HANOVER, N.H.—For a rushing offense that had yet to hit its stride this season, Saturday provided the perfect opportunity: a matchup against the worst run defense in the league.
And Harvard took full advantage.
Although Dartmouth was giving up 448 yards of total offense entering the contest, the Crimson struggled to find its strengths early, as the secondary played the receivers tight, forcing senior quarterback Chris Pizzotti to look to his feet rather than his arm for offense.
But the senior didn’t seem to mind, rushing for 16 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, and adding another 27 as well as a 2-yard touchdown run in the second.
“This week [the offensive line] was just opening up huge holes, and we had to come in and establish a running game,” Pizzotti said. “Dartmouth was dropping seven or eight guys into coverage usually, so I had plenty of time on the scrambles...I had nothing else to do so most of the time I was just scrambling around.”
“I’d be anxious to see how many of their runs were actually passes by design,” Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens said. “We did get pressure on the quarterback…[Pizzotti] had some times where he got flushed and couldn’t find a place to go with the ball. They ought to appreciate the way that he played; he didn’t throw the ball in the air, didn’t panic, took the hit, was nifty, made some people miss. I’m not sure that running the ball was their intent either. It just turned out to be a great option for him.”
Harvard already had 183 yards on the ground in the first half, with four guys posting 20 yards or more. The Big Green defense just didn’t know what to do with sophomore tailback Gino Gordon, who led the way with all 78 of his yards coming in the first half for a 13.0 yards per carry average.
The starting running back, junior Ben Jenkins, posted 36 yards before the break, and had it not been for a bruised collarbone, junior back Cheng Ho looked like he might have torn up the D, as he ran for 20 yards on just two carries.
“The line generally opened up some holes,” Gordon said. “If you saw, the holes were pretty wide. So I didn’t really have any trouble getting down.”
After breaking out to a 20-0 lead at halftime, the Crimson came out in the second half and threw just three total passes—and none in the fourth quarter.
“Well they were doing a good job on pass defense, [and] it really only gave us one option,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “To tell you the truth, they really did a great job covering us. They did a great job on our routes, and we were forced to run the ball today, and thankfully the guys up front did a good job and all the backs ran hard.”
A mix of new and old faces got in on the running action, as senior and backup quarterback Liam O’Hagan posted eight rushes for a net of 66 yards. Jenkins, too, had a breakthrough second half, eventually notching 111 yards on 20 carries—his first time ever reaching the century mark.
And as the game got farther and farther out of reach, Murphy dug deeper into his lineup to give the third- and fourth-string guys a shot.
By the final whistle, 10 different players had carried the ball for the Crimson, including sophomore quarterback Matt Simpson and senior running back Randy Ojuwku, the No. 4 guys on the depth chart at their respective position.
In the end, one of the Ivy League’s most potent offenses beat Dartmouth’s 448 yards allowed by only 18 yards. The real damage could be seen in the embarrassment on senior safety Ian Wilson’s face after the game: the Big Green allowed a net of 368 yards on the ground—185 yards in the second half alone.
—Staff writer Madeleine I. Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com.