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No. 19 Harvard Football (7-1, 4-1) traveled to New York to take on Ivy League competitor Columbia (2-6, 0-5) and came out victorious. The Crimson defeated the Lions 38-24 to give the Harvard football program a 900th game win in its history.
The Crimson set the tone for the game with a dominant first quarter that began with the offense. Sophomore quarterback Jaiden Craig started the game after junior quarterback Charles DePrima was benched at halftime during Harvard’s game against Dartmouth. The new starting quarterback threw a short pass to senior tight end Tim Dowd, who then ran 83 yards to secure a touchdown, bringing the score to 7-0.
The ball was then in Columbia’s possession, but they were quickly forced into a three-and-out. The punt, however, was blocked by senior safety Kaleb Moody when he rushed through the Lions’ offensive line. Moody then returned the ball 10 yards into the endzone for a touchdown, improving the lead to 14-0 with 9:47 left in the first quarter.
Harvard extended its lead later in the first quarter, with senior kicker Cali Canaval capping a 12-play, 68-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal to stretch the advantage to 17-0 with 1:12 left in the first quarter. To start off the second quarter, Columbia bounced back, opening the frame with a 23-yard rushing touchdown from Lions’ senior running back Joey Giorgio to bring the score to 17-7, with 11:11 left in the first half.
The Crimson responded with a 3-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Shane McLaughlin to up the lead to 24-7, with 8:35 left to go in the second quarter, a lead which held into the half.
Receiving the ball to begin the second half, Columbia opened the third quarter on their own 25 yard line. On a 21-play drive, the Lions drove the ball to the Harvard 24 yard line before kicking a 37-yard field goal to close the gap to 24-10 in favor of the Crimson. The Lions had two separate fourth down conversions on the drive and ate up 10 minutes of clock time to give Harvard the ball back with 5 minutes left in the third.
The Crimson started their first drive of the second half with a number of short runs by Craig and McLaughlin, but it was unable to keep the chains moving, and Harvard punted the ball deep into Columbia territory with 0:56 left on the clock in the third.
Just as they got the ball back, Moody came up big once again for Harvard, intercepting a deep shot on Columbia’s second play of the drive, giving the Crimson the ball back on their own 38 with 0:46 in the third.
Continuing the drive in the fourth quarter, Craig put the chance of Columbia winning in the rear view mirror with back to back 25+ yard slings to Dowd and Ledger Hatch to put the Crimson at Columbia’s 6-yard line. McLaughlin then sealed the deal, scoring on a 6-yard rush to put the Crimson up 31-10.
Columbia started and ended their next drive with no success, deciding to go for it on fourth and 7 deep in their own territory. The play resulted in a sack by senior defensive back Phillip Smitherman, giving the Crimson the ball on Columbia’s 18-yard line. Harvard then pushed their lead on an 8-yard drive led by 6 rushes between first-year running back Xaviah Bascon and Jaden Craig, closed by a one-yard quarterback sneak by Craig to push the Harvard lead to 38-10 with 8 minutes left in the fourth.
The Crimson then rested its starters for the rest of the game. Columbia capitalized on this by scoring two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, but the game was already well out of reach. The final score was 38-24 Harvard, improving the Crimson’s record to 7-1 and 4-1 in Ivy League play.
“Obviously, we played our backups, I believe in the fourth quarter,” said head coach Tim Murphy. “It wasn’t a pretty ending, but for the first team to come out, and defend. It all starts with defense.”
“Only gave up one touchdown. And on offense, one of our better performances in terms of being a balanced offense, and we obviously did that today.”
With the win, Harvard improved to 7-1, which is the first time since 2016 that the Crimson had seven wins out of eight games. The program also improved its record to 900-410-50 all time. With the 900th win, Harvard is ranked 10th all time, and Murphy accounts for 199 of the wins.
Harvard also received a helping hand from Dartmouth this weekend, as the Big Green pulled off an upset win against Princeton this weekend 23-21, which helped push Harvard into an undisputed first place in the Ivy league rankings with two games left in the season.
The Crimson take on Penn (6-2, 3-2) this weekend in Cambridge before traveling to New Haven to face Yale in the 139th rendition of The Game. To claim the Ivy league title and redeem themselves from the year prior, winning these games will prove once again crucial for Harvard.
-Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
-Staff writer Jack Canavan can be reached at email@example.com
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