The clock was against him as tens of thousands of Yalies screamed to disrupt his game-calling. A tough defense stood in his way, and when junior Collier Winters got the ball back with less than twelve minutes in the game, he knew all of these obstacles had to be overcome in order for his team to be victorious.
After the offense’s dismal first three quarters, Winters performance in the fourth quarter propelled the Crimson past Yale, 14-10, in a thrilling style at the end of the season’s biggest game.
The thing that changed, according to the team’s captain Carl Ehrlich, a starting defensive lineman, was “execution. I don’t think schematically [the offense] did anything different. Momentum was on our side.”
The execution from Winters, starting in his first rivalry matchup against Yale, meant 95 yards thrown and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. This capped off a day when Winters threw 211 yards and ran for 51.
The win was the culmination of a year of learning and growth for the quarterback, who was asked to lead the team after riding the bench behind Chris Pizzotti ’08-’09. One of the most important lessons learned during the season that helped the Crimson be victorious late in the game was Winters’ ability to manage the clock.
“I was given freedom as the season went on,” Winters said. “I was starting to see things better, as far as defense. Being comfortable playing and really just being able to see the defense better in order to get the right play. This made all the difference with time management being paramount on the final drives of the game.”
As successful as the last two scoring drives were, the offense had trouble gaining any momentum in the first half, as Yale scored early, and Crimson drives sputtered out—the most frustrating, according to Winters, being a fourth-and-goal stop on Yale’s one-yard line.
“Yale stopped our momentum and dampened our spirits.”
Despite the offensive frustration, Winters made sure that the team did not lose focus or become overly emotional.
“We were relieved that we weren’t down by more because we were outplayed terribly,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “[Yale’s defense] really completely reversed their tendencies in terms of how they play defense.”
The way in which Winters and the offense were able to respond in the second half demonstrated some of the experience quarterback has picked-up over the season as team leader. His optimism, with support from great play calling, made all the difference in the second half of the game.
“I knew that if we had enough chances, we would be able to get the points on the board,” Winters said.
Winters confidence on his side of the ball made the defense sure that they would come through on theirs.
“Your job on defense is to get the ball back to your offense,” Ehrlich said.
Winters was quick to show his appreciation for the offense after the game as he understood its complimentary role to his abilities.