The first snap of the 2010 football season is still nearly five months away, but on Saturday, Harvard got its first taste of gridiron action.
The Crimson took the field at Harvard Stadium for the annual intrasquad spring game, a contest marked by defensive dominance and the second debut of junior quarterback Andrew Hatch.
“The energy was high—we kept it simple on both sides of the ball,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “If we had cut our defense loose, I’m not sure we would have scored. Our defense has been ahead of the offense all spring, which is usually pretty standard, but probably even more so this year.”
The defense put up one touchdown to the offense’s three, with its score coming on a fumble recovery in the endzone. Sophomore Dan Minamide ended the game with a goal-line interception, while freshman D.J. Monroe and junior Anthony Spadafino shared the team lead in tackles with six apiece.
For Murphy, sophomore Matt Hanson proved the highlight of the secondary.
“We really challenged him this spring, and he really responded in strength and conditioning and spring football,” Murphy said. “I think he’s set to be a dominant type of corner, a lockdown type of corner that you need to have on your defense.”
But much of the attention was focused on the awaited return of Hatch, a former Crimson JV player who transferred to LSU and earned the starting job for the Tigers in 2008—just a year after the team won the national championship.
Hatch’s 2008 season was cut short by injury, and he left LSU to return to Harvard last spring. He was ruled ineligible to play by the NCAA last season, but Murphy is optimistic that he will be eligible in 2010—though he noted that Hatch has not yet been cleared, and the team may not know until Sep. 1 about his availability.
Hatch completed four passes Saturday night for a total of 81 yards.
“We run a [much] more sophisticated, pro-style offense than LSU did,” Murphy said. “They were very simple, just kind of three-step stuff, bubble screens and get it to their fast guys. Here it’s a little bit more like a pro-style offense, at least from the pass-game standpoint. [Hatch has] shown flashes of brilliance, he’s just got to be more consistent.”
Hatch’s return puts pressure on the incumbent under center, junior Collier Winters. Winters earned a spot on the All-Ivy Second Team in his first year as a starter and recorded a game-high 211 all-purpose yards Saturday night.
The junior provided the highlight of the game in the second half, when his 67-yard bomb found the hands of a streaking junior Chris Lorditch for a touchdown.
Winters also reached the endzone on the ground, running the ball in from two yards out on an option fake.
But in Murphy’s eyes, Winters’s job is not safe.
“It is a legitimate competition,” Murphy said. “If [Hatch] hadn’t been here, I’m not sure that it would have been. I would have said that Collier’s pretty much a slam dunk, but now there’s a competition, so we probably won’t know who our starting quarterback’s going to be until conceivably a week before the Holy Cross game.”