Last week John Yovicsin was asked, "What kind of a football team are we going to have this year, coach?"
"I'm just as anxious to find out as you are," Yovicsin replied, adding, "Wait 'til the first game--we'll have a pretty good idea after that." The waiting is over; today is the day. At long last, Crimson fans will have a chance to observe the hard-hit Harvard eleven, already famous for its pre-season miseries and disappointments. Kickoff time is 2 p.m. in the Stadium, as Lehigh provides the first opposition in Harvard's 88th season.
The Crimson is billed as a slight favorite by virtue of its greater depth. Yovicsin rates the game a "tossup."
An attack of "more running than passing" is expected from quarterbacks Ted Halaby, who will lead the first team, and sophomore Mike Bassett, who will call the signals for the second unit. It is no secret, Yovicsin admitted yesterday, that Harvard will depend greatly upon its second unit to take advantage of the Engineer's greatest problem. (Last week lack of depth hurt Lehigh in its 14-6 loss to Delaware.)
Leading Lehigh's first-string line, dubbed the "Indians," is center Charlie Craze, known as "Chief Crazy Horse." No pushover, this line will outweigh Harvard's starting wall by 13 pounds per man with an average of 215 pounds. The two stalwarts are highly publicized tackles Reed Bohovich and captain Mike Semcheski.
Yovicsin's biggest fear, however, is fullback Boyd Taylor, who carried the ball almost two-thirds of the time against Delaware and averaged. 4.1 yards per carry. He hits inside and outside on the tricky "belly" series off the T formation. Quarterback Walt King, who is dangerous on belly-koep runs, could also cause damage with passes. He completed seven of ten serials for 88 yards and a touchdown last week.
Harvard's first string backfield behind Halaby will include hard-hitting fullback Bill Grana, veteran left halfback Tom Boone, and agile Chuck Reed at right half, recently switched from fullback to replace the sidelined Hank Hatch. As expected, the starting line will be composed of captain Pete Hart and Bob Boyds at ends; Darwie Wile and Disk Diehl at tackles; Bill Swinford and Tom Gaston at guards; and Dave Nyhan at center. All but Grana, a sophomore, and Diehl, a junior, are seniors.
The second team is dominated by sophomores: Bassett, guard Walt Dobrzelecki, halfbacks Scott Harshbarger and Jim Leath, and center Dick Lozeau. Rounding out the squad are fullback Fred Bartl, ends Dave Hudepohl adn Ron Juvonen, guard John Semeraro, and tackles Mike Sheridan and Ed Smith.
Both first and second squads are determined to overcome the dismal fate predicted for Harvard by early-season journalistic paperwork. Yesterday, Yovicsin expressed the attitude of the team at a football banquet at the Harvard Club of Boston: "The experts think we're a second division club," he said, "but the players don't"
Today's game marks the first meeting between Yovicsin and Engineer coach Bill Leckonby since 1958, when Harvard won, 20 to 0. That's right, little boy, "their coach is the Yale quarterback's ol' man"--and maybe the last father-to-son discussion in the Leckonby house-hold included a little bit more than "And what are you taking for courses this year, my son?" Overall, Yovicsin has had poor luck against Lehigh. At Getysburg, he met Leckonby five times--and lost four.
Curiously, none of the 78 games in Yovicsin's 50-28 career has ended in a tie. (At Harvard he has amassed an 18-17 record; at Gettysburg, 32 and 11.) In his first four years at Harvard, the Crimson has won two openers, both in the last two seasons--36.22 over UMass and 13-6 over Holy Cross.
Crimson fans hope that today's game does not begin like the Holy Cross game last year; and that Yovicsin's luck with Lehigh turns for the better. (On the opening kickoff of the season last year, Holy Cross scored a touchdown.)
Harvard and Lehigh? "I only wish I knew how it will finish," Yovicsin said yesterday. "I'd sleep better.