The Harvard football team has been through the hardest schedule, in years this fall, but in spite of two defeats and numerous injuries has undoubtedly benefited by it. The Princeton, Carlisle, and Dartmouth games have given the men, both regulars and substitutes, a thorough trying-out, and they will enter the Yale game knowing what it is to fight for every last inch of ground with a team of their own caliber. This was not true last year when the team has two easy games before the Yale game, and was not fitted with the proper experience for a championship contest.
The two apparent drawbacks of the schedule-injuries and defeats-are not really due in a very large measure to any unsual stiffness of the games. The Princeton game would have been lost, hard schedule or no hard schedule, and the Carlisle game, since it did what it was intended to: namely, try out the substitutes, was not a disadvantage at all. Although the many injuries may be laid partially to the succession of hard games, it must be remembered that Wigglesworth and Rogers were incapacitated in the early part of the fall, and that injuries such as Gardiner's are more or less a matter of luck. The team was very fortunate that after these injuries the rearranged line could go through the fire of a game such as that with Dartmouth.
In the early season the work of the team was even less encouraging than usual. Until the Williams game the men were not aggressive and without life and until the Brown game lacked both team-work and offensive power. Bates and Holy Cross were defeated 15 to 0 and 8 to 0, respectively, the team narrowly escaping being scored on by one of Holy Cross's clever forward passes. The Williams game which was won 18 to 0, followed these and showed some improvement in the individual work of the men, although the team-work was still undeveloped.
Then after the Amherst game, a poor test of any team's ability because of the muddy condition of the ground, came the Brown game with its suprising result. Brown because of its victory over Pennsylvania had been greatly overestimated. Consequently when Sprackling was smothered and the Brown team over whelmed, 20 to 6, the pendulum swung too far the other way and Harvard was considerably overestimated Outsiders noticed only the wonderful all-round work of the ends, the stone-wall defence of the line, and the flash of offensive power which scored Harvard's first touchdown; they did not take into account the fact that several times Harvard held the ball near Brown's goal line and was unable to score.
This was evident in the Princeton game. The ends again played wonderfully; the line was a stone wall on the defence; but offensive drive was lacking. The forwards failed to open holes for the backfield, and Harvard lost. Of course the team was placed at a disadvantage by early injuries to Potter and Gardiner, and by the lack of a first-class punter, but even with these handicaps it would have won, had the offence had the power to make the last punch.
The Carlisle game was fast and well played, but gave little line on the work of the first team. It went to show, as the last half of the Princeton game did, that the substitutes could be relied on, when their time came.
When the next to the last game of the season came, a week ago, an entirely new combination was forced to go in against Dartmouth. The team was without the services of its two best tackles, two of its best quarterbacks, and its best kicker. Within two weeks the line had suffered a radical shift, and just before the game Huntington had been drawn in to centre from fullback. It was very encouraging, therefore, when this reorganized team beat the team which had admittedly outplayed Princeton. The chief weakness shown was poor handling of punts, but this may be attributed largely to the slippery condition of the ball. As a whole the team played with so much spirit and strength as to give every hope for a successful outcome today, especially when it is remembered that Felton and Potter will play.
Following the plan of retrenchment for all athletics, the football team did not start preliminary practice at Lakeville as was done last year. Candidates were told to report at New Haven on September 14.
There has been no season in recent years when the pre-season practice has promised better results; although there were only seven "Y" men left, there was such a wealth of material from last year's college team-men who would have in all probability made the university except for injuries, that the gap was almost filled. In the early practice there were none of the faults of fumbling and mixing signals which have since been so noticeable.
The first game, against Wesleyan on September 27, was of course not a fair test. The team romped through the entire game, rolling up 21 points. There seemed to be a finished, machine-like play by Yale which augured well for so early in the season.
Three days later Holy Cross, bringing up practically the team which was beaten 12 to 0 last year, was overwhelmed, 26 to 0. The team followed the ball well, and Captain Howe and Spalding played with the dash of a championship game.
Syracuse was shut out, 12 to 0, on October 7, the generalship of Captain Howe being the main feature, and this, aided by some great end-running by Anderson and Reilly, made the gains. The touchdown scored by Ketcham, following a fumble by Yale, gave the first inkling of the weakness which was to prove so disastrous.
The following Saturday, Virginia Polytechnic Institute went down under a score of 33 to 0. Glaring fumbles marred the otherwise satisfactory exhibition; Captain Howe kicked a wonderful dropkick from the 40-yard line and the endrunning of Anderson and Spalding was again laudable.