The Harvard football team started slowly Saturday, but by the second quarter, the team found its rhythm and pulled away from Bucknell for a 35-7 victory at Harvard Stadium.
After one period of play, the Crimson (5-0, 1-0 Ivy) held a tenuous 7-0 lead over the Bison (1-5, 0-2 Patriot), and that score only came after a Bucknell fumble near its own end zone set up an easy Harvard touchdown. In the first quarter, senior quarterback Colton Chapple was just 1-for-6 passing with an interception, and senior running back Treavor Scales had gained only 19 yards against the third-most effective run-defense in the FCS.
But in the span of just over five minutes in the second quarter, Harvard showed how it has put together what is now a 14-game winning streak, earning a top-25 ranking in the FCS in the process.
Eight minutes into the second quarter, a 14-yard touchdown pass from Chapple to junior Cam Brate capped a six-play, 71-yard drive that gave the home team some breathing room.
Less than two minutes later, the Crimson extended its lead to 21-0 as freshman wide receiver Andrew Fischer took a pitch from Scales 58 yards to the end zone on a double-reverse for his first career score.
"We felt like if we misdirect them, we’d get some big plays," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "When Seitu [Smith] went out, we were looking for kind of an explosive guy that fit that role and Andy Fischer is a guy that looks like he’s 150 pounds soaking wet but pound-for-pound fights a couple weight classes up."
With just under two minutes left in the second quarter, Chapple threw his second touchdown pass, this time to senior Kyle Juszczyk, who broke four tackles on his way to a 59-yard catch-and-run that gave Harvard the 28-point lead going into the break.
"We went through some adjustments, and we knew the seams would be open," Juszczyk said. "So I was running a simple seam route, and Colton delivered a perfect ball once I got past the linebacker."
On the Crimson’s first drive of the second half, Chapple ran 59 yards for a touchdown that added an exclamation point to Harvard’s third straight victory by at least four touchdowns. Chapple finished the game with a career-high 120 yards running on eight carries.
"I didn’t know he had enough speed to finish that," Murphy said of Chapple’s scamper on a designed run. "The bottom line is we try to recruit quarterbacks who are athletes, guys who can run. It’s a lot harder to defend teams who can make plays with their feet."
As it became clear that Harvard was headed to another blowout, Chapple and the starters were pulled from their third straight contest. As a whole, the Crimson finished with 459 total offensive yards, largely due to the three plays for more than 50 yards a piece that gave Harvard a large cushion.
While the Crimson offense was clicking, the Bison were unable to get anything going on offense. Bucknell quarterback Brandon Wesley finished the day with 189 yards on 20-for-28 passing while facing constant pressure from a Harvard defensive line that tallied six sacks in the game.
"I don’t think they are an Ivy League defensive line," Bucknell coach Joe Susan said. "That defensive line would fit in in other leagues.... Those guys pose matchup problems. It’s the best defensive line in terms of performance [we’ve seen]."
The Bison got into the red zone one time in the first half, but the threat quickly ended when a Wesley pass was tipped by junior Josh Boyd and intercepted by junior Chris Splinter in the end zone.
On the first play of Bucknell’s next drive, junior safety Jaron Wilson recovered a Bison fumble forced by junior linebacker Matt Martindale. That play set up Harvard’s first touchdown of the contest.