In a conference where every game can make or break a championship, the Harvard football team (6-1, 3-1 Ivy) is looking to build off its win last week when it welcomes Columbia (2-5, 1-3) on Saturday afternoon.
After it dropped a fourth-quarter heartbreaker to Princeton two weeks ago, many people counted the Crimson out of Ivy League contention.
With four games left to play, the Tigers controlled its own fate in regards to the Ancient Eight title.
But last weekend, Cornell kicked a 23-yard field goal with seconds left to play, handing Princeton its first loss of the season and shaking up the Ivy League standings.
“Quite honestly [the Big Red’s victory] was pretty unexpected,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “It would be disingenuous if I said it didn’t energize an already hugely energized team.”
The Crimson intends to take advantage of the unlikely second chance. Harvard’s offense—ranked fourth overall in the FCS—will look to senior quarterback Colton Chapple to continue to dominate the passing game.
Chapple is ranked No. 1 in the Ivy League for passing efficiency and second in total offense.
“He plays his best when it’s game time, but we can’t take it for granted,” Murphy said. “We have to continue to run a balanced offense. We have to continue to get great support from the offensive line and the skill guys.”
The Crimson will face a speedy Lions defense, including linebacker Mike Waller, who was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week last week, after he had six tackles and forced two fumbles.
“[Defense] is what kept them in games,” said senior running back Treavor Scales, who leads the league with 10 touchdowns. “They fly around up front, and they’ve got a couple of guys who have high motors.”
On the defensive end, Harvard is ranked first in the FCS in rushing defense but was forced to adapt after losing linebacker and captain Bobby Schneider to a broken arm during the Princeton game.
Schneider was a key player in the Crimson defense with 43 tackles this season.
“We have a great leader and a great captain in Bobby,” said senior defensive end John Lyon. “[Not having him on the field] is definitely a hit, but one thing he has done a great job with is coaching up the guys in his position and having them step up to do a good job in his stead.”
Columbia enters the contest with considerable momentum. The squad is coming off its first Ivy League win of the season, which was its first victory against Yale since 2001.
The Lions put on an offensive clinic last Saturday, racking up season highs in points and yardage, with 26 and 529 respectively.