Time For a Backup Plan

With Fitzpatrick out, second-string QB Schires to lead undefeated Harvard

Garrett Schires has taken a lot of snaps under the glare of the spotlight.

Unfortunately for the Harvard football team, that was in high school.

With starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick out with an injury, Schires, a junior lefty from Fairfax Station, Va., will get the chance to start in just such an environment this Saturday as the Crimson (4-0, 2-0 Ivy League) hosts Lafayette (3-2, 0-2 Patriot League) in the season’s non-conference finale.

Schires’ first varsity start—his first since his senior year in high school—comes under unfortunate circumstances.

In last week’s 27-0 shutout of Cornell, Fitzpatrick, arguably the top offensive player in I-AA, broke his throwing hand.

As a result, Schires, Harvard’s backup, will be asked to take the reins of the nation’s top I-AA offense (491.5 yards per game) and lead a team whose weekly climb up the Sports Network national rankings now rests at No. 22.

Pressure?

Don’t bet on it.

“I’m not too nervous,” Schires said Wednesday. “Just excited.”

Schires, a product of Fairfax’s Robinson Secondary School in Northern Virginia—where football is King—made the playoffs every year, leading his team to an undefeated season his senior year.

Competing with teammates who went on to play at Division I-A schools like Virginia and Virginia Tech, Schires routinely played quarterback under the gaze of capacity crowds and television audiences.

Once again, he gets the chance to perform for watchful eyes. He will lead an undefeated Harvard team this weekend that has outscored its opponents by an average of 23 points. And he couldn’t be happier about the opportunity.

“I’m used to being on a winning team, and I’m used to lots of exposure,” he said. “I’m very excited [about starting]. That’s why you keep putting in the work in practice.”

Schires has appeared in all but one game this season, but has not seen much action this year—he has gained 48 rushing yards on 11 attempts, but has failed to complete a pass in three tries.

His last meaningful action was in 2001, when he completed 9 of 11 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. In that game, both former starting quarterback Neil Rose and Fitzpatrick were injured.

Fitzpatrick would not say how long he would be out with last Saturday’s fracture. The injury came on a play action pass in which he was sacked, taking a “helmet to the hand.”

Fitzpatrick did say, however, that he was confident in Schires’ ability to lead.

“The team’s going to rally around him,” Fitzpatrick said Thursday. “He’s had a great week of practice. I think he’ll definitely get the job done.”

Schires may be taking control of an offense that is averaging a nearly-laughable 37.5 points per game, but he will also hope to get help from a defense that has been spectacular of late. Following the shutout of Cornell, the Crimson defense is leading the Ivy League in sacks. Senior cornerback Benny Butler, the team leader in interceptions, is the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week.

The defense will face a Lafayette team that is coming off a huge offensive performance of its own. Last week, the Leopards defeated Columbia, 41-27, thanks to a career offensive day from quarterback Marko Glavic—the Sports Network’s Division I-AA Offensive Player of the Week.

Glavic passed for a school-record 453 yards and 4 touchdowns, ran for one more touchdown, and even caught a touchdown in the win.

The meeting will be the Crimson’s eighth against Lafayette, and the first since a 38-14 Crimson victory at Harvard Stadium in 2001. In seven previous meetings dating back to 1966, Harvard leads the series 5-2, winning the last two.

Schires said the game plan would be no different to accommodate his style of play. “I’m not going to go out there and try to be Neil Rose or Ryan [Fitzpatrick],” he said. “I’m going to try to be myself, and hopefully get our team a win.”

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