Mike Cook’s nine-yard touchdown run at 3:11 of the second quarter gave the Crimson a 19-0 lead. The Big Red scored the next 15 points, but Harvard pulled away late.
ITHACA, N.Y.—Despite beating Cornell handily on Saturday, Harvard continued to be outplayed on special teams.
Sophomore Thomas Hull looked impressive filling in for injured senior punter Matt Schindel, but sophomore kicker Patrick Long did not rise to the occasion.
After starting the season 3-of-7 on field goals, it was not until this week that extra points also became an issue for Long.
But against the Big Red, head coach Tim Murphy could not depend on his kicker to split the uprights.
“I honestly don’t know exactly what’s wrong because it’s been different things on different days,” Murphy said. “He’s all we have left so we’ve got to go with him. But quite frankly, he had a great week of practice, by far his best week of practice, so we came in there with confidence. This was a little bit of a surprise to watch.”
Long finished with just two extra points on five total Harvard touchdowns. On his first attempt, without pressure, he simply missed the uprights.
Long converted the second one, but on the third the Astroturf at Schoellkopf Field got to him, and he tripped before his kick was blocked.
Cornell’s Colin Nash picked up the ball and returned it 97 yards for a defensive safety—the first Big Red score of the day and the first two of 15 unanswered points. Long’s fourth try was also blocked before he drilled his fifth and final opportunity.
IN GOOD HANDS
Whatever was going on under center, it wasn’t going well.
Whether it was having the taller second-string quarterback, senior Chris Pizzotti, lining up or just unfamiliarity, the connection between senior center David Paine and Pizzotti was not a strong one. Paine was making his 2007 debut after incurring an injury during preseason play. Paine’s substitute for the first three games of the season, sophomore Ben Sessions, did not look too smooth on his snaps on Saturday either.
The first blunder came on just the fifth play from scrimmage with the Crimson in its own territory. Lucky for Harvard the ball was fumbled far enough forward for junior lineman Zach Copple to fall on it for the first down. In the second half, the Crimson fumbled twice on a single drive.
“[Paine] was playing on a banged-up ankle, he came in today with very little practice, we played him sparingly,” Murphy said. “I just think you have to have that trust between a quarterback and a center, and I’m just not sure it’s there yet.”
Junior Jeff Witt quitting the team two weeks ago meant an unexpectedly clear path to the field for freshman third-string quarterback Collier Winters. With first-stringer Liam O’Hagan going down with a shoulder injury last weekend, the newbie is now on deck, and he’s certainly on Murphy’s radar as a capable hurler to step in and make a few plays.
Many were unsure how Pizzotti was going to respond to stepping into the starting role, so Winters was on call if the senior faltered. And even though Pizzotti played well, the rookie still managed to get his first few snaps at the collegiate level.
“We had a special package for Collier, we’re bringing him along,” Murphy said. “He’s a good football player...he’s not a tall guy, but he’s a good quarterback, and he’s very athletic. We were going to let him go in there with some designed runs, but more, hopefully, some improvisation, and we never quite got to that.”
At the end of the third quarter, he came in for a direct snap to freshman tailback Gino Gordon. In the fourth, he picked up four yards on a first-and-goal from the 5. Although he failed to get into the endzone on his next carry and the Crimson eventually fell one inch short of the goal line, Murphy believes his quickness and mobility may be a real asset to the squad.
With six catches for 138 yards, senior Corey Mazza moved past Terrence Patterson ’00 and into second place on Harvard’s all-time receptions list...Harvard was held under 300 passing yards for the first time this season...Hull averaged 47.4 yards per punt, including two 53-yarders and one that was downed inside the 1-yard line...The run defense allowed just 45 yards on the ground and three third-down conversions out of 16...Next week’s game against Lafayette is the first of three consecutive home games.
—Staff writer Madeleine I. Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com.