No. 22 Football Darts Past Rhode Island, 51-21, To Open Season

Photo: Gil Talbot
Photo: Gil Talbot
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Showing a high-octane offense to open the season, Harvard football scored early and often en route to a 51-21 victory over Rhode Island on Friday night at Harvard Stadium. The win was Harvard's 15th non-conference victory in-a-row.

Senior quarterback Joe Viviano tossed career-highs of 290 yards and three touchdowns to lead the No. 22 Harvard football team victory in his first-career start. Junior Semar Smith added 107 yards and a touchdown on the ground in his first 100-yard game since 2014, against Princeton. Sophomore Justice Shelton-Mosley and senior Anthony Firkser both broke the 100-yard plateau in the air, catching nine and seven passes apiece. Harvard (1-0) amassed 564 yards of offense, while holding the Rams (0-3) to just 292.

After forcing a three-and-out by Rhode Island, Harvard marched down the field on its first drive, ending with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Viviano to tight end Anthony Firkser just 3:55 into the game. Only minutes later following another three-and-out, Viviano found Firkser again for a 29-yard completion on fourth down to put the Crimson in a first-and-goal situation. An eight-yard run from Smith capped the drive and gave Harvard a 14-0 lead.

In the final minutes of the first quarter, Viviano broke loose from the Rams defense for an eight-yard touchdown, escaping multiple URI defenders to post his first career score on the ground. Junior Kenny Smart brought the tally to 24-0 with a 35-yard field goal.

On the final play of the half, the Rams' Paul Mroz pushed his way into the end zone from one-yard out, and the teams left for intermission with the Crimson leading 24-7.

A five-play, 75-yard scoring drive at the beginning of the third quarter pushed the Crimson lead to 31-7, and after a subsequent punt from Rhode Island, Viviano found Firkser for his second touchdown reception of the evening, striking from 18 yards to push the advantage to 37-7.

Rhode Island closed the third quarter with a touchdown, but the Crimson immediately responded with a touchdown of their own to begin the fourth quarter. A 36-yard completion to Shelton-Mosley pushed Harvard into the red zone, and senior Van Johnson banged home a one-yard touchdown to finish the drive. The score was the first of his career, and extended Harvard's lead to 44-14. Senior Dallas Schray capped the scoring for the Crimson when he burst through the Rams defense for a 17-yard rushing score. A late Rhode Island touchdown finished the game at 51-21.

The Crimson will travel to Brown for its first Ivy League action of the season on Saturday, Sept. 24. The 2 p.m. kickoff will be broadcast on ONE World Sports and the Ivy League Digital Network.