Pictured: Chris Lorditch hauls in the game-winning touchdown from Collier Winters in front of Yale's Adam Money (Jon Chase)
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - In a game of inches and legendary fourth down gambles, Harvard stunned Yale by scoring two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter as the Crimson downed the Bulldogs, 14-10, in the 126th playing of The Game in front of 52,692 fans at Yale Bowl.
The unlikely victory kept Harvard's Ivy League-record streak of seven-win seasons alive at nine as the Crimson finished the season 7-3 overall and 6-1 in the league. With the loss, Yale fell to 4-6, 2-5 Ivy. Harvard has won the last five games played at the Bowl and eight of the last nine games played this decade. The win assures that Harvard will finish the decade with at least the nation's second-best winning percentage.
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With Yale leading 10-0 late in the fourth, Harvard drove 76 yards in just 1:50 on six plays as Collier Winters found a streaking Matt Luft for a 41-yard touchdown with 6:46 remaining. The score would never have been possible were it not for Gino Gordon, who spun out of a tackle on fourth-and-four from his own 30 yards line, eventually rumbling 19 yards to keep Harvard's hopes alive.
Yale got the ball back and Eli QB Patrick Witt converted a third-and-nine from his 21. A 16-yard strike to John Sheffield kept the clock moving and put the ball at the 37 as the clock crept inside the four-minute mark. Yale ‘s Alex Thomas then barreled his way to a nine-yard gain but a holding call negated the run and put Yale into a first-and-20 situation from its 27.
Harvard head coach Tim Murphy gets a victory shower in the
closing seconds of Saturday's game. (Jon Chase)
Carl Ehrlich and Sumner Webster combined on a sack and Yale eventually found itself in fourth down with 22 yards to go from its 25 yard line at 2:40 on the clock. With the league's best punter in Tom Mante waiting to boot it down field, Yale instead called an improbably reverse run fake punt. John Powers evaded a would-be tackler in the backfield and moved behind a wall of blockers along the left sideline but Collin Zych blew up a double team block and Anthony Spadafino stopped Powers seven yards shy, giving Harvard the ball at Yale's 40 yard line with 2:25 as a stunned Yale crowd looked on.
It took Harvard just three plays to devastate the crowd again as Chris Lorditch cut across the middle of the field and then swiftly past two defenders up the seam as Winters lofted a perfect pass over the inside coverage. Thirty two yards later, Harvard suddenly led 14-10 even though Lorditch pulled his hamstring on the play.
Yale took over with 1:32 left and Witt completed two passes for 29 yards to midfield. On the next play however, John Lyon pressured Witt and he threw an ill-advised pass over the middle where Jon Takamura lurked with the senior picking off the pass. Yale had a full complement of timeouts left and did get the ball back on their own eight yard line, but the Bulldogs fumbled while trying a lateral and Conor Murphy came down with the ball as Harvard celebrated on the sideline.
The comeback negated a game that saw Yale come away with all the momentum on numerous gambles by both sides. Harvard repeatedly drove into Yale territory only to come up short against Yale's defense in a game defined by fourth-and-inches gambles. Harvard was 0-for-3 on fourth down plays while Yale converted two such scenarios before its unlikely punt fake.
Starting the second half, Harvard drove 79 yards to Yale's one yard line. On second down, Gordon appeared to clear the goal line but was ruled down and a third down QB sneak came up for a loss of one to bring up fourth down. The Crimson went for the TD but Gordon came up short and Yale took over deep in its own territory for the fourth time in the game following a drive lasting 7:25.
Cheng Ho and Marco Iannuzzi celebrate the victory. (Jon
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Yale went for a key fourth and inches inside Harvard's 25 and the referee needed a long look at the measurement before ruling a Bulldogs' first down. Five plays later, Alex Barnes lined up for a 27-yarder that would have given Yale a 13-0 lead but pushed it wide right with 12:40 to play.
Winters finished the day 19-of-26 for 211 yards and the two scores while adding 51 rushing yards. Gordon averaged 6.1 yards per carry with 85 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Lorditch had six catches for 104 yards while Luft had three for 55.
Ehrlich finished his career with two sacks in the game, helping him to 100 career tackles.
Harvard's first three drives of the game all ended in Yale territory; one on a fumble, and two drives ending on downs inside Yale's "red zone." Yale capitalized early and took a 10-0 lead into halftime.
Barnes put Yale on top with a 26 yard field goal on the Bulldogs' opening drive, capping a 13-play, 61-yard drive that chewed up 6:17 off the clock. After a Harvard fumble on its opening drive, Rod Reynolds snuck over the goal line on a second effort to put Yale ahead, 10-0, with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Harvard drove to Yale's 13 yard line and, faced with fourth and eight, lined up for a field goal but chose a fake. Matt Simpson didn't get complete control of the ball and his pass attempt was broken up to keep Harvard scoreless.