As Columbia football heads to Harvard this weekend, Lion head coach Pete Mangurian will likely be worried not only about Hurricane Sandy-related delays, but also about the prospect of making a game plan to stop quarterback Colton Chapple. The Crimson senior is currently undefeated through four home games, as Harvard has maintained a 6-1 start due in part to his impressive play.
The Crimson has averaged over 39 points per game behind Chapple, who has thrown 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions. With Chapple averaging 284.1 passing yards per game, it will be a tough challenge for the Lions to stop Harvard from beating them in the air.
Chapple’s offensive arsenal is dangerous on the ground as well. In the Crimson’s 35-7 victory over Bucknell, the Harvard quarterback ran for 120 yards on eight carries, scoring two touchdowns. He also has a total of six rushing touchdowns for the year.
To combat such versatile numbers, the Lions will undoubtedly be looking closely at the results of Harvard’s sole loss this season, a 39-34 loss on the road against Princeton. Interestingly, Chapple played one of his best games of the season against the Tigers, throwing for 448 yards with a 68.9 percent completion rate and five touchdowns, a season high. Princeton capitalized on several miscues from the Harvard defense, such as a dropped interception and a blocked punt, to overcome Chapple’s production and take the narrow 39-34 win.
While Princeton prevailed, other teams have had difficulty matching Harvard’s production—the Crimson has put up points in all but five of the 28 quarters the team has played. Chapple is not used to making mistakes when he is in control of the ball—he has only been sacked seven times this season, while turning the ball over once per game on average. With his 65.4 percent completion rate and 59 rushing yards per game, getting him off the field will be critical for the Lions if they are to have any chance at winning this game.
The Light Blue may find some solace instead in looking at Chapple’s numbers from this past weekend, when the Crimson traveled to play Dartmouth. Though Harvard still put up 31 points to Dartmouth’s 14, Chapple was sacked twice and threw no touchdowns, finishing the day with his lowest completion rate of the season, 54.8 percent. The Crimson was forced to win the game on the ground instead, rushing for a total of 212 yards. Chapple accounted for one of Harvard’s four rushing touchdowns, running for 88 yards on 16 carries as the team’s second-best rusher.
Columbia has taken great pride in its defense this season, and containing Colton Chapple, both in the air and on the ground, will be a true test of the Lions’ defensive abilities.