Coming into Saturday’s contest, Cornell quarterback Nathan Ford hadn’t taken a sack in the first three games, despite attempting 111 passes in the Big Red’s 3-0 start. Harvard managed to get to Ford twice against 53 pass attempts, the first two sacks Cornell has surrendered on the season. Both sacks came on a second-quarter drive for the Big Red, where captain Matt Curtis dragged down Ford for a seven-yard loss on first down and senior end Peter Ajayi got to him again for an eight-yard loss on third down.
“They do a good job protecting and a really good job hanging onto the football,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “We hoped and thought we’d get to him eventually, and we did, and it paid off with some big plays.”
Even when Ford wasn’t sacked, he was under relentless pressure from the Crimson’s front four, contributing to two interceptions on the day for a player who came in as the league’s second-leading passer, behind only senior Chris Pizzotti. The interceptions were the seventh and eighth picks Ford has thrown this year, the most in the Ivies. Brown’s Michael Dougherty and Dartmouth’s Alex Jenny are second with six apiece.
“I think in the couple sacks they blitzed and we didn’t protect it,” Ford said. “I still thought the offensive line did a good job today protecting, but we’re not as physical as we usually are up front.”
The Ivy League race appeared to be even more open after Saturday’s contests. Brown, Princeton, and Penn remain the only undefeated teams in league play, but the Bears lost 41-34 to Holy Cross and Penn looked unimpressive in a 27-7 victory over Georgetown. Princeton fell to Colgate, 27-24. One of those undefeateds will fall next weekend; Brown travels to Princeton on Saturday for a 1 p.m. kick.
Harvard, meanwhile, kept itself in the race. There has not been a two-loss Ivy champion since 1982—when Harvard, Penn, and Dartmouth all finished 5-2 in conference play—so a second league defeat would be difficult to overcome. The Crimson, however, didn’t foreground that concern in Saturday’s victory.
“We didn’t even talk about it,” Murphy said. “Just keep on the positives, get back in the race today, and the kids responded.”
Harvard committed six penalties for 65 yards on Saturday, the most yardage the Crimson has been penalized for this year. Cornell was penalized five times for a loss of 55 yards.
“We weren’t happy at all,” Murphy said of the penalties. “I thought we regressed just a little bit, with the lead, and we played a very different game to that point. Our defense played very well, we just need to know in those situations that we’re not going to let a team back in the game. It was a little sloppy, and it’ll be addressed.”
That total included two personal fouls on the secondary, one of which was a call for a helmet-to-helmet hit by senior safety Ryan Barnes in the fourth quarter that set up Cornell’s final touchdown. On 3rd-and-10, Barnes hit the Big Red’s Shane Kilcoyne during an incomplete pass, drawing the flag.
“Its protection for both players, both for the receiver or ball carrier and for the guy hitting him, the defensive player,” senior linebacker Glenn Dorris said.
“It’s a good rule,” Murphy agreed. “It’s about 20 years too late.”
—Staff writer Brad Hinshelwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.