CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - No. 25 Harvard dealt Lafayette a 35-16 loss in the Leopards' final non-conference game of the season.
Michael Pruneau was efficient at QB for the Harvard which improves to 5-0 and runs its home winning streak to 18 games. He completed 17-of-29 for 263 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The Crimson also added 187 yards on the ground led by Paul Stanton who had 21 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshman Drew Reed, who got the call to play in the second half as the Leopards' signal caller, completed 17-of-22 for 235 yards and one interception. Reed connected with Mike Duncan and Demetrius Dixon for touchdown passes of 25 yards and 43 yards respectively. Defensively for the Leopards, senior linebacker Mike Boles had a career day, making 16 tackles.
Harvard went on a lengthy drive to start the game, covering 72 yards on 15 plays. The Leopards looked as if they were going to hold Harvard to a field goal, but the Crimson faked the 20-yard attempt. Pruneau hit tight end Cameron Brate who slid off the end for the two-yard TD at 9:08.
Andrew Dzurik (7-17-2 for 92 yards) to Mark Ross provided the bulk of the offensive yardage in the first quarter, combining for two pass plays for 46 yards. Ross entered the day needing five catches to become Lafayette's all-time receptions leader. He finished with three grabs for 63 yards despite facing double and triple teams throughout the game.
The Leopards' found themselves with good field position at the end of the first quarter, taking over near midfield. Ross Scheuerman (21 carries for 63 yards) managed an eight-yard run. On the next play, Dzurik threaded a ball to Dixon who bobbled it between two Harvard defenders. Connor Sheehan picked it up and returned it to the Lafayette 45.
Harvard took advantage of the turnover, but not without significant resistance from the Leopard defense which forced a 4th-and-5 at the 12. The defense pressured Pruneau who appeared to throw it away. Lafayette was whistled for a pass a interference penalty. Granted new life on the drive, Harvard's Stanton punched in a three-yard score for the 14-0 advantage.
On Lafayette's next possession, Lafayette took advantage of Harvard's own questionable pass interference penalty. Lafayette had the ball 3rd-and-8 at the Harvard 31 and picked up 15 on the penalty. Dzurik kept the drive going with a 3rd-and-4 completion to Brandon Hall that went 20 yards. Hall finished the day with five catches for 90 yards. The Leopards settled for a 24-yard field goal to get on the scoreboard with 3:48 left in the half.
Lafayette's defense gave the offense another opportunity late in the first half, forcing a three-and-out that handed Lafayette the ball at its own 34 with two timeouts. Harvard picked off Dzurik's second pass of the drive and had the ball at the Lafayette 23 with 1:42 left. The Leopards forced a forced a 34-yard field goal which missed wide right for the 14-3 halftime score.
Head coach Frank Tavani made the quarterback change to start the second half, but Reed's first attempt was interception on third down. Harvard failed to take advantage and punted.
The Crimson took final control of the game with seven minutes left in the third, stringing together a 56-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Stanton three-yard touchdown for the 21-3 advantage. Harvard scored again to start the fourth quarter. Pruneau found Andrew Fischer for a 50-yard TD, catching the Leopards in a blitz. The scoring play was set up by a 37-yard pass to Ricky Zorn.
Leading 28-3 with 10 minutes to go in the game, Harvard head coach Tim Murphy dialed up the fake punt on 4th-and-5. The play went for 37 yards to the Lafayette 19. The football gods disapproved as Steve Mercado sacked Pruneau and Darius Glover recovered the ball for the Leopards.
Lafayette's first touchdown of the sunny afternoon came on the resulting possession. Reed completed a 23-yard pass to Hall and two more to Duncan for 21 and 25 yards. The second grab by Duncan was a touchdown. Ryan Gralish's PAT made it 28-10.
The Leopards and Crimson exchanged touchdowns in the remaining eight minutes, with Harvard scoring on Pruneau's 15-yard strike to Brate with 2:58 left. On Lafayette's final drive, the Leopards had the ball 4th-and-14 before Reed connected with Dixon for a 43-yard score. The Leopards' two-point conversion failed and the final went to 35-16.
Lafayette (1-5) makes the long return trip to Massachusetts on Oct. 26 as the Leopards resume Patriot League play at Holy Cross in a 1 p.m. kick-off.