Oregon's passing lifts Hawks past the Hornets
Under coach John Bothe, Oregon has always been known as a team that relies on a ball-control rushing attack.
In an fortuitous 21-7 win over Harvard, it was a passing game between two cousins that made the difference.
Quarterback Tyler Blume and running back Joey Diehl connected on two critical completions to set up Oregon's final two touchdowns.
With five seconds left in the first half, a 16-yard reception between the two gave Oregon the ball at the 5-yard line. As time expired Brandon Sklavanitis barely crashed over the goal line for a 14-0 Hawk lead.
After an anemic second half consisting of only two first downs, Blume found Diehl for a 29-yard gain on fourth-and-7 with less than minute left in the game. Two plays later, Diehl scored from one yard out to clinch the victory.
"That's from years of playing catch in the backyard together," Blume said.
Blume had a hand in all three Hawk scores. Facing a fourth-and-8 on Oregon's opening drive of the game, the junior quarterback scrambled for 12 yards to set up a 3-yard Sklavantis touchdown. It capped off a 12-play, 63-yard trademark Hawk drive.
"Blume had a great game," Bothe said. "Besides being so methodical on offense, he played the entire game at defensive end because we were shorthanded."
The real forces on defense for Oregon were Diehl and Sklavanitis, who combined for 28 tackles from their linebacking positions.
In the second quarter, Oregon put together a 19-play, 75-yard drive but did not score. From its own 15, Harvard could have then run the clock out and went into the half down 7-0, but opted to call a timeout.
Oregon followed by calling its last two, forcing Harvard to punt with 28 seconds left, setting the stage for Blume and Diehl.
"That second score was a heartbreak," Harvard coach Tim Haak said.
"We had to overcome their momentum," Diehl said.
Harvard took control of the game in the second half, shutting down Oregon's running game. Harvard's Sammy Soliz, who had 63 yards on 19 carries, scored from four yards out late in the third quarter to cut the Hawk lead to 14-7.
The longer the game went on, the more Harvard began to dominate line play. Taking possession at its own 7-yard line with nine minutes left, Harvard began a drive behind sophomore speedster Christian Kramer.
However, just as the Hawks were reeling on defense, Kramer fumbled the ball and Sean Wright recovered for Oregon.
"I'm sure Harvard is kicking itself for the bad breaks they got," Bothe said. "They don't have the skill kids from last year, but are deceptively tough."
Harvard did get the ball back two more times between Oregon's final touchdown, but could not get past midfield.
"We didn't do it for four quarters, but were resilent and bounced back from some tough situations," Haak said.
"It was a hard-fought game," said Sklavanitis, who led the Hawks with 85 yards rushing.