Despite putting up its best showing against No. 19 Harvard (3-0, 0-0 Ivy League) in recent years, the Georgetown football team (3-1, 0-0 Patriot League) ultimately fell to the Crimson with a final score of 31-17.
Losing by just two scores to the top team in the Ivy League — in a game that saw the Hoyas lose senior starting quarterback Tim Barnes to injury — is an indication that this year’s football team has the fortitude to compete for a conference title.
At the start of the game, the Crimson looked to be on the fast track to repeating last year’s 45-0 drubbing of the Hoyas when sophomore wide receiver Brian Dunlap hauled in a 17-yard pass from senior quarterback Joe Viviano in the corner of the end zone, just three minutes into the game.
Harvard came right back on its next possession to make it 14-0 midway through the first quarter when senior tight end Anthony Firkser picked on sophomore defensive back Ramon Lyons in coverage again and came across the end zone and hauled in the pass from Viviano for the score.
In previous matchups against the Crimson, the Hoyas let the deficit build, but this year they kept on the attack. The Hoyas finally broke through at the end of the first quarter, when sophomore wide receiver Brandon Williams caught a screen pass from Barnes on the right sideline and continued for a 76-yard touchdown catch-and-run to bring the Blue and Gray within a touchdown.
The Hoyas then got a boost from their special teams when a Harvard punt was blocked by freshman defensive lineman Khristian Tate and recovered by junior linebacker Matt Apuzzi. However, the Georgetown offense squandered the opportunity, missing a conversion on fourth down when Tim Barnes threw an errant pass to junior wide receiver Justin Harrell.
The Crimson gained more separation in the beginning of the second quarter when Firkser shook his defender free with a double move on a post route, racing into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown to put Harvard up 21-7.
“He’s tough,” Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata said with regards to Firkser’s performance. “He should be playing with his hand on the ground next to the tackle but they split him out there … He had the one double move in the first half for the big play which was tough.”
To compound an already uphill battle, sophomore linebacker J’V’on Butler was ejected in the second quarter for a hit to the head. Butler’s ejection was a loss that the Hoyas could ill afford, with injuries already plaguing the team.
Georgetown, however, got a break when sophomore quarterback Tom Stewart — in for Viviano — threw a pick in the end zone to sophomore cornerback Blaise Brown. Still, the Hoyas failed to capitalize on the Crimson turnover.
After the Hoyas got the ball back after the turnover, Tim Barnes was flushed out of the pocket on the first play of the series and was tackled to the ground hard after running to the outside. He came out of the game with a shoulder injury; sophomore quarterback Clay Norris took his place for the remainder of the contest.
Georgetown’s offense could not gain any traction with Norris at quarterback and had just one first down in his first four drives. For the game, he finished 10-of-19 on throws that totaled a mere 45 yards.
“I thought Clay did a good job for us coming into the game and managing it. It was his first real college experience against a good defense,” Sgarlata said.
Despite the Hoyas’ defense holding the Crimson scoreless in the third quarter, they responded with an impressive fourth-quarter drive. The 12-play, 55-yard touchdown march spanned 4:35, the finishing touches coming in the form of a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Cam Tripp to freshman receiver Cody Chrest.
The score was 31-7, and the Blue and Gray had stalled against the Harvard defense.
However, the Hoyas attempted to mount a comeback, with Henry Darmstadter’s 43-yard field goal making it 31-10 with five minutes left.
The next possession, junior running back Isaac Ellsworth broke through for a 74-yard touchdown run to make it 31-17. Georgetown’s comeback bid ran out of gas when Norris threw an incomplete pass to Williams on fourth down as time expired.
Despite the loss, Sgarlata remained confident in his team and was proud of the resilience the Hoyas showed, a distinguishing mark of the team four games into the season.
“When you come up to Harvard on a Friday night and you play a team that is 42-2 in the last 44 [games] … you got to take your shots when you have them, and that’s what we said we were going to do, even down towards the end,” Sgarlata said. “I told the kids in there, we’re 3-1, and I was more proud of our football team after this game because they fought their tails off all the way to the last play.”