Inherently, every season has a story arc. And the Harvard football team’s 2012 campaign is no exception.
The story began on Sept. 15 with Harvard’s 28-13 win over San Diego. It picked up steam as the Crimson took down opponent after opponent to extend its nation-best winning streak to 14 games. And then, the huge, unexpected twist came with the shocking 39-34 loss to Princeton. Now, with two weeks left in the season, we’re barreling towards that climactic finish.
So what was Saturday’s game against Columbia? Where does it fit in that dramatic structure?
Simple: it was sheer comic relief.
In the biggest blowout of the Tim Murphy era, Harvard pulled off an astounding 69-0 walloping of Columbia.
One spread coming into the contest was 30 points. Yet somehow, someway, Harvard more than doubled it.
On Saturday, Columbia couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time, let alone coordinate any sort of offense or defense. You know those scenes in movies where you’re almost too embarrassed to watch? That was all 60 minutes of play.
Even Harvard coach Tim Murphy thought things got a bit out of hand and in the press conference said he “felt badly” the team scored as many points as it did.
It was, as the Columbia radio announcers said behind me during the game, “like David versus Goliath, except David forgot his slingshot.” Yes, in that classic favorite vs. underdog matchup, the bully versus the fat kid, it ended just as you expected. Only worse.
It made Reagan vs. Mondale look like a down-to-the-wire classic, made Secretariat’s performance at the Belmont look like a photo finish.
The numbers are dizzying. The most points scored by any Crimson team since 1946. Thirty-five points in the second quarter, a program record. The list goes on, and on, and on.
On the other side of the ball, Harvard was just as dominant. Columbia was held to 10 or fewer total yards of offense in two separate quarters, and three of those second-quarter touchdowns came on turnovers. On the day, the Lions netted -19 rushing yards and allowed eight sacks for 53 yards.
But this wasn’t a one-sided Crimson blitzkrieg simply because Harvard has a deep, talented squad. It’s also because Columbia doesn’t.
Even Murphy, usually reserved in comparing teams to one another, acknowledged that, when asked whether this was his team’s best performance of the season.
“It’s hard to evaluate simply because they’re not in the same level of development right now—this particular Columbia team—as we have been,” Murphy said. “It’s a team we should have beat, and obviously we played well and beat them pretty well, but I think you save those types of accolades or judgments for the very best teams in our league. And they will be at some point, but they’re not now.”