PROVIDENCE, R.I.—The first drive of Saturday’s contest at Brown couldn’t have gone much worse for the Harvard football team.
On just the Bears’ second play from scrimmage, Crimson sophomore Norman Hayes stumbled and fell, giving Brown wide receiver Jonah Fay enough open space to create crop circles. Six plays after that 43-yard gain, and 3:59 into the contest, and the Bears had blitzkrieged into the end zone. Just like that, Brown 7, Harvard 0.
For those who followed the Crimson last season, an early deficit shouldn’t be that surprising. In the team’s seven league games in 2011, five times it trailed out of the gates.
But of course, in each, it didn’t take long for the Crimson, the Usain Bolt of the Ivy League, to catch up, blow by, and cross the finish line far ahead of its outclassed competition. The offense just had too much horsepower, the defense just too dominant. After all, both finished tops in the Ancient Eight a season ago, and so their combination? Purely lethal.
And to some extent, we saw that phenomenon on Saturday afternoon at Brown Stadium. After that early Bears score, the Crimson, like clockwork, struck back.
With a field goal less than six minutes later and two touchdowns early in the second quarter, Harvard grabbed the 17-7 edge and held the advantage the rest of the way. When the clock struck midnight, the Crimson emerged with a 45-31 victory, extending a bevy of unbeaten streaks, including nine straight wins in league play.
And just as the storyline was similar to those games a season ago, so too was Harvard’s offensive dominance. Indeed, on Saturday, we got a glimpse of what we saw so much last season: an offense just too hot to handle, an attack with more ways to beat you than Bobby Fischer.
Senior quarterback Colton Chapple dissected the Bears’ defense, throwing for 351 yards and completing 75 percent of his passes. And while he certainly wasn’t perfect, Chapple missed, by and large, the right kind of way, throwing it so that if his receiver couldn’t get to it, then neither could the Brown defensive back.
It was not too surprising that the senior didn’t have an interception in 40 pass attempts.
And at his disposal, Chapple has a dizzying array of weapons, as we saw again Saturday.
Acrobats like sophomore Seitu Smith II, whose leaping, leave-your-mouth-wide-open grab over Brown All-American AJ Cruz gave the Crimson that 17-7 lead.
Bulldozers like senior Kyle Juszczyk, who tallied 86 receiving yards and at one point leapfrogged an opposing defender.
Precisionists like junior Andrew Berg—Chapple called him “one of the best route-runners we’ve had here, at Harvard, in a long time”—who hauled in a 35-yard completion, the longest for the Crimson on the day.
Of course, at this point in the year, senior running back Treavor Scales has to be front and center in any discussion of the offense. Because after a career-high 173 rushing yards a week ago, Scales somehow, inexplicably, one-upped himself, running for 136 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. That left him one shy of the 60-year-old Crimson record.
But it wasn’t all rainbows and ponies for Harvard. Unlike last season’s storyline, the Crimson defense struggled mightily against a tough Brown attack. Like last week, Harvard allowed over 325 yards through the air, with senior quarterback Patrick Donnelly bullying and picking apart the Crimson secondary, at points seemingly moving the Bears down the field as he pleased.