October 10, 2015

A Wake-Up Call: Harvard Demolishes Cornell Football, 40-3

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Harvard head coach Tim Murphy’s program has been an institution in the Ivy League for 22 years while Cornell head coach David Archer ’05 has been leading the Red’s program into its third season. Archer and his program, coming into this season, figured to be the underdogs of the conference given the team’s preseason ranking and the program’s futility over the last decade.

Like many of its matches so far this season, the Red kept it a game against Harvard, who for the first time this season, were not blowing out their opponent by halftime and trailed its opponent, if only for a mere 17 seconds. It looked, even for just an instance, that the Red had a chance, even if it was rather minuscule, of upsetting the school’s main rival in hockey during the team’s 40-3 loss at the hands of the Crimson.

And then Harvard (4-0, 2-0 Ivy League) turned it up, and up, and up, on both sides of the football, took Cornell (0-4, 0-2 Ivy League) and threw the Red out of the club.

“Harvard played a better game than we did today and showed why they are the preseason pick to win their league,” Archer said. “It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t play our best game. I love playing these guys because they set the standard for many years running for Ivy League football and you always want the best to bring out the best and today, we didn’t play our best.”

The inexperience of Archer’s young squad began to reveal itself, once again, as the team took penalties that knocked back the team’s chances at a comeback. Mental errors, including quarterback Robert Somborn’s ’17 three interceptions, eventually caved the ceiling in on Cornell’s chances at the ending Harvard’s now 18-game win streak, the second-longest in Division I football behind Ohio State’s 19-game streak.

Several penalties killed the team’s chances at putting together a momentum-shifting drive on offense and cleaning up those mistakes will, ultimately, change the fortune of the team, Archer said.

“When you add up this error by that guy here or this error by that guy here, that’s what’s been killing our drives. There’s nothing where I’m saying, ‘We really need this, X, Y and Z.’ We need to make sure we clean up everything,” Archer said. “We need to make sure we’re focused enough that each play could be that pivotal play, whether it’s how we call it, how we line up, the execution of it, check some things, make sure the checks are sound. I wish I could say that it’s just this, but there’s certainly fault in all parts of our game.”

Sophomore wideout James Hubbard picked up 28 receiving yards and lost a fumble against Harvard on Saturday. (Courtesy of Cornell Athletics)

Sophomore wideout James Hubbard picked up 28 receiving yards and lost a fumble against Harvard on Saturday. (Courtesy of Cornell Athletics)

Ultimately, Harvard’s game plan to stop Cornell running back Luke Hagy ’16, who was unable to collect 100 yards on the ground for the first time in six games, exposed the team’s currently thin passing attack. Somborn’s inability to depend on his rushing game to balance out the team’s receiving core, which is now without top junior receiver Collin Shaw, who is out for the season with a broken ankle, allowed Crimson defenders to ignore the play-action for most of the game and played a role in the gunslinger’s three interceptions.

“They made a few good plays and we had a few little things here and there that slowed us down and got us off of our track,” Somborn said. “I need to be better with decision making in some of those situations, but they adjusted well and gave us some tough looks that made things cloudy.”

On the defensive end, the team struggled to get pressure against the Crimson offensive line, whom a New York Jets scout called the best in the country on Saturday, and failed to register a sack of Harvard quarterback Scott Hosch. Hosch, who ran for all of 102 yards in 2014, gained 79 yards on the ground against the Red.

For the third straight week, Archer’s team struggled to contain the oppositions in the pocket. Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts ran for 48 yards against the Red while Colgate gunslinger Jake Melville collected 99 yards on the ground.

“[Hosch] surprised us [with his rushing],” Archer said. “You’ve got to keep mixing it up and I didn’t think he was going to be as mobile as the other quarterback we played, but he made some nice plays with his legs.”

While Cornell has certainly improved significantly this year, the team’s loss against Harvard certainly represented a wake-up call to Archer and company, that despite the team’s long strides this season, there’s still a long climb to the top of the Ivy League, where Murphy’s squad currently resides.

“[Harvard program]’s the one to emulate,” Archer said. “[Murphy] always tells me pre-game how bad they were his first couple of years. You put your systems down and your recruiting down and what you do on each side of the ball and you get things working the way you want them to work. My hat’s off to them. They’ve built a great football program and have it rolling.”

What Went Wrong for the Red

  • The Cornell pass rush struggled to give Hosch a run for his money, giving the Harvard quarterback all day to allow his receivers to dance around in the secondary until they found an opening.
  • Somborn’s three interceptions against the Crimson really hurt the team’s chances at keeping up with the No. 24 team in the FCS. With his three picks on Saturday, Somborn matched his interception total for the season (five) with his season total of touchdowns.
  • The Cornell defense looked absolutely gassed in the second half, allowing 94 passing yards, 180 rushing yards. Hosch was able to pick apart the secondary with plenty of time in the pocket, allowing his receivers to find openings in the Red secondary. Crimson tailback Paul Stanton came out of the gates like a bull in the second half and trampled over the Cornell defense

What Went Right for the Red

  • For the first time this season, Harvard did not have a blowout in progress by the end of the first half. Cornell played competitively and kept up with the Crimson throughout most of the first half, going into the locker room down 17-3, but was unable to keep up the performance on both sides of the ball after halftime.
  • Chris Fraser hit a 65-yard punt that took Crimson returner Andrew Fischer by surprise. Fraser has a legitimate shot at making the jump to the NFL. In the fourth, Fraser punted a ball 67 yards from the Cornell 33 that nearly pinned Harvard at their own one-yard line. For more on Fraser’s standout performance, click here.

  • Freshman running back Chris Walker looked impressive coming out of the backfield against the Crimson’s backup defense. Showing good lateral agility and very good upfield speed, Walker collected 47 rushing yards on 9 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. As Walker continues to learn more and more the playbook, expect Archer to continue to incorporate the dynamic freshman running back into the gameplan. “It’s been slow and gradual and getting [Walker] adapted to playing college tailback,” Archer said. “He’s got some juice when he carries the football, but you want to make sure he’s learning the protections and the routes and those things. It’s a gradual increase.”