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Sports

Football: Harvard 14, Penn 27

11.13.16

Joseph Foster gathers in the pass from quarterback Joe Viviano that pulled the Crimson to within two points of Penn, 14-12, late in the fourth quarter. Moments later, a two-point conversion pass from Justice Shelton-Mosley to Viviano tied the game.
Photograph courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications


Joseph Foster gathers in the pass from quarterback Joe Viviano that pulled the Crimson to within two points of Penn, 14-12, late in the fourth quarter. Moments later, a two-point conversion pass from Justice Shelton-Mosley to Viviano tied the game.
Photograph courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

Pass-protecting for quarterback Joe Viviano (4), Harvard offensive lineman Kyle Adams finished his block on Penn defensive lineman Corey Power.
Photograph by Grace Li/The Harvard Crimson


Pass-protecting for quarterback Joe Viviano (4), Harvard offensive lineman Kyle Adams finished his block on Penn defensive lineman Corey Power.
Photograph by Grace Li/The Harvard Crimson

Crimson linebacker Luke Hutton (35) and mates exult after Hutton’s recovery following the punt muffed by Penn returner Lonnie Tuff. 
Photograph by Grace Li/The Harvard Crimson


Crimson linebacker Luke Hutton (35) and mates exult after Hutton’s recovery following the punt muffed by Penn returner Lonnie Tuff. 
Photograph by Grace Li/The Harvard Crimson

Harvard’s Charlie Booker was hard to bring down, gaining a game-high 62 yards on 15 carries. 
Photograph by Grace Li/The Harvard Crimson


Harvard’s Charlie Booker was hard to bring down, gaining a game-high 62 yards on 15 carries. 
Photograph by Grace Li/The Harvard Crimson

For the previous three weeks the Harvard football team had (pick your cliché) played with fire, flown too close to the sun, skated on thin ice. Last Friday night at blustery Franklin Field in Philadelphia, the Crimson got singed, saw its wings melt, ended up with a cold, wet tuchis. Succumbing to a last-ditch Penn scoring drive, Harvard lost 27-14. The defeat dropped the Crimson to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Ivy League. (The loss also snapped Harvard’s 13-game Ivy road winning streak, a league record.) Penn rose to 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the league. On Saturday, Princeton’s victory over Yale made the Tigers also 5-1, forging a three-way tie for first place going into the final weekend of the season, during which Harvard will host Yale, Penn will be at Cornell and Princeton will be home against Dartmouth.

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The evening was most frustrating for Crimson quarterback Joe Viviano ’17, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Berwyn. Harried all night and sacked six times by a well-prepared, fired-up Penn defense, Viviano went 23 for 39 passing for 216 yards but also threw three interceptions, one of which the Quakers ran back for a touchdown. Thus Viviano’s return provided more fuel for the deathless maxim of Thomas Wolfe, A.M. 1922—that remark about not being able to go home again. Moreover, Harvard was penalized seven times (some at most inopportune moments) for 104 yards. For all that, Viviano and his mates came very close to pulling this one out. After the game, coach Tim Murphy, while proud of Harvard’s resolve, had the most apt summation: “We just made too many mistakes to beat a really good team tonight.”

In the early going, partly due to the wind-aided and effective punting of Zach Schmid ’18, the Crimson kept the Quakers bottled up. On the game’s fourth series, which started at the Penn 49, Harvard reached the Quakers’ three. But on third and goal, Viviano overthrew tightly covered tight end/H-back Anthony Firkser ’17 deep in the right corner of the end zone. The Crimson had to settle for a field goal, a 20-yarder knocked through by Jake McIntyre ’20. Harvard 3, Penn 0. At least we no longer had to worry if the Crimson’s streak of not having been shut out would be extended; it now stands at 187 games. But a pattern had been set.

The game continued to be played in the Penn half of the field. In the second period the Quakers’ Lonnie Tuff muffed a Schmid punt. (Lonnie Tuff! With that name, he was born to be a football player.) Harvard’s Luke Hutton ’18 pounced on the ball at the Penn 22. Helped by a 12-yard dash by Crimson running back Lavance Northington ’20, Harvard advanced to the Penn seven, first and goal. On the next play Harvard was flagged for holding, pushing the ball back to the 17. Drat! Three plays later, from the Penn 21, Viviano threw the first of his three interceptions, into the hands of Mason Williams, who snared it at the Penn 6. Opportunity squandered.

 

Two series later came the play that turned the game around. Harvard took over on its 31. On second and one, Viviano took the snap and attempted a pass to his right. Penn defensive end Louis Vecchio had it diagnosed perfectly. He stepped into the passing lane, got hold of the ball, juggled it, secured it, and headed upfield. He was not caught. What were Vecchio’s thoughts while taking the ball back? “One, don’t fumble,” he said. “Two, I got to get it to the end zone as fast as I can.” He did. Jimmy Gammill kicked the extra point. Penn 7, Harvard 3.

Later in the period the Crimson mounted a drive from its 20 that was halted at the Penn 28 when Williams picked off another Viviano pass. The half ended with the Quakers ahead despite not having taken an offensive snap past their own 47-yard line and having netted eight yards rushing.

Early in the third quarter Penn added to its lead when quarterback Alek Torgersen found wide receiver Christian Pearson all alone on the right side behind the Harvard defensive backs for a 47-yard touchdown. Gammill again kicked the point. Penn 14, Harvard 3. The Crimson kept trying to get back in the game—and kept sputtering. On this evening, star wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley ’19 was returning kickoffs and punts after several games of not doing so. But on one of his punt returns, Harvard was penalized twice—for blocking in the back and for holding. It was that kind of night.

Still, the Crimson defense kept the team in range. When Shelton-Mosley shook loose for an 18-yard punt return to which a face-mask penalty was tacked on, Harvard had the ball at the Penn 35. The Crimson stalled at the nine, whereupon McIntryre kicked a 25-yard field goal. Penn 14, Harvard 6.

Again, the defense and Schmid’s punting kept pushing Penn back. When Shelton-Mosley returned a punt 26 slithery yards to the Quakers’ 38, the Crimson faced a now-or-never drive. A holding penalty negated a 31-yard, Viviano to Firkser pass play. Showing his huge heart, Viviano rendered that setback moot, completing passes to Shelton-Mosley and Adam Scott ’19. Then, on second-and-10 from the Penn 26, Viviano floated a perfect parabola to Joseph Foster ’17 in the right corner of the end zone. Touchdown! Penn 14, Harvard 12.

With only three minutes and 23 seconds left, there was no question that Harvard would go for the two-point conversion. Thus came one of the most magical plays of the season. Viviano lined up in his accustomed spot a few yards behind the center, with Northington directly behind him. Viviano suddenly shifted to his right. The ball was snapped to Northington, who then handed it to Shelton-Mosley swinging around from the left. Meantime, Viviano (who as a back was an eligible receiver) had slipped into the right side of the end zone. Shelton-Mosley tossed, Viviano caught. Harvard 14, Penn 14. Really, after struggling all game, was the Crimson going to pull this one out? “We’re thinking overtime or we’re thinking we’ll get a shot for a field goal,” Murphy said afterward.

Torgersen never gave them a chance. Tall and bearded, he resembles one of the Vikings his name suggests are in his ancestry. He now nervelessly led the Quakers on a 10-play, 80-yard voyage of exploration that did two things: one, when Torgersen threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Justin Watson, it gave Penn the lead (21-14, after Gammill’s extra point); two, it left the Crimson virtually bereft of time to respond. When Harvard did get the ball after the kickoff (and most appropriately for this night, a holding penalty), it had the insurmountable task of trying to go 86 yards in nine seconds. On the second and final play, Viviano threw to Shelton-Mosley, who was hit by the Quakers’ Sam Philippi and fumbled. Penn’s Tayler Hendrickson picked the ball up on the 18 and ran it into the end zone. Penn 27, Harvard 14. (With no time left on the clock, the point-after was ignored.)

No time to sulk. Eli’s coming. Said Murphy, “As brutally hard as this is, the reality is that by virtue of being undefeated [in the league] going into this game, you earned your way into a title game next week, so Yale obviously has tremendous meaning for us no matter what the records. We still control our own destiny to get a piece of the Ivy League championship.’’

  

WEEKEND ROUNDUP  

Princeton 31, Yale 3
Brown 24, Dartmouth 21
Cornell 42, Columbia 40

 

Coming up: On Saturday arrives the 133rd edition of The Game as Yale invades Harvard Stadium. Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. The game will be telecast on CNBC, streamed on the Ivy League Digital Network (24-hour delay), and broadcast on the radio on WXKS 1200 AM and 94.5 FM-HD2, and on WHRB FM 95.3. Yale is 2-7 overall and 2-4 in Ivy play. The Crimson trails in the series 59-65-8 but recently it has been making up ground…and how. Harvard has won the last nine—including last year’s 38-19 victory at the Yale Bowl—and 14 of the last 15.

Throw out the record books? Coach Tony Reno’s Elis have had a down year, not only on the scoreboard but also according to statistical metrics. (Also on Ivy League Internet chat boards, where some alleged fans have been calling for Reno’s scalp.) Still, the Crimson must be concerned with its own offense, particularly an off-and-on running attack that features a back-by-committee approach. Freshman Lavance Northington has speed and moves, sophomore Charlie Booker has power, and junior Semar Smith knows where the holes are. If one or more can step to the fore, that not only would chew up yards but also would take the pressure off quarterback Joe Viviano.

 

Flagman: As reported by Spencer Ervin ’54: “On Saturday Paul Lee ’46 plans to attend the Harvard-Yale game for the seventy-fourth time, breaking the attendance record set in 1969 by Allen Rice, A.B. 1902, and equaled in 2012 by Dick Bennink ’38, and by Lee himself last year. By arcane tradition established by this magazine in 1951, the Harvard alumnus present who has attended the most Yale games waves the red flag made by Frederick Plummer, A.B. 1888, in 1884. Lee will wave a replica of that flag because the original flag has been diverted to other purposes.”

 

Men in tights: With the promotion of Ben Braunecker ’16 to the active roster of the Chicago Bears, Harvard now has three tight ends playing in the NFL. Braunecker joins Kyle Juszczyk ’13 of the Baltimore Ravens and Cam Brate ’14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in manning the position. This year’s star Crimson tight end, Anthony Firkser, no doubt will get a chance to make it a foursome.

      

The score by quarters

Penn07713  27
Harvard30011  14

Attendance: 5,092

 

 

 

 

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