Football Notebook: Offenses Powered By Unlikely Source

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—By calling it another “classic Harvard-Brown game,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy was likely alluding to the fact that this year’s contest was marked by an abundance of offense from both teams, as has become customary in recent years.

On Saturday, Harvard and Brown combined for eight touchdowns and 885 total yards. Last year, the Crimson racked up 504 yards to the Bears’ 465 en route to a 27-20 win in Cambridge. The year before that, the two teams kept the scoreboard operator busy by combining for 79 points in Neil Rose’s first win as Harvard’s starting quarterback.

Though the Carl Morris-Chas Gessner showdown was hyped as the marquee attraction, both Harvard and Brown focused more on short passes and the ground attack to move the ball down the field.

Brown coach Phil Estes admitted as much, saying that his game plan was to “drive it down and keep [Harvard’s] offense off the field.” The Bears stuck to that strategy in the first quarter, running the ball 13 times in 20 plays and eating up 11:32 of the quarter’s 15 minutes.

Harvard responded to Brown’s clock-devouring drives with a few of its own, primarily on the legs of sophomore quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.


Fitzpatrick had eight runs of more than eight yards and ended the day with 131 yards on the ground—six more rushing yards than the entire Bears team—marking the first time in 10 seasons that a Harvard QB has passed the century mark on the ground.

Not About Four-and-Outs

As further testament to the scintillating execution of both offenses (or, perhaps, the ineffectiveness of both defenses), Harvard and Brown only combined for three punts in the entire game.

Both offensive units were seemingly able to drive at will, converting on an incredible 16-of-19 third downs before the decisive fourth quarter. At one point, Brown converted on seven straight third-downs, including a third-and-10 and a third-and-18.

Not to be outdone, Harvard also pulled out its own third-down conversion magic, converting on 5-of-6 through three quarters, including a third-and-11 and a third-down, 30-yard run by Fitzpatrick to set up the Crimson’s final score.

The high conversion percentages translated into a high total of first downs, which, coincidentally, mirrored the final score exactly—Harvard had 26 to Brown’s 24.

Not So Happily Point After

While Brown’s offense seemed to have little trouble putting the ball in the endzone, the Bears’ special teams unit had some difficulty getting it through the uprights.

Freshman placekicker Paul Christian pulled his first PAT attempt wide right and had his second attempt blocked at the line of scrimmage.

“Those little things make such a big difference in a football game,” Estes said. “From that point on, we had to start going for two.”