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Questions Remain After Spring Game
On a beautiful Saturday evening, fans of Harvard football got their first look at next fall’s edition of the Crimson in the annual intra-squad spring game at Harvard Stadium.
Unsurprisingly, the first unit, dressed in crimson, demolished its white counterparts in a 42-14 rout.
“We weren’t going one versus one,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “If it was one versus one, it could have been a pretty boring spring game. This was for recruits, this was for the scoreboard, this was for whatever fans we had up there.”
The game offered few answers for the Crimson’s most burning off-season question—who will step into senior Chris Pizzotti’s shoes as starting quarterback? Sophomores Collier Winters and Matt Simpson saw most of the playing time, with Winters helming the first unit’s offense and Simpson working primarily with the second unit.
Winters came away with the better stat line, completing 21-of-40 attempts for 201 yards and a touchdown. He also took the ball himself on several carries, including a 12-yard run for a touchdown late in the first half.
Simpson finished 9-of-22 with 74 yards and a touchdown, coming on a pass to junior Alex Math as time expired in the first quarter.
Though filling the void Pizzotti left behind will be a difficult task, Murphy has faith that the two sophomores can run the offense.
“We’ve got about 28 practices before we play Holy Cross, and they’re going to need every one of them for us to make a decision, and every one of them for them to be ready to play,” Murphy said. “It’s not going to be like it was the last two years, with such veteran quarterbacks, with Chris Pizzotti. On the other hand, both kids are more Liam [O’Hagan]-like in that they’re very athletic guys, they’re guys that can beat you with their feet.”
Winters and Simpson both suffered from the absence of the headliners of Harvard’s receiving corps.
“I think we’re a little bit handicapped in the spring by not having guys like Matt Luft, Chris Lorditch, Mike Cook, Levi Richards—those guys make you a better player,” Murphy said. “Automatically, they step onto the field and things are easier.”
In the absence of the junior standouts, sophomore Marco Iannuzzi was the Crimson’s most consistent receiver, finishing the evening with nine catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, coming on a seven-yard pass from Winters on the first series of the game.
Freshman Adam Chrissis and sophomore Demetrius Gadson hauled in five catches apiece, with Gadson also making noise on the ground, running for 26 yards and a touchdown.
Junior Cheng Ho had an excellent first half on the ground, rushing for 113 yards and two touchdowns before sitting out most of the second half to allow others the opportunity to play. Junior Ben Jenkins and sophomore Gino Gordon, Harvard’s other two starting running backs, sat out the game.
Juniors James Williams and Alex Spisak will return to anchor the offensive line, though with Spisak sitting out most of the game, Harvard ran into some trouble at center.
There were several botched snaps, including one that Simpson recovered for a 17-yard loss and another that Ho turned into a touchdown.
Winters batted the ball onto the ground in front of Ho in an attempt to prevent the rogue snap from falling behind him, and Ho recovered it and found space in the middle to run it 27 yards into the endzone.
“Alex Spisak I think is literally a potential All-American—he didn’t play much tonight,” Murphy said. “He was a little bit dinged up and we took out some of the guys who have literally nothing to prove…The depth at center is a big concern, but in terms of the front line, he’s as good as anybody in our league.”
On the defensive side of the ball, junior Sean Hayes led the way with eight tackles. Hayes had been a contributor in his first two seasons before being sidelined with an injury, and will lead a new wave of Crimson linebackers.
“Conor Murphy, Sean Hayes, Jon Takamura, Nick Hasselberg, those guys can play, and the nice thing is we aren’t playing sophomores, we’re playing seniors,” Murphy said. “They’ve been on a couple really quality football teams, they’re hungry, they’ve got a little bit of a chip on their shoulder.”
Jake Dombrowski, a recruited punter from Gaylord, Mich. is one freshman who could compete immediately for playing time. With a solid crop of homegrown talent rising up, Murphy’s not counting on his incoming class to fill any immediate holes.
“Overall, I guess we’re a lot like a lot of Ivy teams,” Murphy said. “We have a chance to be a pretty decent team, but we’ve got a long way to go and a lot to prove.
Questions Remain After Spring Game
By Kate Leist, The Harvard Crimson