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Harvard gets third degree
Lehigh driven by 21-point quarter.
On a blustery but resplendent autumn afternoon, the Harvard football team was, quite simply, blown away.
Northwest winds of 25 miles per hour that reached gusts of 38 and wreaked havoc on field position. By Lehigh junior quarterback Chris Lum and sophomore receiver Ryan Spadola, who looked like the second coming of Montana-to-Rice in a 21-point eruption in the third quarter against a depleted Harvard secondary. And by a squandered 17-0 halftime lead that took the wind out of the Crimson’s sails.
The result was a 21-19 Harvard setback against their Patriot League visitors from Bethlehem, Pa., before a stunned crowd of 12,252.
“They maxed out the third-quarter wind advantage and they threw the ball extremely well,’’ said Harvard coach Tim Murphy, whose team held the Mountain Hawks to 25 yards rushing, but surrendered a season-high 303 yards passing, including 195 in the third quarter. With the wind at its back in that period, Lehigh (4-2) ran 23 plays for 197 yards and scored three passing touchdowns, while Harvard (3-2), with the wind in its face, managed just 56 yards on 11 plays in the third.
The Crimson, though, hardly fared better in the fourth, managing just 86 yards on 26 plays with the wind. On its three possessions, Harvard turned it over on downs, punted (badly for 22 yards), and was intercepted by Jarard Cribbs in the end zone with 1:03 to go, one play after an apparent 28-yard TD catch by Mike Cook was ruled out of bounds.
“We played great run defense and to me, if you can stop the run you have a chance to beat anybody,’’ Murphy said. “But they just made some big plays in the third quarter.’’
Of course, no one made bigger plays than Spadola. The 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pounder recorded career highs of 14 receptions and 206 yards, with touchdowns of 4 and 51 yards. It was the most receiving yards Harvard had allowed since Sept. 24, 2005, when Jarrett Schreck of Brown had nine catches for 223 yards and a pair of TDs.
“They did some things that worked pretty well against what we were doing,’’ said senior safety Collin Zych, Harvard’s captain. “It took us a while to adjust and we paid for it.’’
Spadola made the Crimson pay dearly by doing most of his damage in the third quarter, making nine catches for 159 yards and two TDs.
With four seconds remaining in the period, and Lehigh about to turn over the wind advantage to Harvard, Spadola scored on a 51-yard catch-and-run on a quick slant over the middle from Lum (21 of 38, 299 yards, 1 interception, 2 TDs) that gave the Mountain Hawks a 21-17 lead.
Asked if he was surprised that Harvard didn’t attempt to double or even triple team him, Spadola said, “We knew they were a little weak in the secondary and we knew they had starters who were hurt. When that play came up, I knew it was one [safety] high. When it’s one high, then it’s direct to me.
“I saw they were in man coverage with one of their second-string players, so I had to beat him and make sure I had time to get open. Me and Chris were on the same page all week in practice doing that. We’d been consistent with it and it showed in the game.’’
Everything went Harvard’s way at the outset, as the Crimson took a 3-0 lead on David Mothander’s 38-yard field goal with 9:04 remaining in the first quarter.
Harvard’s defense then forced a pair of turnovers in the second quarter (a Josue Ortiz fumble recovery at the Harvard 27 and a Nico Amaro interception at the Harvard 25). Lehigh’s miscues led to an 18-yard TD run by Gino Gordon (22 carries, 118 yards) and a 17-yard TD toss from Colton Chapple (12 of 27, 143 yards, 1 interception, 1 TD) to tight end Kyle Juszczyk (5 catches, 58 yards), good for a 17-0 Harvard lead at intermission.
“We can’t relinquish a 17-point lead like that in the third quarter,’’ said senior defensive tackle Chuks Obi, who had nine tackles. “We gave up three touchdowns in the third quarter and that’s unacceptable, and that’s a combination of the penalties and not being able to get to the quarterback with the pass rush, and we’ve got to do a better job of that.’’
Next up for the Crimson: an Ivy League game at Princeton.
“We’re a team that really is at a very fine line,’’ Murphy said. “There’s not a lot of margin for error for a lot of reasons. Personnel-wise, we’re not exactly the same team we were at the beginning of the year. We can still beat anyone, but the margin for error is much less.’’
Harvard gets third degree
By Michael Vega, The Boston Globe