CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard receiver Marco Iannuzzi had an extra incentive to avoid being tackled on Saturday: He was playing with a broken collarbone, and he knew that the wrong hit could prematurely end his college career.
So when Iannuzzi cut for the left sideline on the opening kickoff of the second half, he was just trying to keep himself and the Crimson in The Game.
"I didn't see any white jerseys. I could just see red," he said after his 84-yard touchdown helped Harvard beat Yale 28-21 in the 127th edition of the rivalry. "That's a good feeling for a kick returner."
It was Harvard's fourth straight victory against its Ivy rival, and its ninth in 10 years. This is the just second Harvard (7-3, 5-2 Ivy League) senior class in more than a century to sweep Yale, and the first ever to go undefeated against Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth.
"It means everything. I'm sure all the seniors up here would say the same thing," said Collin Zych, who returned after being injured in a helmet-to-helmet hit to finish the game. "Coming back 20 or 30 years down the road, we will talk about how we beat Yale four times."
Iannuzzi also had a 46-yard reception on a first-half flea-flicker that set up the Crimson's first touchdown and kept them in a game that was statistically dominated by Yale. A 24-year-old Canadian who didn't get into Harvard until his third try, Iannuzzi has never made it through a full season without injury, missing seven weeks when he broke his collarbone two years ago and six games this season when he did it again.
He didn't return to practice until Thursday.
"He is the epitome of a difference-maker. They're hard to find," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "We needed to make big plays because we weren't getting many opportunities."
Alex Thomas ran for 71 yards and three touchdowns for the Bulldogs (7-3, 5-2), who missed a chance to share the Ivy title with the loss and Penn's 31-7 victory over Cornell.
Yale had more first downs (19 to 10), more yards (337 to 178), more time of possession (37:42 to 22:18) and fewer turnovers (zero to one). But Harvard scored all three times it was deep in its opponent's territory (Yale was 3 of 7), and the Crimson got help from a kickoff return, a blocked punt and a controversial offensive pass interference penalty while stopping the Bulldogs three times on fourth down.
"It looks like we dominated in every area except on the scoreboard," Yale coach Tom Williams said. "But we did things that lose football games."
Nick Hasselberg tied a school record with 20 tackles, and Josue Ortiz had 2.5 of Harvard's six sacks along with a blocked punt that gave Harvard the ball at the Yale 23 late in the third quarter. Six plays later, Gino Gordon scored his second touchdown to make it 21-14.
Collier Winters hit Alex Sarkisian to give Harvard a 28-14 lead with 7:31 left. After Yale turned the ball over on downs, Crimson running back Treavor Scales fumbled at his own 19 on the next play and the Bulldogs took it in six plays later when Alex Thomas scored on fourth-and-inches to make it a one-score game with 3:15 to play.
Harvard went three-and-out, but Jacob Dombrowski uncorked a 47-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Yale 17 with 2:02 left to play.
It was first-and-15 from the Yale 22 when Witt hit Thomas for 13 yards. On second down, Harvard cornerback dropped what could have been the clinching interception. And on third down, Hanson and Yale receiver Chris Smith – both No. 3 – made contact going for the ball and Smith was called for offensive pass interference.
"I've got to look at the video, but I'm not sure what some of those calls were at the end," Williams said.
Facing a fourth-and-17, Witt was in Ortiz's grasp when he shuffled the ball to Gio Christodoulou. The Yale receiver managed to pick up eight yards, not nearly enough for the first down, before Ortiz pulled him down and the Harvard sideline erupted in joy.
"I was very relieved to make that tackle," Ortiz said. "I got close to the quarterback, but he dumped it off. I knew I had to go make that tackle. It was fourth and very long, so I knew I had a chance."
Gordon ran for two touchdowns and 38 yards to reach the 1,000 milestone for the season; he did not fumble this year, and he is the school's all-time leader with 5.3 yards per carry over his career.
Gordon was also involved in a helmet-to-helmet hit that left both him and Yale linebacker Jesse Reising sprawled on the turf. Gordon eventually walked off but Reising, who has signed up for the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, was wheeled off on a stretcher and taken to a hospital.
"My understanding is that he's fine," Williams said. "It was a precautionary measure to take him off the field on a stretcher, but when he left the field he had movement in all his extremities."
There was another helmet-on-helmet hits in the first half, when Harvard defensive back Collin Zych remained on the field for a few minutes after he collided with Yale tight end Chris Blohm.