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The No. 18 Harvard football team has been on the rise in rankings since its first competition against St. Thomas. In its second Ivy League game of the season, the Crimson (4-0,2-0) defeated Cornell (2-2,1-1) 41-23, continuing to hold onto the title of the only unbeaten Division I football program in New England.
“First of all, stating the obvious, [we had a] well-balanced game in defense, offense, special teams,” said head coach Tim Murphy about the game in general. “I think the big key was having explosive plays today. [Cornell] did a good job with their offense on the field, we did a good job keeping them out of the endzone.”
“They really milked the clock, they only had ten minutes [of] possession time in the first half and still had a couple of scores,” he continued.
In the first play of the game, junior quarterback Charles DePrima completed a 28-yard pass to senior tight end Tim Dowd on 3rd and 16. The 10-play possession, 60-yard drive ended with DePrima running the ball in for a one-yard touchdown. DePrima then added to Harvard’s lead by rushing 42 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter, bringing the score to 13-0.
Cornell responded to Harvard with a 75-yard drive within 15 plays that resulted in a touchdown by Big Red junior quarterback Jameson Wang with 7:12 seconds left in the first half. The opposing quarterback made it into the endzone with a one-yard sneak, making the score 13-7.
“It’s difficult,” said senior captain and defensive lineman Nate Leskovec about defending against Cornell's offensive lineman. “We play a different team every week, and we try to do the best that we can. One of the things that Coach Murphy says is that we have to know our opponents better than they know us, and our scout teams do a really good job of simulating what the other team runs.”
However, Harvard was ready. Junior wide receiver Scott Woods II made his first catch of the season with a 36-yard reception, scoring a touchdown and bringing the score to 19-7 Crimson. Harvard improved its score even further by trying a two-point conversion, with a shovel pass from DePrima to senior tight end Tyler Neville. Cornell then kicked a 43-yard field goal to close the half 21-10.
To start off the second half, the Crimson had three different big plays to get into the endzone, starting with a 45-yard pass from DePrima to Dowd. On the next play, the quarterback rushed for 15 yards, followed by a pass to Neville for a 17-yard touchdown that brought the score to 28-10. Cornell responded with a touchdown late in the third quarter.
With under two minutes left, DePrima rushed a 58-yard touchdown — his career high in rushing yards — to further Harvard’s edge.
“Any offensive success starts with those guys at the front,” DePrima reflected. “They were giving a lot of time to pass, opened the line on the run, and just taking advantage of a lot of opportunities that they were given.”
In the fourth quarter, the Crimson continued to dominate the game, with junior wide receiver Ledger Hatch making his season debut with a 19-yard touchdown reception from DePrima that upped Crimson to 41-17. Cornell had the last score of the evening, bringing the score to 41-23.
Harvard made history with its win against the Big Red. With this victory, Murphy tied former Yale football coach Carm Cozza for the Ivy League record in most conference victories at 135.
Along with DePrima’s career high in rushing yards in a single game, he also threw for a personal record of 209 yards and matched his career high with three touchdown passes. Sophomore safety Ty Bartrum tied his career game record of nine tackles. Sophomore safety A.J. Lopez — last week’s FCS National Defensive Player of the Week — had a game and career-high three pass breakups.
“The reality is that there’s no bad teams in our league,” said Coach Murphy about going up against teams in the Ivy League. “You think of the Brown team that we just barely got out of dodge beating, everything’s going to be tough, everything’s going to be a grind, we’re gonna face some adversity.”
‘The thing we have done a great job with statistically and otherwise is we’ve done a great job with the football —we’ve had very few turnovers,” he continued. “We had zero tonight again, and so I think we’re number one in the nation in terms of turnover takeaways. If you handle the ball really well and your defense can knock the ball loose, you got a chance.”
The Crimson also ended the game improving on their undefeated record, going 4-0. This marks the first time Harvard has been 4-0 since 2021. Harvard is also one of three undefeated FCS teams, along with South Dakota State and Southern Illinois.
“I definitely think there’s a target on our back,” said Woods about being one of the last undefeated teams in the FCS. “Any time you climb up the mountain, people want to see you fall off, but hopefully we’re not going to see that happen. Definitely think there's a target, but we just have to take that as it is, take the adversity that comes with it, and just keep performing every week, so starting off tomorrow just 0-0, and we’re trying to make that week one enough.”
Harvard kicks off again at home against the Howard Bison (2-3) this Saturday, Oct. 14th at 1:00 p.m. EST. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.
— Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at email@example.com.
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