winning score, but most importantly the Tigers were able to shut down Dawson in the fourth quarter when the Crimson tried to run the ball in for the go-ahead touchdown on fourth down.

Rough day for: Harvard special teams. McCareins’ kickoff return was the worst, but the Crimson also had a fumbled kickoff return and a botched fake punt.

Top performers: Harvard

—Dawson, 35 carries for 203 yards, 2 TDs

Princeton

—Terrell, 15-of-26 for 200 yards, 1 TD

Significance overall: The Crimson’s second league loss essentially extinguished any shot at the Ivy crown. Harvard still maintained a mathematical chance at the title but no longer controlled its own destiny.

Record after: 3-3 (1-2 Ivy)



OCT. 29, HARVARD vs. DARTMOUTH, 42-14

Turning point: When Dawson returned the opening kickoff of the second half 92-yards for a touchdown. It was the first of three third-quarter scores—two by Dawson—and put the game out of the Big Green’s reach.

Cause for concern: O’Hagan threw a pair of interceptions, but the Crimson overall turned in one of its most complete performances of the season.

MVP: Dawson. He had 223 all-purpose yards and became the Crimson’s all-time leading rusher with 3,335 career yards.

Rough day for: The Dartmouth running game, which totaled only 32 yards.

Top performers: Harvard

—Dawson, 23 carries for 103 yards, 2 TDs; 92-yard kickoff return for TD

Significance overall: Penn lost to Brown, meaning that four one-loss teams sat tied for first ahead of the Crimson. Title hopes remained slim, but were still within the realm of possibility.

Record after: 4-3 (2-2 Ivy)



NOV. 5, HARVARD at COLUMBIA, 55-7

Turning point: When Harvard showed up at Wien Stadium. Dawson kicked it off with a rushing score six minutes into the game en route to a 41-0 halftime lead.

Cause for concern: That Columbia wasn’t allowed to forfeit at halftime.

MVP: The Crimson defense, which had three interceptions and recovered two fumbles. Specifically linebacker Matt Thomas, who returned a fumble for a touchdown, and Balkema, who took a pick eight yards into the Columbia endzone.

Rough day for: Columbia football in general. Then again, when you play for the Lions, every Saturday is rough.

Top performers: Harvard

—O’Hagan, 13-of-16 for 165 yards, 2 TDs

—Balkema, 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT for TD

Significance overall: The Crimson was unstoppable against the Lions, but it didn’t much matter as Princeton upset Penn and Brown beat Yale to put the Tigers and Bears in a tie atop the league with two games remaining.

Record after: 5-3 (3-2 Ivy)



NOV. 12, HARVARD vs. PENN, 29-3

Turning point: When Dawson blistered the Quaker defense for a 65-yard run to the endzone in the second quarter. A penalty called back the drive to the 22-yard line, but O’Hagan’s third touchdown pass to Widman quickly put Harvard up 18-3.

Cause for concern: The kicking game. With the third-string long snapper in the game, the Crimson botched three extra-point attempts—one a fake—and had a field goal blocked.

MVP: Widman. The versatile tight end’s three touchdowns made him only the third player in Harvard history to have three TD receptions in a game.

Rough day for: The Penn running game, which was held to only 59 yards as the Quakers stumbled to their third straight loss.

Top performers: Harvard

—Widman, 3 catches for 44 yards, 3 TDs

—Tyler, 11 catches for 177 yards

—O’Hagan, 22-of-36 for 293 yards, 3 TDs

Significance overall: Mathematically, the win kept Harvard alive in the Ivy race. But Yale’s win over Princeton gave Brown at least a share of the Ivy title with only league doormat Columbia left to play.

Record after: 6-3 (4-2 Ivy)

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