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Harvard Tops Brown 34-31 in Seesaw Ivy League Opener

The Crimson improved to 2-0 with a hard-fought win on Friday night.

Yale Buulldogs v Harvard Crimson Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

It only took the Bears defense all of 46 seconds to silence the Harvard crowd on Friday evening in Massachusetts. Linebacker Ethan Royer got underneath a tipped pass from Crimson quarterback Charles Deprima and tracked it down for the pick. The Bears made the most of that stolen opportunity and marched right down to the goal line. Running back Stockton Owen bullied his way in for the go-ahead score and it was clear early that Brown had revenge on its mind.

Last season the Crimson won this matchup 35-28 in Rhode Island. This time at home, though, they would have to play from behind early. That Bears defense, though, was fired up and it showed. On the second Harvard drive, Michael Bumpus drug down Deprima for the first sack of the night and, eventually, forced the punt. The visitors were in total control.

As the first quarter ticked down under two minutes to play, Brown quarterback Jake Willcox uncorked a deep pass to wideout Wes Rockett. Living up to his name, Rockett jetted underneath the throw and hauled it in while falling to the turf. The huge 51-yard catch flipped the field for the Bears. Harvard’s defense, however, would hold strong and force a field goal. Brown led 10-0 at the end of one.

Deprima, making his second career start, finally gave the crowd something to be excited about as the second quarter began. After a big first down run in Brown territory, Deprima threaded a sideline pass to tight end Tyler Neville to move the chains again. One play later, he hit running back Shane McLaughlin who turned on the spin move to dance 14 yards into the end zone. Brown now only led by three.

Willcox and company methodically looked to deliver the response. On a drive that ate up nearly six minutes, the Bears offense marched right down the Harvard one-yard line. There, though, the Crimson defense stiffened up. For three straight plays they stonewalled Brown. On fourth and goal, defensive tackle Micaiah Bell buried Nate Lussier at the line. The game was ebbing back the way of the home team and the fans grew louder because of it.

Even when they were made to punt, the Crimson found success. All-Ivy League punter Sebastian Tasko pinned the Bears in the shadow of their own end zone, a place that proved difficult to escape. Three plays went nowhere for Brown and they were forced to give it back to Harvard who took over with solid field position.

Deprima gave the Crimson its first lead with under a minute left until halftime. After using his legs to get deep into Brown territory, he dove over the line on a designed QB run. His second rushing TD of the season put his team on top 14-10 at the break.

Brown continued to sputter in the second half. The offense got the ball first but couldn’t do anything with it. Harvard, meanwhile, still had no trouble moving the sticks, even if it was with the help of penalties. Receiver Kaedyn Odermann was the beneficiary of a pass interference flag on 3rd and 10 early in the third. Shortly following the penalty, McLaughlin broke free to extend the lead with a long 43-yard scoring run. The PAT was pulled left but the Crimson still led 20-10.

Now trailing by double digits for the first time, the Bears finally strung together the drive they needed. Willcox led the 17-play excursion that featured both a fourth down pickup and a big unnecessary roughness penalty after a sack. Willcox made the most of the second chances and threw a touchdown pass to Jordan McIntyre with 4:03 remaining in the third frame. McIntyre’s TD cut the lead back to three.

Brown’s celebration was short-lived. On the ensuing kickoff, Crimson return man Xaviah Bascon bolted down the sideline for a huge 52-yard return. A few plays later, Deprima connected with receiver Cooper Barkate for a 15-yard touchdown strike. In a matter of moments, Harvard was back up 10 when the fourth began.

The Bears wouldn’t fold, though, and shortly into the final quarter Owen pushed over the chalk for his second touchdown of the game, again putting the Harvard back on their heels in what was becoming a back-and-forth battle.

Deprima answered the call and orchestrated yet another touchdown march. After a long completion to Barkate, he hit Neville over the middle and the big tight end did the rest. Neville plowed his way through defenders and into the end zone to again push the Harvard lead back to ten with just over 11 minutes to go.

As they had done twice before up to this point, though, Brown would not let Harvard score unanswered. Willcox and Rockett guided the offense down field again before Owen scampered in for his third touchdown of the evening. The third down scoring run ensured it would remain a three-point contest going into the final six minutes.

From there, Deprima and McLaughlin put on a master class on bleeding the clock. Slowly and consistently they picked up first down after first down. All Brown could do was look on and eventually burn their precious timeouts. With 1:43 left, McLaughlin broke out and could have scored. Instead, though, he smartly opted to go down at the one-yard line, allowing the Crimson to seal the win.

As he did last week, Deprima put the game on his shoulders and carried much of the load on offense. He ran for 98 yards and passed for 203 more while accounting for four touchdowns. McLaughlin finished the night with 152 rush yards on 16 carries and had a score. Barkate led the receivers with 132 yards and a touchdown as well

On the other side, Willcox threw for 364 yards and a TD. Owen led the Bears on the ground with three touchdowns. Rockett posted a career-best 9 receptions that went for 147 yards. In total the two offenses combined for over 900 yards and 65 points.

Brown (1-1) will now turn its attention to Central Connecticut State whom they will welcome in next Saturday for their home opener. Harvard (2-0), meanwhile, gets ready for a big game with nationally ranked Holy Cross.