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Holy Cross capitalizes on mistakes, airs it out for long-sought win at Harvard

All afternoon at Harvard Stadium, Matthew Sluka looked long and saw Jalen Coker in one-on-one coverage.

Early in the second half, Sluka saw the junior receiver get open and fired a 39-yard strike to his top target. The gamelong connection between the two led No. 11 Holy Cross to a 30-21 win over the Crimson on Saturday.

After a defensive pass interference call, Sluka hit Coker again for a 2-yard score that put the Crusaders up, 24-14. Coker finished with 10 receptions for 166 yards, more than half of the production for Sluka, who threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-31 passing.


The connection was highlighted by deep bomb after deep bomb.

“This my guy right here,” Coker said of Sluka, who added 63 rushing yards and the game’s opening score on a 27-yard scramble. “We’ve been working on this chemistry for so long that if he throws the ball, I’m coming down with it.”

Harvard could not limit its mistakes, ending its first drive with a missed 37-yard field goal try, and getting two punts blocked. The Crusaders capitalized, and are 5-0 for the first time since their undefeated 1991 season.

“Whether that be penalties, a very costly turnover … they were the better team today,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “They were the better coached team today.”

Harvard answered the Coker score with a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Charlie Dean to Kym Wimberly midway through the third quarter. Down, 24-21, to begin the fourth, the Crimson (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) drove near midfield, but a miscommunication between Dean and halfback Sone Ntoh led to a fumble.

Holy Cross recovered, and Derek Ng hit a 27-yard field goal to make it 27-21 with 9:20 to play.

Still within one score, Harvard went for it on a fourth and 1 at the Holy Cross 38-yard line, only for a Mason Williams false start to push them back five yards. The Crimson opted to punt, and the Crusaders ran five minutes off the clock and made it a 9-point game with a 49-yard Ng field goal with 1:24 left.


With that, they had their first win at Harvard Stadium since 2000, ending a run of eight straight losses there. It was also the Crusaders’ first win under coach Bob Chesney in four tries against Harvard.

“It’s really nice to finally beat them,” senior defensive back Devin Haskins said. “I’ve beaten a lot of teams here, so this one — this one I wanted really bad.”

Aidan Borguet had a pair of first-half rushing scores for Harvard, finishing with 80 yards on 18 carries.

Eamonn Ryan can be reached at eamonn.ryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @eamonn_ryan41.