In front of a record-setting night game crowd on Saturday, it seemed that the Harvard football team only did one thing wrong—it failed to give the fans a nailbiter. In a 34-6 drubbing of Holy Cross, the Crimson (1-0) excelled in every facet of the game, sending the Crusaders (1-2) to their second straight lopsided loss.
“A very solid effort across the board,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “We pretty much executed the game plan as planned.”
Indeed, Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore agreed that the Crimson did not surprise his squad—it simply outplayed the visitors on both sides of the ball.
The leader of the effort on the offensive side was senior quarterback Andrew Hatch, whose first starting performance with the Crimson did not disappoint. The signal caller started out on fire, completing his first six passes and 20 of 25 overall for for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
“Hatch just made a lot of good decisions,” Murphy said. “We talked all preseason about the difference between being a good thrower and being a good quarterback. He really did a good job, other than one throw...both on his reads and when to pull it down.”
And with the passing game in sync, the running game was not far behind.
Following a short field goal from rookie David Mothander to open the scoring, Harvard took over on a failed punt at the Holy Cross 29. Faced with a short field, the Crimson pounded the ball on the ground behind a revamped offensive line. Despite having four new starters on the line, senior Gino Gordon enjoyed solid holes on three straight handoffs, dashing into the endzone for Harvard’s first touchdown of the season—and a 10-0 lead—with 1:52 left in the first quarter.
Things only got better for the Crimson in the second frame, as the defense continually stifled the Crusaders. After holding the visitors to just 30 total yards in the opening quarter, Harvard’s defense forced a three-and-out and an interception by junior linebacker Alex Gedeon to take a shutout into halftime.
“I think the highlight was our defense—we never really let up,” Murphy said. “[The Crusaders] weren’t really committed to the run. A lot of times we had eight guys in coverage, and they had no place to go with it.”
“It’s a luxury to have linebackers like we have—the defensive backs can be more aggressive,” added captain and safety Collin Zych. “We can mix up coverages and give them different looks, which is definitely a luxury, and we hope to just build on what we have.”
Meanwhile, nothing the Holy Cross defense threw at Hatch could slow down the senior gunslinger. Hatch completed four of five passes and rushed for 10 yards on the Crimson’s first drive of the second quarter, capping it off with a 26-yard strike to senior Marco Iannuzzi to put Harvard up, 17-0.
Hatch followed by orchestrating a drive down to the Crusader seven-yard line, where Mothander booted his second field goal of the day and left the Crusaders reeling.
“We’re just not making plays,” Gilmore said. “And that’s not a physical thing, it’s a mental thing. I don’t know if we’re panicking. We’re not loose enough, we’re not playing with enough confidence.”
The Crusaders went with a new quarterback, Kevin Watson, in an effort to shake things up in the second half, but the defense stifled Watson for no gain on fourth-down rushes to end Holy Cross’ first two drives. Instead, it was Harvard that struck first, as Hatch hit senior Chris Lorditch on an eight-yard touchdown pass, one of two scores for Lorditch on the day. The pair also connected on what would be Hatch’s last throw of the day—a 43-yard strike with 7:31 to go in the game, when Lorditch got behind the cornerback and safety on a post route.
“That last [throw] that I was in on to Lorditch felt pretty good,” Hatch said. “Most of them were feeling pretty good.”
Leading 34-0, the Crimson coasted to victory as the defense remained strong. Junior linebacker Blaise Deal came up with Harvard’s second interception of the day with six minutes remaining, and, although Holy Cross finally got into the endzone with a minute remaining, the 28-point victory marked a promising start for Crimson football.
“Coach Murphy has done a great job, not only recruiting the right types of players but doing a great job coaching them,” Gilmore said. “They’re very sound, very explosive in all three phases. [Harvard is] a very good football program right now.”
Although the Crimson’s resounding victory provided none of the drama of last season’s 24-21 victory over Brown in the night game, Harvard was more than happy to provide the fans with a solid showing. And in response, the crowd of 21,704 certainly gave Harvard an added boost.
“We always enjoy playing these night games,” Zych said. “The atmosphere is obviously different than the traditional one o’clock kickoffs, and a lot of guys feed off that energy and intensity.”
—Staff writer Max N. Brondfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.