With eight consecutive losses to Harvard, the Lafayette football team didn’t need much extra motivation for Saturday’s game.
But the Leopards got it in the form of freshman Peter Bross.
Bross, a fullback from Allentown, Penn., was diagnosed with cancer just before his high school graduation. The rookie had been doing well in his first weeks on campus until a setback on Friday required hospitalization.
“We just were inspired by Peter,” senior tailback DeAndre’ Morrow said. “He’s been going through a lot and battling a lot, and just seeing his tenacity is something that inspired us. So we wanted to come out and make a statement for him.”
On Saturday, Lafayette reversed its losing trend against the Crimson—a team it hadn’t beaten since 1996.
The win also completed the Leopards’ four-game sweep of their Ivy opponents, as the team had already taken down Penn, Yale, and Columbia this fall.
“Our seniors wanted this year to be different than a year ago,” Lafayette coach Frank Tavani said. “The last three years, we’ve gotten to 4-1, we’d gotten to this point, but we couldn’t get to that 5-1...We came out and played a heck of a game.”
But the Leopards did it with Bross in the forefront of their minds.
“Our players dedicated their effort to him today,” Tavani said. “We dedicated today’s game ball to Peter Bross.”
Just a week after junior Gino Gordon and freshman Treavor Scales lit up the Cornell defense with a combined 229 yards and three touchdowns, the Harvard rushing game was nearly silent against Lafayette.
Scales led the team with 40 yards on 10 carries, while Gordon mustered just 26 yards on 11 touches.
The Leopards boast the Patriot League’s best defense, allowing just 14.6 points per game heading into Saturday’s contest. And that dominance did not falter against the Crimson offense.
“When you don’t establish the run, it makes everything more challenging,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “It’s a struggle to get any continuity. And you still want to keep running the football to get a little bit of balance in your offense, but at the same time, it’s easier to defend the pass if you’re not running the ball very well.”
While the Crimson had to rely on junior quarterback Collier Winters’ 233 passing yards for most of its offense, Lafayette mastered the balanced attack.
The Leopards’ senior quarterback Rob Curley threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while Morrow led the rush with 85 yards and two touchdowns. Lafayette’s ball carriers gained 133 yards on the ground.
THREE AND OUT
Most of Harvard’s dismal offensive performance in the first half had to do with its inability to get drives going.
Though early turnovers were costly for the Crimson, as the Leopards turned a fumble and an interception into its first two scores, Harvard hurt itself just as much with its struggle to get first downs.
The Crimson mustered just five first downs in the first half, and midway through the third quarter, the team had as many penalties—six—as first downs.
“It’s a team game, it’s a game of real estate,” Murphy said. “And one of the things we’ve done an effective job with the first four games is staying on the field offensively…But today, our third-down conversions were really, really poor, and our defense was out there much too long.”
Harvard was just 2-of-16 on third-down conversions for the game, while Lafayette was 4-of-12.
The Crimson was able to pull things together in the fourth quarter, with two touchdown drives and nine first downs, compared to just three first downs for the Leopards.
But the hole Harvard had dug itself in proved to be insurmountable.
“As I said even in our victories, we’re not a dominant team,” Murphy said. “We have to do everything right because everybody’s good enough to beat you if you don’t do all the little things.”
—Staff writer Kate Leist can be reached at email@example.com.