Time of possession was at least partially the Crimson’s undoing on Saturday, as Brown controlled the football for long drives in the critical second and fourth quarters.
In the second frame, Brown held possession for 10:50, outscoring the Crimson 14-7. The Bears scored two touchdowns in a total of 5:52 to overcome a 13-0 deficit and take a 14-13 lead into halftime.
In the fourth quarter, as the Crimson struggled to come back, Brown managed to hold the ball for 10:10 despite scoring just three points. The Bears began their field goal drive with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter, holding the ball for 6:31 and scoring with 8:54 left in the contest.
After getting the ball back on a Harvard punt with 7:46 left in the game, Brown ran only six plays and gained just 17 yards, but took advantage of the new 40-second play clock to run 3:01 off the clock before the Crimson’s final possession.
“It didn’t feel like we had the ball a lot,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “It felt like they did a good job with the clock, and even when they had to punt the football, they had some decent drives.”
Contributing to the time of possession woes was the fact that Harvard, among the nation’s leaders in defensive third down conversion percentage a year ago, struggled to get the opposing offense off the field. Brown was 8-for-18 on third down, a 44.4 percent clip, double the percentage that opponents converted last season. Holy Cross had less success against the Crimson in the season opener, going just 3-for-14. Harvard allowed just 31 third-down conversions all season in 2007, including holding Brown to a 1-for-12 mark in last year’s 24-17 victory.
“There were a couple of third down plays that we had to make a play, and we didn’t, and…[it] extended the drive for them,” sophomore safety Collin Zych said.
Harvard was also faced with difficult field position for much of the contest. In the first half, the Crimson’s average field position was its own 15, although Harvard’s offense was able to open the game with touchdown drives of 86 and 93 yards. The best starting position for the Crimson in the first half was its own 21, and that drive ended in a punt after just three plays.
“It seemed like field position, at least in the first three quarters, there was very little field position,” Murphy said.
Brown, meanwhile, started four drives in Crimson territory on the afternoon, including the possession on which the Bears scored their second touchdown and took a 14-13 lead. Harvard’s field position improved in the second half, as the average start came at its own 30.
Senior Chris Pizzotti suffered his first loss in a game which he both started and finished…Sophomore running back Gino Gordon led the team with 57 yards on 16 carries, but also lost a pair of fumbles. Gordon leads the squad this year with 23 carries for 125 yards…No Brown rusher topped the 100-yard mark, meaning it’s now been 29 games since an opposing back carried for 100 yards against the Crimson.
—Staff writer Brad Hinshelwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.