In sports, commentators often react to blowouts by saying, “That game was over before it began.”
The expression, of course, asserts an impossibility, but in the Harvard football team’s 35-18 loss to Lafayette on Saturday, it was practically true.
An opportunistic and persistent Leopard offense combined with an ineffective and mistake-prone Crimson attack to put Lafayette (5-1, 1-0 Patriot) up, 28-3, by halftime. Harvard (3-2, 2-0 Ivy) played better in the second half, outscoring the Leopards, 15-7, but by that point, it was too little, too late.
“Well, bottom line is that Lafayette did a better job playing and coaching than we did today, and that’s why they got the victory,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “I think...the combination of a very good Lafayette team and certainly a less-than-great effort—not effort, but less-than-great production on our part—[led to the loss].”
Harvard’s woes began on the first play of its first possession, after the Crimson defense forced a Leopards punt. Junior quarterback Collier Winters hit junior wideout Chris Lorditch over the middle, but Lorditch coughed up the ball on the Harvard 27 for a fumble, and Lafayette recovered.
The Leopards wasted no time in taking advantage of the favorable field position, calling on senior tailback DeAndre’ Morrow to carry the ball.
Morrow—normally Lafayette’s fourth-string running back—broke out on his first carry for 21 yards, and then rumbled into the endzone on a six-yard run to put the Leopards up, 7-0.
Morrow finished the game with 88 rushing yards on 11 carries and also caught four passes for 54 yards. The Hilton Head, S.C. native hasn’t seen much playing time in his college career, but he’s taken advantage of his rare opportunities on the field, especially against Harvard. In 2007, Morrow made his first career start in a game against the Crimson and racked up 225 all-purpose yards.
“When we got out there, we just wanted to do something immediately,” Morrow said. “And we know how we play when we have a spark from the beginning. So coming out there, I felt comfortable running the ball, and simply that, we did what we had to do.”
With less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Harvard commited another costly turnover. Winters fired a rocket to senior wide receiver Matt Luft, but Luft couldn’t handle the pass, and the ball deflected into the hands of Lafayette linebacker Michael Schmidlein.
With the ball on the Harvard 47, the Leopards once again capitalized on a Crimson miscue. Lafayette worked the ball down to the 23, and—once again—Morrow got the call.
The senior responded, breaking through the Harvard defense and finding the open field. Morrow sauntered into the endzone for a 23-yard touchdown rush to put the Leopards up by 14.
“We have to take advantage of all the turnovers, and that’s what we do—we execute,” Morrow said.
Harvard had a chance to cut the deficit in half early in the second quarter, after having moved into the red zone at the end of the first on the strength of a 33-yard pass from Winters to Lorditch and solid running by junior tailback Gino Gordon. But the Crimson was stifled after Winters was sacked on the Lafayette 12, and Harvard had to settle for a field goal.
Down 14-3, the Crimson would not score again for the rest of the half. But the same can not be said for the Leopards, who dominated the second quarter, executing a balanced offensive attack spearheaded by senior quarterback Rob Curley. Lafayette found the endzone twice more before the clock ran out, heading into the break with a 28-3 lead.
Fortunately for Harvard, the second half was a less lopsided affair than the first.
The third quarter saw the Crimson and the Leopards engaged in a defensive battle, with the two teams trading three-and-outs.
“We hunkered down in the second half—we did a little better job,” Harvard captain Carl Ehrlich said. “But at the same time, it shouldn’t take letting up 28 points in the first half to do that.”
In the fourth, the Crimson offense finally began to show signs of life.
Taking the ball on his own 13-yard line with under 11 minutes left in the frame, Winters marched his team down the field, completing four of his six passes for 48 yards and scrambling effectively, while rookie tailback Treavor Scales provided the run support. The drive culminated with 6:05 left in the game when Winters connected with junior wideout Marco Ianuzzi on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
“I thought Collier played well today, we just didn’t give him enough help,” Murphy said. “He hung in there; he really competed; he made some good throws; he made some good scrambles.”
Lafayette responded with a touchdown of its own to go up 35-10, giving Harvard one more chance to bring the score within the realm of respectability.
Facing a fourth-and-23 at the Lafayette 47, Winters threw up a desperation heave to the endzone. Improbably, the ball fell into the waiting hands of Lorditch. The Crimson converted the two-point conversion to cap off a memorable scoring effort in an otherwise forgettable game.
“I think the biggest takeaway from this is that there’s plenty to improve,” Ehrlich said. “There’s plenty to fix before we go down the Ivy League stretch.”
—Staff writer Loren Amor can be reached at email@example.com.