Crimson close in on Ivy title, undefeated season

The Crimson is now one game away from a perfect season after defeating the one team that had the best chance to shut the Cantabs down. Harvard (9-0, 6-0 Ivy) now holds the longest current Div. I-AA winning streak at 10 games. Now only one of the most heated rivalries in history stands between the Cantabs and an undefeated season.

Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki displayed respect for the Crimson squad.

“Harvard has been playing well in all aspects of the game: offense, defense and the kicking game,” Siedlecki said. “They have outstanding players on both sides of the ball and their biggest improvement has been their kicking game.”

The Crimson could not have asked for a better season opener after blanking the Holy Cross Crusaders at Harvard Stadium Sept. 18.

On the offensive side, tailback Clifton Dawson led the way, scoring three of Harvard’s four touchdowns on the day.

The Crimson defense overpowered the Crusaders not only by keeping them off the scoreboard, but also holding the Holy Cross offense to a total of 131 yards and five turnovers.

Harvard’s record, however, was almost blemished in the Ivy opener against Brown (5-4, 2-4).

The Bears took advantage of their league-best defense and held Harvard to just a field goal and a touchdown in the first half, giving themselves a 31-10 lead at halftime.

The Cantabs recovered quickly and scored all 18 points in the third quarter to close within three. After a fourth quarter touchdown, which gave Harvard its first lead of the day, Brown nailed a field goal to make it a one-point game, but it was not enough.

Against Lafayette the next week, Dawson led the Cantabs with three touchdowns.

Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick contributed to the scoring at the start of the second quarter on a four-yard touchdown run, his first of the season.

The Crimson defense played a crucial role in this game, nabbing three picks to prevent the Leopards from making any big plays.

Versus Cornell (4-5, 4-2), Fitzpatrick threw for a career-high 419 yards and two touchdowns and scored one of his own to lead the Crimson to its fourth straight win and second straight Ivy win.

Fitzpatrick’s performance moved him up to fourth place on Harvard’s single-game chart for passing yards.

Cantab wide receiver Brian Edwards scored his second touchdown of the season, both of which were on kick-off returns. Wide receiver Corey Mazza scored two touchdowns, including one to give the Crimson a 27-24 lead late in the third quarter.

Fitzpatrick ran the ball into the end zone on a 17-yard run to close out the contest, 34-24.

Harvard’s 27 unanswered points gave the Crimson a massive win over the Div. I-AA No. 19 Northeastern Huskies Oct. 16. Edwards started the rally after scoring a touchdown on a 13-yard connection from Fitzpatrick. Crimson rookie kicker Matt Schindel followed with a 38-yard boot to give the Cantabs a 10-point lead at the half. Harvard dominated the second half, scoring 17 points on touchdowns from Dawson and Fitzpatrick and another kick from Schindel.

The third Ivy matchup of the season was more like routine practice for the Cantabs as they pummeled the Tigers (4-5, 2-4) at Princeton Stadium.

Princeton came out strong in the first quarter, scoring 14 points and holding the Crimson to only three. Sadly for the Tigers, their offense ran dry for the rest of the game.

Harvard took over the second quarter as Dawson scored two of his three touchdowns on the day and Mazza scored one more to take a 22-14 lead by halftime.

In the final segment, Dawson and Fitzpatrick each tallied another touchdown and Schindel booted one between the posts to put the nail in the coffin.

After such an impressive start, no one would have guessed that Harvard would have such a hard time against Dartmouth (1-8, 1-5) Oct. 30.

The low scoring game was too close for comfort for the Cantabs. Edwards scored Harvard’s only touchdown on the day to give the Crimson a 10-0 lead by the end of the first half.

Dartmouth running back Chad Gaudet responded with a 60-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to four. Dartmouth, however, missed the PAT.

Schindel nailed his second field goal on the day, but Dartmouth blew the opportunity to win the game with 2:15 remaining in the fourth quarter by failing on a two-point conversion to keep Harvard’s one-point lead.

After such a close and stressful win against Dartmouth, a shutout against Columbia (1-8, 1-5) was just what the doctor ordered.

In the opening quarter, Dawson broke Harvard’s 92-year-old single-season scoring record on a touchdown run. Harvard tight end Jason O’Neill scored two more touchdowns while Edwards and Mazza each tallied one of their own.

After brushing Columbia aside, the Cantabs set their focus on what many expected to be their biggest challenge of the season, the Quakers, who were undefeated in the Ivy League for the past 20 games.

In the end, maybe this was not the biggest challenge for the Crimson this season.

The Harvard defense held Penn to just 263 offensive yards and caused three Quaker turnovers to stop the home team in its tracks in terms of scoring.

The Crimson offense, meanwhile, broke the 30-point barrier for the eighth time in its last nine games, and finished with 447 offensive yards.

After a Penn field goal to open the game, Harvard took over from there as Edwards, Dawson and Mazza reached the end zone in the first, second and third quarters, respectively.

Head coach Tim Murphy believed the win was more special than most.

“[Beating Penn] obviously was a very gratifying feeling and I was extremely proud of our kids and coaches,” Murphy said. “We felt like it validated both this team and our program.”

Harvard can be the sole possessor of the Ivy crown if it beats Yale in the most anticipated game of the season Saturday at Harvard Stadium. Offensively, the Crimson has an effective rushing strategy. Dawson leads Harvard in rushing, averaging 131.3 yards per game, and is leading the Ivy League with 102 points. The Elis’ leading scorer, tailback Robert Carr ’05 averages 125.4 yards per game, but only has a total of 42 points.

Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki knows his team understands the importance of The Game.

“I do not know if any added motivation is needed,” Siedlecki said. “But ruining Harvard’s unbeaten year would be a bonus.”

With the Crimson being guaranteed a piece of the title and the Bulldogs sitting in fourth place, both teams have literally nothing to lose — except pride. It is just a question of whether all that Yale has to give will be enough to end the Crimson streak.

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