On Saturday, Harvard football expected to play four quarters against Brown. Really, the Crimson (1-1, 1-0 Ivy) played three.
After 45 minutes of action, Harvard led 38-2. Thanks to sloppy defense and several onside kicks, the Bears (1-1, 0-1) closed the margin for a 45-28 finale. But only gambling addicts were paying attention to the final score.
For the Crimson, the blowout result came as a relief and a revelation. A relief, because Harvard players had undergone a difficult week following a spinal injury to freshman Ben Abercrombie. A revelation, because the victory over the Bears came after a disheartening loss to Rhode Island.
The Harvard roster lists two defensive backs from Alabama.
One is Abercrombie. On Oct. 16, the freshman suffered paralysis in a game at Rhode Island. Medics rushed him to a hospital, and his parents flew up.
Abercrombie’s prognosis remains uncertain. Yesterday, a local newspaper reported the hope that Abercrombie will be able to breathe on his own this week. No one knows what long-term prospects Abercrombie faces.
The other defensive back from Alabama is Tanner Lee. Last year, he led the Crimson with four interceptions. Given the similarities between Lee and Abercrombie, it’s easy to imagine why the freshman’s injury might affect the senior personally.
On Saturday, with emotions swirling, Lee played perhaps the game of his career. The high point came the first quarter, when Lee anticipated a double-slant route. He grabbed the pass and sprinted 39 yards to the end zone.
In the first half, Lee was a major reason why Brown converted one of 10 third downs. On the Bears’ second possession, Lee defended a third-and-18 by standing up a receiver after 17 yards. With 4:30 left in the second quarter, the safety snuffed out another third down by busting a screen pass.
Lee was only part of a stifling effort. Captain Luke Hutton racked up eight tackles. Afterwards, he attributed the intensity to Abercrombie’s injury.
“We don’t get scholarships, Hutton said. “That’s not our incentive. Our incentive is that we love to play the game. We love the guys in the room. Anytime something happens to someone, because of that love that we have for one another, you’re going to come out with a lot of emotion.”
THERE GOES JOE
Ryan Fitzpatrick, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was the last freshman quarterback to start for the Crimson. Sixteen years passed before coach Tim Murphy felt confident enough to trust Jake Smith, another rookie, with the keys to the offense.