Linebacker Bobby Everett catches a floater from holder Rob Balkema to turn a botched kick into a two-point conversion.
For one game at least, Harvard’s perennial kicking problem found a solution. And his name was Matt Schindel.
In the first game of his college career, the freshman kicker nailed all three of his extra-point attempts and made two field goals of more than 30 yards in the Crimson’s 35-0 victory Saturday. The second, from 37 yards out, was the longest field goal made by a Harvard kicker in more than two years.
“You certainly hate to get your hopes up on a freshman kicker, but I had mentioned to some people that I felt like, at least in terms of ability, this was the best kicking specialist we’ve recruited,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “He’s really been a very level-headed kid all through preseason, very unflappable, doesn’t talk a lot, just goes out and does well.”
Coming into the game, Murphy had praised Schindel as the man who would finally stabilize the Crimson’s kicking game, which for the past several years had been unreliable at best. But it was unclear how the newcomer would handle the pressure of a game situation, not to mention the challenge of a slippery ball and swirling winds.
“Quite honestly, he may not have worse conditions to kick the whole year, so this was a big boost for all of us, and certainly a confidence boost for him,” Murphy said.
While in Saturday’s blowout making every extra point was not crucial to securing a Harvard victory, the knowledge that the Crimson has a kicker who can be counted upon to make that seventh point or boot that 30-yard field goal adds a level of confidence for future contests. For a team used to going for it on every fourth down rather than risk yet another botched field-goal attempt, being able to rely on Schindel reinforces an already powerful Harvard offense.
“Things can change fast in that department, but he at least has a foundation of success that he can draw on,” Murphy said.
QUARTERBACKS ON PARADE
The days when Fitzpatrick had to battle for the quarterback job are long past. In Saturday’s whitewashing of Holy Cross, however, Fitzpatrick ended up ceding his place on the field to four other signal callers before the day was out.
With the Crimson in full control of the game’s outcome, Murphy removed Fitzpatrick with 2:36 remaining in the third quarter. Senior Garrett Schires entered the game for Harvard and played for most of the remainder of the contest. Schires handed off to senior backup running back Nick Carrington for virtually every play and did not attempt a single pass as the Crimson ran out the clock on every fourth-quarter possession.
In the final seconds, Murphy sent in sophomore Mike Jones and freshmen Chris Pizzotti and Liam O’Hagan. Both Pizzotti and O’Hagan took an uneventful knee, while Jones’ sole moment at the helm was inauspicious—he fumbled and quickly recovered the only snap he saw.
Saturday’s game may have been a boon for sophomore tailback Clifton Dawson’s statistics, but it certainly didn’t help Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Payton Award candidacy.
The miserable weather forced the Crimson’s passing game into hibernation and held the usually-high flying Fitzpatrick under 100 passing yards. Last year, the Harvard captain never had fewer than 160 yards in any game in which he played, even when he didn’t start.
But in the end, it was the final score that mattered.
“It’s not about statistics, it’s about field management, and he did a great job of field management,” Murphy said. “There’s gonna be days this year, on a fast track, where we throw for 300 yards.”
Fitzpatrick finished the day 7-of-15 for 79 yards and no touchdowns, playing for just under three quarters.
“He did a good job, he did what we needed him to do,” Murphy said.
—Staff writer Lisa J. Kennelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.