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Putting final flourishes on stellar careers, quarterback Colton Chapple and tailback Treavor Scales led Harvard to a hard-fought 34-24 victory over Yale at the Stadium on Saturday.

Harvard has now won six straight against Yale, for the first time in the 129-game series, and has prevailed in 11 of the teams’ last 12 meetings.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent a writer to cover the valedictory appearances of seniors Chapple and Scales, who’d played high-school football in the Greater Atlanta area. They gave him plenty to write about.

In a furiously contested second half, Chapple ran for Harvard’s first touchdown of the game, set up another score with a run of 61 yards, and passed for two additional touchdowns. Scales finished with a career-high 177 yards rushing, averaged 9.3 yards per carry, and sealed the Crimson victory with a 63-yard breakaway run with just over a minute to play.

Harvard (8-2, 5-2 Ivy League) took the field as a 31-point favorite, but was nearly upset by an injury-riddled Yale team that had drafted two former junior varsity receivers to quarterback its offense. “We had nothing left,” Harvard head coach Tim Murphy said after the game. “We gave it everything we had. We didn’t just have to make plays—we had to make really big plays to win this game. It was a great heavyweight fight, and we landed the last punch.”

Yale (2-8, 1-6) wound up last in the league for only the third time in the past 30 years. The Blue’s one Ivy win had been a 27-13 victory over Pennsylvania, the eventual league champion. Harvard finished in second place, as did the 2009 and 2010 Crimson teams. Last year’s team won the Ivy title.

Encumbered by penalties and fumbles, neither side could generate much momentum in a first half that, as Boston Globe writer Christopher Gasper put it, “had all the excitement of filling out your tax forms.” The only scoring came on a 29-yard field goal by Yale’s Philippe Panico and an answering field goal of 23 yards by David Mothander ’14. Harvard’s three points were the Crimson’s fewest at halftime since the 2010 season. 

But the offense heated up after the break, taking a 6-3 lead on a 37-yard Mothander field goal and scoring the game’s first touchdown when Chapple rolled out to pass, scrambled to his right, and sprinted 18 yards down the sideline to the end zone, stretching the lead to 13-3.

Yale struck back two minutes later, when wide receiver Cameron Sandquist made a leaping catch of a 46-yard pass from fifth-string quarterback Henry Furman deep in Harvard territory. That set up a three-yard touchdown by sophomore Tyler Varga, the Eli’s back-of-all-work and the Ivy League’s leading rusher.

The Blue forged ahead at the start of the final quarter, with Furman throwing into an end-zone crowd and receiver Grant Wallace dodging defenders to make an improbable catch.

Yale was now ahead, 17-13, but the lead would change hands three more times in the quarter.

The Crimson retook the lead when Chapple rifled a 32-yard pass to receiver Andrew Berg ’14 in the right corner of the end zone. But an interception on Harvard’s next series allowed Yale to score on another short-yardage plunge by Varga.

That gave Yale a short-lived 24-20 lead. On the Crimson’s next play from scrimmage, Chapple broke loose on a quarterback draw and streaked 61 yards to the Yale nine-yard line, where he was overtaken and tripped up by Eli cornerback Collin Bibb. After a pass-interference penalty had moved Harvard to the four-yard line, Chapple and tight end Cameron Brate ’14 combined to confect the game’s decisive play.

“When we broke the huddle,” Chapple said later, “Cam told me, ‘If I’m covered, give me a high ball.’ You can’t draw it up any better than that. He made an unbelievable play.” Outjumping Yale’s Ryan Falbo, a six-foot-three-inch linebacker, the six-five Brate pulled down Chapple’s perfectly thrown pass for the go-ahead touchdown.

With almost five minutes still left on the clock, the ball went over to Yale, and Harvard made a sterling defensive stand, containing three Eli passing attempts and forcing a punt.

Harvard attempted to kill the clock on its next possession, but still faced a third-and-13 with 1:19 remaining. Scales then landed the last and most telling punch of the fight. Taking a pitch from Chapple, he knifed through the Yale secondary and streaked down the right sideline for a 63-yard touchdown that cemented the Harvard victory.

“I have never seen Treavor run so fast, I guarantee you that,” said Chapple after the game. “At that moment, I knew that all our hard work had come to fruition. Just pure elation, for the team and this group of seniors.”

“The emotion is second to none,” said Scales of his last career carry. “Almost indescribable.”

Scales’s 177 yards rushing tied a Yale game record set by Eion Hu ’97 in the 1996 game. With 29 rushing touchdowns in his career, he is also tied for second on Harvard’s all-time scoring list.

Chapple netted 128 yards rushing, a personal best, and completed 22 of 32 passes for 209 yards and one interception. He finished his illustrious Crimson career as Harvard’s all-time single-season leader in scoring passes (24) and total offense (3,235 yards, or an average of 7.9 yards per game). Despite playing just 17 games as a starter, he came just two touchdown passes shy of tying the Harvard career record of 41, set by Neil Rose ’03.

Linebackers Jacob Lindsey ’15 and Joshua Boyd ’13 led the defense with 10 tackles each.

The Crimson’s 34-point output brought the season’s total to 394—supplanting the previous Harvard record of 374, set by the 2011 team, and setting a new Ivy League record.  

Future Harvard scouts will doubtless continue to keep Georgia high-schoolers in their sights. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s game report noted, “Georgia is not only a red state but a Crimson one as well. Harvard has 157 undergraduates from Georgia, 13 of them on its football roster. There were no Georgia players dressed in Yale blue.”

(Read Journal-Constitution football writer Mike Knobler’s account of The Game here.)

In other Ivy games: Holding off a last-ditch Big Red rally, Penn (6-4, 6-1) clinched the Ivy championship with a 35-28 victory over Cornell  (4-6, 2-5). Dartmouth (6-4, 4-3) beat Princeton (5-5, 4-3), 35-21. Brown (7-3, 4-3) defeated Columbia (3-7, 2-5), 22-6.

The Harvard-Yale score by quarters:

Yale            3   0    7   14   —   24
Harvard     0   3  10   21   —   34

Attendance: 31,123

 

The 2012 Season:

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
Harvard 69, Columbia 0
Penn 30, Harvard 21
Harvard 34, Yale 24