Oregon needed two fourth-quarter defensive stops in its own territory to hold on for a 13-7 win over Harvard in coach Nick Schneiderman’s first game as head coach.
“This week, we talked about team dynamics,” said Schneiderman, who replaced 19-year Hawk coach John Bothe. “Until you see adversity, you don’t know what the response will be. We found out tonight that we were able to respond defensively.”
Do everything quarterback Dylan Stephens started a 42-yard drive and twin brother Ryan added a pair of long runs to give Harvard a first down at Oregon’s 28-yard line with seven minutes left in the game.
Just when it looked like the Hornets finally had Oregon reeling, a third lost fumble stopped the drive.
“In a 13-7 game, fumbles are huge,” Harvard coach Sean Saylor said. “They really hurt us tonight in stopping drives.”
After holding Oregon for negative yardage and getting the ball back in Hawk territory, Harvard failed to pick up a first down and Oregon ran the clock out.
“Number seven (Dylan Stephens) was a heck of a player,” said Oregon lineman Jeff Gracyalny, who recovered Harvard’s last fumble. “But, those fumbles were momentum killers for them.”
Three plays into the game, Jacob Bailey-Hadaway gave Oregon the ball at midfield on a fumble recovery. It took the Hawks 14 plays and two fourth-down conversions to go 50 yards, but Dalton Hermes finally cracked the goal line for a 7-0 Oregon lead.
With Bothe on the sidelines as an assistant, it was a drive reminiscent of his coaching style.
“We’re lucky to have all the good coaches we do and it felt good to get coach Schneiderman his first win,” Gracyalny said.
After the win, which was accentuated by a fireworks display, Schneiderman maintained Bothe’s tradition of shaking hands with each teammate and coach afterwards. Excitement filled the south end zone as the team gathered for the first-ever post-game talk by their new coach.
“It feels great,” Schneiderman said. “I never imagined being in this situation (as head coach).”
It had to be relief for the new coach, as an undermanned Harvard team gave Oregon all it could handle.
With Harvard struggling to move the ball, Stephens’ first-half punting was instrumental in maintaining field position. A booming 50-yarder was bobbled by Savian Hernadez at the Hawk 5-yard line.
Two plays later, it was Danny Pena going untouched over the left side for a touchdown and 7-7 tie midway through the second quarter.
A 31-yard run by Hermes keyed a second-quarter drive that set up the Hawks inside the redzone. This time, though, a fourth down attempt came up short and Oregon came up empty-handed.
Three plays later, Reyes Carreno picked off Stephens and Oregon looked to get another score before halftime. Unfortunately, quarterback Calvin Sullivan was sacked for a 13-yard loss and the scoring chance died.
The Hawks struggled to air the ball out, competing only two passes.
Taking possession after the second-half kickoff, a deep stable of Hawk running backs efficiently moved the ball 63 yards in eight plays for a 13-7 lead, with Carreno capping the drive off with a 5-yard score.
Harvard did move into Hawk territory on the next possession, but Sullivan intercepted Stephens to get the ball back for Oregon.
“We want to create havoc and stress turnovers,” Schneiderman said. “We had guys flying around defensively.”
The two teams continued to trade field position, with Carter Fruin recovering a fumble after Harvard looked to have a first down inside Hawk territory late in the third quarter.
On Harvard’s final drive of the game, a blitzing Jake Mennen threw freshman quarterback Jacob Stanley for a big loss and Bailey-Hadaway followed up with a fourth-down stop.
So dominant was Oregon defense, that other than a 42-yard drive late in the game, the next longest drive Harvard had was 18 yards.
Though Oregon doubled the total yardage (265-132) of Harvard, the players know more work needs to be done before next week’s game against Dixon.
“We have a lot of things to clean up,” said Hermes, who was forced into back-up quarterback duty for a cramping Sullivan in the fourth quarter.
Hermes led the Hawks with 99 yards rushing on 17 carries. Hernandez added 73 yards of the 255 the Hawks had on the ground.
“With so many guys going both ways, we had a lot of cramping issues,” Schneiderman said.
Oregon travels to Dixon on Friday, to take on the state-ranked Dukes, who throttled Mendota 69-0.