Following last Saturday's unsettling loss to Columbia in New York, the Harvard football team faces an even more unsettling prospect when it hosts Cornell at 2 p. m. today in Harvard Stadium.
A loss today would virtually eliminate the Crimson from the Ivy League title race, since it seems unlikely that both Dartmouth and Yale-the Ivy co-favorites-will lose two league games this season.
If Harvard has any serious thoughts about the Ivy title, then, a victory today is mandatory.
Beating Cornell will not be easy. The Big Red is 3-0, and has All-Ivy tailback Ed Marinaro, quarterback Rick Furbush, linebacker Dennis Lubozynski and 26 other lettermenback from last year's team that upended unbeaten and heavily-favored Harvard, 42-14, in Ithaca.
Marinaro is the nation's leading rusher with 601 yards on 97 carries, and he has scored eight touchdowns. Furbush, the slick Cornell signal-caller, is second in the Ivies in total offense per game after hitting six of nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown against Penn last week while running for another 81 yards.
Harvard obviously has been concentrating on stopping the run this week. Penn managed to bottle up the Cornell middle, holding Marinaro to just 18 yards in the first quarter before he went to the outside, so the pressure today will be on defensive ends Chris Doyle and Fred Martucci.
Cornell fullbacks Dick Storto and Bob Joehl lead Marinaro into the line and on power sweeps. Both are excellent blockers.
The Cornell offensive line is not unusually big, but they employ the "scramble" block first used by Arkansas in 1964. The linemen take four point stances and charge low, temporarily immobilizing the defensive linemen.
This compensates for Cornell's lack of size and permits Marinaro and Furbush to hit brief spots of daylight.
The Harvard defense was hopeless last year in Ithaca, as Marinaro rambled for 281 yards and five touchdowns. Captain Gary Farneti, who sat out that game with an elbow injury, will be in the lineup today and could make a big difference.
Harvard coach John Yovicsin has made two other defensive changes this week in an effort to thwart the Big Red ground attack. Sophomore Scott Butterworth will start at left tackle and junior Jack Neal will replace Mark Ferguson at linebacker.
The Harvard coaches say they'll play a straight defense today, but Cornell may be confronted with sets not used in the Crimson's first three games.
Cornell passes only occasionally, but Furbush is deadly consistent when he does go to the air.
Paradoxically, the Harvard offense may be the key to a Crimson victory today. Yovicsin contends that the best way to stop Marinaro is to control the ball on offense. Considering the ineffectiveness of the Cornell defense against Penn last week, the Crimson could do just that.
Rod Foster, who was taken out in the third quarter in favor of Eric Crone last week, will probably start again today.
His roommate and favorite receiver. Bill Craven, has earned a starting spot at flanker after catching six passes for 83 yards against Columbia and split end Bruce Freeman returns to the lineup today after missing the trip to New York.
Foster will go to the air more frequently today since the running game stalled against Columbia.
Cornell's victory last year was the first since 1962 and sent Harvard into a tailspin that ended in a tie for fifth in the Ivy League. The Crimson won only one more game after that defeat.
The recent loss to Columbia did little for Harvard's spirit, especially in light of upcoming games with powerful Dartmouth and Yale, and an away date in Princeton.
Indeed, pessimism may be the Crimson's greatest obstacle today. If the team can erase the doubts founded last week against Columbia, they could surprise everyone-including Marinaro.