The Harvard football team ended up running away from Cornell for a 45-13 win Saturday at Harvard Stadium, but the game’s result was still up in the air at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Up 24-13, the Crimson (4-0, 2-0 Ivy) faced a long third down from its own 21-yard line on the second play of the quarter.
Senior Colton Chapple dropped back on an obvious passing down and was afforded time to survey the field thanks to sound blocking from the offensive line, which featured two backups with sophomore Will Whitman and senior Jack Holuba both injured.
Eventually, Chapple stepped up and hit junior Cam Brate in stride across the middle of the field.
Brate took it from there, running down the sideline for a 40-yard gain that flipped the field for Harvard. Two plays later, Chapple tossed the ball to junior Ricky Zorn for a touchdown that gave the home team some breathing room.
Attempting to post an answer, the Big Red (2-2, 1-1) faced a third down of its own on its next drive, backed up in its own territory just like the Crimson was. But things didn’t turn out as well for Cornell, as pressure from senior Nnamdi Obukwelu forced quarterback Jeff Mathews to heave a pass that was intercepted by junior Chris Splinter. Harvard scored on the ensuing drive to put the game away.
Those two third downs were indicative of how each offense performed in crucial situations. The Crimson’s first-team offense converted seven of its 13 third downs en route to racking up 544 offensive yards thanks to a balanced offense and multiple receiving threats, while the Big Red got a first down on only two of its 14 third downs due to pressure from the Harvard D-line and tight coverage by the home team’s secondary.
The Crimson dominated the time of possession battle as a result of those lopsided tallies, accumulating 30 first downs compared to the Cornell’s 14 and controlling the ball for 35 minutes compared to the visitor’s 25.
Keeping the Big Red attack off the field was crucial to keeping Mathews out of synch.
On the year, Harvard now has the highest third-down conversion rate in the Ivy League at 54 percent, while it holds opponents to a league-low 26 percent conversion rate.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
Fans entering Harvard Stadium Saturday prepared to see Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews show everyone why he is the reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and a signal-caller with NFL-level potential. Fans exited the stadium having witnessed a performance on that level; it just came from the other guy.
Chapple completed two-thirds of his 36 passing attempts for a grand total of 362 yards and four scores, including three during the first 16 minutes of action.
Rarely did he miss open receivers, and when no one was open, Chapple often scrambled for positive yardage, finishing the day with 53 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, Mathews completed fewer than half of his 44 attempts for just over 300 yards. He threw one touchdown pass compared to two interceptions, tripling his total for the year.