That touchdown left the Crimson with a 31-10 deficit heading into halftime. Players walked into the locker room with their heads down. Harvard hadn’t conceded so many first-half points since at least 2006, meaning as far back as online box scores go.
Horsted bore much of the responsibility. He racked up 201 yards before intermission. The junior even threw a touchdown late in the third quarter to fellow wide receiver Stephen Carlson. That trick pushed the margin to 45-10.
Even when Horsted didn’t score, he set up touchdowns. Midway through the second quarter, he caught a 27-yard post route at the two and hung on despite a jolting hit. Volker shoved up the middle on the next play to gain a 17-0 lead.
“We knew they had a tremendous offense coming in,” Murphy said. “The display they put on in the first half was obviously overwhelming.”
The loss to Princeton especially stings given the result two weeks ago, when Cornell stunned the Crimson with a 17-10 upset. If Harvard had won that matchup, the program would still control its destiny. Now, the Crimson faces only the slimmest of odds.
The beatdown began early. On the Tigers’ first series, Harvard limited rushers to four yards on three carries, but Kanoff went seven-of-seven for 85 yards. On second-and-nine from the Crimson 20, the senior had two receivers wide open at the goal line. Kanoff opted for Horsted, who walked in for a 7-0 lead.
The quarterback’s perfect start continued on the next drive, when he completed four more throws. The only reason that Princeton didn’t score a touchdown was that Tigers’ coach Bob Surace decided to run twice after facing second-and-four on the Harvard 23. The Crimson stuffed those attempts, leading to a 40-yard field goal.
In that nightmarish first quarter, Harvard conceded 153 yards of offense. The visitors gained 10 first downs versus three for the hosts.
“They did a good job of going fast, of changing up the play call,” said captain and linebacker Luke Hutton. “We were really on our toes. We just couldn’t figure them out the entire game.”
The Crimson’s first scoring chance came halfway through the second quarter, with the team down 17-0. Senior halfback Ryan Antonellis soared for two first downs, and freshman quarterback Jake Smith juked several defenders on a 26-yard gallop. The possession crumbled, though, after a false start penalty. Sophomore kicker Jake McIntyre settled for a 28-yard field goal.
At times, the Harvard offense showed flashes of potential. Smith completed 20-of-31 passes for 268 yards, Antonellis fought for a career-high 81 receiving yards, and the reliable Booker churned out 72 yards on 19 carries.
However, this offensive production could not match Princeton’s. After Booker’s second-quarter touchdown, the Crimson didn’t reach the end zone again until 2:16 remained. At that point, freshman running back Aaron Shampklin crashed in from one yard out.
Harvard had another chance four minutes into the fourth quarter, when Smith drove the team to the Tigers’ nine. But on second-and-goal, the rookie lofted a ball between junior wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley and senior cornerback Chance Melancon. The elder won the battle, wresting away an interception.
Even if Shelton-Mosley had grabbed the ball, that score hardly would have impacted the result. After leading 31-10 at halftime, Princeton tacked on two more touchdowns in a third-quarter flurry. Those scores, combined with a 32-yard run by Collin Eaddy in the waning minutes, pushed the Tigers above the half-century mark.
The defeat leaves the Crimson in a historically unusual place. For the first time since 2005, Harvard enters week seven with a 3-3 record.
“It looked like it was pass skeleton against the JVs,” Murphy said. “We just didn’t get enough pass rush. We didn’t cover well enough. It’s not any one thing.”
—Staff writer Sam Danello can be reached at email@example.com.