As far as football goes, hardly anything of note happened after 9:50 remained in the third quarter of Saturday’s matchup between Harvard and Brown.
By that point, the Crimson had built a 46-0 lead off three passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, one fumble-recovery touchdown, one high-snap safety, and one blocked-punt safety.
There was more action in the press box than on the field as statisticians scrambled to find the last time that the Crimson had scored so many points or recorded so many safeties against the Bears.
Between the lines, the game continued apace. Brown stuck with backup quarterback Kyle Moreno, and the junior put together a quietly torrid performance: 20-of-31 overall and 307 yards, more than twice the 151 yards that Harvard senior quarterback Scott Hosch recorded.
The deficit shrank, too. A 46-0 gap became a 53-27 finale, salvaging some pride for the Bears fans that would make the long, cold trip back to Providence.
Some stuff did happen after 9:50 in the third quarter, but unless you play fantasy football with Ivy League players, and unless you have Crimson freshman running back Noah Reimers on your roster (60 rush yards, two touchdowns), the last quarter and a half of Harvard-Brown competition said precious little about the quality of the two teams.
It was not nail-biting football. It was, however, great entertainment.
In a predetermined blowout, especially on a cold evening, the rules of spectatorship change. The on-field action no longer rivets the crowd, so it is permissible for eyes to wander to the injured cornerback with his crutches, the defensive coach with his headset, and the shivering fans with their blankets and scarves.
Among other things, one notices that marching bands play an active role throughout football games—this isn’t just a halftime-and-go-home show for them. Even through the chills of the fourth quarter, the Harvard band remained in place, leading cheers and feigning ignorance of the six-touchdown margin.
The Brown band attempted the same act, although to a lesser degree of success. Across the field, several drummers idly tapped their sticks and looked glum.
Was the tapping an attempt to stay warm? Was it sarcastic applause? Or was it a mental tic brought on by watching score after inexplicable score?
Only a smattering of fans had stuck around to wager guesses. An exodus had occurred between the halves as fair-weather college students realized that a concrete bowl in New England might not be the most comfortable place to spend a late September night.
That, and certain lucky students received tickets to Boston Calling at the end of the second quarter. Vouchers validated and blowout underway, Crimson fans could return to the warmth of their rooms, winners on both counts.
Meanwhile the referees stayed the course. Dressed in long sleeves, they continued to dictate order until the final whistle.
During one kickoff, a center referee tripped, fell to the ground, and came up hobbling, but he decided to stay in the game. There was 20:40 left at that point.
None of these oddities would have drawn attention if Harvard and Brown had been locked in a one-score battle. As it was, the Crimson’s two-and-a-half quarters of total dominance distracted fans from watching football.
The situation will not always be this way.
Harvard may have appeared unbeatable at points on Saturday, but the Crimson was helped by a series of charitable bounces and Bears errors.
You don’t line up for a fourth and 51, as Brown did three minutes into the third quarter, without a smidgen of bad luck and worse play.
Soon, and perhaps very soon, a Saturday will come when Harvard stares uncertainty in the face, and fans have to lock into every snap because the larger result hinges on it.
But two weekends have come and gone, and the Crimson has never trailed. Through these 120 minutes, Harvard has given spectators a rare luxury: the freedom to observe a football game as something other than a football game.
—Staff writer Sam Danello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.