PROVIDENCE—Sidelines cleared as a scrum nearly developed between Harvard and Brown.
Captain Ryan Tully lost his helmet and had to be contained as he and one of the Bears came face-to-face.
Such physicality was nothing new for the annual early-season rivalry.
Last year both teams ended the contest riddled with injuries, including senior Corey Mazza, who left the game with a broken ankle.
“Harvard-Brown has always been a physical football game,” Bears coach Phil Estes said. “Last year it was close to a triage in Harvard’s training room after the game. There were guys with IVs…It’s a physical game, and it always will be.”
In this year’s edition four key players went down, fortunately not for any extended period of time.
Late in the first half senior running back Clifton Dawson was hit hard by junior defensive end Patrick Fisher for a loss.
Dawson was slow to get up, and with an injury timeout, he remained off the field for the next play and the last few minutes of the first half.
Just a couple of plays later, senior wide receiver Corey Mazza went down after a big gain that would be negated by a holding call against Harvard.
Some argued a late-hit flag should have been thrown, but either way, Mazza walked off the field with the aid of his teammates. He would also return for the second half.
After the break, things were no different.
On the last play of the third quarter, senior linebacker Zak DeOssie leveled sophomore quarterback Jeff Witt, who would be replaced in the fourth by junior Richard Irvin.
Although Witt was sporting a sling during the post-game press conference, the team called the measure precautionary.
Bears quarterback Joe DiGiacomo would also need an injury timeout before the end.
COMEBACK KIDS NO MORE
After crazy comebacks in the last two years, everyone expected this to be a wild one.
In 2004, Harvard posted a 21-point comeback to beat the Bears in Brown Stadium 35-34, while last season the Crimson took the game to double overtime and won in dramatic fashion.
This year, there was no room for comebacks. Harvard jumped out to a 21-0 lead with just under three minutes gone in the second and didn’t look back.
“I can’t say I had any particular inkling that this was how we were going to play, but we just came out and executed really well,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “I think we always play hard, but it’s the first time against Brown we’ve come out and executed in three years in the first quarter.”
Although the Bears made a second-half push, pulling within two scores at 31-21, a failed onside kick ensured a solid Harvard win over last year’s Ivy League champs.
GRAND OLE FLAGS
In Week One, Crimson penalties wiped out big plays.
Against Holy Cross, Harvard senior linebacker Michael Berg sacked Crusaders quarterback Brian McSharry on a fourth and ten late in the game, only to have it called back due to a Harvard offsides penalty. Earlier on, the Crimson looked to have stopped the Crusaders on a third and ten when Tully was called for roughing the passer.
This week, Harvard suffered more mental mistakes.
On a first and ten in the red zone, Bears center Jimmy Tull botched the snap, sending the ball soaring over DiGiacomo’s hands for what looked to be a loss of 25 yards.
Unfortunately for the Harvard defense, junior Desmond Bryant jumped on top of the Brown quarterback after the play had ended for a personal foul, giving the Bears 15 yards and an automatic first down.
The drive led to the Bears’ first touchdown.
A later penalty against cornerback Steven Williams brought up a first and goal on the two and another Brown score.
Although those penalties did not change the game dramatically, they might have been a bigger story in a closer game.
ODDS AND ENDS
Dawson’s three touchdowns moved him into fourth on the all-time Ivy rushing touchdown list, ahead of Cornell’s Chad Levitt....Freshman running back Cheng Ho scored his first career touchdown in the second half....It was the seventh straight win in the series for the Crimson over Brown....a number of NFL teams sent scouts to Saturday’s matchup, including the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, and New England Patriots....Patriots coach Bill Belichick also watched the game from the stands....Dawson will finish his career against Brown with 512 yards and nine touchdowns in three games....Eight different Crimson players caught passes from Witt and Irvin.
—Staff writer Madeline I. Shapiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.