Up 30-14, and three quarters in, it’s Harvard’s game to lose against San Diego.
In the last two frames of play, the Toreros has outscored the Crimson, 11-3. That hardly matters, though, following Harvard’s electric, 27-point first quarter.
The first touchdown of San Diego’s was set up by a stellar punt from Toreros’ redshirt sophomore Tanner Kuljian. The 45-yard kick hopped out of bounds at the Crimson two-yard line. The offense didn’t have the room to do anything with the ball, returning the ball to the visitors in four plays.
Starting at the 50, San Diego moved within striking distance with a 37-yard toss from redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Lawrence to junior wideout Michael Bandy. After a stuffed run up the middle, sophomore Terrance Smith high stepped through open field into the endzone for six. The 13-yard sprint through open grass was proceeded by a successful two point conversion.
Things looked off to a foreboding start in Harvard’s first play of the game. As the hype music died down for the inaugural kick off, yellow flags immediately dirtied the field and the return was halted by whistles. Delay of game Crimson.
The defense wasn’t so unprepared. Four plays in and the Toreros were punting the ball to Harvard for its first offensive drive. The punt didn’t make into the hands of the Crimson returner, rather bouncing off the back of senior running back Christian Houston. San Diego resumed their drive at first-and-goal at the Harvard eight-yard line. The defense continued to hold the line and the visitors left the drive with only three points.
Reminiscent of last season, when the Crimson’s defense didn’t leave the field often due to offensive inefficiency, the home defense spent a lot of time on the turf in the first half. This year, it was due to offensive efficiency.
The first offensive play featured sophomore quarterback Jake Smith hit senior Adam Scott out of bounds. Next up, sophomore running back Aaron Shampklin took the pigskin 64-yards for the touchdown.
First team All-Ivy League running back Charlie Booker III has not stepped foot on the field at all in Harvard’s performance against the Toreros, but it hasn’t mattered. Shampklin has turned the Saturday morning contest into a track meet. In the first quarter, Shampklin touched the ball exactly three times. All three times he scored, accumulating 109 yards to his name. Freshman running back Devin Darrington added to the tally. The rookie had five touches for 48 yards and a touchdown, the first of his collegiate career.
By the end of the first quarter, up 27-3, the Crimson had racked up the most point in a first quarter performance since a 2013 match against Brown.
The backfield of duo was silenced for the majority of the second and third, adding only 62 yards in the next 30 minutes. Sophomore wide out B.J. Watson accounted for some of those yards with a single eight-yard gain.
In the special teams, San Diego has avoided Shelton-Mosley, opting instead to kick pooch kicks to near their own 35-yard line or high, short punts. Last season, the senior led the nation is punt return average, 18.8 yards, and punt returns for touchdown, two. When he finally did get a kickoff to him early following the Toreros’ first touchdown, Shelton-Mosley took it 43 yards down the sideline. The next time out, San Diego pooched the kickoff.
Meanwhile, Harvard’s defense has answered the question of whether it can replace the large senior class the team graduated last season. So far, the Toreros have converted only three of 11 third-down attempts.
Throughout the first three stanzas, San Diego redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Lawrence has been rushed in his passes, forcing him to down many into the turf. Despite this, the senior has 231 yards on the Crimson thus far.
After three, Harvard remains in control.
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—Check TheCrimson.com for updates. Full story to come after the game.