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Football 2018: Harvard 31, Brown 17

9.22.18

Turnover: Having intercepted a Brown pass, Harvard senior defensive back Wesley Ogsbury (1) wends his way upfield on a 21-yard return that led to a Crimson field goal.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications


Turnover: Having intercepted a Brown pass, Harvard senior defensive back Wesley Ogsbury (1) wends his way upfield on a 21-yard return that led to a Crimson field goal.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications

Scrunch time! A host of Crimson defenders, including senior tackle Richie Ryan (50),  senior defensive back Cole Thompson (27), and junior defensive lineman Brogan McPartland (81) corrals Brown running back Andrew Bolton. The Crimson limited the Bears to 32 yards rushing.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications


Scrunch time! A host of Crimson defenders, including senior tackle Richie Ryan (50),  senior defensive back Cole Thompson (27), and junior defensive lineman Brogan McPartland (81) corrals Brown running back Andrew Bolton. The Crimson limited the Bears to 32 yards rushing.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications

Power back: Sophomore Devin Darrington, a.k.a. Thunderbolt, slashed his way to 66 yards on 12 carries.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications


Power back: Sophomore Devin Darrington, a.k.a. Thunderbolt, slashed his way to 66 yards on 12 carries.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications

There he goes again! Aided by a block from senior tight end Dan Werner (89), sophomore Aaron Shampklin broke this run for 50 of his game-high 93 yards.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications


There he goes again! Aided by a block from senior tight end Dan Werner (89), sophomore Aaron Shampklin broke this run for 50 of his game-high 93 yards.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications

THERE IS no substitute for good substitutes.

On Friday night at Brown Stadium, with its number one back, All-Ivy senior Charlie Booker III, still hobbled by injury, Harvard employed a triumvirate of sophomores who ran over, around, and through Brown. The outcome—arrived at not without nail-biting—was a 31-17 victory over a gritty pack of Bears in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The result lifted the Crimson to 2-0 overall and dropped Brown to 0-2. 

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Early in the 2018 season, Harvard coach Tim Murphy has achieved his offensive holy grail: balance. Of the 488 yards in total offense amassed by the Crimson, 251 came through the air and 237 on the ground. In Booker’s absence, three sophomores carried the rushing load. Aaron Shampklin—Ivy Player of the Week for his 178-yard, four-touchdown performance against San Diego in the opener—had another excellent outing, gaining a game-high 93 yards on 15 carries. Devin Darrington—labeled Thunderbolt to Shampklin’s Lightfoot—came through with 66 yards, many of them bruising, on 12 carries. And a newcomer, B.J. Watson, chipped in with 73 yards on only four carries. One can only imagine what opposing defenses will face if power runner Booker can return at full strength. For the air attack, sophomore quarterback Jake Smith completed 23 of 30 passes, spreading the ball to seven receivers. (Albeit with a couple of worrisome interceptions.)

 

The pattern of this game was very similar to that of the victory over San Diego. As the Toreros had the week before, the Bears used a lightning opening drive, this one of 12 plays, to take a 3-0 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Dylan Brady. (And it could have, and should have, been a bigger margin, because Brown receivers dropped two sure touchdown passes from quarterback Michael McGovern.) It took the Crimson only six plays to riposte. With the Bears defense monitoring Shampklin closely, Smith connected with senior wideout Justice Shelton-Mosley for 20 yards and junior Jack Cook for 29. With the ball at the Brown 22, Smith then dropped back and rifled an impeccable pass over the middle to senior Henry Taylor, who caught it behind the Brown defense and quick-stepped over the goal line for a touchdown. Junior Jake McIntyre kicked the point after touchdown. Harvard 7, Brown 3.

The Harvard defense than forced Brown into a three-and-out, and after a poor punt (with the Bears, no doubt, trying to keep the ball out of the hands of All-America return man Shelton-Mosley), the Crimson took over on its 45. On the third play, from the Brown 43, Smith handed the ball to the 5-10, 185-pound Watson. He started right, cut left to an opening, and accelerated all the way to the end zone. McIntyre again delivered the extra point. Harvard 14, Brown 3.

Harvard kept moving the ball, but early in the second quarter Smith threw his first interception of the year, giving Brown the ball on its seven. Seven plays later, from the Brown 27, McGovern returned the favor. Dropping back, he aimed to the left—but Harvard senior defensive back Cole Thompson jumped the route. Thompson picked off the pass and took it to the house. McIntyre again booted the conversion. Harvard 21, Brown 3. 

On the next series, McGovern, under pressure, chucked one into the air that Crimson senior defensive back Wesley Ogsbury settled under like a centerfielder at the Harvard 49. On the return, Ogsbury wove his way 21 yards to the Brown 30, covering about 200 yards to get there. The Crimson then reached the Bears’ 10, but stalled. McIntyre rapped home a 23-yard field goal. Harvard 24, Brown 3. On their next drive the Bears reached the Crimson three—but on fourth and goal, yet another sure touchdown was dropped.

 

Going into the second half the game had all the look of a comfortable Harvard victory, especially when Shampklin broke a run of 50 yards at the Brown 25. But the Crimson wasted the possession when McIntyre was short on a field-goal attempt. Later, Harvard was forced to punt from its own 13. The snap to the punter, freshman Jon Sot, bounced. Sot eventually picked the ball up and, with Bears rushing him, tried to make a forward pass. He managed to shovel the ball ahead but the officials judged that his knee had hit the ground first, at the three-yard-line. That’s where Brown took over. Three plays later (and after yet another dropped pass), McGovern, in a triumph of hope over experience, dared to throw again. This time the receiver—Jaelon Blandburg—held on for a four-yard score. Brady kicked the extra point. Harvard 24, Brown 10.

Things would get tighter. Early in the fourth quarter Smith tried to force a pass to the left that was picked off by Brown’s Sebastian Dovi at the Brown 12. The Bears covered the 88 yards in only four plays, the biggest being a 55-yard completion from McGovern to Jakob Prall and the capper a 29-yard scoring toss to tight end Anton Casey. Both plays went right down what seemed like a soft spot in the middle. Brady again converted. Harvard 24, Brown 17. There were 12 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in regulation, and you had the feeling that the next team to score would win the game.

That’s how it worked out. After Brown throttled Shelton-Mosley on the kickoff return, the Crimson was forced to start on its 13. On a magnificent 14-play drive that consumed 87 yards and more than eight minutes, Harvard salted the game away. Smith went seven-for-eight passing, completing four of those tosses to senior wide receiver Adam Scott (who would finish with a game-high eight receptions). The last was the most crucial. On a third and five from the Brown 22, Smith took the snap, danced away from the marauding Bears rush and flipped the ball to Scott on the right. Scott was open—wide open. Brown defensive back Izayah Powell gave perfunctory chase, but there was no way he was going to catch the Crimson speedster. The touchdown and McIntyre’s extra point (off a bad snap) provided the final score.

 

It was an unexpectedly tough win over a team picked to finish last in the preseason media poll. But any road victory is welcome. The takeaways: Harvard’s backfield depth is prodigious, and its wide receiving corps is almost as estimable. The defensive front seven has played well (though Brown had only the barest pretense of a running game, gaining 32 yards on a scant 17 carries). Quarterback Smith is decisive in picking his targets. The bad news: he tends to tempt fate and throw into overly tight windows. On defense, Harvard’s secondary has been victimized two weeks in a row by opponents’ long-gaining passes. And the snapping on punts and field goals has been erratic.

In sum: There’s plenty to work on before the next Ivy clash, at Cornell on October 6.

 

Tidbits: Harvard has now beaten Brown eight years in a row. This is the longest winning streak in the series during the Ivy League era since the Crimson won nine straight from 1960 through ’68….This was the first (and the only one involving the Crimson) of this season’s six Friday-night Ivy games to be telecast on ESPNU….Harvard has now scored in 200 straight games, the longest streak in Ivy League history. The last time the Crimson was shut out was on September 19, 1998, in a 24-0 defeat at Columbia…. With six catches, Justice Shelton-Mosley moved into fourth place on the Crimson’s career receptions list with 137, five ahead of Matt Luft ’10. But Shelton-Mosley has a long way to go if he wants to catch the leader, Carl Morris ’03, who finished with 245.

 

Weekly Roundup

Columbia 23, Georgetown 15
Dartmouth 34, Holy Cross 14
Penn 30, Lehigh 10
Princeton 51, Monmouth 9
Yale 30, Cornell 24

  

Coming up: Next week the Crimson is back at Harvard Stadium, again under Friday night lights, as it attempts to complete the Ocean State exacta against Rhode Island. Kickoff: 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on WRCA 1330 AM, 106.1 FM and 94.5 FM-HD2, and on WHRB FM 95.3. The Rams, of the Colonial Athletic Association, are 2-1. Harvard leads the all-time series 3-1, with Rhode Island’s victory coming last year in Kingston, 17-10. 

 

The score by quarters

Harvard141007  31
Brown3077  17

 

Attendance: 9,309

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Cook’s tour: Harvard wideout Jack Cook leaves Yale’s Deonte Henson in the dust on a third-quarter, 15-yard touchdown. The score gave the Crimson a 28-24 lead, which it would not surrender.
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Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

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