Rapid Reaction: Harvard 31, Yale 24


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Harvard beat Yale 31-24 in a bone-chilling and thrilling edition of The Game.

How it happened: After a mistake-filled first half, the Crimson took control in the third quarter with three touchdowns scored in three very different ways.

One came on a 1-yard plunge by Paul Stanton Jr. after a 10-play, 58-yard drive. The next came on a trick play, with Seitu Smith II taking a handoff from Stanton on a reverse, running right across the formation and throwing deep for Andrew Fischer for a 40-yard TD. And the third, which had the Harvard sideline literally leaping for joy, came when Connor Sheehan stepped in front of a Morgan Roberts pass, ripped it away from the intended receiver and ran it back 90 yards for a TD.

Just like that, the Crimson went from up 17-7 with Yale threatening to answer a score with a score to up 24-7 and in complete control.

At least, that’s how it seemed at the time. Yale answered with two quick TDs and cut the Harvard lead to three with 8:21 to play. But after a Stanton fumble led to a tie when Kyle Cazzetta hit a 33-yard field goal, the Crimson didn’t waver.

Harvard marched upfield, Hempel connecting through the air and Stanton converting a key third-and-3. Then Hempel found Fischer with a step on his defender, running down the right sideline. The pass hit him perfectly, and Fischer sprinted into the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown with just 55 seconds remaining to give Harvard a 31-24 lead.

Roberts drove the Bulldogs to the Harvard 26-yard line with 20 seconds to play, but Zach Hodges got a sack and Roberts was intercepted to seal the win for the Crimson.

What it means: The Crimson weren’t the only ones carrying a streak into The Game on Saturday.

ESPN “College GameDay” analyst Lee Corso -- who always picks a winner for the game the show broadcasts from -- hadn’t gotten a pick wrong on any of the show’s previous six FCS broadcasts, including picking against Harvard in the school’s only other appearance on the national pregame show in 2002.

But by picking the Bulldogs before the 131st meeting between the teams, Corso ended up on the wrong side of history for the first time.

Harvard improves its win streak over Yale to eight straight. The win caps Harvard’s first perfect, 10-0 season in 10 years and clinches the outright Ivy League title.

Up next: The offseason. Because the Ivy League doesn’t participate in the playoff system that ends the Football Championship Subdivision season, that’s all she wrote on the 2014 season for Harvard and Yale.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.