by Scott Reed
Harvard's 24-7 win over Brown last Friday night was a redemption on many levels for the Crimson: its new quarterback, its defense, and the entire team felt the sting of prior failures, yet they were able to redeem themselves against the Bears, making the win especially sweet.
The most intruiging storyline heading into Friday's game was who would start at quarterback: the rumor that began to percolate across Cambridge as the week wore on was that senior starter Collier Winters would be out against the Bears. A crowd of 18,537 saw this confirmed when junior backup Colton Chapple ran out to take the first snap in Harvard Stadium. For those fans who followed Harvard's 2010 campaign, the sight of Chapple under center wasn't particularly welcome, as he struggled in three starts last year replacing both Winters and Andrew Hatch when they were out with injuries. Although Chapple led Harvard to wins in two of his three starts, he did not impress - he completed under 50% of his passes and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. The expectations for Chapple in 2011 were not high, with many hoping Winters would be able to take the vast majority of snaps under center. All of this had to be on Chapple's mind as he ran out to the huddle for the first play, but to his credit, he came through on a night when Harvard needed him to. The junior threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns, the second a 56-yard beauty to Adam Chrissis to put the game out of reach. After the game, Chapple reflected on the progress he has made: "Last year, as a sophomore, it was different...I didn't really know the offense like I know it now." This progress was evident Friday to all those in attendance, and Crimson fans feel a lot better about the quarterback situation whether or not Collier Winters can play next Saturday at Lafayette.
On the other side of the ball, the Harvard defense entered the game on its heels after being shredded by the Holy Cross passing attack the week before. Many had predicted a similar occurrence when Brown came to Cambridge led by 1st-team preseason all-Ivy quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero. Yet Newhall-Caballero was held in check, completing only 28 of 51 passes and throwing 2 interceptions, and Brown was held to a single touchdown. Granted, two Bear red-zone turnovers (including a fumble at the goal line) mean Brown could have easily hung more numbers on the scoreboard, but the Crimson defense stepped up and made plays when it mattered. Holding arguably the Ivy League's best passing attack to seven points was an excellent way for the maligned unit to redeem itself and is a good sign for the rest of the season, in a conference stacked with quarterback talent.
And of course, there was the opponent on Friday: the Crimson still felt the sting of the loss in Providence a year ago, when Brown won convincingly, 29-14. Harvard was able to exact some revenge this time around, and in doing so might have discovered something about itself: head coach Tim Murphy alluded to it after the game, saying, "Tonight we developed an identity...we're a tough, physical team." After an ugly loss a week ago, this was a win and a step in the right direction. For a player, a unit, and a team looking for redemption, that was enough.