Say this for Columbia: its team kept battling. But the most decisive breaks went Harvard’s way, and the Crimson held on for a 23-7 win at the Stadium on Saturday.
The loss was the fourth in a row for Columbia, leaving the Light Blue with an Ivy League record of 1-4 (3-5 overall). Harvard (4-1, 6-2) could secure a share of the Ivy championship by defeating Penn (5-0, 7-1) and Yale (4-1, 6-2) in its last two games.
Harvard was coming off a 30-14 win over Dartmouth in which its multifaceted attack seemed to be working with Swiss-watch precision. The offense was less potent this time, but a strong defensive showing helped compensate.
The game remained scoreless until almost halfway through the second period, when Harvard took a 3-0 lead on a 29-yard field goal by David Mothander ’14. The freshman kicker had missed on a 36-yard attempt in the opening period.
The first big break of the game came on the Crimson’s next series, which appeared to have stalled out at Columbia’s 35-yard line. On fourth-and-ten, junior quarterback Collier Winters uncorked a 15-yard throw to senior receiver Mike Cook. The pass bounced out of Cook’s hands and was caught by Lion cornerback Craig Hamilton, but Cook stripped the ball away and recovered the fumble. Harvard now had a first down at the Lions’ 19, and four plays later back Gino Gordon ’11 slipped into the end zone on a five-yard carry.
Harvard scored again on a two-minute drive just before halftime, with Winters completing four of four passing attempts and scoring himself on a three-yard keeper.
Another game-changing break came in the third period, after Columbia had advanced to the Harvard two-yard line on a 27-yard pass completion from quarterback Sean Brackett to running back Zack Kourouma. A Lion touchdown seemed almost assured, but tackle Josue Ortiz ’12 then dropped Kourouma for a two-yard loss, and when Brackett tried to pass on the next play, Ortiz got a hand on the ball. Linebacker Alex Gedeon ’12 picked it off at the line of scrimmage and ran it back 29 yards.
Harvard increased its lead to 23-0 on its next possession, a six-play drive that ended with running back Treavor Scales ’13 scoring on an 11-yard rush.
Columbia moved downfield on its next series and got its only score of the game on a 36-yard pass from Brackett to receiver Kurt Williams.
Harvard mounted one more concerted drive in the final period, but a 34-yard field-goal attempt by Mothander went wide.
Gordon had a 109-yard rushing day, going over the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season. He remains the Ivy League rushing leader, with 563 yards in five games. Winters completed 25 of 38 pass attempts for 246 yards and one (short-lived) interception. His longest throw, a 50-yarder to receiver Adam Chrissis ’12 in the opening period, did not figure in the scoring.
Columbia’s Brackett, the league’s top-ranked passer, completed 26 of 45 attempts for 284 yards and two interceptions.
Captain and safety Collin Zych ’11, linebacker Nick Hasselberg ’11, and cornerback Matthew Hanson ’12 spearheaded the defense with nine tackles apiece. Ortiz, who leads the league in sacks and tackles-for-loss, added one of each to his statistics. Alex Gedeon, who had seven tackles in addition to his touchdown-saving interception, also served as the team’s punter pro tem, replacing injured kicker Jacob Dombrowski ’13 and averaging 37 yards per punt.
The win was Harvard’s seventh straight over Columbia. In their last 16 trips to Harvard Stadium, Lion teams have won only once.
In other Ivy action: Penn, still unbeaten in Ivy League play, scored 28 points in the opening quarter and routed Princeton (0-5, 1-7), 52-10. Yale made good on a late field goal to edge Brown (3-2, 4-4), 27-24. Dartmouth (2-3, 5-3) defeated Cornell (1-4, 2-6), 28-10.
Next weekend: Harvard’s make-or-break clash with Penn kicks off at Franklin Field at 1:30 on Saturday. Yale hosts Princeton in New Haven. Brown visits Dartmouth, while Cornell plays at Columbia.
The score by quarters:
Columbia 0 0 7 0 —
Harvard 0 16 7 0 — 23
The season so far:
Harvard 34, Holy Cross 6
Brown 29, Harvard 14
Harvard 35, Lafayette 10
Harvard 31, Cornell 17
Lehigh 21, Harvard 19
Harvard 45, Princeton 28
Harvard 30, Dartmouth 14
Harvard 23, Columbia 7