The University of San Diego came into Harvard Stadium and dominated the time of possession battle, gaining 354 yards through the air in the process. The Toreros also earned more first downs and benefited from 119 yards worth of Crimson penalties.
But despite all of that, an experienced Harvard football team, led by senior running back Treavor Scales, did enough to win its season opener, 28-13.
On its first possession of the game, San Diego showed its offensive firepower. Quarterback Mason Mills took apart the Crimson defense with a blur of quick passes, leading his team on a nine-minute, 19-play drive. But the push stalled within the Harvard five-yard line, and the visitors were forced to settle for a field goal.
Throughout the game, the Toreros leaned on the passing attack, handing the ball off only 10 times, and the Crimson surrendered 350 passing yards for the first time since 2003. San Diego’s leading receiver, Brandon White, tallied 135 yards on 12 receptions in the air show.
As the game went on, the Harvard defense did stiffen up, finishing the day with one interception and seven sacks, including two each by sophomore Zach Hodges and fifth-year senior John Lyon.
While the Toreros came out firing in their third contest of the year, the Crimson’s first drive of the year stalled near midfield.
On its next drive, Harvard took advantage of great field position when senior Colton Chapple connected with a wide-open junior Cam Brate for a 29-yard touchdown pass to give the Crimson a 7-3 lead.
That 49-yard drive turned out to be Harvard’s longest of the first half as neither team was able to get more than one first down on a drive during the rest of the second quarter.
Chapple was inconsistent on the day, finishing with 209 yards, two touchdowns, and a red-zone interception on 16-for-29 passing. After the game, Harvard coach Tim Murphy said he wasn’t concerned with Chapple’s performance, which included a number of overthrown passes.
“I’m not worried about Colton,” Murphy said. “He’s a kid that finds a way to get it done.... He didn’t have a great game, but he did a good job engineering what we needed to do today to get a victory. He can throw the football; he’s proven that.”
San Diego came out to start the second half like it started the game, driving deep into Crimson territory before hitting a wall and settling for three points.
The Toreros finally broke through on their next drive when wide recevier Logan Smith grabbed a tipped ball in the end zone to help the visitors open up a 13-7 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, it appeared that sophomore Seitu Smith II had put Harvard back in the lead with a 99-yard return for a touchdown, but a holding penalty negated the play.
The call was one of a number of special teams penalties on the day. In total, the Crimson committed eight penalties for 119 yards. In this case, the penalty forced the offense to go 94 yards to score.
Thanks to two long runs by Scales and two costly USD penalties that extended Harvard’s possession, the home team did just that. Chapple capped the drive with a quick pass to senior tight end Kyle Juszczyk, who broke a tackle and galloped into the end zone from eight yards out.