Harvard’s Most Devastating Losses of the 21st Century

Published by Michael D. Ledecky on October 23, 2012 at 8:56AM

Still reeling from Harvard football’s 39-34 loss at Princeton this weekend? Need to put those 29 unanswered fourth quarter points in perspective? Hey, things could be worse, right? Right? Below are four Crimson losses from the past twelve years that just might rival Saturday’s bummer (or send faithful fans spiraling even deeper into despair).

Football: Cornell 29, Harvard 28 - October 10, 2000

In a Harvardian collapse similar to last weekend’s affair, the Big Red scored 29 unanswered second-half points at Soldier’s Field to deny the Crimson an upset win. Harvard had Cornell on the ropes with less than four minutes left in the game before Big Red quarterback Ricky Rahne connected with receiver Tim Hermann on fourth and five for a 48-yard touchdown to go ahead, 29-28.

Cornell missed the following two-point conversion attempt, giving the Crimson one last chance to win. Harvard quarterback Neil Rose methodically picked apart the Big Red defense as the Crimson drove to the Cornell 10. With 37 seconds left, coach Tim Murphy elected to have Rose take a knee to set up a last-second 27-yard field goal attempt.

But as time expired, Big Red co-captain Joe Splendorio tipped freshman Robbie Wright’s kick wide-right.

Men’s hockey: Maine 5, Harvard 4 - March 26, 2004

For 40 minutes, Harvard dominated the nation’s No. 1-ranked team in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

In the first two periods, the Crimson put four pucks past Maine goaltender Jimmy Howard, a current NHL starter the Detroit Red Wings who entered the tournament with an NCAA-leading 1.05 goals-against average. Harvard entered the third period with a 4-1 advantage, and a desperate Black Bears squad elected to bench Howard for the final frame.

But then Maine began to play like the No. 1-ranked team in the country, scoring four unanswered third-period goals in what Crimson writer Jon Paul Morosi described as a “slow, agonizing death.” The Black Bears scored the go-ahead goal with 4:10 remaining to hand the Crimson its third straight first round postseason exit. Maine would advance to the national final, where it fell to Denver.

Women’s hockey: Wisconsin 1, Harvard 0 - March 11, 2007

The Harvard women’s hockey team ended up on the wrong side of the second-longest game in women’s collegiate hockey, playing 127 minutes of scoreless hockey before falling to Wisconsin in the fourth overtime of the 2007 NCAA quarterfinals.

With 67 stops, goaltender Brittany Martin kept the Crimson in the game as she tied the Harvard record for the most saves in a single game. Yet on the other end of the rink, the Badger defense limited the Crimson to only 36 shots on goal during the six-plus periods of play. Making the loss more painful, Wisconsin went on to win its next two games by comfortable margins to capture the national championship.

But Harvard’s 2007 NCAA Tourney elimination was not its only difficult OT loss that year. The Crimson also lost in triple overtime to Boston College in the 2007 Beanpot semifinal, which also ranks among the longest college games of all time.

Men's basketball: Princeton 63, Harvard 62 - March 12, 2011

It doesn’t get much worse than this. A 15-foot buzzer-beater by Princeton guard Doug Davis put an exclamation point on 65 years of frustration for the Crimson, whose hopes for its first NCAA tournament bid since 1946 were dashed with a single shot.

Harvard had clinched a share of the Ivy League title seven days earlier with a commanding 79-65 win over the Tigers at Lavietes. But in the Yale-hosted playoff for the Ivy League’s automatic tournament bid, Princeton came to play. The back-and-forth game featured four lead changes in the final minute alone as Davis’s last-second jumper punched the Tigers’ ticket to the Dance.