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Harvard coach Tim Murphy likes to temper his team’s victories with cautions about where his team fell short, constantly warning that the next game may not be so pretty.
But in Saturday’s press conference, Murphy had nothing to criticize. His team had just completed its best all-around performance this year. After that routine, judges would’ve all given Harvard a perfect 10.
Dartmouth looked outwitted and outmatched all night. Saturday’s contest wasn’t a football game; it was a Harvard celebration, an exhibition of sorts.
In conditions that were better suited for Santa and his reindeer than for Collier Winters and his offense, on an October night when Harvard Stadium became Lambeau Field in December, the Crimson football team seemed oblivious.
Snow is supposed to slow down offensive attacks. That’s how it works. Just ask Napoleon.
But not much has been able to stop Harvard attack over the past few weeks, and a bit—or a lot—of precipitation and a porous Big Green defense had little success either.
Of the Crimson’s first seven drives, six went for touchdowns. And that seventh possession could have also led Harvard into the end zone if intermission hadn’t gotten in the way.
And thanks to its 41-point, 511-yard performance, the Crimson once again landed itself in the record books.
For the first time since Benjamin Harrison was President, Harvard has scored 40 or more points in four straight games.
And for the first time in Crimson football’s storied history, three different players ran for 100 or more yards.
In the first five contests of the year, the Harvard offense had relied heavily on its passing game. And why shouldn’t it have? With junior Colton Chapple and the senior Winters stomping all over the record book like it was bubble wrap, going to the air was the natural move.
The running game had been a nice complement to the run, but not much more. Junior Treavor Scales and freshman Zach Boden performed adequately, but it was nothing to write home about.
But in Saturday night’s blizzard, when there just might’ve been more players on the sidelines than fans in the stands, the Crimson didn’t have a choice: the team would have to turn to the run.
And Dartmouth—even against what might be the weaker component of Harvard’s attack—looked overpowered all night.
Clad in white, the Big Green was camouflaged by the snow a bit—at times almost disappearing.
But as for the Dartmouth run defense? It completely disappeared.
All three of Harvard’s 100-yard runners—Scales, Boden, and Winters—averaged more than seven yards per touch. That’s almost a first down per play. And they all ran for two touchdowns apiece.
Scales finally found his form on Saturday after a quiet first five games, running for a team-high 139 yards. He cut and juked and tore apart the Dartmouth defense, at one point galloping for a 42-yard run.
Boden may have been the most impressive to watch. When he didn’t find a hole to explode through, the 5’11 freshman did his best impersonation of a Hummer, pushing and plowing ahead even when a horde of Dartmouth defenders had surrounded him.
Winters—never before has the quarterback been so aptly named—threw the ball well, completing 10 of his 13 passes, including a perfect toss that fell right into senior wide receiver Alex Sarkisian’s lap for a big gain. The play later set up a touchdown.
But in what became a Winters wonderland, the senior’s best moves came on the ground. Not sacked once on the night, Winters averaged 8.4 yards per run, at times flying up the sidelines for big gains.
That’s the strength of Winters, though, and perhaps why Murphy chose the senior over Chapple to end the quarterback controversy. One week, Winters can hurt you through the air, like he did last week in his 403-yard passing performance against Princeton.
But in the very next, the dual threat can beat you on the ground. When he rolls to his right, you just don’t know whether he’ll fire downfield or tuck it and take off.
Either decision has spelled trouble for opposing defenses in Winters’ last two starts.
The Harvard offense wasn’t the only Crimson squad that dominated on Saturday night.
The Crimson defense had a night to remember too, suffocating the Big Green attack. Most notably, the vaunted Harvard defensive line held Dartmouth running back and reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Nick Schwieger to just 51 yards on 15 carries.
But for Harvard, the biggest news from this weekend may not have come at the Stadium. Earlier in the day, 90 years to the day after Harvard fell to Centre College in a 6-0 upset, Brown topped Penn—by a score of 6-0, naturally—to end the Quakers’ 18-game league winning streak.
By dethroning the king, the Bears have left the Ivy throne wide open. And now, as the last undefeated team left in the Ancient Eight, it’s Harvard’s crown to lose.
—Staff writer Robert S. Samuels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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