CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- There was a block in the back that negated a kickoff return and an interception, thrown into the end zone, that cost Harvard the chance at another score.
Yet when coach Tim Murphy lamented his players' mistakes, he wasn't talking about football.
Harvard beat San Diego 28-13 on Saturday, finishing off a week in which the largest academic cheating scandal in the history of the nation's oldest university staggered the athletic department and cost the Crimson its basketball co-captains. All of the football team's starters and at least 105 players on the 119-man roster were in uniform, including those who were injured, but Murphy alluded to those who weren't when he said, "I've never been around greater character kids than we have here."
"I'll say this: Harvard kids aren't good kids. They're great kids," Murphy said. "But they don't walk on water. And I think it's important, as parents and educators, that we have to reinforce that crucial life lesson that inappropriate behavior won't be tolerated. Because down the road, later in life, those consequences can be terminal. They can cost you a marriage. They can cost you a career."
Treavor Scales rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns, including a 66-yard run when he plunged into the line to kill the clock but found a hole leading all the way to the end zone. Colton Chapple completed 16 of 29 passes for two touchdowns, one each to Kyle Juszczyk and Cameron Brate, as Harvard won its 12th straight home opener.
Mason Mills completed 38 of 63 passes for 354 yards for San Diego (1-2). But he was also sacked seven times as the Toreros took a 13-7 lead into the fourth quarter only to allow two long Harvard touchdown drives and one very short one.
Harvard led 21-13 when it stopped San Diego on downs at the Crimson 34 yard-line with 1:33 left. Chapple came into the huddle and told his teammates they needed just one first down to run out the clock.
Scales told him that he wanted more.
On the first play, he took the handoff and went up the middle only to find there was no one there to stop him.
"It opened up like the Red Sea," he said. "I was obligated to get to the end zone."
San Diego coach Ron Caragher said his players had been looking forward to the trip East to play "a strong academic school like Harvard."
But, when they arrived, the campus was still roiling over the announcement that the school was investigating as many as 125 students for possible plagiarism on an open-book, take-home final exam.
Privacy laws prohibit the school -- tied with Princeton atop the U.S. News & World Report national academic rankings -- from identifying the students. But published reports said basketball co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry had withdrawn from school rather than risk losing their NCAA eligibility. Athletic department spokesman Kurt Svoboda said no players had been removed from any roster.
Other than a wisecrack about academic integrity from the Harvard band at halftime, there was no obvious sign of the turmoil at the sparsely attended game on a fall day even the San Diegans could appreciate.
Murphy declined to say how many players were out of uniform. The most notable absence from the Harvard sideline was junior receiver Matt Brown, who appeared in 10 games for last year's Ivy League football champions and also played on the Crimson basketball team that reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946.
Asked why Brown was missing, the coach said, "Not able to talk about kids who aren't here."
Harvard players said they were determined to overcome adversity -- in whatever form it appears.
"It's not something that we're constantly thinking about," linebacker Bobby Schneider said. "Obviously, there's other people talking about it. But team morale is high coming off this victory. ... It's not affecting us. We're going to be all right."
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