The item at the top of Crimson coach Tim Murphy’s list of areas to improve before this week’s game against Brown: conversion percentage inside the red zone.
Hidden behind Harvard’s spectacular performance running deep routes and breaking big plays was a disappointing rate of success in scoring—six-of-nine times—once advancing beyond the Crusaders’ 20-yard line.
Settling down after his early-game jitters, junior quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was flawless deep inside Bears’ territory, guiding the offense to seven scores—six touchdowns and a field goal—in as many chances.
“The biggest thing was saying let’s make sure we take it one play at a time,” Murphy said. “Let’s worry about getting the best play we can at a time.”
And the strategy worked beautifully, with Harvard taking what the Brown defense yielded and more.
But the Crimson would not have been in position to punch those scores over the end line without the success on third down conversion that has become a trademark of Murphy’s offense.
Converting on 10-of-16 attempts, Harvard frustrated a Bears defense that seemed poised to shut down several Crimson scoring drives before crumbling as Fitzpatrick consistently found receivers at the first down marker.
“The last four or five years, we’ve done a very good job on third down,” Murphy said. “We lost our whole offensive staff last year and we’ve managed to bring in three real good coaches…they deserve the credit for the execution.”
Kicking Some Game
Execution on special teams was something that was definitely lacking in last week’s game.
With Harvard’s two kickers combining for two missed extra points, two missed field goals and a blocked punt—resulting in a 15-point swing in the process—improvement this week was not a luxury but a necessity.
In response to his poor performance last week, Murphy benched sophomore place kicker Jim Morocco in favor of senior Adam Kingston, who handled all kicks for the afternoon.
“We just think that right now the veteran Adam Kingston is the guy,” Murphy said.
Kingston booted the ball perfectly, making all seven attempted extra points and notching a 31-yard field goal.
While he suffered slightly when kicking into the wind, he knocked two of his kickoffs through the back of the end zone for touchbacks with the breeze at his back.
Freshman running back Clifton Dawson—who last week rushed 17 times for 76 yards while splitting time with sophomore Ryan Tyler—was conspicuously absent from the sidelines during Saturday’s victory.
The speedster was suspended for one game as punishment for breaking an unspecified team rule according to Murphy.
“I made a mistake and I violated team rules,” Dawson said. “And because of that I was suspended one game. I look forward to returning to the team against Northeastern.”
Neither Dawson nor team personnel would elaborate on the infraction which prompted the disciplinary action.
Teaming with Tyler in Dawson’s absence was junior Nick Carrington, who carried the ball 22 times—10 more than all of last year—for 82 yards to lead the Crimson rushing attack.
In addition to losing Dawson for the game, junior wide receiver Rodney Byrnes fell victim to the a sprained left ankle midway through the third quarter, coming up lame after a 27-yard kickoff return.
Byrnes limped off the field and attempted to walk off the injury, but quickly made his way through the tunnel behind the bench and out of the game.
He re-emerged only in the fourth quarter, hobbling on crutches with his uniform removed and with the ankle heavily taped.
The injury is not considered serious, however, and Murphy said that he expects his starting wideout to return to action next weekend.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at email@example.com.