Harvard beats Columbia, keeps Ivy title hopes alive

NEW YORK — “I have no voice left, which shouldn’t surprise people,” Harvard football coach Tim Murphy tells you.

He soldiers on nevertheless.

“We have a long way to go before we’re the team we really want to me. But we fight so hard. I’m just so proud of our guys. They give you a tremendous effort.”


As they did in a 21-14 come-from-behind triumph over no-longer pushover Columbia on Saturday, a dramatic win that kept a flicker of life in Harvard’s Ivy League title hopes.

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When all Ivy results were in, and two more weekends of league action to go, seven of the Ancient Eight clung to the mathematical possibility of at least winning or sharing the Ivy championship trophy, including Harvard and Columbia

This was a game that opened with a Columbia flourish but ended in Columbia frustration at Robert Kraft Field at Lawrence Wien Stadium.

Murphy, who earned his 200th career win and 168th at Harvard, gave full credit to coach Al Bagnoli for the Lions’ rise over the last three years.

“It’s amazing what he has done,” said Murphy. “That was a very good team we played today; they put in a tremendous effort; we were just very fortunate to win today. It could easily have changed.”


Nevertheless, it was Columbia’s 14th straight loss to the Crimson.

After early Columbia domination — capped by Josh Bean’s 1-yard TD flip to Kyle Castner, alone in the right side of the end zone midway through the opening quarter — the Crimson fought back.

Harvard quarterback Joe Viviano’s 65-yard TD pass to Henry Taylor left the deficit at 1 after Jake McIntyre’s PAT was blocked.

Safety Cole Thompson’s interception and 14-yard return to the Columbia 27 gave the Crimson another big opportunity before halftime. Four plays later, Viviano’s 1-yard keeper through the right side of the Lions’ line, coupled with Viviano’s 2-point conversion pass to Jack Stansell, gave the Crimson a 14-7 advantage just 17 seconds before the break.

It proved a major shift of momentum that defined the balance of the contest.


A 2-yard strike, Viviano to Jake Barann, extended Harvard’s lead to 21-7 in the third quarter but the Lions rallied with a TD in the game’s 50th minute, Anders Hill’s 14-yarder to Chris Schroer that capped a 10-play, 88-yard drive.

One final Columbia surge remained. The Lions got all the way to the Harvard 8-yard line — but no further.

Hill’s fourth-down pass from the 10, intended for Rory Schlageter, was broken up by Joey Goodman.

Viviano finished 6 for 12 for 120 yards and two TDs in addition to the scoring keeper.

Schroer was a bulwark for Columbia, powering for 125 yards on 24 carries along with seven catches for 46 yards and a TD.

So Harvard (5-3, 3-2) isn’t out of the league title race, with everything hinging on the Penn game at home next Saturday and the visit to first-place Yale (7-1, 4-1) on Nov. 18.

Columbia — playing its best football in more two decades — had won its first six games but the 23-6 loss to Yale last Saturday coupled with the setback to the Crimson slows the Lions’ hopes heading into the season-ending games at Cornell on Saturday and at home to Brown on Nov. 18.

Columbia (6-2, 3-2) will need to regroup if it has any hope of regaining the early momentum that had seen it claiming votes in the FCS and coaches’ national polls.

“We can still get better,” Bagnoli declared. “We can’t let games like this get away from us.”

In this typical Ivy League title scramble, the championship hopes — likely shared — of all but Brown now seem beyond reasonable possibility.