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There will be no Ivy League football championship in Cambridge this year. Harvard, picked by many to make a serious bid for the title after an impressive 33-15 win over Cornell early in the season, has proven beyond doubt in the last three weeks that it is not a team of championship calibre.
For three successive Saturdays, the Crimson has had a chance to make a definitive grab for first place. For three successive Saturdays Harvard has punted its opportunities.
In last weekend's loss to Princeton, Harvard's performance reached new depths for ineptness. The Crimson did nothing right all afternoon and the Tigers, inspired by the smell of an unexpected chance to humble Restic's squad, pushed Harvard all over the field. Harvard won no battles on Saturday as Princeton dominated every phase of the game.
The one element that has blocked Harvard's drive toward the top of the Ivy League is the Crimson offense. Or rather it is the lack of an offense, a consistent offense, that has handcuffed Harvard. There is one major reason that Restic's offense has not been a consistent threat--and that reason is named Crone.
Yes, Crone. Eric Crone, three-year varsity quarterback and two-time winner over Yale. In the seven games that Harvard has played to date, Crone has started at quarterback six times. In every game that he has been at the helm (excluding the B.U. context, which was like scheduling Wellesley High) Harvard has been unable to mount a sustained and consistent attack.
Against Princeton, Crone's performance reached an all-time low and it is not mere coincidence that the performance of the Harvard offense as a whole simultaneously hit bottom. Against Princeton Crone finally got it all together in a reverse sort of way. That is to say that he finally compressed all his flaws and inconsistencies into one incredibly negative performance. Crone could do nothing right against the Tiger defense, and both his execution and play calling were horrendous. Crone's offensive leadership in the first half produced only one drive over 13 yards in length and the senior signal-caller completed only three of nine posses and threw an interception.
Restic wanted to pain against the Princeton defense. But Crone's maddening habit of scrambling around the backfield and ceaselessly pumping the ball while being unable to focus on his receivers--some of whom were yards in the clear--virtually eliminated any passing attack that the Crimson coach had hoped to mount.
Crone does not see his receivers quickly enough, and when he does see them, he is unsure which one to throw the ball to. When one watches Crone fade back to pass one witnesses the epitome of indecision, and when he completes an serial, one has the feeling that it is the direct result of Divine intervention rather than skill.
Despite Crone's dubious performance throughout this season, Restic has been remarkably loyal to him. He has been more than patient as week after week. "The Zone," as Crone's detractors call him after his infamous last-second safety in the 1970 Yale game, couldn't get into the groove.
Even after last weekend's embarrassment. Restic refuses to project what Crone's future is with the Crimson. "You don't want to phase people out when they have made a contribution to Harvard football," Restic said Monday in response to an inquiry about Crone's future. In the last two years Crone has made a contribution to Harvard football. But by the same token, he has not Ivy title contender. In the what-have-you-done-for-she-lately world of college football, there is no room for sentimentality, and since Crone has had his chance and has not produced, the time has come to go with younger people.
There are two games left in the season for Harvard, and while they no longer have much bearing on first place as far as Harvard is concerned, they are important if the Crimson wants to save face in what is left of the season. Restic admits that "locking at it realistically, we have to look at all our people" to win the last two contests. The coach is only partially right. Harvard has to look at all his people save one. We have looked at Crone for a whole season and he hasn't shown anything. Look at someone else in the last two contests.
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