- Photograph courtesy of Jon Luszcz
For two periods at Columbia’s Wien Stadium on Saturday, it looked like anybody’s game.
A winless Lion team that has caught few breaks this season gave Harvard’s league leaders a spirited tussle, matching the Crimson touchdown-for-touchdown for the first 30 minutes of play. Tied 14-14 at halftime, Harvard picked up its game in the third and fourth quarters, and left Washington Heights with a 35-21 victory, the seventh straight win of the season.
The victory was the 118th for head coach Tim Murphy, giving him the all-time Harvard record for career wins. The former record of 117 had been held by Murphy’s predecessor, Joe Restic, who coached the Crimson from 1971 to 1993.
“They [Columbia] made everything hard today,” Murphy said after the game. “They made us very uncomfortable. They made us squirm.”
The hard-charging Lion defenders forced two Harvard turnovers and sacked quarterback Collier Winters ’11 (’12) five times. But Winters still had an outstanding day, completing 20 of 30 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for another touchdown himself.
Junior Kyle Juszczyk, who teams with sophomore Cameron Brate in Harvard’s potent two-tight-end offense, caught two scoring passes and had seven receptions for 118 yards. The other scoring pass went to senior Chris Lorditch, who had four catches for 123 yards.
So far this season, Winters and backup quarterbacks Colton Chapple ’13 and Michael Pruneau ’14 have thrown 23 touchdown passes, a Harvard single-season record. The previous high was 21, set in 2003.
Columbia took an early 7-0 lead, mounting a long scoring drive on its first possession of the game. Harvard came right back with a scoring drive of its own, with Winters throwing the ball on the Crimson’s first nine plays from scrimmage, and completing all but two of his pass attempts.
After a 43-yard completion to Lorditch, Harvard seemed poised to score again as the second period started, but Columbia cornerback Ross Morand intercepted a third-and-one pass at the Lion 13-yard line, returning it for an 87-yard touchdown that put the Light Blue back in the lead.
The Crimson evened the score with a 71-yard drive on its next series, completing it with a five-yard rush by tailback Treavor Scales ’13.
Harvard broke the 14-14 deadlock midway through the third period, after an interception by cornerback Brian Owusu ’13 that set the Crimson up on the Lions’ 24-yard line. Winters scored on a quarterback sneak four plays later.
After forcing a Columbia punt, Harvard scored again on a 41-yard pass that Lorditch pulled down against double coverage. Leading 28-14 at the start of the fourth period, the Crimson recorded its last touchdown of the day when Juszczyk caught a seven-yard pass, reeled away from three Lion tacklers, and dove into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown.
Columbia got a final score on its next possession, with former all-Ivy quarterback Sean Brackett scrambling for a 19-yard touchdown. Brackett, a resourceful broken-field runner, was the Lions’ leading ground-gainer with 87 yards rushing. He completed 18 of 35 pass attempts for 196 yards.
Harvard incurred nine penalties, all in the first half. Six were called for false starts, with four coming on the team’s first scoring drive. The Crimson had two first-half fumbles as well. “That was probably the sloppiest half of football we’ve played all year,” said coach Murphy.
Harvard’s Treavor Scales had 73 yards rushing, while his alternate, freshman Zach Boden, had 63. Scales’s rushing touchdown was his fifth of the season.
Juszczyk is now tied with Brate for the team lead in touchdown receptions. Each has six.
Harvard (5-0 Ivy League, 7-1 overall) remains the league’s only unbeaten team. The Crimson could win an outright Ivy championship for the first time in four years by defeating Penn and Yale in the season’s final games.
Columbia (0-5, 0-8) has lost in 12 of the last 13 meetings with Harvard.
In other weekend action: Brown (4-1, 7-1) held off Yale (3-2, 4-4), 34-28. Penn (4-1, 5-3) dispatched Princeton (1-4, 1-7), 37-9. Dartmouth (2-3, 3-5) downed Cornell (1-4, 3-5), 33-24.
Next week: Penn comes to the Stadium for a decisive game, kicking off at noon. Over the past decade, the Crimson and the Quakers have been the most frequent contenders for Ivy League laurels, and have split their last 10 games, 5-5. Over that span, Harvard is 4-1 in games played at the Stadium. Elsewhere, Yale faces Princeton at Princeton Stadium, while Brown hosts Dartmouth. Columbia, still seeking its first win of the season, plays Cornell at Ithaca.
The Harvard-Columbia score by quarters:
Harvard 7 7 14 7 — 35
Columbia 7 7 0 7 — 21
The season so far:
Holy Cross 30, Harvard 22
Harvard 24, Brown 7
Harvard 31, Lafayette 3
Harvard 41, Cornell 31
Harvard 42, Bucknell 3
Harvard 56, Princeton 39
Harvard 41, Dartmouth 10
Harvard 35, Columbia 21