This year, though, there’s more than just bragging rights at stake for Harvard.
This year, the Bulldogs are all that stand in the way of the Crimson’s first 10-win season in 98 years and sole possession of the Ivy title.
To claim that final victory, the Crimson will turn to the same formula of balanced and explosive offense, relentless defense and surprising special teams that has propelled the squad to the cusp of perfection in 2004.
The season got underway in September with the Ivy media predicting for the Crimson a second-place finish behind Penn.
In Harvard’s season-opening 35-0 dismantling of hapless Holy Cross, both offense and defense wasted no time starting the year off right. Sophomore tailback Clifton Dawson proved his rookie season was no fluke, accumulating 184 yards on the ground and scoring three touchdowns, while the Crimson defense applied constant pressure to the Crusaders quarterback, forcing him to throw three interceptions and holding the team to 131 yards of offense.
Harvard also received a boost from freshman kicker Matt Schindel, who knocked in a pair of 30-plus-yard field goals, repairing an aspect of the Crimson strategy—the kicking game—that was woeful in prior years.
The next week, however, almost saw the Crimson’s hopes for a brilliant season dashed in the first quarter. In the team’s first game of Ivy League play, Harvard spotted Brown an early 21-0 advantage in Providence before rallying with 25 second-half points to tie for the largest come-from-behind win in Crimson history.
Experience played a major part in the comeback. Dawson scored three touchdowns again and Fitzpatrick keyed several lengthy second-half drives that put points on the board and stole the momentum from the cruising Bears offense.
“Everyone on the team knows our offense is going to get everything rolling,” Thomas said. “As a defense, we have to keep them on the field as long as possible.”
By stymieing star running back Nick Hartigan and the rest of the Brown attack that racked up 451 first-half yards, Thomas and the defense did just that and turned the game around.
As the Harvard players held their breath on the sidelines, a late Brown field goal sailed wide and preserved a 35-34 win.
FINDING A GROOVE
Fortunately, this was one of the few tight games the Crimson endured all year. Harvard returned home the following week to take on Patriot League opponent Lafayette, and used the familiar combination of balanced offense and big-play defense to surge to a 38-23 victory.
Dawson trounced the opposition once again, rushing for over 100 yards, with 172, for the ninth straight game, and bringing his season total to nine touchdowns, challenging less than a third of the way through the season a Crimson record he would eventually break.