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After back-to-back losses, Harvard hopes to bounce back against Holy Cross

Harvard football coach Tim Murphy called last week’s 28-24 Ivy League loss at Cornell “stastically, an anomaly for me,” after his team squandered a 10-point lead with eight minutes remaining after dominating three critical phases of the game (rushing, turnovers, time of possession).
Harvard football coach Tim Murphy called last week’s 28-24 Ivy League loss at Cornell “stastically, an anomaly for me,” after his team squandered a 10-point lead with eight minutes remaining after dominating three critical phases of the game (rushing, turnovers, time of possession).(Gregory Payan/Associated Press/File)

Harvard’s 28-24 loss last weekend at Cornell was an Ivy League setback coach Tim Murphy, in his 25th season with the Crimson, called “statistically, an anomaly for me.” The Crimson dominated the entire game, gaining 288 rushing yards on 48 carries, committing no turnovers, and possessing the ball for more than 34 minutes only to watch their 10-point lead wither away with less than eight minutes remaining.

An instate contest against Holy Cross (1-5) Friday night at 7 p.m. at Harvard Stadium will conclude the Crimson’s nonconference schedule, and just may be the right game to help them get back on track after two consecutive losses.

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Here are a few keys for Harvard (2-2):

Shampklin runs wild

After he rushed for a career-high 178 yards and scored four touchdowns in Harvard’s opening weekend win against San Diego, Aaron Shampklin established a new personal best last weekend in upstate New York, rushing for 191 yards on 27 carries and a 47-yard TD.

The 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound sophomore from Paramount, Calif., leads the team with five touchdowns this season and is currently the Ivy League leader in rushing yards per game (131.8) and all-purpose yards (135.5).

Holy Cross opponents have averaged 200 rushing yards per game. The Crusaders’ defense has struggled to contain the run , which was painfully evident in their last in-state battle this season when Boston College sophomore AJ Dillon rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns on just six carries in the first half alone.

It could possibly be another career effort for Shampklin Friday night.

Stewart gets nod

Tom Stewart will get the start at quarterback for Harvard after the 6-2, 215-pound senior came off the bench against Cornell, completing 7 of 23 attempts for 100 yards and a pair of TDs.

Murphy says this will be a great opportunity for Stewart, who hasn’t seen a lot of playing time this year.

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Sneaky mobile with a strong arm that gives him the ability ability to make all the throws were just a few of the qualities Murphy attributed to Stewart.

If the run game with Shampklin proves to be effective, Stewart could have a lot of chances for big plays through the air to the likes of senior wide receivers Adam Scott and Justice Shelton-Mosley.

Complete game

On the heels of back-to-back frustrating losses, Murphy cited the Crimson’s need to play a complete game in order to get back in the win column.

“If you look at our last two losses to two very good teams — [by] six points to Rhode Island and a four-point loss to Cornell — in all honesty, we have not played a complete game,” Murphy said.

A number of good things happened in both those losses. Harvard had big plays against URI and dominated time of possession in a turnover-free game against the Big Red. These factors will need to come into play in order for the Crimson to put together the complete game Murphy is seeking from them.


Karl Capen can be reached at karl.capen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Capen316.