After junior Damani Wilson carved up the Columbia defense for 121 yards on 8 carries, Harvard football coach Tim Murphy reached deeper down his depth chart on the following drive, sending out freshman Andrew Larson in the hopes of running out the clock rather than running past the Lions.
But Larson ran for 34 yards on three carries, so Murphy opted to have freshman quarterback Scott Hosch kneel three times and hand the ball over to Columbia (2-6, 1-4 Ivy).
It was that kind of day for the Crimson (7-1, 4-1). Seemingly the only person who could stop Harvard was its own head coach as nine players scored touchdowns in a 69-0 rout.
Four of those touchdowns came in a span of less than four minutes early in the second quarter to turn a 7-0 battle into a 28-0 blowout. Senior Colton Chapple capped a 74-yard drive with a touchdown pass to junior Andrew Berg before the Crimson offense took advantage of two Lions turnovers deep in their half of the field with touchdowns by seniors Treavor Scales and Kyle Juszczyk. On Columbia’s next drive, the Harvard defense didn’t give its offense a chance to score as junior Connor Loftus returned an interception all the way to the end zone.
When the Crimson offense did get back on the field, freshman backup running back Paul Stanton put Harvard in scoring range, and Chapple did the rest with an 11-yard touchdown scamper. After breaking the program single-season passing touchdowns record and scoring his seventh rushing touchdown of the year, the signal-caller wouldn’t see the end zone again after Murphy pulled him at halftime.
The Crimson’s second-team offense, led by Stanton and sophomore quarterback Connor Hempel, started the second half just as strong, marching the team 69 yards for a touchdown. It was senior senior Rich Zajeski’s turn on Harvard’s next possession as he ran for 38 yards on the drive and would later get his first touchdown since Week 3.
“Our line really [was] wearing down the other line and [was] able to create big holes,” Wilson said.
By the end of the day, four Crimson running backs scored touchdowns, including two for the fourth-stringer, Wilson.
“We are very blessed at that position,” Murphy said. “We certainly have more than our fair share of outstanding running backs.”
While the Crimson offense was rolling, the defense kept the Lions from ever getting going. Columbia managed just 149 yards of total offensive, went just 2-for-12 on third-down attempts, and turned the ball over six times as Harvard shut out an opponent for the first time since 2006.
“They did a great job; it’s obviously a group effort when you get a shutout,” Murphy said. “It’s a coordinated effort.... Everything just seemed to gel today, obviously.”
Saturday’s shutout was made possible by a consistent game from all three levels of the defense. Up front, the Crimson put pressure on the quarterback with only three or four rushers, tallying eight sacks to ensure it would lead the FCS for at least another week. Nine players contributed to those eight sacks as the team tallied nine tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries as well.
The front was just as strong against the run as well, keeping the Lions from getting a single first down on the ground and holding the visitors to a total of -19 net rushing yards, including the sacks, on 21 rushing attempts.
At linebacker, sophomore Jacob Lindsey led the team with six tackles and forced a fumble, and Loftus had a pass breakup and half a sack to go with his interception return for a touchdown.
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NOTEBOOK: Hot Start Might Be Football’s BestNone of the individual stats are impressive. No Harvard football player had 60 receiving yards, 80 rushing yards, or 200 passing yards Saturday at Columbia. Junior quarterback Conner Hempel completed less than 60 percent of his passes, went a second straight week without a touchdown pass, and threw his fifth interception of the year. But then you look at the score.
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