In Harvard's first two games this season, Joe Restic's squad has treated Crimson followers to exhibitions of the best and the worst of Harvard football. On one hand--in last week's game with "Boston University--the Harvard offense found itself, staging a scoring circus rivaling anything ever seen in these parts. Harvard scored the first five times that it had the ball last week and made a reality out of the Restic propaganda that has flooded Cambridge for the last two years.
On the other hand--in the season's opener against UMass--Harvard displayed a frighteningly passive defense, featuring a porous secondary and a sleepy-eyed linebacking corps that allowed itself to be riddled by the passing of one Peil Pennington, en route to an ignoble 28-19 setback.
Both performances stand up to shout "This is Harvard Football!" But which tells the real story? Both are significant. They sum up the strong and weak points of Joe Restic's second campaign. But is either showing indicative of things to come?
If Restic wants a publicity film for "Ivy Football--Canada Style," all he has to do is take the film of the first quarter against BU. It was Restic's style played to perfection. And it was beautiful. The Crimson attack, choreographed by Eric Crone, was smoother than a preppy's pick-up lines. The pieces dropped precisely into place. Everything Restic talks about when Restic talks offense was there is that quarter. There were backs in motion, ends in motion, multiple sets, multiple shifts, roll-out passing, drop-back passing, imagination, and above all, scoring. Especially scoring.
Harvard scored quickly and often. The Crimson tallied vin (a) a quarterback roll-out on an option situation, (b) a halfback sweep, (c) a halfback off-tackle play, (d) a 33-yard field goal, and (e) a roll-out pass to a halfback out of the backfield.
Restic's offense displayed a dexterity for scoring unheard of in Cambridge, and variety not seen since Ed Sullivan went off the air. Restic's offense arrived last Saturday and showed--at least for 15 blissful minutes--that it is the most varied and explosive in the Ivy League.
The other side of the coin, of course, landed in the opening game fiasco with UMass. The Amherst contingent ran roughshod over the Harvard defense for 367 yards total offense, and 210 of those yards came from Pennington's deadly right arm. The Crimson secondary could not blunt the UMass serials, and the Harvard zone was thoroughly ineffective. Pennington was irrepressible against Harvard, hitting the quick slant pattern at will. These thrusts into the belly of the zone accounted for over 150 yards alone. The rest of the Harvard defense had its share of lapses too, and the Crimson gave up much yardage to little Paul Metallo on the ground. It was a bleak performance, and a very discouraging one for an opening game.
Two games into the season, and we've seen the best and worst of Crimson football. But will the evil and good persist as the season unfolds? Are Crone's boys as good as the BU game? Are the deep men as bad as Pennington made them look? With Harvard's first real test rearing up this weekend in New York City against Columbia, Restic has to find out and fast. Columbia is too good a team to foot around with Harvard if the Crimson can't cut it. Frank Navarro's boys think they can go all the way, and they'd think nothing of stomping on Harvard en route.
What is the story then? Based on its most recent performance, the offense seems to have found consistency and the scoring touch. Crone directs the attack with authority, and his play selection has been good. Ted Demars and Mark Wheeler give Harvard a pair of halfbacks who complement each other as well as any in the league. The Crimson will score, but not at a 31-points-per-quarter rate, because Harvard has yet to face a first-rate defense. Columbia has a first rate defense, having shut out its first two opponents.
Harvard's defense looked strong last week, but BU didn't mount much of a threat after falling behind by over four touchdowns. However, in the second half the Terriers moved the ball and their total offense showed 290 yards. The Crimson secondary allowed only 85 yards in the air, but BU's passers couldn't have hit Widener Library at ten feet. The opening game loss notwithstanding, Harvard hasn't faced an outstanding offense yet either. Columbia, with Don Jackson throwing to Jesse Parks and an underrated ground game that picked up 239 yards against Princeton, has that offense.
This is the week for Restic's men. The offense must prove that its BU performance was no fluke, and the defensive secondary, despite last week's mini renaissance, must be tougher dudes than they have been so far. If not, New York's gonna be a lonely town.