By Peyton Fine
Princeton proved a hard catch in the first half, but Harvard made it a blowout.
It was bound to happen. Harvard’s football team would have to face some adversity during the season. The law of averages state that Harvard could not simply continue to blow teams out of the water, hold them scoreless for hours on end, and score at will. Most people would have assumed that the Crimson would face this challenge against Dartmouth or Yale, but Princeton turned out to be the formidable foe. That was until the second half.
The game started off on the wrong foot for Harvard, and the feeling went around the stadium that this game could be different. Upon catching the opening kick, head coach Tim Murphy reached into his bag of tricks and called a reverse. Harvard successfully got the ball into the hands of the normally trusty Andrew Fischer’16, and the rout looked on as Fischer streaked towards midfield. However, a Princeton cover man caught Fischer from behind, and the ball popped loose.
From there, the Crimson and the Tigers traded drives stalling due to penalties or negative plays until the second quarter. In the first drive of the quarter, Fischer began to return to his reliable form. Fischer caught two passes for 48 yards, and fellow senior Paul Stanton mixed in a few runs along with Seitu Smith’16 to bring the Crimson down to Princeton’s 2-yard line. From there, senior Scott Hosch faked a toss to Stanton and walked into the end zone himself to give Harvard the lead.
But, the blowout did not ignite from there. Princeton quickly responded with a score of their own to tie the game at seven. This really was the law of averages coming back to haunt Harvard. Harvard had not allowed a point in over 212 minutes of play. That is the equivalent of three and a half entire games. It was bound to happen. The Crimson though would respond again with a quick score to lead 14-7 going into the half.
Now, the blowout could ignite. Harvard came out in the second half and was literally perfect. Princeton got the ball, and Harvard forced a punt. Harvard got the ball and scored a touchdown. Princeton got the ball again. Harvard forced a punt again. Harvard got the ball and scored a touchdown…again. Shall we go one more time? Yes. Princeton got the ball for a third time; Harvard forced a punt for the third straight time, and then scored a touchdown for the third straight time. On the fourth drive, Harvard’s defense took this pattern one step further and intercepted a Princeton pass. Harvard’s offense just kept rolling along and scored a fourth touchdown.
By the end of this perfect sequence, the game was put away. Hosch had completed almost 75% of his passes for over 400 yards and two touchdowns. Stanton had added over 100 yards and another 2 touchdowns, and Fischer made up for his opening fumble in a big way. Fischer put up 190 yards and a touchdown, which represented the most yards by a Harvard receiver in three years. Just like it was bound to happen that Harvard would regress to the mean, it was also bound to happen that Harvard’s overwhelming offensive talent would dominate the game at some point.
The game against Princeton was far from perfect. The two first-half turnovers were far from customary for Harvard, and the Crimson will need to be better next week. Yes, Princeton last year was picked to finish first in the Ivy League, but this year’s Princeton team does not have that level of talent. Dartmouth though, whom Harvard plays on Friday, does. Dartmouth is ranked in the top 25 national poll just like Harvard and has similarly dominated its games so far this season. This game will likely determine the Ivy League champion. Thankfully, Harvard has gotten the bad vibes out of its system.
Peyton Fine’17 (firstname.lastname@example.org) realizes that the Crimson cannot be perfect all the time, but it will take a performance more like the second half against Princeton to beat Dartmouth on Friday.