PRINCETON, N.J. – Harvard produced 583 yards of total offense and stayed in the hunt for the Ivy League title with a 45-28 win at Princeton Stadium on Saturday.
Harvard (4-2, 2-1 Ivy) moved the ball all game and withstood a bevy of trick plays from the Tigers, who remain winless in league play at 0-3 and fall to 1-5 overall.
Gino Gordon ran for a career-high 204 yards on 20 carries (10.2 ypc) to lead the way for a Harvard team that ran for three first half touchdowns and threw for two in the second half. Behind Gordon, Treavor Scales had 134 yards on 16 carries (8.4 ypc). Both backs had one rushing score as did Rich Zajeski.
Collier Winters unexpectedly started the second half for the Crimson and guided the team to 24 points. An All-Ivy Leaguer last season, Winters had been out with a lower body injury but made his 2010 debut a good one, finishing 8-of-12 for 91 yards and two touchdowns – both of them going to tight end Kyle Juszczyk. Juszczyk finished with six receptions for 81 yards.
All told, Harvard ran for a season-high 394 yards on 54 carries (7.3 ypc). It marked the third 300-plus rushing game this season.
Princeton had its own quarterback injuries but moved down field on the opening possession of the game, utilizing a trick play for a 22-yard touchdown pass as reserve tight end Harry Flaherty found Andrew Kerr in the end zone on a double pass for an early lead.
Princeton drove the ball again deep into Harvard territory but Dan Minamide intercepted a badly underthrown pass at the Crimson five yard line. Gordon quickly rattled off a 56-yard run along the sideline and finished things three plays later with a 22-yard touchdown run to tie things up.
At the 12:30 mark of the second quarter, Scales got into the act when he juked two Princeton defenders for a 46-yard touchdown run and a 14-7 Harvard lead.
Princeton then benefitted from a pass interference call to get to Harvard's four yard line. On third and goal from the seven, the Tigers received the benefit of another call as a rollout pass to Kerr was ruled a touchdown even though replays showed his foot landing out of bounds. The score made it 14-14 at the 9:45 mark.
Harvard drove right back down the field and Zajeski became the third Crimson running back to find the end zone with a twisting, driving nine-yard run as the visitors reclaimed the lead, 21-14 at the 4:43 mark.
Gordon had 132 rushing yards in the opening half on just nine carries (14.7 ypc). As a team, Harvard had 235 yards on the ground in the opening half.
In the second half, Harvard surprised everyone as an injured Winters came into the game at quarterback in relief of Andrew Hatch, who was himself playing for the first time in four games. Winters drove the Crimson down the field for a touchdown, capped on a 26-yard pass from to Juszczyk, who dove to the pylon for a 28-14 lead.
Desperate to remain in the game, Princeton went back to its playbook for another trick play and, on third-and-long, used a six-wide spread offense for a reverse option pass. 33 yards later, running back Jordan Culbreath was able to get off a pass to a wide open Trey Peackock for the score, making it a 28-21 game. Momentum was fully with the Tigers but it would not be for long as Harvard proved too tough.
Winters and the Crimson drove the length of the field before setting for a 21-yard field goal from David Mothadner for a 31-21 lead. Early in the fourth, a bad snap on a Princeton punt blew the game open. Otavio Fleury went into his end zone to recover the snap and turned to punt but Grant Sickle was right there to block the kick and Mike Cook fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and a 38-21 Crimson lead.
Princeton got back on the board with 4:20 to play in the game when, on fourth and goal from the one, Peacock took a direct snap on a wide receiver motion play and scampered in for the score to make things 38-28. Harvard went right back to work however as Winters found Juszczyk once more for the final score of the day.
Alexander Norman put the exclamation point on the win with his second acrobatic interception of the day. Norman finished with his two picks as well as a forced fumble for a Harvard defense that collected 11 tackles for a loss in all. Josue Ortiz had three tackles for a loss (eight in all) and Collin Zych had a game-high 15 tackles – 10 of them solo efforts.
Harvard returns to action next weekend with a 1:30 p.m. game at Dartmouth in a game that will be shown live on NESN.