Cornell junior Jeff Mathews was the quarterback who came into Saturday’s game at Harvard Stadium with all the accolades—he won the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year award as a sophomore, is considered likely to be the first Ivy quarterback drafted since Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05, and he holds the Ancient Eight record for passing yards in a game.
But in the Harvard football team’s 45-13 win over the Big Red Saturday afternoon, it was the Crimson quarterback, senior Colton Chapple, who played like the star.
Chapple started the game 12-for-12 through the air, connecting with Andrew Berg for three touchdowns in the game’s first 16 minutes as Harvard took a quick 21-0 lead. He finished with 362 yards, four passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown as the Crimson (4-0, 2-0 Ivy) won its 13th straight game, the longest winning streak in Division I.
“[Chapple] would get my vote for conference player of the year if we were voting today,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “We’ve had such a great lineage of QBs, but I don’t think anyone’s ever been a better decision maker and been a more poised football player.”
Junior wideouts Berg and Ricky Zorn had the best statistical games of their careers. Berg torched the Big Red (2-2, 1-1) all afternoon to the tune of 10 catches for 132 yards and the three scores—tying the Crimson all-time record for receiving touchdowns in a game—while Zorn registered five catches for 100 yards and a score.
“Cornell was playing a lot of young guys in their secondary,” Chapple said. “We knew that was something we could exploit.”
On the whole, it was a statement win for the Crimson, as the Big Red was expected to be one of two teams to challenge the defending Ivy League champions’ quest for a second straight title.
But on Saturday, Harvard showed why it is a heavy favorite to repeat, as the offense moved down the field with ease while its defense left Mathews uncomfortable in the pocket all afternoon. The senior completed under 50 percent of his passes in the contest, was sacked four times, and threw two costly second-half interceptions.
“If you’re going to have success against [Mathews], you’ve got to get him off his rythym,” Murphy said. “I thought our coaches did a great job changing things up and putting pressure on him consistently.”
The Crimson broke the game open early in the fourth quarter, when Zorn outleaped Cornell’s Kendall Brown at the goal line for a 24-yard touchdown reception, putting Harvard up, 31-13.
“In great games, coaches tell us all the time you have to make big plays, and bottom line Ricky made an unbelievable play,” Chapple said. “They covered us up pretty well, had a little bit of pressure, and I saw Ricky head toward the end zone, so I just gave him a shot.... I felt like that play kind of gave us some momentum and let us breathe a little bit.”
On the ensuing Cornell possession, Mathews threw the ball up for grabs on a third-and-two and junior Chris Splinter was able to easily intercept the pass, giving the Crimson possession at its own 45.
From there, Chapple rushed for 10 yards, senior running back Treavor Scales collected 14 yards on back-to-back carries, and Chapple hit junior tight end Cameron Brate for 10 more before Scales finished the drive with a six-yard run.
After a Cornell three-and-out gave the Crimson possession at its own 39, Chapple hit Berg along the right sideline for 24, and a Big Red personal foul added 15 more. On third-and-six from the Cornell 23, Chapple found the junior again for a gain of 19. After three straight plays that gained zero yards from the Big Red four, Murphy elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal and Chapple ran it in to put Harvard up, 45-13.
After a Big Red three-and-out gave Harvard the ball at its own 39, the Crimson once again took advantage. After Harvard marched down the field to the Cornell four, Murphy elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal, and Chapple ran it in to put Harvard up, 45-13.