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Injuries Hinder Crimson’s Success
Even without an Ivy League title, Harvard football and its seniors still made program history.
The team came into the season as contenders for the Ancient Eight crown. But losses on the road to Brown and Penn—the eventual Ivy League champion for the second year in a row—took the Crimson out of the running.
Despite these two conference losses, Harvard had little trouble with the rest of its Ivy League competition. For the fourth year in a row, the Crimson defeated Princeton, Yale, and Dartmouth—the first time in program history that any senior class has gone 12-0 against these three schools.
“We would have loved to win the Ivy League championship this year,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “[But the seniors] certainly got a lot to be proud of. They’ve got a tremendous legacy.”
From early on in the season, the team’s shot at an Ivy title was hampered by injuries, a problem that plagued the Crimson for the entire year. By the third game of the 2010 campaign, sophomore Colton Chapple—the third-string quarterback—was starting for Harvard. Junior Collier Winters was already out to start the season, and his backup, senior Andrew Hatch, suffered a concussion in the team’s second game against Brown.
But the men taking the snaps weren’t the only ones who dealt with injury. Senior wide receivers Marco Iannuzzi and Chris Lorditch both missed time, as did sophomore defensive backs D.J. Monroe and Brian Owusu.
Because of the injuries throughout the season, the team had to shift its strategy early on.
“It became more of a ball control offense,” Murphy said. “We didn’t have as much big-play capability without the big, strong arms of those kids and those big, fast receivers. We became more of a ball-control offense—don’t turn the ball over, [stay] in the game, win by making the least mistakes as opposed to [doing it by being] a big-play team.”
This change in the Crimson’s game plan brought senior running back Gino Gordon into an even more prominent role. Though some of the injured starters returned to their positions later in the season, Gordon remained the key component of Harvard’s offense.
“Not too many teams could try to shut down Gino Gordon and leave our receivers open,” Iannuzzi said. “It was a really good balance in terms of the run-pass game and utilizing our strengths, which really was our running game over the past couple of years.”
The team opened the season with a win against Holy Cross, continuing its all-time unbeaten streak in home night games. But a loss in week two to the Bears put Harvard in an early hole in the Ivy League standings.
The Crimson took its next three Ivy contests against Cornell, Princeton, and Dartmouth, winning each by a comfortable margin.
But after its loss a few weeks earlier in Providence, Harvard came into its game against the Quakers—the defending league champions—knowing it was a must-win to stay in the title hunt.
“It’s only really in the last decade that anybody has really stepped up and challenged [Penn],” Murphy said. “They do a lot of things well, but the thing they do better than anyone in the league consistently is play great defense. They’ve won more scoring defense titles than any team in our league in the past 25 years.”
Harvard never challenged the Quakers, falling behind Penn 10-0 at the half and 27-0 at the end of the third quarter to put the game—and Ivy League title aspirations—out of reach. The Quakers went on to win, 34-14.
“I know we’ve come out flat a couple times where we don’t start playing them until the third or fourth quarters,” Iannuzzi said. “Unfortunately, when you come out flat, you put yourself in a bad spot, and it’s really tough to recover.”
Out of the title hunt, the team turned its focus to The Game.
The Crimson found itself down 14-7 at the half. But with Harvard receiving at the start of the third quarter, Iannuzzi returned the kickoff 84 yards for the touchdown to tie the game. The Crimson would score two more unanswered touchdowns and ended the year on a 28-21 win.
The victory was not only the fourth in a row for Harvard over the Bulldogs, but it also was the ninth time in the last ten years that the Crimson has taken The Game from the Elis.
“I think it’s a really great [source] of pride for our class, [and] I think a lot of the alums and any Harvard football fans are really proud of that,” Iannuzzi said. “It’ll always be something we remember, sweeping Yale. It’s one of the biggest rivalries ever, and we’re glad to accomplish that.”
By E. Benjamin Samuels, The Harvard Crimson