12:00 PM ET, November 17, 2007
Yale Bowl, NEW HAVEN, CT
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- Harvard coach Tim Murphy challenged his offensive linemen on the eve of their biggest game of the year.
His message was simple: Control the line of scrimmage against Yale. They did and Harvard quarterback Chris Pizzotti, with plenty of protection, made the rest look easy.
In a battle of Ivy League unbeatens, Pizzotti wasted little time turning the 124th meeting of The Game into The Rout on Saturday as Harvard cruised to a 37-6 win over its archrival.
"We dreamed we'd get this result, we didn't dream we'd get this kind of dominance," Murphy said. "The bottom line was a combination of really great emotion, execution and preparation."
Pizzotti had three of his career-high four touchdown passes in the first half to lead the Crimson (8-2, 7-0) to their 12th conference title. Harvard shredded the league's top defense to spoil Yale's bid for a perfect season.
The Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1) were looking for their first perfect season since 1960. Their last three tries at an unblemished record -- 1968, 1974 and 1979 -- were derailed by Harvard. And it was clear almost from the start this wouldn't be the Bulldogs' day either.
The Crimson hobbled Yale's ground game and pressured quarterback Matt Polhemus all afternoon. Harvard cornerback Steven Williams had two interceptions, setting a school mark for season picks with 16. Polhemus completed just 2 of 18 attempts and was sacked twice.
Yale's leading rusher Mike McLeod, who came in averaging 174 yards a game, was held to 50, ending his conference-record streak of 18 straight games with a score. A chronic foot injury -- a fractured toe suffered four weeks ago -- kept him out the final quarter.
"That was our number one goal to stop him and make them do things they don't want to do," Harvard defensive end Brad Bagdis said.
Pizzotti, who was starting in his first Harvard-Yale game, threw for 316 yards and his 27 attempts were also a career best. He came out throwing and the strategy paid off quickly, setting the tone for the rest of the game. He completed 3 of 4 passes in an opening 69-yard drive, hitting wide-open Matt Luft streaking into the right side of the end zone for a 40-yard score just over 1 minute into the game.
"Anytime you come up, especially in a big game, and make a big play was an emotional boost for our team and tough for them," Pizzotti said. "We knew we could do it but to actually go out and execute on the first drive and have pretty easy success was very important to our confidence."
Luft and Pizzotti hooked up again for another score with 1:18 left in the first quarter. Luft managed to slip behind two Yale defenders and pulled in a 33-yard scoring pass to give Harvard a 13-0 lead. Just like that the Bulldogs' stingy defense, which had held opponents to an average of 11 points, had given up as many in the first 15 minutes as it had in the last two games.
"They got us completely out of our style of play. They had all the answers," Yale coach Jack Siedlecki said. "Our defense was out there all day."
Harvard was far from finished.
Tailback Cheng Ho capped a 60-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run with 9:34 left in the first half. Yale's next drive sputtered and a high snap to punter Tom Mante sent him scrambling and he was tackled at the Yale 15. Pizzotti found reserve wideout Mike Cook in the end zone on the very next play and the Crimson lead ballooned to 27-0.
The one bright spot in the half for Yale came on defense. With Harvard threatening again from the Yale 1, the Bulldogs held firm as time expired and ran into the locker room pumping their fists, finally enlivening the crowd of 57,248 at the Yale Bowl.
"We knew if they could get 27 points in a half, we could too," Yale defensive end Brady Hart said. "We weren't going to give up at halftime."
But it wouldn't get much better for the home team. Patrick Long added a 19-yard field goal for Harvard in the third quarter and Pizzotti hit tight end Jason Miller for a 5-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
Yale finally scored when Gio Chistodoulou broke loose for an 87-yard punt return with 4:15 left in the game. By then the Yale Bowl had started to empty, save for the Harvard faithful who stuck around to celebrate another Ivy title, one that came much easier than expected.
"It was one of those things where we draw (plays) up every week," Murphy said. "But we drew them up and we executed the heck out of them today on both sides of the ball."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||10-21||1-13|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||0-5|
|TD||13:52||Matt Luft 40 Yd Pass From Chris Pizzotti (Patrick Long Kick) |
Drive: 5 plays, 69 yds, 1:08
|TD||01:18||Matt Luft 33 Yd Pass From Chris Pizzotti (Pat Failed) |
Drive: 9 plays, 58 yds, 2:41
|TD||09:34||Cheng Ho 1 Yd Run (Patrick Long Kick) |
Drive: 11 plays, 60 yds, 4:33
|TD||07:51||Mike Cook 15 Yd Pass From Chris Pizzotti (Patrick Long Kick) |
Drive: 1 plays, 15 yds, :06
|FG||10:07||Patrick Long 19 Yd |
Drive: 11 plays, 60 yds, 3:25
|TD||13:32||Jason Miller 5 Yd Pass From Chris Pizzotti (Patrick Long Kick) |
Drive: 9 plays, 56 yds, 2:48
|TD||04:15||Gio Christodoulou 87 Yd Punt Return (Pat Failed)||37||6|