NEW HAVEN — The Harvard faithful were celebrating en masse on the worn sod near midfield of the Yale Bowl after yet another victory over their archrivals, the program’s seventh straight under Tim Murphy, and 12th in the last 13 matchups of the 130-game epic.
His players, according to the 20-year head coach, had left every drop of sweat, every ounce of energy on the field, from start to finish. And for the season as well, from the opener in San Diego to the finale in front of 50,934 chilled folks Saturday afternoon against Yale.
And the end result, nine wins and a share of the Ivy League title after Dartmouth’s 28-24 takedown of Princeton in the snow up in Hanover, N.H., could not have been more satisfying. Or more deserving.
“In terms of this season, I don’t think that there is a team that we ever got more out of,” said Murphy after the Crimson crushed a youthful Yale squad with a 28-point first half, via four touchdowns from stellar sophomore Paul Stanton Jr., en route to a commanding 34-7 victory.
“And our captain, Josh Boyd, has as much to do with that as anyone,” Murphy said of the senior linebacker from Hyde Park, who had 35 classmates with which to share the leadership mantle.
“This meant a lot to all of us,” said Boyd, exhausted, yet beaming with a wide smile.
Only a 51-48 triple-overtime loss to Princeton (8-2, 6-1) denied Harvard (9-1, 6-1) a perfect season. There is plenty to savor, starting with the seventh Ivy crown under Murphy, and the 15th overall.
All season, the Crimson found a way.
Sophomore Zach Boden, projected to start at tailback, went down with a season-ending knee injury after Week 1. Stanton, a shifty 5-foot-9-inch, 190-pound speedster from Louisiana, took the ball and ran with it.
On Harvard’s first series Saturday, Stanton took a reverse pivot handoff from junior quarterback Conner Hempel, wheeled left, and exploded in from the 25 untouched for his 14th touchdown of the year.
Five minutes later — courtesy of a momentum-swinging fumble by Yale freshman Candler Rich — Stanton had his 15th, but first receiving, on a 21-yard swing pass down the right sideline for a 14-0 spread. Harvard junior corner Norman Hayes, who had limped off the Stadium turf last week with a sprained right ankle against Penn, forced the fumble from Rich, with corner DJ Monroe pouncing on the recovery.
“That was the biggest play of the game, we had a key third down converted, ball at midfield, the momentum was going our way,” said Tony Reno, Yale’s second-year coach, who was not pleased with the Elis’ first-half performance.
He summed up the afternoon as a “tough day for Yale football.”
Less than a minute into the second quarter, Stanton was back in the end zone again for No. 16, taking a short toss from Hempel (19 of 26, 209 yards, 2 TDs) down the right side 18 yards for a 21-0 bulge.
“I feel like I didn’t really do much,” said Hempel, also a first-year starter. “I flipped the ball up in the air, let Paul catch it, and then watch how many yards he runs for.”
When Stanton (27 carries, 118 yards) capped his spectacular first 30 minutes with his fourth score, a 2-yard plunge to pad the cushion to 28-0 with 4:20 left, he tied Eddie Mahan’s program record for most touchdowns against Yale, set in a 41-0 romp in 1915.
“This a huge game to plan in, the last game for the seniors, and to go out and play my best was awesome,” said Stanton, who completed his breakout season with 932 yards rushing and 17 TDs.
He did so running behind a rebuilt offensive front working in a pair of sophomore tackles, Adam Redmond and Cole Toner, and a new center, senior Nick Easton, who shifted from left guard after a season-ending injury to Dave Leopard. Senior right guard Austin Scheufele was the only constant presence.
“Their development was a big reason for our rejuvenation offensively,” said Murphy, who was buoyed by Harvard’s quick-strike start after a nail-biting finish against Penn.
Yale (5-5, 3-4) finally broke through in the third quarter, at 5:04, when junior Deon Randall took a direct snap and charged in from the 3. Kyle Cazzetta was wide on the PAT, but converted his second chance after the Crimson were penalized for leaping.
But the Crimson closed out their 250th Ivy win with a pair of field goals from senior David Mothander, including a career-best 48-yarder for a 34-7 lead with 11:38 left, and a fourth-quarter pick from senior safety Chris Splinter.
“What this senior class accomplished, how much effort they gave, there are no regrets,” said Murphy.
Craig Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.