After more than 30 years roaming the sidelines, Harvard head coach Tim Murphy has gotten fairly good at dodging Gatorade showers.
“We wish we could throw Gatorade on him, but he’s so quick off the field,” said junior running back Aaron Shampklin. “We can’t catch him.”
The Crimson couldn’t let their coach skate away this time.
Not on a night when the milestone that had been at Murphy’s fingertips since 2019 was finally his. And especially not on a night when the Harvard campus as a whole took another step into the new normal.
By soundly beating Brown, 49-17, the Crimson delivered Murphy’s 180th career win as an Ivy League coach, moving Murphy past Yale coach Carm Cozza for the all-time mark.
After watching his team hit on all cylinders, Murphy was the one who finally got caught slipping. Offensive linemen Spencer Rolland and Hunt Sparks made sure Murphy celebrated with a splash.
“I got caught today,” Murphy said.
The celebration was a long time in the making.
History eluded Murphy time and again in 2019, when the Crimson went 4-6. A year later, the Ivy League led the college sports world in halting play in the face of a global pandemic.
Murphy considered the record a testament to the entirety of the program over his 27 years at Harvard.
“This is a milestone for our program,” Murphy said. “It’s a milestone for our team, but the reality is the people who really accomplished that are every single Harvard football player who entered the field with me, every single assistant coach — which is probably 60 different coaches over the 27 years. It’s ours together. It’s not a coaching record the way I look at it. It’s a team record.”
Returning to the Harvard Stadium for the first time in 22 months felt like an accomplishment in itself. The crowd of 20,748 made the Crimson’s home opener the school’s largest event since the pandemic.
“It felt like everybody was excited to get back,” said defensive lineman Justin Mitchell, who went through two surgeries to return to play this season. “The whole campus, the whole week the energy was just like, ‘Football is back.’ It’s been hard having two years off, but just the fans helped, the whole environment helped. It was just amazing.”
The Crimson followed up a 44-9 win over Georgetown last week with another lopsided win to improve to 2-0. A 42-0 halftime lead made the milestone a formality.
“I feel like I’ve coached as long as him tonight,” Brown coach James Perry said, shaking his head. “It’s weighing on me a little bit.”
Junior running back Shampklin ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Junior receiver Kym Wimberly caught four passes for 71 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown catch. Sophomore quarterback Charlie Dean threw for 156 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-24 passing.
After sabotaging themselves with turnovers in their opener against Rhode Island, Brown gave the ball away three times against Harvard and the Crimson capitalized.
Shampklin’s first touchdown, from 4 yards in the first quarter, came after Brown fumbled at its 4-yard line.
Down, 21-0, in the second quarter, Brown drove to Harvard’s 5-yard line when EJ Perry was intercepted by Khalil Dawsey, who ran it back 77 yards to Brown’s 18. The Crimson found the end zone on the ensuing drive when Aidan Borguet punched in a 3-yard carry.
Brown was in a 35-0 hole with 1:03 left in the first half when Perry fumbled at Brown’s 13-yard line. Mitchell scooped up the ball and hauled it 13 yards for a touchdown that made it 42-0. It was Harvard’s first fumble return for a touchdown since 2015.
“Football is a game of momentum,” Mitchell said. “We just played lights out tonight and turnovers was a part of that.”
Seeing the way Harvard turned his team inside out, coach Perry reiterated his respect for the program Murphy’s built throughout the years.
“It is amazing,” Perry said. “As a player, I was in this league at the beginning of what he’s done, which is really something special. I’ve been able to see it first hand and it’s really remarkable. It’s a credit to just doing things the right way and sticking to his principles.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.