In the past three seasons, Harvard has lost only four games. In those same seasons, Rhode Island has won only four. Saturday’s contest increased both numbers to five.
The Crimson came into the season’s inaugural matchup with history on its side. Not only had Harvard never lost to the Rams, but also the Crimson had won the past two matchups by at least 30 points.
Further, Harvard had not dropped a season opener since 2011. But history is apt to change, and the Crimson figured out pretty quickly.
“We knew it was a different Rhode Island,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “They were the better coached team today, they played better than we did, and they deserved to win “
While the Crimson got on the board first with a field goal, the Rams responded with a 51-yard touchdown pass eight minutes later. Rhode Island never looked back, taking the upset victory, 17-10, and picking up its first win of the season.
Harvard maintained its initial 3-0 lead throughout the first quarter. The woes began with the start of the second.
Barely over a minute into the quarter, tragedy struck. Rolling to the left, Rams junior quarterback Tyler Harris found classmate Marven Beauvais on an 18-yard route. As he caught the ball, Beauvais touched down by the Crimson sideline only to be pushed out by the barreling Ben Abercrombie, a Harvard freshman corner. Rhode Island converted the first down, but Abercrombie did not return to his feet.
Surrounded by his teammates, Abercrombie lay on the ground for several minutes with medical personnel working on him. Attendants eventually placed him on a stretcher, removed him from the field, and took him to a Rhode Island hospital. The scene affected both teams.
“In spite of a great victory for the University of Rhode Island football team...our most prevalent thoughts are for Ben Abercrombie, who sustained a significant injury today,” said Rams’ coach Jim Fleming in a post-game interview. “Our thoughts and prayers today are with him and his family for a speedy recovery.”
The injury must have rattled the Crimson, and on the very next play, Rhode Island sensed it. The Rams struck hard on the next play. Harris hit his sophomore wideout Aaron Parker on a 51-yard streak that finished in the end zone. The Rams took their first lead of the afternoon and did not trail again.
After the game, Harvard Athletics circulated an email statement reporting that Abercrombie had undergone surgery to address a serious cervical injury. The message also reported that he did not have feeling in his arms or legs but is experiencing normal brain functions.
“Our hearts go out to Ben and his family right now, and they have our full support,” the statement continued. “We are doing all that we can in aiding in his recovery.”
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