The Harvard football team entered Saturday's game against Holy Cross knowing it could put points on the board. The players and coaches expected that balancing the passing and rushing attack would be very successful.
But no one could not have expected this.
Harvard steamrolled over Holy Cross 52-24 with an offensive attack unparalleled in school history. The team shattered the school record for total yards of offense--set in 1995 against Colgate--with 623 yards of total offense. Throughout the entire game Harvard exhibited a balanced attack, gaining 272 yards in the air and a whopping 351 yards on the ground.
"We did everything we could to stop them," said Holy Cross Coach Dan Allen, "We tried but they just executed really well. Harvard was simply a better football team today."
Harvard struck first on its second possession of the game. Sophomore quarterback Rich Linden ran the ball in from the one yard line on a QB sneak for the first of his three rushing touchdowns.
The Crimson opened up a 21-0 lead before the Crusaders began to comeback in the middle of the second quarter. Holy Cross closed the gap to one touchdown with a 14-yard rush by junior quarterback Dan Boland to make the score 31-24 with 6:17 remaining in the third quarter.
But just when it appeared Holy Cross might be gaining some momentum, the floodgates opened.
Late in the third quarter the Crimson forced the Crusaders to a three and out and Harvard took over at its own 33.
On that drive, Harvard went to an old coaches adage: Run a play and keep running it until they stop it. The play was a simple handoff to Menick. He ran right and turned the corner for 23, then up the middle on a counter for 11.
After a failed passing attempt in which Linden was forced to scramble for just one yard, the quarterback handed the ball off to Menick for eight and again up the middle for nine more. Of course on the following play Harvard Coach Tim Murphy called Menick's number again, and he ran for 15 yards into the end zone. A missed point-after attempt made the score 37-24.
Holy Cross again went three and out, assisted by the Crimson's most spectacular defensive play of the day. On third-and-4, the Crusaders threw a 20-yard slant over the middle. Junior right cornerback Glenn Jackson dove to break up the pass and force a punt.
"When I saw the ball thrown, I either could have let him catch it and then tackle him or just go for it," Jackson said. "I went for it."
On the ensuing drive, Harvard put the game out of reach with a 1-yard run by Menick for a touchdown at 9:38 of the fourth quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 23-yard pass to junior fullback Joe Mattson and a steady diet of hard Menick runs up the middle.
Harvard then compensated for the missed extra point on the previous drive with a successful two-point conversion on a pass to Menick. The score now was 45-24 and with only 9:38 left to go in the fourth--the game was essentially over.
"At 31-24, we knew Holy Cross wasn't that good for it to be that close," Jackson said. "We simply had to step it up a little."
Linden had another stellar game, completing 21 of 37 passes for 272 yards with one touchdown against one interception. He also displayed his athletic ability, running the ball for 33 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Completing passes to seven different receivers, he distributed the ball well. HOLY CROSS 24 HARVARD 52
Four of them, sophomore Terence Patterson, senior Jared Chupaila, senior Colby Skelton and Mattson caught passes for 20 yards or more. Chupaila led the team with 56 total reception yards.
"Although our offense had a good game, all the credit goes to the offensive line," Linden said. "I had plenty of time to throw and Chris [Menick] had some nice holes to run through."
Though the spotlight shines on the offense in this game, the defense deserves credit as well. When it seemed that the Crusaders were coming back, the defense closed the door. After the Crusaders scored at 6:17 of the third quarter, the Crimson defense held them scoreless the rest of the way. They also forced four fumbles.
Holy Cross did have two magnificent plays in the second quarter. On its second touchdown, sophomore John Aloisi made a gorgeous one handed catch over the middle to complete a 32-yard pass. And with time running out in the second half, junior placekicker Dana Fiatarone boomed a 45-yard field goal.
The day though clearly belonged to the Harvard offense, most notably Menick.
"Chris is a warrior," Murphy said. "The intangibles he brings are something you don't see until he plays. He's indefatigable and getting better."
After Harvard's opening scoring drive, the Crimson struck again with 31 seconds left in the first quarter on another 1-yard rush by Linden. At 11:43 of the second, Linden completed his lone touchdown pass to senior tight end Tom Giardi.
Two straight Holy Cross scores were followed by Linden's third rushing touchdown from the three yard line which was set up by a 52-yard run by Menick in which he ran left and after ten yards cut back to the middle.
"I knew I was getting a lot of carries," Menick said. "I tried to take it one carry at a time. I knew I could give up because the second I gave in, they would come back."
On this day though, the Crusaders did not come back.
"This was the best job of execution we've done since I've been here." Murphy said, "When you play hard and plan well good things happen."
FOOTBALL IVY STANDINGS OVERALL IVYTeam W L T PCT W L T PCTDartmouth 5 0 0 1.000 3 0 0 1.000Harvard 4 1 0 .800 2 0 0 1.000Brown 4 1 0 .800 1 1 0 .500Princeton 4 1 0 .800 1 1 0 .500Penn 2 3 0 .400 1 1 0 .500Cornell 1 4 0 .200 1 2 0 .333Columbia 1 4 0 .200 0 2 0 .000Yale 1 4 0 .200 0 2 0 .00