NOTEBOOK: Crimson Amps Ground Game

Harvard’s running game, the weaker point of the offense all season, became the focal point on Saturday and responded with a masterful performance spearheaded by sophomore Gino Gordon. Gordon finished with 39 carries for 168 yards—career highs in both—and the lone touchdown of the contest. The Crimson’s 261 rushing yards were its second-highest total of the season and roughly double the team’s 130.3 rushing yards per game average. Senior quarterback Chris Pizzotti, who showed progressively more mobility as the season wore on, finished with 16 carries for 74 yards.

“It’s just a compliment to the offensive line,” Pizzotti said. “When the defense knows you’re going to have to run the ball just because of the wind conditions, it’s a huge asset when you have those guys up front coming off the ball and making holes for Gino. It’s kind of a run-first mentality when you drop back to pass, just if no one’s open, to tuck it and run right away.”

BLOWN AWAY

The intense wind conditions on Saturday completely altered the complexion of the contest. Neither team was able to throw downfield effectively, as the squads combined for just 145 passing yards on the afternoon.

Despite playing in 15-20 mile per hour winds for most of the afternoon with gusts up to 39 miles per hour, the Crimson’s one downfield completion—a deep ball from Pizzotti to sophomore Marco Iannuzzi in the second quarter—was good for a 39-yard gain, but Iannuzzi immediately fumbled and the ball was recovered by Yale’s Larry Abare.

“It was not going to be a great opportunity to throw the football like we’re used to doing, and on both sides of the ball, I thought our offensive and defensive lines set the tone for everybody,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “That said, if you could have told me that we were going to come out of this game with 260 yards rushing or whatever it is, I would have said ‘we’ll take that, because that’s probably going to get a victory.’”

ALL SORTS OF SPECIAL

The cold, windy conditions also made special teams play particularly difficult for both teams, and both teams committed major gaffes in the kicking game. The worst came in the first quarter, when a Crimson punt struck a member of Yale’s return team and was recovered by Harvard at the Yale 13. The recovery led to the only touchdown of the afternoon.

But that, while the most noticeable, was hardly the only special-teams shift of the day. Crimson punter Thomas Hull shanked two punts, a 22-yarder in the second quarter and a 21-yarder in the fourth quarter, while Harvard nearly allowed a punt return for a touchdown to the Bulldog’s Gio Christodoulou.

Christodoulou, who returned a punt for a touchdown in last year’s meeting, ran a 25-yard punt back 48 yards before being pulled down from behind by junior defensive back Derrick Barker at the Harvard 8-yard line. Yale ran six plays but was unable to score on the ensuing possession. Junior kicker Patrick Long also missed two field goals, both from 32 yards out.

For the Bulldogs, things went slightly better, as punter Tom Mante pinned the Crimson inside the 20 three times on his six punts. Mante, however, missed a second-quarter field goal from 20 yards out that would have made the score 7-3, and Yale failed to recover a surprise onsides kick after the first Harvard score.

—Staff writer Brad Hinshelwood can be reached at bhinshel@fas.harvard.edu.

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