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Harvard’s seniors have now defeated every team in the Ivy League.
For the 2018 team’s graduating class, Penn remained the only team in the division that the group had failed to notch a win against, with the Crimson’s last win against the program coming in 2014.
Traveling to the City of Brotherly Love to challenge Penn (6-3, 3-3 Ivy) in the team’s homecoming contest, Harvard (5-4, 3-3) dominated the windy contest, emerging victorious, 29-7.
“This is a rivalry game, coming to Franklin Field, these guys always give us a fight when we come down here and we haven’t won very many games down here,” said captain and safety Zach Miller. “So for us, as a senior class, to go out on top of these guys, it means the world.”
The wind made its presence known from the very first play. As the shadows of the whipping flags that surround the Quakers’ Franklin Field draped the players in shade, the opening kickoff was delayed twice when the breeze knocked the ball off the tee. It wasn’t until Penn sophomore Jared Nobel held the ball down that play could finally get under way.
It took five possessions for either team to complete even a single pass. Stewart nearly found sophomore Tyler Adams on a 21-yard strike but the completion was erased on an illegal formation penalty by the Crimson. It was the next snap, on a bubble screen to senior Adam Scott, that Stewart completed the first pass of the game.
Following his first completion of the contest, Stewart went to Adams again, this time successfully finding his route runner. With the help of the several lengthy runs by Shampklin, this conversion put Harvard in scoring position. The offense couldn’t get the job done, but junior Jake McIntyre booted the ball in from 20-yards out, pushing the contest into two possessions.
With the field goal, his 29th career three-point kick, McIntyre is only one behind the program record. He sits at fourth in career points.
In particular, the wind affected first quarter passing the most — after this period, both pairs of quarterbacks made adjustments. The first few drives, however, were littered with incompletions and interceptions.
With the Crimson pushing into the wind on the first drive, the environment felled the first pass from Stewart, pushing it into the turf before it reached its intended target, Scott. The wind carried Stewart’s next toss inside his target, landing in the hands of the defender, Conor O’Brien, for an interception — Stewart’s first of the season.
Penn didn’t learn from the mistakes of its opponent. With the wind at his back, Quakers quarterback Ryan Glover sent the ball sailing over the head of his man and back into the possession of the Crimson on the very next play. It was sophomore Max Jones that grabbed the wayward pass and returned it 10 yards.
Harvard took over on the Penn 29-yard line, already knocking on its opponent’s door. One play after his interception, Stewart returned to the air on a fade route to Scott. The pass, pushed by the wind, fell short. As Scott attempt to make a play on the ball, yellow flags dirtied the field and the Crimson earned the pass interference call.
With the ball 14 yards away from six points, Shampklin pushed the offense 13 yards closer on three runs. Coach Tom Murphy called senior Charlie Booker’s number and he, with the assistance of a healthy dose of pushing from the offensive line, barreled his way into the end zone for the first touchdown of the contest and his second of the season.
Midway through the second, Stewart tried to keep a disintegrating play alive as he sprinted left away from the crashing defensive line. The senior was pummeled into the turf by the duo of Evan Carp and Nick Miller. Stewart did not get up. He was helped off the field and Smith entered the fray.
Stewart’s departure from play affected more than just the quarterback positions. For the entirety of the season, Stewart has served as the field goal holder for McIntyre. When Harvard scored next, freshman quarterback Luke Emge lined up to catch and plant the long snap. The ball flew through the first-year’s hands and landed near McIntyre’s cleats. The kicker picked up the wayward ball and safely tossed it out the back of the end zone.
The next time the Crimson scored, Murphy opted to purposely go for two instead. The Penn line crashed and Smith was dropped. When Harvard scored its final touchdown, Stewart returned to hold and McIntyre booted the attempt through. Despite returning for that hold, Stewart never reclaimed the quarterback spot.
As quarterback, Smith led both teams in touchdowns, with two. Both of these six-point passes were hauled down by senior wideout Brian Dunlap.
“The offensive line was really carrying the offense,” Smith said. “All I had to do was step in there and play my role as a quarterback and everybody else really just took care of the job.”
The Quakers’ offense was held mute on all but two drives — one in each half. The first of the teams solid drives started with a solid kick return from Penn’s Justin Morrison, earning the team some solid field possession. Glover ran for 11 yards and then tossed a perfect 32-yard pass down the sideline to Mike Akai. The wideout dove past the Crimson defender and reeled in the ball, crashing to the ground at the Harvard one-yard line. Three rushes later, Penn faced fourth-and-goal. The Quakers went for the six through the air and fell short.
“The whole [defensive line], we live for those moments,” said senior defensive tackle Stone Hart. “Every inch, whether you get it or not, we’re going to make you fight for it.”
The second was on the team’s lone touchdown drive. Glover threw three passes for over twenty yards on this drive alone, with the third coming on a 23-yard lob over the back of the Crimson defense to Kolton Huber.
Harvard’s rush defense throughout the game was epitomized by that goal line stand. The front relinquished only 58 yards on the ground, allowing an average of 1.8 yards per play. The Crimson, in comparison, earned 215 rushing yards, averaging out 4.1 per carry.
“They have some great running backs and a great offensive line, and we know that’s how they’ve been beating teams,” Miller said. “They’re a bully in this league, they like to jam it down your throat, the [offensive coordinator] likes to run the ball a ton, establish the line of scrimmage, and just wear teams down. So for us to just stop that early, was huge for us. It changes their game plan, changes how they attack us, and it really helped a lot.”
In perhaps the most salient stat of the day, Harvard dominated the time of possession. The Crimson held onto the ball for a whopping 36:51 minutes while Penn only controlled possession for 18:14.
On third downs too, Harvard easily outpaced its competition. Despite only converting on 1-of-11 last week, the Crimson earned the first down on six of its 14 third-down attempts. Penn was only successful on three of its 11 tries.
A noticable difference between Harvard now, and the Harvard team earlier this season is red zone conversion rate — an area where the team used to struggle. In today’s afternoon contest, the Crimson was 5-for-6 while Penn was 0-for-1.
Aside from struggling against Harvard’s defense on every drive, Penn’s two quarterbacks — Glover and Nick Robinson — failed to maintain possession throughout the contest.
In addition to the first drive interception, Glover tossed one more in the third quarter, again simply out-throwing his route runner, instead hitting the sprinting Wes Ogsbury for his sixth pick of the season.
Robinson didn’t throw interceptions but he kept coughing up the ball. Following Smith’s second touchdown pass to Dunlap, Robinson sprinted right, away from the pocket. Seeing nothing downfield, the quarterback attempted to throw the ball out of bounds but it slipped out. Crimson senior defensive tackle Richie Ryan fell on the ball at the Penn 10-yard line, setting up Darrington’s final score.
Robinson fumbled a second time in the fourth quarter and the loose ball was again recovered by Harvard, this time by junior linebacker Bobby Drysdale.
“The defense played great,” Murphy said. “We said the number one thing that was going to be critical in this game was the turnover margin and to come out plus three on that was the difference in the game.”
—Staff writer Cade Palmer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @THC_CadePalmer.
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