Sooner or later, the Lafayette Leopards were due for their day in the sun. They finally cast a big shadow on Saturday.

Lafayette, which had dropped the past eight games to the Crimson, had a 2-11 all-time record against Harvard. That changed with its stunning 35-18 win Saturday (Oct. 17) on Cambridge Football Day.

Turnovers and penalties led to self-destruction for Harvard, which lost the ball twice and was penalized seven times for 68 yards in its second loss of the season and its first home defeat in nearly three years.

On the first play of their opening drive, the Crimson fumbled, and Lafayette recovered the ball on the 27-yard line. The turnover was an omen for Harvard, and three plays later the Leopards scored a touchdown to go up 7-0. Lafayette tacked on three more touchdowns in the first half, going into halftime up 28-3. By that time it was clear that, for this day at least, Lafayette was the better team.

“A lot of the credit goes to Lafayette. … I think it was a combination of a very good Lafayette team and less-than-great production on our part,” said head coach Tim Murphy.

The Crimson rallied for 15 points in the fourth quarter to soften the blow, but it wasn’t nearly enough for Harvard, which hadn’t lost to the Leopards since 1996.

Despite the loss, the silver lining for both the Crimson offense and the defense was the way they continued to battle, even though defeat was imminent. “We did a better job in the second half, and there’s definitely things to build on,” said captain Carl Ehrlich ‘10, who recorded three tackles on the afternoon. “I think the biggest takeaway from this is that there’s plenty to improve, there’s plenty to fix before we go down the Ivy League stretch.”

“Bottom line is Lafayette did a better job of playing and coaching today than we did. That’s why they got the victory,” said Murphy. “Penalties are inexcusable. When we win, we win by minimizing mistakes. We have to maximize our opportunities.”

On Saturday (Oct. 24), Princeton, another team that has struggled in the past against Harvard, will seek its third win in the past 15 games against the Crimson. The game will mark the beginning of a new tradition, as Harvard’s first homecoming game in the program’s 135-year history. Kickoff is at noon.

“We’re going to have to regroup, reassess, and play well against a very good Princeton team, who’s very hungry,” said Murphy. “Everybody we play, we’re going to get their A Game. So we’re going to have to do all the little things.”

Cambridge Football Day 2009

Photos by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

  • Welcome to 'The Stadium'

    Welcome to 'The Stadium'

    Mary Power (from left), chief of community relations and executive director of community initiatives, and James Barrows, associate director of community relations, give Cambridge residents Michael Shaps, David Aurelio, and Samuel Shaps 11 free lunch and game tickets for Cambridge Football Day.

  • 'Ten Thousand Men of Harvard'

    'Ten Thousand Men of Harvard'

    The fans came out with spirit to support the Crimson, but it wasn't enough as the Crimson struggled to find their rhythm on Saturday (Oct. 17).

  • Backstage with the band

    Backstage with the band

    Josh Martin '11, trumpet section leader for the Harvard Band, relaxes on the turf of Harvard Stadium before the game.

  • 'Octubafest'


    The tuba was just one of the Harvard Band instruments moving the crowd on Saturday.

  • Just a 'Little' football

    Just a 'Little' football

    Cambridge residents John and Jennifer Little enjoy Cambridge Day with their 10-month-old daughter, Violet, and 3-year-old daughter, Vivienne.

  • Showing some spirit

    Showing some spirit

    Harvard cheerleaders Caitlin McEwdan '10 (far left) and Kurumi Fukushima '12 (far right) cheer on the Crimson.

  • Not so fast

    Not so fast

    Crimson defensive back Collin Zych '11 (#27) takes down a Lafayette player for one of his 10 tackles on the day.

  • Passing through

    Passing through

    Running back Treavor Scales '13 (#24), who evades a Lafayette tackler, led Crimson with 40 yards on the day. The Crimson still fell on Cambridge Football Day, 35-18.