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Harvard Plans to Clean the Green
Off the field, Harvard coach Tim Murphy and Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens are the best of friends. After all, they attended the same junior high school, played on the same high school football team, and coached together at the University of Maine over two decades ago.
When the two are on opposing sidelines directing their troops, however, it’s a completely different story.
“On game day, it’s different,” Teevans said. “It’s two coaches competing to have success.”
Tomorrow, Murphy and Teevens will face each other once again, as the No. 23 Crimson (5-1, 2-1) travel to Hanover, N.H. to play the Big Green (0-6, 0-3). The game will be televised on NESN.
While Harvard comes into the game en route to a possible back-to-back Ivy League Championship, Dartmouth will try to seek its first taste of victory this season. Unless the Big Green increases overall offensive production and stiffens up on defense, it likely will extend the third longest losing streak in Division I-AA to nine games.
“So far, as well as can be expected, obviously, we’re frustrated and expectations have not been met, but also realistic in that we’re playing a lot of young players,” Teevens said. “We have a lot of freshman and sophomores starting, especially on the offensive line, which is highly unusual in this league.”
Plagued by injuries all season, an inexperienced Big Green squad saw its star wide receiver, sophomore Tim McManus fill in as the starting quarterback in last week’s 21-13 loss to Columbia. Even more distressing was the fact that kicker and true freshman Foley Schmidt provided the majority of Dartmouth’s scoring offense.
Coming into the game, Dartmouth ranks last in the league in just about every category, including rushing offense (63.8 ypg), total offense (268.7 ypg), and scoring offense (13.7 ppg). Harvard, on the other hand, averages 213 yards—in the games’ first 30 minutes.
The Big Green ranks last in total defense (448 ypg), as well as averaging just 3.6 tackles-for-loss per game, second-to-last among I-AA teams. One of the few bright spots, however, has been inside linebacker and four-year starter Ian Wilson, who averages over 10 tackles per game.
Should Dartmouth hope to pull a huge upset over the Crimson, it must improve in all aspects of the offensive game, including controlling the time of possession. With a running game averaging only 47.7 yards per game, this will surely be difficult to accomplish against a veteran Harvard defensive front seven.
“The whole thing comes down to execution. We expect [our younger players] to step up, whether it’s making that critical block or good throw,” Teevens said. “We’ve been close enough to make some things happen, but unfortunately allowed some plays. We need to make more plays.”
Meanwhile, the Crimson is coming off a highly contested 24-20 victory against Princeton. Senior quarterback Chris Pizzotti continued to impress by completing 17 of 26 passes for two offensive scores and engineering a brilliant game-winning drive against the Tigers late in the fourth quarter.
Though Harvard mustered the victory, last week’s game clearly showed improvements needed to be made on both sides of the ball. Thus, the Crimson will be sure not to look past winless Dartmouth, a team that lost by only seven points to Harvard last season.
“It’s no fun, because we get everybody’s best shot,” Murphy said. “We always get Dartmouth’s best shot.”
In terms of statistics, the Crimson finds itself at the other end of the spectrum. With Pizzotti and junior wide receiver Matt Luft leading the way, Harvard leads the League in passing offense (292.3 ypg), total offense (408.3 ypg), as well as scoring offense (27.2). Junior tailback Cheng Ho will look to revitalize the running game after sitting out the last couple of games due to injury.
Defensively, standout linebacker senior Eric Schultz, the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week, will lead the front seven against the Big Green. In the secondary, look for senior Andrew Berry and freshman Matthew Hanson to completely shut down the remnants of the dismal Big Green vertical attack.
Despite these impressive statistics, one glaring figure remains in the time of possession category, in which the Crimson ranks last.
“The time of possession has really deteriorated in the last three games. We’ve got to get off the field defensively,” Murphy said. “We know we have to get that turned around to be the type of team that we want to be.”
While a blowout may be expected, Harvard knows that it must not overlook the Big Green.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s ever come easy,” Murphy said. “They’re tough, physical kids, they’re well-coached, and they have a lot of pride.”
Barring a complete meltdown for the Crimson, Harvard will move one game closer to the annual Harvard-Yale showdown—and one step closer to another Ivy League Championship.
Cleaning the Green
By Kevin T. Chen, The Harvard Crimson