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Stanton Touchdown In Triple Overtime Vaults Football Past Holy Cross, 41-35

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Paul Stanton, Jr. celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown in the third overtime Saturday (Tim Hart).

WORCESTER, Mass. -- In Harvard's first overtime game since a 30-24 triple OT win against Yale in 2005, the Crimson tallied touchdowns on all three of its overtime possessions, capped by a 17-yard rush by sophomore Paul Stanton Jr., to down in-state rival Holy Cross 41-35 Saturday at Fitton Field. The overtime victory allows Harvard (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) to stay undefeated on the season, while Holy Cross (2-4) picks up its fourth loss of the season.  

The triple-overtime thriller tied the 2005 Yale game as the longest in Harvard's 140-year history of football.

After the teams traded touchdowns on the first two possessions of overtime, the Crimson defense stepped up and, aided by a timely Crusader penalty, forced the hosts to attempt a 45-yard field goal. The kick got away cleanly, but the ball hooked left of the uprights, keeping the score tied and the door open for the guests. The Crimson picked up a handful of yards the ensuing two plays, and on third down, Stanton took Conner Hempel's handoff and scooted right up the middle for his second score of the game and the game-winning touchdown for Harvard.

For his efforts, Stanton was awarded the John Turco Memorial Trophy, presented annually to the most outstanding player in Holy Cross' homecoming game.

Stanton finished with 21 carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and added 55 receiving yards for a total of 158 all-purpose yards, while Hempel was 14-of-25 for 162 yards and two scores through the air. Michael Pruneau also added 49 yards on 8-of-10 passing, and Stanton and Andrew Fischer were the top Crimson receiving targets on the day. Both caught five passes, with Fischer finishing with 36 yards.

Crimson punter David Bicknell enjoyed a strong game with eight kicks for 336 yards, or an average of 42.0 yards per punt. Five of Bicknell's punts finished inside the 20. Defensively, Eric Medes paced Harvard with 11 tackles and added a fumble recovery for a touchdown, while Zach Hodges had two tackles for a loss. Harvard finished with six sacks and four fumble recoveries, both season-highs. Placekicker David Mothander went 5-of-5 on PAT attempts for the Crimson.

HC was led by quarterback Peter Pujals, who tossed for 345 yards on 33-of-50 passing. Mike Fess made 11 receptions for 117 yards and two TDs.

The Crimson got on the scoreboard first with a 12-yard run up the middle by Andrew Casten with 4:31 to go in the opening quarter. On that drive, Pruneau, who took over for a few quarters after Hempel was injured, led Harvard to the score after Hodges recovered a fumble at the Holy Cross 33-yard line. Nnamdi Obukwelu stripped Pujals, and Hodges fell on the ball for his fourth takeaway of the year.

With 6:23 remaining in the second, the Crusaders knotted the score, 7-7, with a touchdown on an 11-play, 85-yard drive, culminating in a 6-yard pass by Pujals to Mike Fess.

Stanton had five rushes for 45 yards in the first half, while Pruneau was 5-of-7 for 37 yards. Pujals had 169 yards passing in the opening 30 minutes on 16-of-23 passing for the Crusaders.

In the third, the Crimson's defense came up with a score for Harvard, as Hodges forced a fumble deep in the HC zone. Medes ran down the ball and picked it up in the end zone for six points. Mothander added his second PAT of the day, as Harvard went up, 14-7, at the 11:10 mark. Moments later, the Crimson forced another fumble, as Matt Martindale knocked down Pujals. The ball popped out, and Doug Webb fell on it, giving Harvard its fourth fumble recovery of the game.

At the 5:35 mark of the third, Pujals connected with Nate Stanley for a 22-yard TD pass to knot the game, 14-14. Pujals rolled out of the pocket and found Stanley wide open on the right side of the end zone.

Midway through the fourth on 3rd and 8, Hempel fired a pass over the middle, finding Seitu Smith for a first down at the HC 45, putting the ball in Crusader territory. Later on in the drive, the Crimson failed to convert a 3rd and 20, giving HC the ball back with 6:22 left to play.

On the ensuing Crusaders' drive, HC moved the ball 91 yards on eight plays, setting up a TD pass from Pujals to Jon Smith, as  Harvard fell behind, 21-14, with just 3:11 remaining. On the drive, Pujals went 6-of-7 for 74 yards, as the Crusaders took its first lead of the day.

With 38 seconds left, Cameron Brate grabbed a pass from Hempel in the back of the end zone. With Mothander's PAT, the Crimson tied the game, 21-21. Harvard got down the field on only eight plays for 84 yards in 2:27 of time off the clock, thanks in large part to Hempel completing three passes for 55 yards.

In the first extra session, the Crimson was called for a defensive hold on third down, giving the Crusaders a 1st and 10 from the 12-yard line. On 3rd and 5, Pujals connected with Fess for a TD, as Holy Cross went back on top, 28-21.

Harvard took over on the 25-yard line on its first possession in overtime. On second down, Hempel ran for a first down on a 10-yard pickup, and then the Crimson forced a second overtime with a TD pass from Hempel to Tyler Ott.

On the Crimson's second possession, Hempel found Fischer down the right sideline for an 18-yard gain on first down. On the next play, Stanton caught a pass and scampered for five yards, putting Harvard inside the two-yard line and setting up first and goal. Two plays later, Stanton got into the end zone, as Harvard regained the lead, 35-28.

Holy Cross came back to match the Crimson with a five-yard TD run by Kalif Raymond, 35-35. On Holy Cross's third overtime possession, Harvard backed up the Crusaders to a 3rd and 13 situation from the 28-yard line. D.J. Monroe and Chris Splinter helped break up a pass to Jake Wieczorek, and then John Macomber missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt to the left, giving Harvard a chance to win.

On the game-winning possession, Hempel made a five-yard completion to Fischer, and then Stanton ran for three yards, putting the ball on the HC 17 on 3rd and 2. On the final play of the game, Stanton busted through a hole and ran for 17 yards for the score.

The Crimson will remain on the road and will face Cornell Saturday, Oct. 12 at 12:30 p.m.