This Saturday, the Harvard football team (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) will experience the longest bus ride of its season.
Six hours—that’s how long it will take the Crimson coach to wind from Cornell’s stadium in Ithaca, N.Y. to a reserved parking spot in Cambridge, Mass.
If Harvard defeats the Big Red (0-3, 0-1 Ivy), earning a 12th consecutive road win, the trip may well whip by in a blur of celebration and rest.
But if the Crimson exits with a loss, the players will have lots of lonely medians to stare at as they contemplate the result—and those six hours may feel more like 60.
Any road trip threatens a deflated bus ride home, but in this case, the stakes of deflation are especially high, both because the trip is so long and Cornell is so winless.
In the first three weeks of play, the Big Red has dropped three defeats in demoralizing, if not heartbreaking, fashion.
At homecoming on week one, Cornell held a four-point lead over Bucknell for most of the fourth quarter before conceding a fourth-down touchdown pass with less than two minutes left. The Big Red lost that one, 19-14.
The next Saturday, Cornell built a 26-7 lead at Yale before wilting in the second half, giving up 27 unanswered points en route to a 33-26 defeat.
And this past weekend versus Colgate, the Big Red faced a 28-7 gap, narrowed the score to 28-21, got the ball back, marched to the Raiders’ 10-yard line, and ultimately missed four straight passes to seal the result.
No, it has not been an easy season for Cornell.
By contrast, Harvard has paraded from one blowout to the next. Thus far the Crimson has played Rhode Island, Brown, and Georgetown and won 41-10, 53-27, and 45-0, respectively.
In order to flip this script, the Big Red will rely on senior running back Luke Hagy. A second-team all-Ivy selection in 2014, Hagy has topped 100 yards rushing in each of the past six games, including 117 in the league matchup against the Bulldogs.
“They run a lot of under-center stuff, which is kind of an anomaly now in the modern football game,” said senior right end Dan Moody. “I like to think they’re a run-first team with the great running back they have.”
Meanwhile Harvard has stiffened against the run since giving up 141 yards to the Rams in the first week. In the two contests since, the Crimson has held opponents to an average of 80 yards on the ground.
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