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On Monday, the first practice day after the debacle at Harvard Stadium last weekend. Crimson football coach John Yovicsin allegedly told his squad that it could win both its remaining games if it stopped defeating itself. If the statement is true, and if he and his staff actually believe that this is the reason for the Crimson's demise this fall, they are sadly mistaken.
Harvard has yet to beat itself this season, unless one can call an impotent offense self-defeating. And the Crimson was never overmatched with regard to raw talent. Yovicsin attracts as good players to Cambridge as any other coach in the Ivy League, including McCandless at Princeton and Blackman at Dartmouth, and if Harvard has been humiliated this fall, the fault lies with Yovicsin's system.
Harvard's collapse is unsettling, but to any serious observer of Crimson football, the warning signs were there in the first game. They have not changed, and unless Yovicsin corrects the following aspects of his program, they will be here as long as Yovicsin is head coach.
an overdependence on the sweep series, and a resulting offensive predictability:
an overall strategy that places too much importance on defense, and an in ability to adjust when the defense collapses or is badly threatened:
a poor freshman program:
a seniority system that often puts inferior players at starting positions and discourages underclassmen;
a general lack imagination on offense.
It should have been obvious to Yovcisin and his staff as early as the Boston University game that the power sweep, and its variations, were not going to work as consistently as they had to if they were the only series used.
But Harvard stayed with them, and was stopped by BU, and in turn, by Cornell, Dartmouth and Princeton. The Crimson never passes on first down, rarely on second, and has shamefully neglected one of the best tight ends in Harvard history, Pete Varney. Yovicsin must change if Harvard is going to move the ball.
And Harvard's fall football brochure tells it all about Yovicsin's football philosophy: "Play grudging defense, and wait until the opponent makes a mistake."
Sometimes, however, opponents do not make mistakes, and the defense is not quite grudging. Columbia, Penn and Holy Cross all made mistakes. Cornell, Dartmouth and Princeton did not make as many.
In addition, Harvard's unwieldy freshman program is unsuited to fit the needs of the massive numbers of Yardling candidates. Four coaches must handle over 125 boys, with only six games to play them in, and one squad to play them on. Harvard must either prune its recruiting, or enlarge its staff, form two teams, and play two full schedules.
It may be too late to salvage the current season, but it is not too late to change. If Yovicsin wants respect and enthusiasm from his squads, and support from the undergraduates and alumni, he will do so.
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