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Winters Leads Harvard Over Princeton in High-Scoring Contest

Making his first start in five weeks, senior quarterback Collier Winters looked anything but rusty. The embattled veteran accounted for six touchdowns—five through the air—in leading an offensive onslaught.
Making his first start in five weeks, senior quarterback Collier Winters looked anything but rusty. The embattled veteran accounted for six touchdowns—five through the air—in leading an offensive onslaught.
By Scott A. Sherman, Crimson Staff Writer

After junior Colton Chapple threw five touchdowns to tie the Harvard all-time single game record last week, senior Collier Winters—named this week’s starter against Princeton—knew he would have to do something equally spectacular Saturday to make his case that he should be the team’s long-term answer at quarterback.

But there was only one way Winters could surpass Chapple’s five-touchdown performance: he’d have to score six times.

So he did.

Winters’ big day in his first start in five weeks helped him to reclaim his starting job and lead the Crimson to its fifth straight win, a 56-39 victory over a surprisingly resilient Tigers squad at Harvard Stadium.

“Our kids hung in there and found a way to win,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game, it was a very different game than what we were used to seeing from our defense, but it’s a team effort and we got it done.”

Princeton got on the board first early in the contest, moving the ball down the field in big chunks and scoring under two minutes into the game on a nine-yard touchdown run by freshman Chuck Dibilio.

Harvard responded on its next drive, with Winters capping a nine-play, 69-yard series with a one-yard touchdown run. On the subsequent Crimson possession, the senior led his team down the field in just 1:26, finishing the drive with a touchdown pass to sophomore wideout Matt Brown in the left corner of the end zone that Brown hauled in reaching back over his head.

“[Winters] didn’t look rusty or anything at all,” Princeton coach Bob Surace said. “Their receivers made some unbelievable catches.”

A Tigers field goal was followed by a Treavor Scales one-yard touchdown run for the Crimson early in the second quarter. On Princeton’s next possession, senior cornerback Brian Owusu chased down Tigers running back Brian Mills after a 48-yard scamper and punched the ball out from behind at the Harvard 24.

The Crimson regained possession on the fumble recovery by sophomore Chris Splinter, but Winters, on the run, badly underthrew an open Kyle Juszczyk for an interception along the left sideline to give the ball back to Princeton.

Neither team scored for the rest of the period, and Harvard went into the break up, 21-9.

In the second half, both teams exploded offensively, scoring six total touchdowns in the third quarter.

Just 1:12 into the period, Winters hit a wide-open Chris Lorditch—who finished with six catches for 101 yards on the day—down the right sideline for a 53-yard touchdown. After a Princeton three-and-out and an electric 42-yard punt return by freshman Seitu Smith III, Winters found senior Alex Sarkisian in the left corner of the end zone for another score.

“I prepared this week to come out and hopefully play up to my potential,” said Winters, who watched from the sidelines with an injured hamstring as Chapple threw 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in his absence. “I felt for the most part I did that today.”

Holding a 35-9 lead, the Crimson was in total control, but Princeton then started to fight back.

On the next Tigers possession, a 23-yard gain on a double reverse—Princeton tried multiple flea flickers and reverses on the afternoon—set the Tigers up at the Harvard two, and Wornham rushed it in to cap a 62-yard scoring drive.

Harvard scored again to go up, 42-16, on a Winters 17-yard screen to freshman Zach Boden.

But the Tigers scored two more times before the end of the quarter. After a 42-yard Dibilio touchdown run, Princeton succesfully executed an onside kick that the Harvard return team was not prepared for. On Princeton’s ensuing possession, a major breakdown in the Harvard secondary allowed Wornham to find a wide-open Matt Wilkinson for a 36-yard touchdown, and after a Wornham-to-Wilkinson two-point conversion, the Crimson lead was cut to 42-31 heading into the fourth.

“Princeton’s a great offense and we knew that coming in,” captain Alex Gedeon said. “There were missed tackles today, just fundamental breakdowns that weren’t happening in past games. Part of that was their pace, but a lot of it was they have good players and we weren’t getting in the positions we needed to make plays.”

In the final period, Wornham scored on a one-yard sneak under two minutes in, and another Tigers two-point conversion sliced the Crimson advantage to 42-39 with 13:09 to go.

But from there, the Harvard offense got back in its groove, with Scales scoring on a one-yard run after the running back had a key 17-yard pickup on 3rd-and-12 screen on the previous play.

Wornham was intercepted by captain Alex Gedeon on Princeton’s next drive—the fourth straight game in which Gedeon has been involved with a turnover—giving the Crimson the ball back in Princeton territory.

On a third-and-nine from the Princeton 27, Winters hit Sarkisian short of the marker along the right sideline, but the senior fought off a would-be tackler to pick up the first and keep the drive going. On his next pass, Winters hit sophomore tight end Cameron Brate over the middle for his fifth touchdown pass to put the game away.

“They’re a terrific team,” Surace said. “We’re trying to get to that level—they have a ton of talent, and it shows ... You’ve got to give them credit.”

The teams combined for 1,116 yards of total offense, as the Crimson gave up 267 yards on the ground a week after a dominant performance in which it allowed minus-five yards rushing to Bucknell. Junior linebacker Josh Boyd, who had 17 tackles for Harvard, was one of the few defensive standouts on either side.

Winters finished with 403 yards on 34-for-42 passing on the day—making him just the fourth Crimson QB to ever throw for more than 400 yards and the second to complete 34 passes in a game—and Harvard scored 40 or more points for three straight contests for the first time since 1932.

After the impressive performance, Murphy said Winters would be his starter moving forward.

“We certainly had a decision to make, but it really came down to this—Collier’s done a great job for us,” Murphy said. “He got hurt; he didn’t get beat out.”

Though 544 games took place between Harvard’s first five-touchdown passing performance—by Carroll Lowenstein in 1953—and Chapple’s last week, Winters needed just one contest to etch his name in the Crimson record books.

“There’s still a lot of things to work on,” the senior said. “But a win is a win, and I’m happy with that.”

—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at ssherman13@college.harvard.edu.

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