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The No. 23 Harvard football team (5-1) (2-1) suffered its first loss of the 2023 season against the Princeton Tigers (3-3) (2-1) on Saturday by a score of 21-14, dropping their record to 5-1 and 2-1 in Ivy League play. The Crimson was formerly ranked 18th in the FCS before facing the Tigers.
After a slow start fueled by two interceptions and a fumble, the Crimson faced a two-touchdown deficit entering halftime. However, Harvard mounted a comeback in the third quarter, with a 12-yard touchdown reception by senior wide receiver Kaedyn Odermann and a 1-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Shane McLaughlin tying the game at 14-14 going into the fourth quarter. The Tigers took the lead 21-14 on a third-down touchdown pass in the red zone with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter, and the Princeton defense put the nail on the coffin by intercepting junior quarterback Charles Deprima on Harvard’s final drive.
This game marked the lowest offensive output for Harvard by far this season. Entering their clash with the Tigers, the Crimson offense had put up an astounding average of 41.2 points per game. Princeton put a screeching halt to that offensive prowess, mainly through their run defense. The Tigers held Harvard to under 100 yards rushing, the Crimson’s first time rushing for under 200 yards in a game this season.
Princeton also capitalized on numerous Harvard errors throughout the game, as the Crimson turned the ball over once per quarter.
“I mean, it was definitely a tough team,” said senior safety Kaleb Moody. “We just made some general mistakes, but it was still a good, competitive game. Obviously not the outcome we wanted, but I mean that’s in the past now. We’re already on to Dartmouth. It doesn’t change our plans for the year. We have to make sure that we keep grinding, put our heads back down, making sure we keep doing what we need to be the team we want to be and get that championship.”
To start the first quarter, both the Crimson and Princeton fired blanks for the first five possessions. Following a number of punts, Harvard received the ball for the third time in the first quarter. After driving the ball to the Princeton 35-yard line, Deprima was intercepted by the Tigers’ Nasir Hill.
Taking the ball in their own territory, the Tigers opened the scoring on a 34-yard touchdown run by running back Jiggie Carr to go up 7-0.
Princeton again struck in the second quarter, leading a seven-play drive from midfield that culminated in a touchdown reception by AJ Barber, putting the Tigers up 14 entering the half.
Late in the third quarter, the Crimson finally got a chance to put points on the board. On fourth-and-five, Deprima sent a 29-yard pass to Odermann, enough to keep the drive alive and put Harvard on the Princeton 11-yard line. Three plays later, DePrima found Odermann again for a 12-yard touchdown reception. The touchdown trimmed the deficit to 14-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
To start the fourth, the Crimson capitalized on its momentum, forcing a punt from the Tigers early on. Harvard then engineered a 10-play drive that covered 38 yards in 4:53, ending the drive with a one-yard touchdown from McLaughlin just shy of 10 minutes into the fourth quarter. The touchdown tied the game at 14-14.
On the next two possessions, both teams were forced to punt, giving Princeton the ball with just over three minutes left in the fourth. On third down at the end of the drive, Princeton quarterback Blake Stenstrom found Connor Hulstein for a 10-yard touchdown, putting Harvard down 21-14 with a chance to tie the game on its final drive.
With 81 seconds left in the regulation, Deprima was able to rush for three yards, but he then took a costly sack on second down. On 3rd and 16, Deprima’s pass intended for senior tight end Tyler Neville was picked off by the Tigers, ensuring a Princeton win and ending Harvard’s undefeated run.
Harvard still had some highlights despite the loss. McLaughlin returned to the field after missing last weekend’s game against Howard, and he recorded his fourth rushing touchdown of 2023, along with a game-high 65 rushing yards. Odermann caught his first touchdown of the season, the fourth of his career. The wide receiver also led the team this game with 57 yards on four receptions. Senior safety Garrett Sharp and senior defensive lineman Thor Griffith each had a team-high eight tackles during the game.
The Crimson return to play this Saturday against Dartmouth (3-3) (2-1) at Harvard Stadium.
-Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at email@example.com
-Staff writer Jack A. Canavan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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