EASTON, Pa.—For the top scoring defense of the Ivy League, there were remarkably few theatrics. There were no interceptions, no strip sacks, no forced fumbles.
But on Saturday afternoon, the Crimson needed no flashy antics to get the job done as it swiftly and methodically dismantled Lafayette’s offense in every facet on Fisher Field.
Spurred by a dominant defense that has allowed just three points over as many games, Harvard (5-0, 2-0 Ivy) delivered a thrashing to a battered Leopards squad (1-6, 0-2 Patriot), 42-0, to wrap up nonconference play and win its 19th straight.
It took less than five minutes to realize that Lafayette quarterback Drew Reed wouldn’t spend much time in the pocket.
On the Leopards’ second drive—the first having resulted in a quick three-and-out—Reed faced a third-and-13 after a first down run went the opposite direction. Reed dropped back and scanned the coverage for just a second before captain Matt Koran came flying in his direction. The Lafayette playcaller barely evaded the sack by throwing into double coverage, and the ball sailed over his intended receiver’s head.
The next Leopards series—now with the home team down seven—fared about as well. Both times Reed dropped back to throw, he backpedaled so far that his passes barely broke the line of scrimmage. Three possessions in, Lafayette’s offense still had yet to move the chains.
“Any time you can limit an offense to three-and-out, it’s big,” senior cornerback Chris Evans said. “You get your offense the ball back almost immediately, and usually with good field position, so that’s how you want to come out every game.”
For the remainder of the game, the Harvard’s defense didn’t make it much easier for Reed, who was sacked four times by four different white jerseys and hurried another five times. The Crimson front seven also continued its domination against the run, holding Lafayette to negative 18 yards on the ground.
The Leopards offense did come close to putting points on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, but a turnover on downs at Harvard’s 26 stymied the scoring attempt. Another pair of unsuccessful fourth down attempts kept Lafayette scoreless despite two trips into the red zone in the second half.
The Crimson’s defense has now kept opponents out of the end zone for the past 188 minutes of play, since Brown scored a touchdown three weeks ago.
“Every game, our goal is to not let them score,” Evans said. “If they can’t score, they can’t win.”
THE HURT LOCKER
Harvard entered Saturday’s contest missing a few crucial players on offense—senior right tackle Cole Toner to a soft tissue foot injury, senior wide receiver Andrew Fischer to an upper body injury, and junior tight end Anthony Firkser to a high ankle sprain.
Early on, it seemed that the Crimson’s veteran offensive line was missing Toner. In Harvard’s opening possession, Lafayette defensive end Beau Bosch broke through the right side to take down senior quarterback Scott Hosch, the play-caller’s first sack of the year. Junior right tackle Willie Nichols, who is filling in while Toner recovers, and the rest of the line eventually settled in to find clean running lanes for senior running back Paul Stanton, who notched 123 yards and two scores.
Hosch managed 272 yards passing even without Fischer and Firkser, two of his top targets in the first few games, due in large part to the depth of the Crimson’s receiving corps.
“We have a lot of experience, not just with the ones, but with the twos as well,” said senior tight end Ben Braunecker, who accounted for 123 of Hosch’s 272 yards. “It’s a great feeling knowing that when the second guy steps in, it’s not a letdown whatsoever.”
On the other sideline, Lafayette suited—by Harvard coach Tim Murphy’s count—just 59 players, and was sorely missing its injured players, especially on the offensive line. Leopards coach Frank Tavani attributed much of the lack of success in the run as well as pressure on Reed to the youth and inexperience of the line.
Lafayette’s line Saturday featured two true freshmen at center and right guard, and a sophomore at right tackle, as well as a player at left guard who had never played an offensive position prior to this season—in high school or college.
“None of them were totally ready to play, but you have to do that,” Tavani said.
ONE FOR THE BOOKS
The win in Easton marked Harvard’s 13th straight on the road, the longest in program history, breaking a record set by the squads from 1974 to 1977. If the Crimson posts another undefeated season, it will tie the longest winning streak at 24 games. The last time Murphy’s team lost was in 2013 against Princeton, a triple-overtime defeat in Harvard Stadium.
Through five games, the Crimson has turned the ball over just once—an interception in week one against URI. The mark leads the FCS in fewest turnovers lost, and the defense trails only McNeese St. in the FCS for points allowed, with just 8.0 points per game allowed.
–Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at email@example.com.