NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Just when one of the biggest upsets in 2009 Ivy play seemed a reality, Harvard football made a fourth-quarter comeback on the biggest stage of all.
Junior quarterback Collier Winters completed two long touchdown passes in the game’s final seven minutes to lead the Crimson (7-3, 6-1 Ivy) to a 14-10 victory over rival Yale (4-6, 2-5) in the 126th playing of The Game Saturday afternoon in New Haven, Conn.
With 6:46 remaining in the game, Winters found senior wideout Matt Luft open deep downfield. The pair connected for a 41-yard touchdown pass to put Harvard on the board.
“I actually heard the play wrong, so I didn’t exactly run the right route,” Luft confessed after the game. “I ran the dig, I saw the safety come up, and just no one over the middle.”
It was Luft’s second touchdown of the season, and after a disappointing senior campaign, it was a fitting end to the senior’s storied career.
The Bulldogs got the ball back, but on fourth and 22, with his team deep in its own territory, Yale coach Tom Williams made the most controversial coaching decision on an afternoon marked by gambles.
Rather than sending out Ivy-leading punter Tom Mante, Williams called for a fake punt play—a rush by rookie John Powers that came up seven yards short of the first.
“The whole idea was to keep our foot on the pedal, not play scared, and if everybody’s looking for somebody to blame, you can blame this guy right here,” Williams said, pointing to himself.
Harvard started driving at the Bulldog 40, and it took just 53 seconds for the Crimson to find the endzone.
It was another long ball from Winters, this one a 32-yard pass right to the hands of junior Chris Lorditch, that put Harvard on top.
“That was probably my best ball that I threw,” Winters said. “The play was designed for [junior] Gino [Gordon] on a wheel route, but the corner and Lorditch were matched up man-on-man. So I knew as soon as he got outside him, I was just going to put it out in front of him, and Lorditch is fast enough that he’ll get it.”
The furious fourth-quarter comeback—sealed by a last-minute interception by senior Jon Takamura—was a marked difference from the first three quarters of play, when underdog Yale dominated the game.
“We got outcoached in the first half, no question about it,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the game’s first drive with a 26-yard field goal from junior Alex Barnes. A fumble from Winters gave Yale the ball back with good field position, and the squad capitalized, making the score 10-0 on a three-yard run from senior Rodney Reynolds.
It was the first career touchdown for Reynolds, a three-year JV player, and was part of a breakout day for the Bulldogs’ rushers.