The Harvard football team generally sets two goals at the start of each season: to go a perfect 10-0 and to win an Ivy championship.
An ugly, 30-22 loss to Holy Cross in the year’s first contest rapidly rendered that first goal an impossibility. But with a dominant nine-game stretch to close the season, the Crimson made the second one a reality.
In addition to sweeping Lafayette and Bucknell, Harvard bested each of its seven Ivy League foes by no fewer than 10 points—punctuated by an emphatic 45-7 rout of Yale in The Game—to reclaim the Ivy crown for the first time since 2008.
“We just seemed to get better every week, and I think that’s the sign of a good team—a team that is playing their best football in November,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy says. “To win nine games straight was a really tough, resilient effort by our kids.”
In addition to Murphy’s 118th win as a Harvard coach against Columbia, which moved him into first place in the all-time Crimson wins list, the year also produced some of the top offensive performances in Harvard history.
Against Cornell, junior quarterback Colton Chapple threw for 414 yards, the second-highest total by any Crimson quarterback.
“That game [against Cornell] really showed us what we were able to do offensively, what the possibilities were for the next game,” Chapple says. “And I think we took that confidence and took that momentum into Bucknell and really for the rest of the season.”
After Chapple tossed five touchdowns a week later against Bucknell, tying another program high, senior Collier Winters stepped in the following week against Princeton. He followed with a record-tying performance of his own, throwing for five touchdowns and 403 yards against the Tigers.
And facing Dartmouth, Winters and running backs junior Treavor Scales and freshman Zach Boden each ran for over 100 yards, the first time any three Harvard players had accomplished that feat in the same game.
When all was said and done, the Crimson had accumulated 374 points over 10 games, the highest total of any Harvard team in the modern era.
“Probably the two best offensive teams we’ve had since we’ve been here have been the 2004 team with Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 and this season,” Murphy says.
But dominance was hardly the purview of the offense alone. Led by senior Josue Ortiz, who tallied 10 sacks en route to an Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year award, the Crimson defense was the stingiest in the Ancient Eight. The rush defense was particularly effective, limiting opponents to just 89.7 yards per game.
“[The 2004 and 2011 seasons] are the only two years in our 18-year tenure that the offense, the defense, and the special teams all ended up No. 1 in the Ivy League [based on our statistical analysis],” Murphy says. “And if you do that, you should win a championship.”
—Staff writer Robert S. Samuels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.