With 376 passing yards Saturday in the 42-28 pounding of Columbia, senior quarterback Chris Pizzotti anchored the offense, which was held to just four rushing yards against the Lions man-to-man coverage.
Yesterday’s win, coupled with a Brown loss to Yale, put the Crimson into a three-way tie for first in the Ivy League. Harvard regained control of its destiny when Yale scored a late touchdown to seal a victory at Brown, giving the Bears their first loss of the Ivy campaign.
“Coach Siedlecki is a friend of mine at Yale, and they’ve got the ball with four minutes to go. and I said ‘no, he’s going to run it four times in a row. I know he is. Doggonnit,’” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “Throw the football. And they run a fake jailbreak screen. The tight end comes out and goes up the sideline, and there’s nobody within 30 yards of him, touchdown. Unbelievable call, and the game’s over…We went straight up. A hundred football players and coaches went straight up.”
Harvard, Brown, and Penn are all currently 4-1 in the Ivy League, and the Crimson travels to Penn next weekend. While the Crimson appears to be the best team in the Ivies to this point, Harvard will be tested next weekend by a Penn squad that defeated Princeton 14-9 on Friday night. It doesn’t help that Harvard is an abysmal 1-12 in its last 13 visits to Franklin Field, with the lone win in that stretch coming in the Crimson’s perfect 2004 season.
Harvard’s rushing attack, which has struggled at times this season, managed just four total yards against Columbia’s stingy defense on Saturday. Though the lack of emphasis was in part due to the Crimson’s success through the air, Harvard was not pleased with that result.
“We obviously didn’t run the ball well today,” Murphy said. “Our offense is the type of offense that we’re going to take whatever people give us, and last week we ran the ball for 370 yards, and this week we threw the ball for 370….Having said that, I wasn’t happy with the way we ran the ball. But when they’re playing a lot of man coverage, in essence, they had ten guys on the line of scrimmage.”
The statistics are a bit deceptive, as the Crimson’s running backs posted a combined 38 yards on 19 carries, but 26 yards came off Harvard’s total due to sacks, and another 33 yards were lost because of a bad snap over junior punter Thomas Hull’s head—both losses counted against the rushing total.
It probably also didn’t help that the Crimson started a pair of new offensive linemen on Saturday: sophomore Chris LeRoy and junior Ben Sessions got their first starts of the season against the Lions. Harvard gave up five sacks on Saturday, the most it has allowed all season.
OFF AND RUNNING
Harvard’s defense spent most of the afternoon trying to contain the scrambling of Columbia’s quarterbacks, M.A. Olawale and Shane Kelly. The two combined for 49 yards on 17 carries, and Olawale rushed for a third-quarter touchdown.
“We knew coming into the game that he was going to be their guy,” senior linebacker Eric Schultz said. “We feel like we have a lot of team speed on defense. So I feel like we did a good job of containing him, but he’s an up-and-coming player, hats off to him. He’s a load, too, to try to bring down on a tackle.”
Olawale’s mobility was particularly evident on the Lions’ first drive of the contest, which gave Columbia its only lead of the game. Olawale carried three times for 15 yards and then escaped heavy Crimson pressure on third down to throw a 23-yard touchdown pass immediately before getting hit.
—Staff writer Brad Hinshelwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.