Sports | Football
Football: Harvard 38, Yale 19
On Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Justice was swift. Justice was sure-footed. Justice was elusive. Justice prevailed.
With magical wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley ’19 scoring three touchdowns, Harvard defeated Yale 38-19 to win The Game for the ninth straight year (the longest streak by either team in the series’ 132-game history) and for the fourteenth time in the last 15 outings. The victory gave the Crimson an overall 9-1 record and a 6-1 mark in the Ivy League, good for a share of the title with Dartmouth and Penn. (Yale dropped to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in league play.) The championship was Harvard’s third straight, unprecedented for the program. Harvard coach Tim Murphy’s record in The Game now stands at 17-5 and the Ivy title was his eighth. He was especially proud of the way his team had rebounded after its 35-25 loss to Penn the week before, its first defeat in 23 games. “Our kids were in a little bit of a shock,” Murphy said. “I’m really impressed the way we turned it around.”
Yale coach Tony Reno (a onetime Murphy assistant) lamented what might have been: “We had plenty of opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on and Harvard did.”
Shelton-Mosley (five catches for 119 yards) was incandescent, but hardly the only Crimson player to cover himself in glory. Operating the attack with aplomb, quarterback Scott Hosch ’16 completed 23 of 37 passes and tossed for four scores; with well-timed scrambles and keeper plays, he even led the team in rushing with 60 yards on 11 carries (a fact that seemed to gobsmack Murphy when it was presented in the postgame media conference). In the process, the native of Sugar Hill, Georgia, became Harvard’s all-time single-season passing leader: his 2,827 yards in 2015 surpass the 2,655 of Neil Rose in 2000. Hosch, who never went into a season as the team’s number-one quarterback, also ran his record as a starter over two seasons to 15-1. He departs with the fervent thanks of his teammates and coach. Lauded Murphy, “He’s got an understated toughness. He can really produce under pressure. He is like Tom Brady in this regard. He is not a great athlete, he does not have one of the three or four strongest arms in our league, and yet, game after game, he gets better, and he produces. It’s a remarkable story.”
Other stalwarts? The senior-laden defense, led by linebacker Jake Lindsey ’16 (team-high 11 tackles), limited the Elis to 34 net rushing yards on 19 carries and kept them off the scoreboard in the middle two periods. (As a group, the Crimson class of 2016 leaves with a 36-4 career record, tied for the program’s best in the Ivy era with the class of 2015.) Ben Braunecker ’16 showed why he may be the next Crimson tight end to play in the NFL, leading the team in receptions with six, including two for touchdowns. Finally, in the absence of injured star runner Paul Stanton Jr. ’16 (torn ACL suffered in the loss to Penn), the Smith siblings—Seitu II ’15 (’16) and Semar ’18—literally carried the load in the backfield, each gaining 53 yards, often tough ones up the middle. “I’m really happy for the Smith brothers,” said Murphy afterward.
In the beginning, it appeared that this might at long last be the Bulldogs’ day. Hardly had the crowd of more than 50,000 (with seemingly at least that many more stuck in traffic outside the Bowl) settled into their seats on a brisk, breezy afternoon than Yale had moved smartly down the field in 10 plays. On the capper, a fourth-and-12 from the Harvard 28, quarterback Morgan Roberts (38 for 65 passing on the day) found splendid receiver Christopher Williams-Lopez (game-high 13 catches) in among several Crimson defenders for a touchdown. Bryan Holmes kicked the extra point. Yale 7, Harvard 0.
The Elis’ lead lasted 53 seconds. Asante Gibson ’16 returned the kickoff 24 yards to the Harvard 46. On third down from the 47, Shelton-Mosley ran a deep post pattern and blew past Yale safety (and captain) Cole Champion. “The line held up and Justice ran a great route,” said Hosch afterward. “The ball was thrown a little farther than I would like, but he just bailed me out.” And how—Shelton-Mosley stretched and grabbed it, then ran into the end zone. Kenny Smart ’18 kicked the extra point. Harvard 7, Yale 7. Just like that.
The second quarter was where the game was won. Aided by a questionable pass-interference call, Hosch took the Crimson 66 yards in five plays. From the Yale 35, he evaded the rush, flipped one over the middle to Shelton-Mosley, who dodged a defender, then cut to the left and beat everyone to the end-zone pylon. (“He makes routine plays great,” Hosch said of the freshman. “He just catches that thing and makes 40 yards out of it.”) Smart converted. Harvard 14, Yale 7.
With just over five minutes left in the half, Harvard took over on its 11. The Crimson went 89 yards in 11 plays, the most spectacular being a one-handed, 29-yard snag by tight end Anthony Firkser ’17, who was blanketed by two Bulldogs. On third and four from the Yale 17, Hosch connected with Braunecker, running deep in the left corner of the end zone. (“Scotty laid in a beautiful ball, and I clung [to it] for dear life,” said Braunecker.) Smart booted. Harvard 21, Yale 7.
Only 2:27 remained in the half, but the Bulldogs bade to make it a one-score game. Roberts took Yale from its 26 to the Harvard 13. With eight seconds to go, the Bulldogs lined up for a field goal. Twice the Crimson took a time out in hopes of “icing” kicker Holmes. Usually this gimmick fails abjectly. This time it didn’t. From the 30, Holmes booted—wide right.
At the start of the second half, Harvard put the hammer down, ramming the ball 74 yards into the end zone. (Not even two false-start penalties could deter the Crimson.) Just as important, the drive ate up six minutes and 28 seconds and featured a nifty 14-yard dash by wide receiver Andrew Fischer ’16. The touchdown came on a third-down, two-yard pass from Hosch to Braunecker, who bent down for the ball in the back right corner of the end zone. Smart again split the uprights. Harvard 28, Yale 7.
The Elis tried to answer, reaching the Harvard 37, but the Crimson defense forced Roberts into three incompletions to turn the ball over. Only seven plays later Harvard padded its lead. The team’s field-goal kicking had been erratic this season, but this time Smart coolly drilled a 39-yarder. Harvard 31, Yale 7.
Now the Crimson began exchanging yards for time. Yale scored on a one-yard Roberts run, but it took the Elis a precious four minutes and 30 seconds to go 82 yards. Seeking to make it a two-score game, the Bulldogs went for a two-point conversion, but Roberts’ pass fell incomplete. Harvard 31, Yale 13.
Then came Yale’s opportunity to build some momentum. Harvard was forced to punt, and kicker Zach Schmid ’18 had trouble with a bouncing snap. The Elis took over on the Crimson 26—but Roberts threw four incompletions.
With darkness closing in, Hosch led Harvard on a money drive. Normally, this would have been Stanton time. Instead, the 12 plays (consuming seven minutes and six seconds) included eight runs by the Smith brothers and two by Hosch himself (including a 19-yarder down the uncovered right side). The touchdown came on a run in which Shelton-Mosley came from the right side, took the ball from Hosch, sliced through a hole created by the blocks of Firkser and Semar Smith and cavorted eight yards to the left end-zone pylon. Smart punctuated. Harvard 38, Yale 13.
Little more than five minutes remained. Roberts took the Elis to another touchdown, an eight-yard toss to Stephen Buric. But the two-point attempt—another pass—again was no good.
The 2015 Game finished with defensive back Sean Ahern ’16 (one of the most aggressive Crimson hitters in recent memory) getting in his last licks on a pass breakup, Murphy getting a Gatorade shower from captain Matt Koran ’16, and the Harvard Band tootling happily away. In the end, Justice had triumphed.
Dartmouth 17, Princeton 10
Penn 34, Cornell 21
Brown 28, Columbia 23
Coming up: The annual 42-week hiatus, followed by the kickoff of Harvard’s 143rd football season, on September 17 at Harvard Stadium against Rhode Island.
Tidbits: Hosch was named the College Sports Madness Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week. For the season, he led the Ivy League in total offense (303.3 per game) and passing yards (282.7 per game). At week’s end, he ranked sixth in the nation in passing yards per game, seventh in total offense, ninth in yards per pass attempt (8.86) and ninth in passing yards per completion (14.32)…Murphy’s 17 wins are the most for any coach in The Game’s 132-year history…Harvard’s win was its fifteenth straight on the road, the Crimson’s longest streak ever….The most delighted onlooker in the Bowl might have been longtime Harvard football superfan John Norton, who witnessed his sixty-eighth consecutive Yale game.
The score by quarters