By Bob Whitney (@WhitneyBob)
They were on the brink of elimination but Coach Tim Murphy’s Crimson football team, along with a superb relief effort from quarterback Joe Viviano, kept their 2017 Ivy League title hopes alive with their second consecutive come-from-behind victory.
Last week the Crimson defeated the Columbia Lions for the 14th consecutive time, 21-14, in the Bronx.
The Crimson 5-3 (4-2) dramatic triumph over the Lions 6-2 (3-2) sets up another important showdown on Saturday, November 11th against the Penn Quakers 4-4 (2-3) at Harvard Stadium.
Murphy made a call to his bullpen and Viviano, who came off the bench in the second quarter and went 6-for-12 (120 yards), while connecting on a pair of touchdowns and rushing for one to lead the Crimson comeback.
Viviano and Henry Taylor hooked-up on a 65-yard TD pass in the second quarter and followed that up with a 1-yard keeper to give the Crimson a 14-7 lead at the half.
Harvard added an insurance tally to make it 21-7 in the third quarter when Viviano found Jake Barann on 2-yard TD toss.
It was a bitter loss for Coach Al Bagnoli’s Lions who had a chance with a win to control their own destiny in the Ivy League title chase. Now the Lions need help to remain in the hunt and face possible elimination in this week’s contest at Cornell.
Penn invades Harvard Stadium this week in a spoiler roll after a stunning 38-35 victory over Princeton 5-3 (2-3) at Franklin Field last week.
Abe Willows rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Tre Solomon added 116 yards on the ground as Penn accumulated 531 total yards of offense in the victory which put a damper on Princeton’s title hopes.
Saturday’s contest will mark the 88th meeting between the Ivy rivals, with the Crimson leading the series, 48-37-2. Last season, the Quakers prevailed 27-14 at Franklin Field.
The kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. and will be broadcast on NESN Plus and the Ivy League Network. Alex Vispoli and Eric Gallanty will have the call.
Bob’s Prediction: With weather expected to be cold and very windy the Crimson must control the line of scrimmage or the Quakers could spoil Harvard’s title bid. All signs point to New Haven and THE GAME! Harvard 14, Penn 7
Next week: It’s the Yale Bowl, November 18 for a 12:30 kickoff (CNBC).
Around the Ancient Eight: Yale 7-1 (4-1 Ivy League) is in sole possession of first place and has total control of their Ivy League title hopes entering the final two weeks of the season. The Bulldogs will travel to face pre-season favorite Princeton on Saturday and with a win will have a chance to capture the title outright against Harvard in THE GAME.
Dartmouth 6-2 (3-2) will look to keep their title hopes alive when they face Brown 2-6 (0-5) this evening, Friday, November 10th at Fenway Park while Columbia 6-2 (3-2) is in Ithaca Saturday afternoon against Cornell 3-5 (3-2).
Harvard’s Tim Murphy registered his 200th coaching win (168 at Harvard) in the Crimson’s 21-14 victory over Columbia.
Harvard’s defensive tackle Richie Ryan was named Ivy Defensive Player of the Week for his monster game in the win over Columbia. Ryan had 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble to lead the Crimson defensive unit.
Penn’s senior wide receiver Justin Watson broke the Quaker record for career receptions (265) and tied the Ivy record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception (8) in last week’s win over Princeton. Watson was named Ivy Offensive Player of the Week.
Hopefully, Harvard and Yale will prevail this weekend to setup plenty of Ivy League drama in THE GAME at the Yale Bowl next Saturday, November 18th (12:30 p.m. CNBC).
Follow Bob for all the Yale football game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob
(Compiled from various Ivy League media outlets)