- Harvard Athletic Communications
It’s no longer news that Harvard has a powerhouse offense. The Crimson run defense also tops the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision. But pass defense? Not so much.
The defensive secondary had a bad air day at Princeton a week ago. Clawing back from a 20-0 halftime deficit, the feisty Tiger offense got an early second-half touchdown, scored again after forcing a Harvard fumble, and bombarded the Crimson with four touchdown passes in the final period, the last one with 13 seconds to play. The 39-34 smackdown—regarded by some as the worst loss in Harvard football history—broke a 14-game winning streak and left Princeton atop the Ivy League standings.
Under the lights at Dartmouth’s Memorial Field on Saturday evening, it began to look like déja vu all over again.
Fighting back from a 21-0 halftime deficit, the Big Green offense got an early second-half touchdown, forced a Harvard fumble, and had a golden fourth-and-goal opportunity at the Crimson one-yard line. But the Harvard defense swarmed Dominick Pierre, the Green’s top running back, on an attempted line plunge.
Dartmouth regrouped and scored on the first play of the Green’s next possession—a pass from sophomore quarterback Alex Park to his speedy receiver Ryan McManus, who shook off a succession of Crimson tacklers and broke away for a 68-yard touchdown.
But with the Harvard lead cut to seven points, the defense raised its game and held Dartmouth scoreless over the last 20 minutes. The Crimson offense, stymied for most of the third quarter, scored another 10 points in the final period to clinch a hard-won 31-14 victory.
Earlier that afternoon, a last-minute Cornell field goal had dealt Princeton its first league defeat, tightening the race for the Ivy trophy. Harvard, Princeton, and Pennsylvania are now locked in a three-way tie for the lead, with identical league records of 3-1.
In a postgame interview, Harvard head coach Tim Murphy called Dartmouth “the toughest team we’ve played.” The Crimson defense, added Murphy, “was great when it had to be.”
Still shaky at times, the defense yielded 378 passing yards to Park and his freshman backup, Dalyn Williams. But Harvard’s front four, led by ends Zach Hodges ’15 and John Lyon ’13, also chalked up six quarterback sacks, seven tackles-for-loss, and 10 quarterback hurries (half of them by Hodges). Harvard leads the FCS in sacks with an average of 4.7 per game.
Park had completed 23 of 38 passes for 304 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception before leaving the game with a shoulder injury in the final period. His most favored receiver, junior Michael Reilly, had 12 catches for 165 yards.
Harvard’s rushing defense was all but impenetrable, holding the Dartmouth ground game to minus-two net yards rushing in the opening half, and to 19 yards on 24 carries overall. The team was without its tackling leader, senior linebacker and captain Bobby Schneider, who broke his arm at the end of the Princeton game. He was ably replaced by sophomore Jacob Lindsey, who led the defensive unit with 12 tackles.
Senior tailback Treavor Scales fronted the Harvard ground attack, rushing for 89 yards and three touchdowns. With 10 so far this season, Scales leads the league in rushing touchdowns. His first two of the night came on short-yardage runs in the second period; the third came on the opening play of the final quarter, stretching Harvard’s margin to 28-14. With six minutes left on the clock, a 25-yard field goal by David Mothander ’14 gave Harvard an additional three-point cushion.
Senior quarterback Colton Chapple, always a passing threat, made some exceptional plays on his feet. He rushed for 88 yards on designed plays and scrambles, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 16-yard keeper to cap a 93-yard passing drive on Harvard’s first series. Chapple finished the game with 17 pass completions in 31 attempts, for 170 aerial yards.
For the record, Chapple did not throw a passing touchdown—a first in his 14 varsity starts. He leads the Ivies with 18 scoring passes this season, matching a Harvard record set in 2000 by Neil Rose ’03.
Dartmouth (4-3, 2-2) had lost to Penn in its Ivy opener, but had then beaten Yale and Columbia. Harvard has now won nine straight against the Green, has taken 15 of the last 16 meetings, and has not lost a game at Memorial Field since 1993.
Harvard (6-1, 3-1) would secure at least a share of the Ivy title by defeating Columbia, Penn, and Yale in the last three games of the season. “Our next step,” said coach Murphy after the game, “is to become a really well-balanced team.”
IN OTHER ACTION: With 50 seconds to play, Cornell (4-3, 2-2 Ivy) scored on a 23-yard field goal to overtake Princeton (4-3, 3-1), 37-35. Two fourth-quarter field goals gave Penn (3-4, 3-1) a 20-17 win over Brown (4-3, 1-3). Columbia (2-5, 1-3) nipped Yale (2-5, 1-3) in the final minute of play to secure a 26-22 victory.
Next SATURDAY: Harvard hosts Columbia at the Stadium, with a 1 p.m. kickoff.
The Harvard-Dartmouth score by quarters:
Harvard 7 14 0 10 — 31
Dartmouth 0 0 14 0 — 14
The season so far:
Harvard 28, San Diego 13
Harvard 45, Brown 31
Harvard 52, Holy Cross 3
Harvard 45, Cornell 13
Harvard 35, Bucknell 7
Princeton 39, Harvard 34
Harvard 31, Dartmouth 14