In the modern era of sports, being a college coach carries with it the burden of constant media attention. Facing dozens of reporters at press conferences, head coaches have gotten savvier—they say what they need to and leave the rest up for speculation. Here at The Back Page, we’re happy to decode some of these media sessions, showing the average fan what we think coaches’ answers “really” mean.
Harvard coach Tim Murphy had a little fun with the postgame press conference after his Crimson squad topped Yale for the fourth straight year on Saturday. Following the 28-21 victory, the normally sparse interview table was filled from end to end with a host of Harvard seniors. Still, when the questions started flying, the coach got down to business, and we have the breakdown of some of his thoughts on fighting past Yale, momentum swings, and what he looks for in a recruit.
What Murphy means: The game was an “uphill” battle in the sense that Yale appeared to be spanking Harvard for the first quarter and a half before the home team found some life. This shift was no more apparent than along the Crimson defensive line, which was dominated early on by the Bulldogs’ front five. The interior linemen in particular struggled to shed blockers. The dynamic pair of junior Josué Ortiz and senior Chuks Obi—who Murphy has called “grown men” previously—looked like Pop Warner tackles for the first 30 minutes, but it wasn’t long before the duo found its groove. By the start of the third quarter, it was the Yale linemen who were being manhandled, as the Harvard defensive front finished with six sacks and a blocked punt by Ortiz.
What Murphy said: “We needed to make big plays, because we weren’t getting many opportunities. We weren’t creating enough opportunities offensively.”
What Murphy means: The 17-year head coach is intimately involved on the offensive side of the ball, so you can believe that when Murphy referenced the need to “create opportunities,” he had a big part in the playcalling that turned things around. After going three and out on its opening possession, the Crimson employed a flea-flicker the next time down the field to bite off a big chunk of yardage. Junior quarterback Collier Winters fired a lateral to junior receiver Adam Chrissis, who raced to the middle of the field and pitched it back to Winters. The QB then found senior Marco Iannuzzi streaking across the middle of the field, and the receiver brought the ball down to the five-yard line, setting up Harvard’s first score.
Murphy didn’t use trick plays like this one too often against Yale, but it certainly kick-started the offense in a hurry.
What Murphy said: “Again, I hate to put it in trite terms, but [it’s] just so much about heart. We preach so much about intangibles, just effort, intensity, perseverance, ability to deal with adversity. And that’s the type of kids we recruit. We recruit kids who have great character.”
What Murphy means: Murphy’s right—his comment about what it takes to win may have come off as trite, but it’s a formula that’s worked for the ball coach for nearly 25 years. Murphy has not strayed from his checklist in terms of recruiting, and he emphasizes in interview after interview the leg-up that football players have if they have faced adversity. The Crimson players showed plenty of perseverance in bouncing back against the Bulldogs on Saturday, and if Harvard hopes to dethrone Penn and return to the top of the Ivy League next season, the squad will need to maintain that toughness in 2011.