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No. 17 Harvard Football Defeats Howard at Home, Improves to 5-0 to Continue Undefeated Season

Harvard's defense lines up against Howard's offense at the Crimson's Oct. 14 game in Harvard Stadium. The Crimson defeated the Bison by a decisive 48-7 score.
Harvard's defense lines up against Howard's offense at the Crimson's Oct. 14 game in Harvard Stadium. The Crimson defeated the Bison by a decisive 48-7 score. By Nicholas T. Jacobsson
By Nadia A. Fairfax, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard football team (5-0, 2-0) hosted Howard (2-4) at home, dominating against the Bison and defeating them 48-7. With the win, the Crimson improved its winning streak to 5-0 for the first time since 2021, as well as improving to 3-0 against Howard.

“[It was] one of those games where the whole planet, moons, and stars came together,” remarked Head Coach Tim Murphy about the game. “We played very well in all phases, I think we got to give them some credit, in the context of they’ve had a very hard fought Big Ten game last week, and I think they didn’t have as much juice as maybe they would have normally had.”

“They’re a really good team, they’re a really well coached team, and extremely proud of the University and program,” he continued. “If we can continue to play and have a good defense, we’ll continue to compete in every game, and I think our offense has done a really good job with our assistant coaches putting our players in the best position to be successful.”

The first score of the game started off with sophomore running back Isaiah Abbey rushing for a one yard touchdown, putting the score at 7-0 for Harvard. The touchdown was the result of a 77-yard drive over 5:21 seconds, which included two pass connections over 30 yards between juniors quarterback Charles DePrima and wide receiver Scott Woods II.

The defense showed up for the Crimson, stopping the Bison at the 29-yard line near the end of the first quarter. Junior defensive end Jacob Psyk had a big play when he sacked Howard quarterback Quinton Williams, forcing a fumble that the Crimson’s Nick Yagodich picked up. Going into the second quarter, Harvard continued to hold onto the 7-0 lead. The Crimson doubled their lead with first-year running back Xaviah Bascon — the recentIvy League Rookie of the Week — who received a seven-yard pass from DePrima to the endzone, doubling the score 14-0.

Howard then had an opportunity to score, as the Bison received ball possession over a three-play drive. However, Harvard was ready, as on the third play, the Bison were intercepted by junior linebacker Eric Little. The Crimson offense then returned to the field, and DePrima threw a 30-yard wide open pass to Woods II, who walked into the endzone and raised the Harvard score to 21-0. Before the end of the first half, Harvard added to its already dominant lead with Abbey scoring his second touchdown through an eight-yard run. The sophomore ended the first half with 62 rushing yards.

“My O-line is insane,” Abbey said. “It says I have three touchdowns, but it was the O-line. All I did was take the ball and run in the direction that they set up for me. I’m very good with my O-line, and I think that anyone, whether it was me or the running back behind me, the O-line makes everything possible.”

Harvard's defensive squad hits the sideline for a mid-game talk at the Crimson's Saturday game against Howard.
Harvard's defensive squad hits the sideline for a mid-game talk at the Crimson's Saturday game against Howard. By Nicholas T. Jacobsson

To start off the third quarter, Abbey returned to get his third touchdown of the day, sprinting 52 yards to score for Harvard on the first play of the opening drive. The Crimson’s lead was increased to 35-0 with 11:17 left in the third quarter, giving them a strong advantage over the Bison.

“Just going off what Coach Murphy was saying, it’s all about preparation for us,” said DePrima about being able to run the offense. “On top of that, it’s just trusting the guys that are out there. I think we’re in a great place in terms of relationships, and we trust each other a lot out there. We’re just going out there with the game plan that was brought upon us by the coaches all week, and it’s just a lot of confidence too.”

Harvard was stopped by Howard at 14 yards during the next drive. Senior Cali Canaval was then called onto the field to put up points for the Crimson, and he delivered, kicking 32 yards to give Harvard three extra points on the board and brought the score to 38-0 with 2:35 seconds left in the third quarter. The Crimson to this point still managed to keep the Bison from scoring, and stunting their offense.

“The thing with Howard is they had some really good blockers up front,” said senior captain and defensive lineman Nate Leskovec about preparing for Howard’s offense. “Really skilled guys on the outside, playing receiver, a quarterback who plays conservative style, a blocking passer who doesn’t really make too many mistakes. Fortunately we were able to turn the ball over a couple of times, and without looking at the stats, I think we were much better at third downs than we have been, which has been a point of emphasis.”

To start off the fourth quarter, Canaval kicked a 39 yard field goal to help Harvard increase their lead to 41-0. With such a huge lead over the Bison, the Crimson coaching staff gave some of the starters a break, and introduced junior quarterback Conor Easthope to the action. Easthope rose to the occasion, successfully executing a five-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in him rushing 19 yards for a touchdown. Howard responded with 3:36 seconds left in the fourth quarter, when the Bison’s Tony Bedell rushed for eight yards into the endzone.

Sophomore running back Isaiah Abbey makes a run for one of his three total touchdowns of the game.
Sophomore running back Isaiah Abbey makes a run for one of his three total touchdowns of the game. By Nicholas T. Jacobsson

At the conclusion of the game, the Crimson nearly shut out the Bison until the late fourth quarter. Harvard — unranked at the beginning of the season — now sits at No. 17. The win marked Harvard’s fourth win at home this season, improving to 4-0 at home, compared to their 1-4 home wins record last season.

“[Harvard] has done a great job of being focused,” Coach Murphy said. “We always talk about taking it not one week at a time, but one day at a time. Let’s just focus on getting better each practice, let’s focus on the things that we need to focus on, different practices you’re going to concentrate on different things. Our kids have done a great job at that.”

“The other thing we’ve done is eliminating doubts,” he continued. “That was a big thing coming up from last season. We just had too many penalties, and the kids have really done a good job with making good decisions on the field and playing hard, playing fast. Making sure we don’t give our opponent anything.”

Multiple players also had impactful games. Sophomore safety Ty Bartrum finished the game with a career high of ten tackles. Little had his first interception of the year, as well as putting four tackles on the board.

“It means a lot today,” said Lescovek about the team being 5-0. “You know, we’re excited about winning the game, we’ll enjoy this win today, and focus on going 6-0 next week. Beyond that, we’re not really all that concerned, just continue to take it one day at a time. It’s been our recipe so far, and it’s been working for us, so why would we deviate from that?”

The Crimson return to play this Saturday against Princeton (2-3,1-1) at Powers Field in Princeton, N.J. The Tigers will go into the game having just suffered a 28-27 loss against Brown. Harvard, who currently has the best record in the Ivy League, seeks to continue its winning streak. The Ancient Eight matchup will kick off at 1:00 pm EST on Saturday, Oct. 21st. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

— Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at nadia.fairfax@thecrimson.com.

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