WORCESTER, Mass. – Holy Cross came back from a 14-3 deficit as the Crusaders downed Harvard, 30-22, in the Crimson's season-opening game at Fitton Field.
Harvard opens its home schedule Friday, Sept. 23 against Brown in a 7 p.m. start at Harvard Stadium.
With Holy Cross (2-1) leading 23-14 early in the fourth quarter, Andrew Zitnik picked off a Collier Winters pass at the 3-yard line and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown and a 30-14 lead. The mishap capped an afternoon of uncharacteristic mistakes for a Harvard team that scored on its first two possessions but saw the Crusaders answer with 27-straight points before Harvard got back into contention.
Following the interception, Winters went right back to work, finding a streaking Alex Sarkisian for a 46-yard touchdown along the sideline with 12:22 remaining. Winters then scampered into the end zone for a two-point conversion to make things 30-22.
Holy Cross drove to Harvard's 11 yard line before missing a 28-yard field goal. It kept the game within reach but chewed nearly eight minutes off the clock in the process, giving Harvard the ball at its 20 yard line with 4:27 to go.
Harvard went three-and-out but the Crimson stopped Holy Cross to get the ball back again with 2:05 left. Winters drove the Crimson from its 12 to the HC 45 with 40 seconds left but a final interception sealed the Crimson's third-straight loss at Fitton Field.
Winters finished 24-of-41 for 265 yards and all three Harvard touchdowns (one rushing). Chris Lorditch had seven receptions for 68 yards and senior captain Alex Gedeon led all players with 13 total tackles (8 solo, five assisted) including one for a loss.
Holy Cross, which was limited to 23 yards in the first quarter, finished with 420 yards of offense as QB Ryan Taggart was 22-of-35 through the air for 320 yards while also picking up another 34 on the ground.
The Crimson fumbled its first touch with Brian Owusu dropped a punt with the Crusaders recovering at Harvard's 3-yard line. The defense limited Holy Cross to a field goal however and Harvard responded by marching right down the field with Winters running it in from four yards out on an option play to give the Crimson a 7-3 lead. The key play of the drive was a pinpoint out-throw to Lorditch on third down and eight.
After another stop, the Crimson marched 72 yards on 22 plays with Winters finding Kyle Juszczyk on a seven-yard touchdown pass for a 14-3 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
Holy Cross got right back into the game as Taggart hooked up with Josh Hauser for a 68-yard scoring strike as a missed assignment in the secondary allowed Hauser to get behind the defense.
Holy Cross then drove 60 yards to take a 17-14 lead on a one-yard QB keeper by Taggart. The big play was a 32-yard pass on third and 10 from Harvard's 40 yard line as Taggart threw a crisp seam-route to Mike Fess.
After getting a stop, Taggart went back to Fess, this time for a 54-yard pass on the same route, to get deep into Harvard territory. Five plays later, Harvard's defense stiffened to force another field goal for a 20-14 Crusaders' lead.
In the third quarter, John Macomber connected on a 37-yard field goal to give the Crusaders a 23-14 lead with the team again converting a pair of long third downs on a drive aided by consecutive offside calls on the Crimson defense.