Harvard Football Rides Big Quarter to Crucial Win at Home
In the first, third, and fourth quarters, the Columbia football team played the Crimson to a draw. But despite the strong play of Lions quarterback Sean Brackett, at the end of the day, the visitors wished they could have their second quarter back.
A 16-point surge by Harvard in the second frame turned an otherwise even match into a one-sided affair on the scoreboard, with the Crimson taking the contest, 23-7, Saturday at Harvard Stadium.
“It really was closer than the score indicated,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “We made some big plays, but I really felt like the game was closer than 23-7, a credit to Columbia.”
Harvard struggled on offense throughout the first quarter, finishing the frame with three punts and a missed field goal. The Lions had earned three more first downs and 22 more yards than the Crimson, and the cold November air was ripe with the chance of upset.
“I think it was a combination of some things we didn’t do particularly well, and some things they really do well schematically and physically,” Murphy said.
But Columbia had nothing to show for its first-quarter efforts, and Harvard began to find the winds to be favorable.
Powered by the ground game of senior Gino Gordon and sophomore Treavor Scales, the Crimson finally put together a string of first downs midway through the second frame. After the duo had propelled Harvard deep into Lion territory, junior Collier Winters tried to throw his way into the endzone. But after two incomplete passes brought up fourth and eight, the Crimson turned to freshman David Mothander, who had already missed a field goal attempt in the first quarter.
This time, the rookie drilled it through the uprights to put Harvard up by three.
For a fleeting moment, Columbia had a chance to regain the momentum when Lions senior Craig Hamilton picked off Crimson quarterback Collier Winters on a fourth-and-10 throw. But senior receiver Mike Cook was able to turn his classmate’s bad throw into a first down when he forced a fumble and recovered the football at Columbia’s 19-yard line. A minute and a half later, Gordon had scored a touchdown and Harvard had a double-digit lead with less than four minutes left in the first half.
“I think our tempo was really good,” Murphy said. “We started to hurry it up, not substitute as much, and I think we just wore them out, and when you wear them out a little bit you also surprise them a little bit. So I think we kept them off balance with our play-calling and our tempo, and I think that was the big difference in the second quarter.”
Though Gordon’s trip to the endzone put the Crimson ahead by fewer than two touchdowns, the outcome was never again in doubt, and around three minutes later it was Winters’ turn to strike. With the ball on the Lions’ three-yard line, the quarterback kept the ball to himself on an I-formation option play, heading for the left hashmark and diving into the endzone just as the Lions were starting to close in on him.
Winters’ run left only 37 seconds in the half, but that proved to be just enough time for Harvard to make one last statement from captain Collin Zych, who frustrated Brackett on each of the last two plays, batting one ball down and intercepting the next.
“You can’t dial it up, but we eventually got to where we wanted to be,” Murphy said.
One quarter of dominance proved to be enough for Harvard to send the Lions back to New York with a 16-point loss despite playing the Crimson even in the second half.
Harvard struck first in the third quarter when its offensive line paved a gaping hole for Scales, allowing the sophomore to run untouched through the line of scrimmage and into the endzone from 11 yards out.