When Lafayette needed fourth-down conversions of its own in the final quarter, it could not seize the chance. Sticking to its bread-and-butter, the Leopards went to the air on its first fourth down attempt, but O’Malley was pushed toward the sideline and threw the ball out of bounds. The Crimson spent nearly a minute-and-a-half before Lafayette got back the ball. Three plays later, the Leopards faced fourth-and-short again. Once more, the team went to the air, and Harvard knocked the pass to the turf.
Errant passes became a theme for the Lafayette offense. The Crimson captain Luke Hutton nearly picked off two throws, one off his foot and another while diving out of bounds. The second near-turnover led to a punt that was uncharacteristically shanked by Leopards freshman Michael Turk—the protege of Matt Turk, a former NFL punter.
The miscue gave Harvard the ball at its own 48 and three plays in, Booker successfully converted his second fourth down of the game. That plunge furthered a seven-minute drive that ended with a touchdown 38 seconds before halftime.
In both losses this season, the Crimson has gone into the locker room and failed to score in the second half. This Saturday, though, Harvard came back with a vengeance. Scott returned the kickoff for a touchdown, sophomore kicker Jake McIntyre nailed a 33-yard field goal, and Smith walked into the end zone on a reverse that left him wide open—the first rushing touchdown of his career.
Coming into the matchup, the Leopards were averaging 12.8 points per game and just 8.7 rushing yards, second-to-last among all FCS teams. Despite this ground-game drought, the team must have watched the Crimson’s film against Cornell because Lafayette put the ball on the ground early.
While Harvard faltered against the Big Red’s offense, The Leopards could not get anything going. On the first drive, Lafayette opted to run twice, and the two rushes for two yards apiece catalyzed a shift back to its normal pass-heavy offense. The Leopards would run the ball 11 more times for eight more yards.
“We were hungry,” junior linebacker Charlie Walker said. “We didn’t put out our best [at Cornell].... We’re going to come out even stronger and hungrier to show other teams that we’re not going to let something like that happen again.”
The Crimson, which had the third-most penalties among Ivy League teams coming into the game, did not earn a single yellow flag until midway through the third quarter. Harvard will need to maintain similar discipline in coming weeks as the team has only Ancient Eight rivals left on the schedule.
“We were just looking to get our identity back,” said senior defensive tackle Stuart Johnson. “These next couple home games are extremely important. We can’t stress enough to the rest of the team how important these games are in terms of, one, winning the Ivy League championship but, two, just earning respect.”
—Staff writer Cade Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.