The longest game of the year for Georgetown football began with the longest punt return in Harvard history.
Three minutes into play, wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley fielded a kick near the right pylon and swept left. Nobody could catch him. He beat punter Brad Hurst down the sideline for a 91-yard score and 7-0 lead.
“That was a big hole that I had,” Shelton-Mosley said. “I think a lot of people could have run through that.”
The junior could have kept going all the way back to campus. On an afternoon of smothering defense, that was all the scoring the Crimson needed.
For the second Saturday in a row, Harvard (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) held the opposing offense scoreless through three quarters. This time, the lockout lasted 60 minutes, as the Crimson deprived the Hoyas, 41-2, at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
“I think anytime you win 41-2 on the road, you’ve got to be pretty happy,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “Coaches aren’t easy to please, but defensively we played another outstanding game.”
Georgetown (1-3) entered as clear underdogs, aiming to steal an upset or at least introduce drama. The Hoyas did neither. The only upset of the game was the cheering of the Georgetown crowd at halftime. By that point, the Hoyas trailed 31-2.
Meanwhile, the only drama of the game took place on the Crimson sideline, as Murphy deliberated whether to start freshman quarterback Jake Smith or fifth-year senior Joe Viviano.
Murphy went with Smith, who rewarded the coach with 214 passing yards on 16-of-30 throwing. The Harvard rookie also tossed two interceptions and had several other passes bang off Georgetown defenders.
Midway through the first quarter, Smith launched his most complete drive. Snap completions to junior wide receivers Shelton-Mosley, Adam Scott, and Henry Taylor advanced the ball to the 25. After two small-gainers, Smith escaped pressure and threw across his body for a first down to Lavance Northington (sophomore wideout). Junior running back Charlie Booker went the rest of the way, shrugging off five tacklers for an 11-yard score.
Viviano had bright spots, too. For the second straight game, the senior entered before halftime and led a touchdown drive without missing a pass. The possession started on the Georgetown 38 with 1:20 left and ended with a one-yard push by Booker.
Compared to Smith, Viviano posted less yardage—5-of-10 for 66 yards. He added a 28-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Four minutes after keeping the drive alive with a Family Circus-esque run, Viviano threw a frozen rope to Taylor in the end zone.
That pass pushed the score to 41-2. By then, viewer attention had shifted from the game itself to the quarterback audition—and whether Murphy had seen enough to make a decision.
“I look at the glass as half-full,” Murphy said. “We’ve got two guys that can play. One’s a freshman who’s only going to get better. Another one is a guy that we know we can win with.”
Again, the Harvard defense emerged as the real star. The Crimson grabbed three turnovers before halftime, including a pick-six in the first quarter.
On that play, sophomore defensive end Kelvin Apari had wrapped up quarterback Clay Norris when the quarterback decided to throw the ball. Bad idea. Raishaun McGhee grabbed the flailing pass and sprinted 23 yards for Harvard’s second defensive touchdown of 2017.
The other turnovers came on strip sacks. On the Hoyas’ second possession, Norris navigated to the 24 with short passes over the middle. But the drive ended when senior lineman Stone Hart grabbed Norris in the backfield and ripped the ball. Junior defensive tackle Richie Ryan recovered at the 34.
Ten minutes later, on a third-and-three, Bailey slammed in from the blindside. This time, Hart emerged with the ball.
“Basically, I ended up swiping the guy’s hands away,” Bailey said. “I saw [Norris] trying to throw the ball, hesitating, and then I realized I could probably get this guy.”
Harvard would have stockpiled an even larger lead if not for a red-zone interception by Smith in the second quarter. Scrambling out of pressure, the freshman saw Scott in the end zone. Georgetown defensive back Blaise Brown anticipated the throw and dove for a shoestring interception.
“I just saw the quarterback roll out, and I saw the guy in front of me,” Brown said. “I figured he was going to throw it to him, and I just broke on it.”
Smith’s second turnover came with three minutes left in the third quarter. A pass caromed off Smith’s target and toward Brown. The junior somersaulted for his second pick of the day.
While the Crimson defense enjoyed a dominant performance, the special teams posted a more mixed showing. Sophomore kicker Jake McIntyre headlined with five extra points and two field goals, including 39-yarder, a career long. He hasn’t missed this season.
In the second quarter, however, Harvard long snappers overshot senior punter Zach Schmid on consecutive possessions. On one misfire, the punter scooped the ball near the 10, took two steps, and improvised a punt that rolled to the Hoyas 35. On the other one, Schmid could do nothing as the ball sailed out of the end zone, giving Georgetown its only points of the game.
“It’s just got to be automatic at this level of football,” Murphy said. “We just have to be consistent under pressure.”
Kickoff coverage looked suspect at times as well, as senior running back Isaac Ellsworth raced past midfield twice. At the start of the third quarter, the 5’5” speedster electrified the crowd with a return to the 42.
Then the Harvard defense got to work. Two plays yielded scant yards. On third down, Bailey forced a punt with an eight-yard sack.
RFK Stadium, the site of Saturday’s game, used to host NFL matchups. When the Crimson played the Hoyas, only one team looked professional.
“We didn’t play well today against a good football team, and I give them a lot of credit,” Georgetown coach Rob Sgarlata said. “They earned the win.”
—Staff writer Sam Danello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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