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THE BOOK OF SAMUELS: Storybook Ending to Historic Season

By Robert S Samuels, Crimson Staff Writer

After Harvard’s win over Penn last Saturday, the Crimson clinched the Ivy title outright. And so in a sense, that was the end of the story. The hero vanquished the villain. The guy got the girl.

But with one game left in the schedule—the biggest contest of the season, The Game—Harvard still had to fight for that often-elusive happily-ever-after.

And with a resounding, emphatic, 45-7 decimation of Yale, the Crimson earned just that.

The Game quickly became a microcosm of the Harvard season. After a slow start, a stingy defensive line and an historically high-octane offense tore apart the opposition. Once the Crimson found its rhythm, Yale—like the past eight teams Harvard has faced—couldn’t handle the music.

In his final contest in a Crimson uniform, senior quarterback Collier Winters penned his greatest masterpiece of all—his Beethoven’s Ninth—with a 355-yard passing performance, in addition to rushing for 62 yards on the ground.

Yet the decisive victory didn’t seem so certain at first. Before climbing to the top, the Crimson dug itself a hole.

Charging down the field to begin the game, Harvard looked poised to score in the game’s first possession. But Winters coughed up the ball in the Bulldog end zone, handing it over to Yale at its own 20.

The Bulldogs struck first just a few minutes later, putting the home team up by seven.

All of a sudden, what was billed as an easy Harvard victory looked very much in question.

But at this point, that shouldn’t be too surprising. In game after game, the Crimson has fallen behind only to catch up and cruise to an easy victory.

Indeed, that’s the very story of the Harvard season. Like so many champions, the Crimson started off slowly in 2011 before leaving the pack in the dust down the homestretch.

The Crimson dropped its first game of the season in an ugly 30-22 loss to Holy Cross. With miscues and blown overages galore, Harvard looked like a sloppy ragtag crew, not potential Ivy champions.

But then, something for this Crimson team clicked. Harvard beat Brown, 24-7, and after that, Harvard was off to the races. The once mighty Penn just became the Sham to Harvard’s Secretariat.

And the same pattern emerged at Yale on Sunday. The Bulldogs took the lead, Harvard made it neck and neck, and then the Crimson exploded, leaving Yale in the dust.

After the Bulldogs found the end zone in the first, that would be the end of Yale scoring for the afternoon. And Harvard would rattle off 45 unanswered points before the contest came to a merciful end for the home team.

For the Crimson, it became the exclamation point on an historic season, a perfect Ivy season. No Harvard team in the modern era had scored as many points as the 2011 version.

On Saturday, it showcased the many reasons why.

Of course, there’s Winters, who combined for three touchdowns on the day. But Winters has an arsenal at the ready with the best receiving corps in the league. In addition to four talented wide receivers, Harvard also has the two best tight ends—junior Kyle Juszczyk and sophomore Cameron Brate—in recent memory. On Saturday, the two combined for 145 receiving yards, highlighted by Juszczyk’s 60-yard touchdown catch.

The backfield tandem of junior Treavor Scales and freshman Zach Boden also wrought havoc on the Bulldog defense. Scales averaged 4.5 yards per touch, and the wunderkind Boden continued to make a very compelling case for Ivy League Rookie of the Year with 63 receiving yards and 20 more on the ground.

The vaunted Harvard defense followed suit. The Bulldog rushing game managed just 2.5 yards per rush against the most dominant front seven in Ivy League football. And through the air, Yale didn’t have much success either, though part of that can be attributed to Yale quarterback Patrick Witt’s subpar performance.

But overall, on a Senior Day at the Yale Bowl that was designed to celebrate the Bulldog seniors, it was the Crimson seniors who stole the spotlight.

And not just Winters. Wide receiver Alex Sarkisian tallied 97 receiving yards and one touchdown reception.

Captain and middle linebacker Alex Gedeon earned nine tackles—tied for second best on the team—and stepped in front of Witt’s pass late in the fourth quarter for a pick-six.

Defensive tackle Josue Ortiz, double-teamed nearly all game yet again, managed to break free and earned his 10th sack of the season. His biggest play, though, came after the final whistle.

And so ends the career of this senior class, the one that helped produce the most prolific offense in Harvard history, the one that brought the Ivy title back to Cambridge, the one that produced, in Harvard coach Tim Murphy’s mind, one of the all-time great captains of Crimson football.With those big holes will come even bigger questions.

But with a host of underclassmen already playing and the most efficient passer in the Ivy League waiting in the wings, Harvard should return to Soldiers Field next year as the favorite to win it all once more.

—Staff writer Robert S. Samuels can be reached at

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