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ITHACA, N.Y.—Despite a defiant Big Red squad keeping pace in the early going, the Harvard football team created some separation from the hosts in the second half to snatch its second Ivy win of the season, 41-31.
Junior quarterback Colton Chapple, filling in for senior Collier Winters and starting his third straight game this season, led the visitors to victory with an impressive performance. The sophomore made history by passing for 414 yards, sixth on Harvard's all-time passing list. Chapple hit his receivers for four touchdowns and only had one interception on the day.
“I think the second half went right,” the junior said. “The first half, I definitely struggled a little bit—I was not in a rhythm, and I felt like I was thinking a little bit too much instead of going out and just playing. That's why I had success the past two weeks: going out there and playing this great game with these guys. You go through war with these guys.”
His longest pass of the game came in the third quarter, when the quarterback completed a 42-yard toss to senior wide receiver Alex Sarkisian for the Crimson’s third touchdown of the contest. The score gave Harvard a 27-24 lead, and the visitors never looked back, outscoring the Big Red, 21-14, in the second half.
Sarkisian was the Crimson’s leading receiver, recording 112 yards and one touchdown. Senior wide receiver Chris Lorditch also reached triple digits, posting 103 yards on the day.
Cornell did not go down easily, scoring the first touchdown in each half. But Harvard stuck to its game plan, outplaying a Cornell secondary that allowed Chapple to throw over the middle several times for scores.
Big Red QB Jeff Mathews did not have a shabby day himself, throwing for 322 yards and three touchdowns. The Cornell signal caller came out firing on all cylinders, throwing for a 12-yard gain to start the game. He followed that up with a 16-yard completion that put his team on Harvard’s 40-yard line. Mathews was not done, connecting with senior WR Shane Savage on a deep-post play that the wide receiver capped with a run to the end zone. The three-play drive lasted just 1:11 and covered 70 yards.
“Our perception of Jeff Mathews coming in was spot on,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “Kid’s one of the great players in our conference—I thought that [when he was] coming out of high school.”
It took 10 minutes for Harvard to respond. With 3:50 remaining in the opening period, Chapple threw an 11-yard fade to senior wide receiver Adam Chrissis, who caught the ball in the corner of the end zone. Chrissis finished third on the team with 84 yards on the day.
Mathews didn’t come up with much on the next drive, thanks in part to senior defensive tackle Josue Ortiz’s sack on third down. Ortiz finished the game with two sacks, half of the team’s total on the day.
“When you consider that he gets double-teamed almost every snap, he did a man’s job out there,” Murphy said. “He was tremendous.”
Harvard took a three-point lead thanks to a field goal by sophomore kicker David Mothander 47 seconds into the second quarter.
Cornell would answer back two minutes later. The Crimson defense pressured Mathews but the Big Red quarterback kept his cool, lobbing a screen pass to Savage, who ran it into the end zone for the 39-yard score to put Cornell back up, 14-10.
From there, the scoring in the second quarter was far from over. After the Big Red put away a 31-yard field goal with 6:46 remaining, Chapple led his team down the field again from Harvard’s 38, throwing first to Sarkisian for a nine-yard completion and then to Chrissis for a 41-yard catch. From Cornell’s 8-yard line, freshman running back Zach Boden forced his way down the middle to the end zone to tie the game, 17-17.
Before the period ended, Mothander successfully kicked a 26-yard attempt to give the Crimson a 20-17 halftime lead.
The visitors received the ball to start the second half but failed to make an impact from the get-go. After a turnover on downs, the Big Red took advantage of the opportunity to take the lead again. A trick play saw Mathews hand off the ball to tight end Ryan Houska, who then ran a reverse with wide receiver Lucas Tasker that put Cornell two yards away from the goal line. Houska then ran the ball in for the score to give Cornell a 24-20 lead.
But Chapple would not allow the Big Red to gain momentum. After hitting Sarkisian for a nine-yard gain from the Crimson 48, the junior threaded a dangerous pass through two Cornell defenders into the arms of Sarkisian once again, who ran it in for the touchdown.
“We gave up too many big plays on defense, period,” Cornell coach Kent Austin said. “We knew they were probably going to play some jump balls on our corners … [Chapple] threw the ball very well, and their receivers made plays for them.”
With the score set at 27-24, there was little room for mistakes, but the Big Red committed a big one. After Mathews wasted a third down and was almost intercepted, Harvard’s defense rushed Cornell’s punter, who could not handle a poor snap.
“That punt was huge,” Ortiz said. “From there, I feel like that was the big turning point … We started pumping ourselves up, and once we get going emotionally, it’s hard to stop us.”
The miscue gave the Crimson great field position on the host’s 38, and Chapple seized the chance to build the squad's lead. The junior moved the team down to the 27-yard line before the end of the third quarter, and once the fourth began, Chapple threw a long pass down the middle to sophomore tight end Cameron Brate for the score.
The Crimson would reach the end zone once more in the fourth quarter thanks to Chapple’s 26-yard pass to junior tight end Kyle Juszczyk, which gave Harvard a 17-point lead at 41-24. Mathews tried to whittle down the score, but with only 10:50 left to play, the sophomore quarterback could only do so much. Harvard’s defense kept Cornell at bay for most of the final minutes, with Mathews achieving only one more score, a 44-yard touchdown pass to Tasker with 2:27 remaining.
“We handled the fourth quarter pretty well,” Murphy said. “I think we were just a more grown-up, experienced, mature team, and that’s what grown-up, experienced, mature teams do—but in a year, that’s going to be Cornell.”
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