No. 22/23 Football Holds Off Columbia, 28-21

Sophomore wide receiver Adam Scott made seven receptions for a career high 109 yards and two touchdowns in the win against Columbia. (Gil Talbot)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. –
Senior Joe Viviano threw for 260 yards and three touchdown passes, and sophomore Adam Scott made seven receptions for a career-high 109 yards with two touchdowns to lead No. 22/23 Harvard (7-1, 5-0 Ivy) to a 28-21 win over Columbia (2-6, 1-4 Ivy) Saturday afternoon at Harvard Stadium. Charlie Booker added a rushing touchdown and 69 yards, and Anthony Firkser made four receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown to lead Harvard's offensive attack.

A Harvard win next week at Penn would clinch a share of its fourth straight Ivy title. The game next Friday (Nov. 11) will be shown live on the NBC Sports Network beginning at 8 p.m.

Harvard won its 13th straight in the series against Columbia, and The Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football, Tim Murphy, moved into second place on the all-time Ivy League wins list with his 115th victory at Harvard. In addition, Harvard has now won at least seven games for an Ivy record 16 consecutive seasons.

Harvard's defense, tested by Columbia throughout the afternoon, made key plays late in the game to seal the win, as the Crimson capitalized on four Columbia turnovers.

Columbia got to within a touchdown on a 12-play, 84-yard touchdown drive capped off by a Skyler Mornhinweg four-yard touchdown pass with 4:02 to play. The Lions got the ball back on their own 46 yard line with 3:39 to go after a Harvard three and out, but the Crimson forced a Mornhinweg incompletion on fourth-and-11. On Columbia's last ditch drive starting with 1:08 to play, Tanner Lee intercepted Anders Hill's desperation throw from midfield to seal with win as time expired.

Harvard rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit, as both teams struggled to move the ball early on. The Crimson defense forced three consecutive punts to start the game, keeping the score knotted at 0-0 for the majority of the quarter.

Harvard found its offensive rhythm near the end of the first quarter, capping off a five-play, 92-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Viviano to Scott with 3:23 remaining in the opening quarter.

After the Crimson forced another three-and-out on Columbia's next possession, a fumbled punt return gave the Lions possession at the Harvard 43-yard line. Columbia began the drive with a 17-yard pass to move into Crimson territory. Later on in the drive, the Lions connected on a five-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 with 14:57 to play in the second quarter.

The two teams traded possessions on each of their following drives before the Columbia special teams once again made its presence felt. The Lions blocked a Crimson punt deep in Harvard territory, as Columbia's Hunter Lunsford scooped up the loose ball for a 14-yard score with 10:40 to play in the second quarter.

Harvard's offense responded with 15-play drive for 85 yards, keyed by a 36-yard pass from Vivano to Firkser on 3rd-and-11. But the Lions defense held strong with a fourth-down stop inside the one-yard line to preserve the 14-7 lead despite the Crimson holding possession for more than seven minutes. The first half would come to a close with Harvard still trailing Columbia by seven.

The Crimson opened the second half with a fumble recovery, as sophomore Cole Thompson forced the ball loose and junior Tobe Ezeokoli fell on it for Harvard at the Columbia 13-yard line. Harvard worked its way down to the Lions goal line, but the Columbia defense held again, keeping the Crimson out of the end zone with an interception on 2nd-and-goal to give the ball back to Lion's offense.

Columbia wouldn't have possession for long, however, as sophomore DJ Bailey forced a fumble on a second-down run play, and sophomore Scott Garrison recovered it for Harvard. The Crimson took over at the Columbia 27 and wasted no time, scoring in three plays on a 15-yard scamper from Booker and tying the contest at 14-14 with 10:29 remaining in the third quarter.

Harvard's defense kept its momentum going and forced another Lions punt, and the Crimson went back on the attack. Scott hauled in a 32-yard pass from Viviano on 3rd-and-10 down to the Columbia six-yard line, and Firkser walked into the end zone on an eight-yard catch on 2nd-and-goal to put Harvard back on top, 21-14, midway through the third frame.

On Columbia's ensuing possession, the Crimson came up with its third fumble recovery in Lions' territory of the half after senior Doug Webb jarred the ball loose on a sack, and senior Langston Ward recovered on the Columbia 22.

It took Harvard one play to capitalize, as Scott took a pass on the outside and outran the Columbia defense down the sideline for the 22-yard score. The Crimson held a 28-14 lead at the conclusion of the third quarter, and held off the Lions' comeback in the fourth.