Princeton handed Harvard football coach Tim Murphy one of the worst losses of his 24-year tenure Friday.
The Tigers pounded the Crimson, 52-17, in front of 10,114 at Harvard Stadium, scoring more points against a Murphy-led defense than any other Crimson opponent. The last time Harvard allowed 50 or more points in regulation was on Oct. 7, 1989, in a 50-28 home loss to Lehigh.
“Stating the obvious, we got our butts kicked by a really outstanding Princeton team,” Murphy said. “The display that they put on in the first half was obviously overwhelming. They did a better job coaching than we did. They did a better job playing than we did, and when you add it all up they just kicked our butt.”
The Crimson defense had hoped last week’s win over Lafayette signaled a turning point, but Princeton quarterback Chad Kanoff made it look more like an outlier.
Kanoff (31 of 35, 421 yards, 2 TDs) completed his first 21 passes and became the first quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards against the Crimson (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) since Cornell’s Jeff Matthews passed for 475 in 2013.
“You see it in practice some days, and [Kanoff’s] a young man who’s just grown and developed,” said Princeton coach Bob Surace. “Everything that is so fulfilling as a coach, you see it showing up in him right now. And you’re just so happy that he’s starting to play at this level. It’s tremendous.”
The Crimson secondary looked like it was in trouble from the get-go. Kanoff, who entered Friday with the best completion percentage in the FCS (73.9 percent), engineered a 10-play, 89-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 20-yard touchdown strike to a wide-open Jesper Horsted to give Princeton a 7-0 lead with 6:43 left in the first quarter. Kanoff connected with tight end Stephen Carlson seven times for 78 yards on the first two drives.
After a Tavish Rice field goal extended Princeton’s lead to 10, Kanoff found Horsted open again across the middle on a 27-yard pass that set the Tigers up at Harvard’s 2 midway through the second quarter. Running back Charlie Volker finished the job on a 2-yard rush, scoring the first of his three touchdowns and extending Princeton’s lead to 17-0 with 9:25 remaining in the second quarter.
The Crimson offense couldn’t match its counterparts, but they cut into Princeton’s lead with 4:11 left in the second quarter. Facing a third-and-6 from midfield, quarterback Jake Smith (20 of 31, 268 yards, 1 INT) couldn’t find an open receiver and took off, weaving his way through the Princeton defense before he was forced out at the 24. The drive concluded on a 28-yard Jake McIntyre field goal.
But Kanoff continued to burn the Crimson secondary, this time receiving some additional help from Horsted. After finding Horsted for an 11-yard pickup, Kanoff went back to his favorite target on a slant two plays later. This time, Horsted spun away from Crimson cornerback Tobe Ezeokoli and burst 66 yards down the sideline to give the Tigers a 21-point cushion with 3:10 left in the first half.
Smith briefly brought Harvard’s passing attack to life. He connected with Justice Shelton-Mosley and Ryan Antonellis on the first two plays of a drive late in the first half that advanced the Crimson to midfield. After a 4-yard rush, Smith moved up in the pocket and fired a pass to tight end Dan Werner, who leapt for the ball at the Princeton 2. The line judge tossed a flag, but Werner tipped the ball into the air before reeling it in with one hand. Charlie Booker III punched it in from 2 yards on the next play to cut Princeton’s lead to 24-10.
It looked as though Kanoff finally tossed an incompletion with 37 seconds remaining in the first half. But the pass flew over the head of Stephen Carlson, who was held on the play. The penalty wiped away the incompletion, set the Tigers (5-1, 2-1 Ivy) up at the Crimson 14, and Volker raced in on the next play to give the visitors a 31-10 lead at halftime.
When Harvard’s defense finally forced Princeton to punt on the opening drive of the second half, its offense let it down. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Tigers linebacker John Orr pounced on the football at the Harvard 25 after cornerback Chance Melancon strippedthe ball from Booker. Princeton built a 37-10 lead after Volker scored from 1-yard out with 7:48 left in the third quarter.
Princeton’s Horsted hauled in 13 receptions for 246 yards — both career highs — but his contributions weren’t limited to the receiving game. The Tigers capped the third-quarter scoring on a jet sweep that went from Kanoff to Horsted. But the junior pulled up and tossed a pass to an uncovered Carlson in the corner of the end zone to send the Tigers into the fourth quarter with a commanding 45-10 lead.
Harvard will look to redeem itself when it returns to action Oct. 28 against Dartmouth.