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WORCESTER, Mass.--Harvard football finally made the late clutch plays it has lacked this season against Holy Cross on Saturday, indicating that perhaps the Crimson has fixed the problems that had led to blown leads and blown games against Columbia and Cornell earlier this season.
Harvard (2-3, 0-2 Ivy) staved off two furious Crusader rallies and sealed a 28-25 victory. Sophomore safety Derek Yankoff ended Holy Cross's hopes of a comeback with his second interception of quarterback Dan Boland with fewer than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Harvard's ability to make the big play when it counted meant that it overcame statistical disadvantages on both sides of the ball and Holy Cross's perseverance. The Crusaders outgained Harvard 410 to 318 yards, but Harvard's defense forced five turnovers and sacked the quarterback five times.
But no matter how large Harvard's lead, which ballooned to 21-0 at one point, Holy Cross (1-5) hung tough and put together two scoring streaks.
In the second quarter, the Crusaders scored 15 unanswered points. Then in the fourth quarter, when Harvard stretched the lead to 28-15 on a 46-yard strike from freshman quarterback Rich Linden to junior Colby Skelton, Holy Cross drew to within three by scoring 10 straight points. In the end, though, Harvard's early advantage was too much, and Yankoff made sure that Harvard, who never trailed, was ahead at the finish.
Harvard exploded out of the gates with its first-quarter points of the season by taking advantage of a strong, steady wind. After Holy Cross won the toss and deferred, Harvard coach Tim Murphy decided to have the wind at his team's back to start the game.
The strategy paid off; every Harvard possession during the first quarter was on Holy Cross's end of the field. After squandering its first two chances, Harvard put the ball in the end zone with a 23-yard touchdown reception by junior flanker Jared Chupaila from Linden.
Harvard scored on a five-yard run by senior tailback Eion Hu on the next possession. Hu hit paydirt again on the series after that with a one-yard run.
Most of the third scoring drive's yards came at the end of the first quarter when Harvard had the advantage because of the wind, even though Hu's touchdown took place one minute into the second quarter. The key moment came on fourth-and-two at the Holy Cross four-yard line when Murphy elected to go for it and Hu gained three yards.
"I just felt at that point: let's pin these guys," Murphy said. "Let's make them drive the farthest distance instead of having to kick the ball against the wind [if Harvard failed]."
Holy Cross did not give in, however, and stormed back in the second and fourth quarters, when it had the wind at its back. The Crusaders scored immediately after Hu's second touchdown when Boland's pass, intended for tight end Bobby Andrews, was tipped and ended up in the hands of wide receiver Brian Hopkins.
That play was an indicator of how the quarter would go for the Crim-
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