PRINCETON, N.J. — Harvard’s 634 yards of total offense weren’t enough.
Tight end Kyle Juszczyk’s 15 catches for 192 yards and three touchdowns weren’t enough.
Quarterback Colton Chapple’s 31-for-45 day, good for 448 yards and five scores, wasn’t enough.
Two other Crimson receivers had 100-plus-yard performances. Cameron Brate snared seven for 109, Ricky Zorn four for 101, with a TD apiece, as wholesale changes were made to the Harvard record book. They weren’t enough.
A 20-0 lead on Princeton in the first 17 minutes, which stretched to 34-10 two minutes into the fourth quarter, wasn’t enough.
None of it sufficed to hold off an inspired Princeton team intent on registering the biggest Ivy League upset in years, derailing a Harvard team riding a 14-game winning streak, longest in Division 1, and turning the Ivy race, seemingly headed in the Crimson’s direction for the fifth time in the last seven years, upside-down.
Junior wide receiver Roman Wilson hauled in Quinn Epperly’s 36-yard scoring pass with 13 seconds left to wrap up a 39-34 stunner, sending Princeton fans into delight and the Harvard delegation home in shock.
Princeton scored 39 points against Harvard last year, too. But the Crimson rolled up 56 en route to a title season.
This one had a very different ending, as Princeton (4-2, 3-0), mastering the no-huddle, hurry-up offense, took command of the league in a bid for its first crown since 2006. Meanwhile, Harvard, winner of its first five this year and its last nine last year, dropped to 2-1 in the league, and needs help to get back into the Ivy race.
“Bottom line was that we missed too many opportunities, made too many mistakes,” lamented Crimson coach Tim Murphy. “It wasn’t our complacency, it wasn’t any of that. Princeton just made the big plays and thoroughly deserved to win. They have some big, strong, athletic players. We didn’t underestimate them at all.”
It was the biggest win of Bob Surace’s three-year tenure as Princeton coach. It had been a 5-20 struggle since he came aboard — after nine years as an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals — but this put a huge smile on his face.
“We tried some tricks earlier in the game,” said Surace. “They didn’t work. But eventually we got some breaks and everything turned around.”
“Quinn threw me a great ball,” said Wilson of his winning catch. “I got leverage on my man and got free. To win like this, that’s just totally incredible. To see our fans yelling and screaming and celebrating like that . . . it was amazing, amazing. I never thought I’d experience anything like that.”
“All this is pretty hard for me to believe,” said Juszczyk, a 6-foot-2-inch, 245-pounder with NFL potential. “Coming in, losing never even came into my mind.”
But all the gaudy Harvard statistics were unable to carry the day, leaving Juszczyk with “the toughest loss of my life.”
Connor Michelsen (20 of 33, 237 yards, three TDs) shared quarterback duties for Princeton with Epperly (4 for 7, 50 yards, and the winning score) to engineer the upset.
Juszczyk had two TD receptions (16 and 21 yards) and Zorn another (a 52-yarder) by halftime, as a rout seemed to loom.
The tide began turning early in the third quarter when Epperly scored from the 1 to complete an 86-yard march.
Still, Juszczyk and Brate grabbed Chapple TD tosses as Harvard forged its 34-10 edge.
But the Tigers turned it around with 34- and 48-yard scoring drives (each with a successful 2-point conversion) to make it 34-26 with 7:43 left. Then, after a blocked Harvard field goal attempt, the Tigers rolled 79 yards, and Michelsen clicked for 20 to Seth DeValve and it was 34-32.
Pandemonium reigning, Michelsen’s 2-point conversion pass was batted down, and Harvard seemed to have restored order with 2:27 left.
All Harvard needed was a first down or two to run out the clock.
The Crimson couldn’t get it.