A tranquil fog blanketed soldier's Field yesterday and an eery quietude engulfed Joe Restic's last-season practice. But through the fog, the clouded question of who would command Restic's troops in their opening-game battle with Holy Cross was finally resolved.
Southpaw Jim Kubacki will line up behind center today as the Crimson 11 kicks off its campaign to retain its Ivy title. "Jim will give us the best balance in there, he throws well and is a strong fullback-type runner once he gets going," Restic said yesterday.
Joining Kubacki in the backfield will be the seasoned duo of Neal Miller and Tom Winn, along with newcomer junior Mark Taylor. A strong front line should provide the needed protection for the inexperienced Kubacki to spot ends Jim Curry and Bob McDermott.
On the other side of the ledger the Crimson's defensive team will rely heavily on experience in the linebacking slots and in the secondary. All-Ivy Rick Kurzweil and Bill Collatos will hold down the fort for a sophomore-studded front five. Adjuster George Newhouse and safeties Fran Cronin and Jon Judge will provide the deep support.
While all this may sound very iffy, both Restic and captain Dan Jiggetts are actually quite confident going into today's game. "Last year we were a pretty loud and rowdy bunch of guys," Jiggetts said yesterday. "This year there's more of a quiet intensity about the club. We're ready to play."
The Crusaders, on the other hand, showed two weeks ago that they were not ready to play as they received the full artillery from Army getting bombed, 44-7. The Cross had some directional problems in its offense as it gained or rather lost a game total of 13 yards on the ground.
"We have no offensive strengths," Crusader sports information director Rich Lewis said yesterday. "We lost quarterback Bob Morton to academic probation, our running backs are slow and our offensive line is young. However, Lewis said, "Harvard will not be more physical than us and they'll know they've been hit."
The matchup today, then, will not be the Crimson's defensive line versus Holy Cross's protection, although the development of the pass rush is a big area of concern to Restic. Instead, the telling sign will be the success of the offense in opening the Crusader's ranks.
"We have to test their defense," Restic said. "They're very tough and today will tell how good we are up front." With All-Ivy Carl Culig at center, flanked by guards Joe Antonellis and Kevin McCafferty along with senior Bob Wagner joining Jiggetts up front, Kubacki and company should have plenty of running room.
While the main concern of the players will of course be on the field yesterday, talk ran fast and furious over the "injustice" of the NCAA's new regulation restricting the number of players allowed to suit up to 60. Jiggetts termed the rule "idiotic" and Antonellis voiced the team's sentiment: "It's unfair for guys to practice all week and work just as hard and not have anything to look forward to," he said.
Jiggetts concurred. "It's against Harvard's policy of athletics for all," he said. "It's frustrating that they can't run with you on Saturday."
Today some of that frustration may well be vented on the unsuspecting visitors from Worcester.