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Harvard and Penn squared off Saturday at Harvard Stadium amidst wind, rain, and cold. Coming into the game, the Quakers and the Crimson were tied for the Ivy League lead with two games to go, both being unbeaten in the league. A win today would guarantee at least a tie for first place in the Ivy League. The day went to Penn, however, who beat Harvard 17-7.
Dealing with weather conditions such as these never makes it easy to establish an offense, and this was on display Saturday. Neither the passing game nor the running game ever got itself going. Overall, the Crimson were only able to muster 250 total yards of offense. It was a pretty balanced failure, too, as the Crimson got 135 yards through the air and 115 yards on the ground. They had lots of trouble converting third downs and turned the ball over on two consecutive drives in the third quarter that looked promising at inception.
The only play that seemed to work was the quarterback keeper. In fact, Harvard QB Collier Winters led the team in terms of total carries (18), total yards (57), and had longest run (15 yards). That their longest run was only 15 yards really speaks to the lack of success they had on the ground. Unfortunately, they were not really able to get anything through the air. Winters overthrew or underthrew several of his receivers, plus took two sacks and threw the ball away several more times to avoid sacks.
Offensively, it was all about Collier Winters. When he played well, the team did all right. When he played badly, the team did poorly. It was as simple as that. He did have a nice 45 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Lorditch in the third quarter which brought the game to within 10, but that was as close as they would ever come. In the fourth they moved the ball to the Quakers one-yard line, but they failed to punch it in on fourth down and turned the ball over. This was their last shot at scoring, and Penn held on, ran out most of the clock, and came away with the win.
The Crimson started slowly on defense, giving up a touchdown just four plays into the game. They gave up all 17 points the Quakers scored in the first half, digging themselves into a hole that they just could not pull themselves out of. While they had good success at stopping the run, giving up just 82 yards, they were not nearly as strong against the pass. They gave up 20 receptions to seven different receivers for a total of 181 passing yards. The Penn quarterbacks, Kyle Olson and Keiffer Garton had a pretty easy time picking apart the Crimson secondary. They did not show nearly as many problems with the weather as Collier Winters did, with more of their passes on target and more pure spiral throws. If anything, their stats should have been higher, but Penn dropped several passes, including one in the third quarter that would have put six more points on the board.
Harvard Stadium is a fun place to watch a football game. It’s the oldest football stadium in continuous use, and its simple stone U-shape gives the games a classical feel. However, in conditions like this, with everyone huddled at the top of the stadium where the seats are covered, there never seemed to be much of a home-field advantage.
Harvard got outplayed, pure and simple. They could not stop Penn, they could not move the ball with any real efficiency, and several of their more promising drives were nullified by turnovers or stalled due to penalty. Harvard did not play well, they did not deserve to win, and they did not deserve to win the Ivy League.