Football Notebook: Dante's an Inferno for Dartmouth Offense

Harvard's drubbing of Dartmouth leaves little to be desired, except perhaps a better opponent. However, Saturday's win did shed light on a few aspects of Crimson football.

Dante's Divine Defense

Freshman linebacker Dante Balestracci, already Harvard's surprise defensive story of the year, added another page to his growing clipbook. He's already the Crimson's leading tackler (59 tackles, 39 unassisted), and on Saturday Balestracci set a Harvard record.

With Dartmouth down 21-0 in the second quarter, Harvard looked to put some more points on the board, hoping to avoid a Cornell-like breakdown. The Big Green decided to use some trickery to foul up the Harvard defense that had stifled its offensive attacks so far.

Dartmouth lined up in a "diamond" formation: three receivers to the right (one ineligible), two to the left, and the quarterback in the shotgun with a tailback. On the Harvard side, confusion reigned as the defensive unit struggled to figure out what the Big Green was up to. The ball was snapped, and Dartmouth QB Brian Mann tossed a shovel pass in the direction of tailback Michael Gratch.

An ordinarily safe play turned deadly when Balestracci entered the picture. Having read the play the entire way, Balestracci tipped the ball, grabbed it out of the air and ran it 48 yards untouched into the end zone.

Two quarters later, Balestracci picked off another pass and turned it into a 53-yard touchdown return. In the hundred-some years of Harvard football, no one has ever returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

"In fact, those were the first interception returns for touchdowns I've ever had in my life," Balestracci said.