It took a fourth-quarter, goal-line stand in the last few minutes against Yale in the 125th playing of The Game on Saturday (Nov. 22), but the Crimson eventually got what they wanted: the ball, the win, and a share of the Ivy League Championship with Brown.
Harvard was ahead 10-0, with less than four minutes in the fourth quarter, when the Bulldogs returned a punt 48 yards to the Crimson eight-yard line, giving Yale their best field position of the game. After keeping Yale out of the end zone for three consecutive plays, Crimson All-American cornerback Andrew Berry was flagged for pass interference on fourth down and four yards to go to give Yale new life and a new set of downs. With a touchdown, Yale would have cut the lead to within three, and still had enough time to try to get the ball back and score.
But this season, Harvard has thrived in fourth-quarter pressure situations. Coming into Saturday’s contest, five of the Crimson’s nine games have gone down to the very end, with the Crimson winning all but one.
Two plays after the pass interference call, Crimson linebacker Eric Schultz ’09 came from behind the quarterback for an 11-yard sack, forcing a fumble that was recovered by junior defensive lineman Carl Ehrlich to seal the Crimson victory.
“It was a great college football game,” said head coach Tim Murphy afterwards. “Our defense had to come out and play great, and we probably had our best defensive effort of the year. The last stand down in the [south] end zone was remarkable.
“With so much parity in our league it didn’t seem like we ever had an easy game this year,” reflected Murphy. “And this certainly was much of the same.”
Every game was a battle for the Crimson, who finished the season 9-1, playing six games decided by 10 points or less.
This year’s championship – shared with Brown, and number 13 for Harvard – marked the Crimson’s second consecutive Ivy League championship and Murphy’s fifth in 15 seasons at Harvard. The last time the Crimson repeated as Ivy Champions was 1983. That’s only been done by two other schools in the past 20 years, Penn and Dartmouth.