In 1997, Bucknell marched into Harvard Stadium and erased an early Crimson lead to hand the Harvard football team its only loss of that season.
“That one will haunt me to my grave,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “Those kids should’ve had a perfect season. They should have been 10-0, finished 9-1.”
This Saturday, on its home turf, an undefeated Harvard team (4-0, 2-0 Ivy) will attempt to prevent history from repeating itself as it takes on the Bison (1-4, 0-2 Patriot League).
With a win in its last non-conference game of the season, the Crimson—coming off of a dominant 45-13 victory over Cornell—will extend the longest winning streak in Division I to 14 games.
Bucknell has not defeated Harvard since the 1997 contest. In the 2011 matchup, Crimson quarterback Colton Chapple threw for a program record-tying five touchdowns and ran for another score against an overwhelmed Bison defense en route to the Crimson’s 42-3 victory.
This year, with the senior at the helm once again, Harvard is heavily favored to defeat Bucknell.
In the rout against Cornell, Chapple threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns, but displayed his skills on the ground as well by rushing for 53 yards and another score.
“[Chapple’s] just gone from…a freshman, [when] we weren’t sure if we should be playing him at safety on defense, to one of the most accurate, poised throwers, big-play quarterbacks that we’ve had here,” Murphy said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Harvard tailback Treavor Scales showed off the rest of the Crimson’s double-headed running attack on Saturday, rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown of his own against the Big Red.
“One of the challenges that Harvard presents you with is the combination of the tailback and the quarterback,” Bucknell coach Joe Susan said. “That’s our challenge, to be able to stop the tailback but also stop the effectiveness of Chapple as a runner.”
But Chapple and Scales may have a tougher time against the stiff Bison defense, led by defensive end Sam Oyekoya. This year, Bucknell has held four of its five opponents to under 100 yards rushing.
“Nobody’s scored more than 20 points against us,” Susan said. “If you can come away from the Harvard game saying that, I think you’ve done a good job against one of the more explosive offenses in the country.”
While the Crimson’s offense has been dominant, averaging 47 points over the last three weeks, the Bison’s offense has been struggling, failing to put up more than 17 points in any game this season. Bucknell has dropped its last four games, although the last three losses have been within one score.
“They’re a team that’s capable of beating everybody, mostly because they’ve been in every game, right up until the very last series,” Murphy said.
Last week against Holy Cross, a team that Harvard soundly defeated just two weeks ago, the Bison couldn’t find its offensive footing, and the Crusaders took advantage, claiming a 13-6 victory.