Rush week at Harvard
Crimson rip Tigers’ defense
His maturation as a starting quarterback, like the rest of the Harvard offense, is a work in progress.
Collier Winters doesn’t stand tall in the pocket; the majority of the time, he looks up to the rest of his teammates in the Crimson huddle. And he measures more than a few inches shy of his predecessor, the celebrated Chris Pizzotti.
Winters’s decision-making, though, along with his quick, nimble feet, have helped thrust Harvard to a 3-0 start in the Ivy League.
On his third snap of a soggy afternoon yesterday, a third-and-8 call from the Harvard 23, the 5-foot-11-inch junior called an audible before lofting a pass 20 yards down the left sideline for junior Chris Lorditch, who made the catch and pulled away from a pair of Princeton defenders for a 77-yard touchdown.
It was just the start of what was an impressive performance for Winters and the Crimson in a 37-3 rout over an undermanned Tigers squad in their 102d meeting before 13,565 at the Stadium.
“[Princeton] showed a blitz, I checked to a streak ball, outside to Lorditch, they went to a Cover-2, and they didn’t jam him. Once he got clear, I just threw it out to him,’’ said Winters, who was making his sixth career start. “And I knew that as soon as he caught it he was gone. Just a good play for us.’’
Just one of many on a day in which Harvard (4-2 overall) ruled the line of scrimmage, outgaining the Tigers (1-5, 0-3) by a whopping 300 yards (457-157), including a season-high 267 on the ground, and Winters (13 of 19, 190 yards, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions) spread the ball around, hooking up with seven receivers.
Quite a stark contrast to Winters’s first completion a week ago, which resulted in a fumble, and ultimately a Lafayette score in a 35-18 loss.
“We got them in the right coverage, Collier made a perfect throw, it was a perfect route, things changed quickly,’’ summed up Harvard coach Tim Murphy.
Princeton then marched to the Crimson 2, settling for a field goal, and a 7-3 deficit.
At the start of the season, a pitch to Jordan Culbreath, the reigning Ivy League rushing champion, was likely in the mix for Princeton. But after suffering a sprained ankle in the second game at Lehigh, the 21-year-old senior tailback was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and bone marrow failure disease. His playing career is over, and the Tigers are trying their best to cope. A week ago against Brown, the defense lost its leader too, when middle linebacker Scott Britton suffered a season-injury knee injury.
This game got away from the Tigers, though, because of a failure to execute a punt late in the first quarter, the low snap sailing through the legs of Otavio Fleury and Harvard taking over at the 3. One play later, Winters connected with Kyle Juszczyk, an impressive 6-3, 245-pound freshman H-back, for 3 yards and a 14-3 cushion.
“We gave them easy field position early,’’ said Princeton coach Roger Hughes, whose team has lost 12 of the last 14 meetings.
From there, the Crimson went to work on the ground, whether it was junior Gino Gordon (nine carries, 84 yards) darting to the left or right, freshman Treavor Scales (10-59) knifing through the middle, or the hard-charging work of senior Cheng Ho (12-73) in the second half. Harvard was relentless.
“Our running backs coach [Joe Villapiano] emphasizes the big-back mentality, after the first hit, always keep the legs churning, always get more yards,’’ said Gordon, who punched in a 3-yard run in the third quarter for a 31-3 spread.
With Winters at the trigger, the Crimson kept the Tigers’ defense guessing.
“Collier has strengths, his versatility, his mobility, his improvisational skills,’’ said Murphy. “Being a quote ‘rookie quarterback,’ he has done a good job . . . He’s a quarterback that we can win a championship with. It’s all the other parts we have to do, to have the opportunity to compete for one.’’
The next test is Dartmouth on Saturday.
Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com