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One year ago today, an injury-riddled Dartmouth football team suffered a humiliating defeat in Harvard Stadium. It was the first time that the Big Green had lost that badly to a Crimson team in almost seventy years, and it marked the turning point in a Dartmouth season that was to progressively become worse.
This year. Dartmouth is a rebuilt football team. It is undefeated. It has played four good football games. And it remembers last fall's humiliation. Indian coach Bob Blackman isn't the type to forget a defeat, and unless Harvard puts it all together this afternoon, he may present the Crimson with an ironic reminder.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the Dartmouth game will be the crucial juncture to a successful Harvard season. But there can be no doubt that a loss to the Big Green this afternoon, besides criminating the Crimson from realistic contention for the Ivy crown, would be a disastrous psychological blow for a squad that had been picked to defend its title without excessive strain.
Dartmouth has never been an easy game for the Crimson, and last fall excepted, the margin of Harvard victory during Yovicsin's tenure has yet to exceed eight points. Dartmouth rarely beats itself by overconfidence, and it would be a mistake to hope for such an occurrence this afternoon.
If Harvard is to win, it must create a pattern of offensive consistency that it has yet to create this fall, and its defense must rebound from its horrible afternoon in Ithaca last Saturday.
The return of linebacker Gary Farneti will strengthen the defense, but the Crimson will be facing a ground threat superior to any it has been confronted with this fall. And even if Harvard can stop the Indians' running game, it will still have to contend with the Big Green air attack, led by quarterbacks Jim Chasey and Bill Koenig.
Harvard's secondary has been methodically picked apart in each of the Crimson's four games this season, but not too frequently, since it is always dangerous to pass excessively against a Loyal Park coached secondary. But the weakness is there.
Last week, whenever Cornell needed a crucial first down, it went to the air, and successfully exploited Harvard's deficient short coverage. Park has been drilling the defensive backs in practice all week. They should hold up. They must.
Must Score Four
But even a solid Harvard defense will have extreme trouble holding Dartmouth to less than three touchdowns. If Harvard is to win, it must score at least four times, and it will not score unless it confronts Dartmouth with a more diversified offense than it has used this fall.
Last year, Harvard's bread-and-butter play was the power sweep series. The Crimson used it almost incessantly, and ran the halfback option, the pitchout and the bootleg from it as well. BU stopped the sweep this year. Cornell stopped it. If Dartmouth stops it, and if Harvard refuses to try the deep pass or the swing pass to end Pete Varney, it will not get four touchdowns. It may not get any.
Smith Doubtful Starter
An added problem is the questionable status of quarterback Dave Smith. Smith twisted an ankle in practice last Thursday, and didn't work out yesterday. He will probably miss the game this afternoon, and his loss will deprive the Crimson of the only experienced signal caller. Juniors John O'Grady and Joe Roda will replace him, but the novelty of having them at quarterback may retard the Crimson from moving as early as it should.
So Harvard will have to move the ball this afternoon as no team has moved against Dartmouth this fall. Harvard's defense will have to stop Dartmouth as no defense has stopped it this fall. In short, Harvard will have to play as it has not played at any time this season if it hopes to beat the Green. It may be capable of doing so, but the mere fact that the squad is emotionally peaked for the Green does not necessarily guarantee it.
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