Black QB leads Harvard to win over Dartmouth
Jaden Craig rushes for most of his team’s points
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On a rare 78-degree October Saturday, now-19th-ranked Harvard welcomed the Dartmouth Big Green to Harvard Stadium for the Crimson’s annual Fall Fest and Homecoming game. The Oct. 28 match-up drew a crowd of 22,515, the largest since 2009. A pre-game rock band concert serenaded the crowd and tailgaters outside what fans call “The Stadium.”
The green-jacketed Dartmouth band made the trip down from Hanover, New Hampshire. They put on special performances along with Harvard’s Crimson-jacketed band before and during the gridiron contest as well as at halftime. By the end of the game that started at 4 p.m., they were playing in the still-warm evening under the stadium’s lights and a full moon.
Harvard prevailed 17-9 in a contest described afterward by Harvard Coach Tim Murphy as a hard fought “old-fashioned football match.” For Murphy, in his 30th season, the victory was his 136th Ivy League triumph, a new conference record.
The win meant that Harvard stays unbeaten at home in five games this year. The Crimson has one home game left, against Pennsylvania on Nov. 11, sandwiched between road games at Columbia and Yale.
Harvard is now tied with Princeton at 3-1 for the Ivy League lead. Entering the Dartmouth game, the team was rebounding from a 21-14 road loss to Princeton the previous week.
The setback at Princeton snapped a five-game winning streak and an eight-game road winning streak, which at the time was the longest in the nation. Once a national power, Harvard football is in its 150th season. Back in 1920, Harvard defeated Oregon 7-6 in the Rose Bowl for the national championship, the last for the Crimson.
Harvard is classified as a Football Championship Series (FCS) school. FCS schools are not eligible for the Rose Bowl or any other bowls. The Football Bowl Series (FBS) schools are bowl-eligible with six wins, and the top four ranked teams participate in the national playoff. It’s all academic, however, for the Elite Eight, because current Ivy League rules prohibit post-season football participation.
For the remaining three Harvard games, the emergence against Dartmouth of a Black quarterback, Jaden Craig, who stands 6-2 and weighs 215 pounds, was a pleasant surprise. Up until the Dartmouth game, the sophomore from Seton Hall Prep and Montclair, New Jersey, had been used sparingly in brief appearances in just three of the first six games.
At quarterback against Dartmouth, Craig ran for a touchdown in the first quarter. He was alternating with Charles DePrima in that quarter and late into the second, until DePrima threw an interception and did not return for the rest of the game.
Craig played the entire second half. He came out and settled the team down, rushing for another touchdown in the third quarter and leading a drive to a field goal in the fourth. He scored 12 of his team’s 17 points.
Harvard built its victory on the ground, with 274 total yards. Leading the Crimson with 157 rushing yards was junior running back Shane McLaughlin from Shore Regional High School and Monmouth, New Jersey. Craig chipped in 54 rushing yards. He went 2 for 8 through the air for 13 of Harvard’s meager 29 passing yards.
Coach Murphy will make his quarterback starting decision for the Nov. 4 Columbia game in New York on who can best move the team effectively combining rushing and passing
The first starting Black quarterback in the Ivy League was a Harvard player, John McCluskey Jr. from Middletown, Ohio in 1964. The story goes that when two guys from South Boston came to see “the nice Irish lad” playing for Harvard and were pointed to the African American wearing number 27, they left the game. McCluskey retired recently as a professor of African and American History at Indiana University.
After the Dartmouth game, Craig’s Mother, Dr. Krekamey Craig, a family pediatrician, enthusiastically told the Banner about her own mother, Delores Newton, a Harvard Ph.D. anthropologist now retired from teaching at Stony Brook University. Krekamey Craig said Newton is watching and trying to understand football for the first time in her life, wanting to fully appreciate what her grandson is experiencing.