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In the final game of their collegiate careers, Colton Chapple and Treavor Scales went out with a bang.
Chapple threw for two touchdowns and ran for one more—while rushing for 128 yards—and Scales collected 177 yards of his own on the ground to help lead Harvard to a 34-24 comeback win over Yale in the 129th edition of The Game. The victory was the Crimson’s 11th in 12 years against the Bulldogs and its sixth in a row—the longest winning streak for Harvard in the history of the matchup.
"Just a great college football game," Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. "We had nothing left. We gave it everything we had, and I'm just so proud of my kids."
The rivals went back and forth in a dramatic fourth quarter. But on third and 13 with 1:08 to go, and Harvard (8-2, 5-2 Ivy) needing a first down to clinch the win, Scales got the first and much more, breaking loose down the right sideline for a 63-yard score that emphatically capped his collegiate career and sent the Harvard portion of a soldout crowd of 31,123 at Harvard Stadium into sheer pandemonium.
"The only phrase that crossed my mind was, 'Momma, I made it,'" Scales said. "I can't express enough how much of a blessing this opportunity was. I feel so honored to be able to call myself a Harvard football player."
The touchdown came just three minutes after Harvard retook the lead at 27-24. Five plays after starting the drive with a 61-yard scamper on a designed quarterback draw, Chapple connected with junior Cam Brate on a four-yard touchdown that the tight end caught at the apex of his leap over a Yale defender in the back of the end zone.
"Before we broke the huddle, Cam said, 'if I'm cutting, get me a high ball,'" Chapple said. "You can't draw it up any better than that. He made an unbelievable play."
Yale (2-8, 1-6) went three-and-out on its ensuing drive, and after the Scales score, junior Reynaldo Kirton intercepted Yale quarterback Hank Furman to seal the win.
"The emotion is really second to none," Scales said. "It doesn't really hit you. I don't think it's hit me yet."
The first meeting between Murphy and Tony Reno—the former Harvard assistant who left to take the Yale head coaching job in January—was dead even at three through the first half, as the Bulldogs defense successfully contained a high-powered Crimson offense that came in averaging 40.0 points per game.
In the opening two quarters, Harvard was also plagued by a number of mistakes that allowed Yale to keep the contest tied.
On its second drive of the game, the Crimson went for it on fourth and nine, and Chapple hit classmate Kyle Juszczyk for a 32-yard touchdown pass. But the score was negated on an offensive pass interference call, and Harvard was forced to punt.
On the next Crimson drive, Chapple was stripped by Yale’s Davis Frank, and Will McHale recovered for the Bulldogs at the Harvard 34. On Yale's ensuing series, the Crimson sacked Bulldogs quarterback Derek Russell on third and two, but freshman linebacker Jacob Lindsey was called for a deadball personal foul, giving the visitors 15 yards and a first down at the Harvard 12. Yale’s Philippe Panico hit a 29-yard field goal later in the possession to put the Bulldogs on the board first.
Harvard answered on its next drive and got down to the Yale five, but Chapple overthrew junior wide receiver Ricky Zorn in the left corner of the end zone on third and goal. The Crimson was forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal from junior David Mothander that tied the game at three just over two minutes into the second quarter.
Both teams struggled to move the ball for the remainder of the half and went into the break tied.
"[Yale] came out and didn't play the defense they had all year," Murphy said. "[It was] very different than what we had seen on film, so it took us a while to adjust."
Harvard did adjust in the second half, as Mothander kicked a 37-yard field goal to cap a 12-play drive and give the Crimson the lead 6:07 into the third quarter. On the next Crimson possession, Chapple put Harvard up, 13-3, by scampering for an 18-yard touchdown down the right sideline.
Yale responded with a Tyler Varga three-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 46-yard completion from Furman to Cameron Sandquist, who badly beat junior safety Chris Splinter deep over the middle. The Bulldogs took the lead 1:30 into the final quarter, when Grant Wallace caught a third-down 12-yard touchdown pass from Furman in heavy traffic.
But the Crimson answered right back. A seven-yard completion to Brate, three Scales runs totaling 25 yards, and a 32-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone to junior wideout Andrew Berg put Harvard up, 20-17.
"[It] was one of the best catches I've seen all year," Chapple said. "It got us really going offensively. I felt like we were kind of stuck in the mud a little bit [until then], but having that touchdown pass and getting the crowd back into the game, I felt like it was a really big momentum shifter in our favor."
On Harvard’s ensuing possession, Chapple tried to throw a screen under heavy pressure but was intercepted by Yale lineman Nick Daffin. On third-and-goal from the two, Varga scored for the second time to put Yale back up, 24-20, with 7:07 remaining.
But the Crimson scored 14 unanswered to deny Yale its upset bid, and the Harvard student section stormed the field in excitement at the end of the contest.
"We had to make really big plays to win this game," Murphy said. "It was just a great heavyweight fight, and we landed the last punch."
The Crimson's 34 points gave it 394 on the season, breaking the modern-era Ivy League record.
Harvard entered the day with the chance to earn a share of the Ivy championship. Though Penn beat Cornell, 35-28, in Ithaca to win the title outright, that outcome did nothing to quell the Crimson's excitement at ending the season with a victory.
"The emotion out there—it's just a bunch of brothers, it's one big family that has come together after 364 days of work," Scales said. "[That win was] a culmination of all the blood, sweat, and—I'm not afraid to say it—the tears that have gone into being a Harvard football player. That's what comes out on the field. It's almost indescribable."
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at email@example.com.
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