Any sane, knowledgeable, experienced, intelligent, competent, industrious, Killful, and generally right-thinking football writer, should pick Harvard ever Tufts by at least three touchdowns when the teams meet at 2 p.m. today in the Stadium, and then walk away with a light heart and an empty mind. But don't be no sure.
Of course, Tufts is a relatively small college whose football fortunes in the last two years have been on the decline. Coach Harry Arianson has switched his offense from a straight T to a wing T, and has only 18 returning lettermen to run it. Tufts has left 15 games and won only 5 in its rivalry with the Crimson, and the Jumbos lost their opening game to Bowdoin last week 14-0 last Saturday. Of course.
But Harvard has a long, agonizing history of losing games it is just not supposed to lose. Two years ago, the Crimson severed Dartmouth's 15-game winning streak only to be beaten the following week by Penn, the perennial peasantry of the Ivy League. Last year, Harvard whipped a strong Massachusetts team 20-14 and then ran into little Bucknell and a 24-31 disaster. On a number of other occasions, the Crimson has beaten the tough teams on its schedule and then crumpled the next week before inferior opponents.
And Tufts is not quite the patsy it appears at first glance. Bowdoin, its conqueror last week, is one of the best small-college teams in New England. And Bucknell, it should be noted, lost its opening same last year to Gettysburg before upsetting Harvard.
Also, the Jumbos have scrimmaged Harvard a half-dozen times in the past few years before the regular season began, and, as Crimson Coach John Yovicsin puts it, "we haven't had an easy afternoon against them yet." Last year, Harvard barely won the scrimmage 12-7.
Tufts also has a pair of dangerous backs. One is halfback John Cluney, who picked up 70 yards rushing against Bowdoin to lead the team. Cluney, a 137- pounder, ran for 501 yards last year on 93 carries for a fat 5.4 yard average. He led the team in pass receiving and scoring, and was second in punt and kickoff returns.
The other is quarterback Ed Sevetz, a 6-4 sophomore. Sevatz replaced starter Dave Sullivan late in the Bowdoin game and carried the ball 10 times for 52 yards. He just missed guiding the team to a touchdown when a teammate dropped his pass on the Bowdoin three-yard line.
Harvard, with the exception of two defensive positions hit by injuries, will probably start the same team that faced Holy Cross last week, with Bobby Leo, Tom Choquette, and Wally Grant joining quarterback John McCluskey in the offensive backfield.
Defensive end Justin Hughes, recovering from a knee injury suffered against Holy Cross, will be replaced by 197-pound sophomore Bob Welz.
At the already-thin cornerback position, junior Bob Norton will start in place of Jerry Beasley, out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Even though Sevetz has a reputation as a passer, the decimated cornerbacks should hold up. Norton and Bill Cobb, on the other side, both performed wall against Holy Cross, and Yovicsin has moved sophomore Ric Zimmerman from quarterback to back them up. Injured Buzz Baker, the most experienced of the Crimson cornerbacks, may be ready for action this week.
The line, both right, left, and center Don Gunn, should have an easier time with the Tufts line than with the mammoth Holy Cross defense. The Jumbos weights are about on a par with Harvard's, and the Crimson was able to clear a way through Holy Cross defenders who outweighed them by 20 to 30 pounds.
One big advantage for Harvard is Tufts' manpower shortage. Arlanson will probably have to depend on 15 or 16 players--nine will play both offense and defense--to counter the Crimson's human wave tactics.
All things considered but one, Tufts should have its collective head handed to it today. But that one thing is the Crimson's own imp of the perverse that seems to goad the team into winning the big ones and losing the little ones. Yovicsin has that in mind--and so does Tufts.