For the fourth time in the 15-year reign of head coach Tim Murphy, the football team entered the Ivy League lists as defending champions. The 2007 squad—like those of 1997, 2001, and 2004—had gone unbeaten in Ivy play, finishing with a 37-6 demolition of previously undefeated Yale. This year’s preseason media poll picked the archrivals as co-favorites to win the league (followed at a distance by Brown and Penn), but both hit speed bumps in their first Ivy outings: Harvard lost a 24-22 squeaker at Brown, while Yale was upset by an unheralded Cornell team, 17-14.
The Brown game, played in a downpour, was a hard-fought affair in which a few inches of soggy turf proved decisive. With Harvard behind, 24-16, and time running out, the deft passing of quarterback Chris Pizzotti ’08 (’09) generated a 70-yard drive that advanced the ball to the Bears’ three-yard line. Backup quarterback Liam O’Hagan ’08 (’09) then threw a scoring pass to receiver Matt Luft ’10, cutting Brown’s lead to 24-22. A two-point conversion would have evened the score, and with only 1:03 to play would almost surely have forced an overtime tie-breaker. But a roughing-the-quarterback penalty put the ball on the one-and-a-half-yard line, limiting Harvard’s tactical choices, and Ben Jenkins ’10, a former defensive back, was sent in to run the ball up the middle. The Bruin defense saw it coming and stacked him up inches short of the goal line.
Harvard had also played catchup a week earlier, but successfully. Opening at the Stadium against nonleague rival Holy Cross, the team trailed after three periods, 17-6, but struck for three late touchdowns to pull out a 25-24 victory. Pizzotti accounted for all three, throwing a 68-yard pass to sophomore receiver Marco Iannuzzi for the first one and scoring the other two on short-yardage carries.
The squad rebounded from the Brown loss with a convincing nonleague win at Lafayette. The Leopards had just beaten Penn, bringing their record to 3-0, but Harvard built a 24-13 halftime lead and cruised to a 27-13 victory. Tailback Cheng Ho ’10 ran for 108 yards and a touchdown, Pizzotti hoisted a 67-yard scoring pass to receiver Chris Lorditch ’11, and the defense, led by tackle and captain Matt Curtis ’09, had three quarterback sacks and two interceptions. Sophomore kicker Patrick Long nailed field goals of 41 and 45 yards; the second was Harvard’s longest since 1993.
Tidbits: Brown’s rain-soaked win—its first over Harvard since 1999—positioned the Bears as front-runners in the Ivy title chase. Brown last won the league in 2005, when its sole defeat in a 9-1 season was a 38-35 overtime loss to Harvard.
Friday night lights: The Holy Cross opener was just Harvard’s second nocturnal football game, and the first to be held on a Friday. The 20,462 attendees were treated to an improved Stadium sound system and a new video scoreboard that offers instant replays. The first night opener took place a year ago and drew 18,898 fans.
Bombs away: With Pizzotti’s strong arm and a clutch of nimble receivers, Harvard may have the Ivies’ best aerial attack. A fifth-year senior who sat out the 2005 season with a back injury, Pizzotti got the starting job a year ago and posted the second-best single-season passing numbers in Harvard annals. He threw for 370 yards against Holy Cross, for 320 at Brown, and for 231 at Lafayette. Iannuzzi, who also returned kicks, had 11 catches in the Holy Cross game, and Luft made 10 receptions at Brown.
The Game: The annual clash with Yale kicks off at the Stadium at noon on November 22. A halftime ceremony will mark the fortieth anniversary of the legendary 29-29 tie of 1968 (see “The Force Was With Them,” page 79).
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Harvard Athletic Communications
At Dillon Field House, the football squad now suits up in opulently refurbished rooms. Lining the walls are 114 cherrywood lockers with crown moldings, equipped with built-in safes and wooden seats. Structural columns are encased in “Shaker-design custom hardwood cherry.” Sports mantras (“Pride,” “Commitment,” “Tradition,” “10,000 Men of Harvard”) are inscribed on ceiling soffits, and one wall displays a mural depicting high moments from seasons past. Two multimedia stations feature 46-inch flat-panel TVs, video projectors, and iPod docks; a refrigeration unit stores beverages and ice cream. Overseen by head coach Tim Murphy, the gutting and rebuilding of Dillon’s ground floor was finished last summer. Visitors’ locker rooms were “touched up,” but not transfigured.