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Harvard Defensive Line Sets Tone in Big Win
Given its lack of success with third-down conversions and Harvard’s apparent ability to score at will, it was no surprise that Holy Cross decided to take its chances on fourth down during Saturday’s night game at Harvard Stadium. But the Crusaders were not rewarded for their daring. Each time a signal caller, whether it was Kevin Watson or Ryan Taggart, headed for the line of scrimmage, he was quickly knocked down by a Harvard lineman.
“Those stops were huge, obviously,” captain Collin Zych said. “Any time you can get a stop on fourth and one, that’s huge.”
The Crimson’s success at stopping fourth-down conversions—Holy Cross only got through once in five attempts—exemplified the kind of dominance the defensive line enjoyed all night.
“Our D-Line played well all night, led by [senior] Josue Ortiz, who at least from where I was standing was making a lot of plays,” Zych said. “Our defensive line was being disruptive, causing problems for the offense, and that makes everyone’s job easier.”
And yet watching the line of scrimmage itself was often misleading. While Harvard managed to break through for two sacks, including one by Ortiz which resulted in an 11-yard loss, the Crusaders’ offensive line was usually successful at protecting the pocket and giving its quarterbacks time. But it would be wrong to say that Holy Cross won the battle in the trenches, because while the Crimson didn’t always break in, it didn’t let anything out either. The Crusaders put up only 84 rushing yards all game.
ALONG FOR THE RIDE
It’s no secret that Collin Zych is a good football player—he’s been named a preseason All-American by three media organizations and preseason Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year by three more. One might have suspected that Harvard would rely heavily on Zych, especially in the early games when its new starters were figuring things out on the field.
But against the Crusaders on Saturday, the Crimson captain was barely needed. His five tackles, one of which was solo, seemed more of a luxury than a necessity. Harvard’s front seven kept the outcome under control, giving Zych just enough opportunities at the ballcarrier to make sure that he wouldn’t miss out on the fun.
And while the safety made big plays and punished any who dared challenge him, many of the biggest highlights came from a pair of linebackers new to the starting lineup, juniors Blaise Deal and Alex Gedeon.
“Our linebackers—Blaise Deal, certainly Alex Gedeon and Nick Hasselberg—all very athletic, and they can run,” Murphy said. “They’re like safeties. That helps a great deal.”
Deal, the strong-side linebacker, led Harvard with 11 tackles, four of which were solo, while Gedeon, playing on the weak side, put up the same numbers as Zych—five tackles, one solo. The pair also notched an interception each. Gedeon’s, which came 20 seconds before the end of the first half, killed any momentum Holy Cross might have been gathering on what was at that point its longest drive of the night. Deal’s came in the fourth quarter, when the Crimson was already winning by 34.
THE MORE THE MERRIER
Chris Pizzotti ’08-’09 had Matt Luft. Senior Collier Winters had Chris Lorditch. Andrew Hatch doesn’t seem to have a favorite receiver—the senior starter would rather just throw to all of them.
The obvious first option would seem to be Lorditch, last year a second-team All-Ivy pick who hauled in the game-winning touchdown against Yale. And yet the senior went the entire first half without a single reception. Instead, Hatch looked to other targets, such as senior Marco Iannuzzi and junior Adam Chrissis, who helped Harvard mount a 20-0 lead by halftime. Iannuzzi hauled in a 26-yard pass to give the quarterback his first touchdown as the Crimson’s starter.
Lorditch’s silence was not to last. The senior finished the game with 74 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions, good for tops on the team.
But even with its top receiver playing up to standard, Harvard was characterized more by its balance. Three receivers—Lorditch, Iannuzzi, and junior Levi Richards—posted over 50 yards. Chrissis, who had 47 yards, was not far behind.
With a wealth of options, Hatch doesn’t have to choose a favorite receiver any time soon.
By Christina C. Mcclintock, Harvard Crimson