Coming off a tough 28-13 victory over San Diego last week, the Harvard football team will look to extend its 10-game winning streak in its Ivy League opener on Saturday afternoon at Brown.
The Crimson (1-0) faces off against a tough Bears (1-0) squad in front of a hostile Brown crowd in its first nationally televised game of the season.
“You love to go to a place where they hate you because it’s the same magnitude of volume; you walk into the stadium, and it’s all boos,” senior running back Treavor Scales said. “You look forward to environments like this, because you put in all that passion, all that pride, and you let it all hang out when you go into an environment like that.”
Between the Bears and the Crimson, the home team has won each of the last four matchups. In 2011 at Harvard Stadium, the Crimson scored 10 points in the final seven minutes to secure a 24-7 victory over Brown. Harvard went on to sweep Ivy League play, while the Bears finished tied for second at 4-3.
For the Crimson, an early-season loss to the Bears on Saturday would put a serious dent in the team’s title hopes.
“It’s always a tough game. I believe the last four years, this game has had title implications,” captain Bobby Schneider said. “We’re definitely looking at it as [if] it’s the most important game we have on our schedules. It’s a must-win.”
Senior quarterback Colton Chapple, who for the first time began the season as the starter, will lead the offense against the Bears following a historic season in 2011. Chapple uncharacteristically struggled with consistency against the Toreros, completing 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
With the passing game stalled, the Crimson relied more on Scales. Behind a talented offensive line, Scales ran for a career-high 173 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns that sealed the win for the Crimson.
“[Scales is] critical,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “Treavor’s one of the five best offensive players in the entire league at any position…. He can do it all. He’s not only a fast, athletic, tough, physical, good pass protector, [and] can catch the ball...[but] he’s a tremendous leader.”
Scales will be tested against a stout Bears defense, which held the Holy Cross running game to under 100 yards last week.
On the other side of the ball, the Crimson defensive line will look to continue its high level of pressure after last week’s showing against San Diego, when the team sacked the opposing quarterback seven times, forced an interception, and held the Toreros running backs to just 35 yards. But the win exposed weaknesses in the Harvard secondary, which allowed over 350 passing yards for the first time in almost a decade.
The team also struggled with penalties, tallying 66 penalty yards on eight flags, one of which negated a touchdown run.
“We’re not going tolerate penalties, no matter who it is,” Murphy said. “I think it reinforces how important playing mistake-free football is. The mistakes aren’t just turnovers, they’re not just missed assignments, but probably the biggest mistake is penalties. We’ll get it squared away.”
Like Harvard, Brown is coming off a hard-fought season opener. Led by tailback Spiro Theodhosi, the Bears pulled off their own come-from-behind victory, 24-21, over Holy Cross last week.
Senior quarterback Patrick Donnelly made his first start against the Crusaders, leading the Bears on a game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Theodhosi, who missed the last two seasons due to injury, also had a career-high 120 rushing yards, though he and counterpart senior tailback Mark Kachmer face a much tougher test this week against the stingy Crimson defensive line.
Although the Bears have an All-American cornerback in AJ Cruz, who had an interception in the game against Holy Cross, Brown’s secondary allowed 223 yards through the air last week.
Though the Bears’ offense remains a question mark following the graduation of two of its key players—quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero and wide receiver Alex Tounkara-Kane , the Crimson is treating the Bears like any other opponent.
“We’re going to have to at least match their intensity,” Murphy said. “When you’re playing one of the better teams in the league, when you’re playing a team that has you marked as their biggest game on the schedule, then you have no excuse for not being ready to play, not being excited, not being prepared. So we have no excuses.”