Harvard launches its 100th football season today against UMass at the Stadium. And by the time the afternoon is over, Crimson coach Joe Restic could also feel 100 years old.
Nothing can gray the temples of a football coach faster than mistakes. And Harvard, a young team starting 13 sophomores and juniors, will certainly make mistakes.
Harvard hasn't had a great deal of time to prepare for this season opener. Massachusetts, on the other hand, has already had three games this season, plus a spring practice session.
The odds are against the Crimson putting together a polished performance. In fact, unless the five sophomore starters adapt immediately to varsity game conditions, it could be a long afternoon for Harvard.
Like last year, the greatest UMass threat is 6 ft.-5 in. 210-pound quarterback, Peil Pennington. Pennington, if he has sufficiently recovered from a thigh injury suffered earlier in the year, could give the Crimson defensive backfield nightmares that won't go away.
Last year, Pennington unforgetably riddled the Crimson secondary for 210 yards and a touchdown, and scored twice himself. A repeat performance would be disastrous for the Crimson.
If Pennington is unable to go. UMass coach Dick MacPherson is in the enviable position of not having to give up anything by substituting for his starter--backup Fred Kelliher has the best statistics on the team.
Kelliher has completed 54 per cent of his passes (Pennington, 45 per cent) for a 14-yard average (Pennington, 11 yards). He is a drop back passer. Pennington is master of the rollout.
Little Other Offense
Fortunately for Harvard, Pennington, along with receiver Tim Berra, are all UMass has for an offense. The running game has been non-existent, producing only seven of the 52 first downs that UMass has accumulated this year.
Restic has stressed the establishment of the running game and the prevention of the big play as the major objectives for Harvard today.
"We have got to make our running attack work," he said yesterday. "If we don't, and they can sit back and play pass defense all afternoon, we could be in for a rough time."
Restic said that containment of the UMass attack would be especially important in light of the "greenness" of the Harvard squad. "With a young team like we have, if we let them break a big play on us, our less experienced players may panic."
Restic indicated that he would go with experience whenever possible in his starting lineup. But in the offensive line, manpower shortages have forced him to start two sophomores: Carl Culig at center, and 6 ft.-5 in. 265-pound Dan Jiggetts at tackle.
The rest of the line will have Tim Manna at the other tackle, Bob Kircher and Bill Ferry at the guards, Pete Curtin at tight end, with Pat McInally and Fran Cronin dividing the split end slot. Last year's split end starter, Jeff Bone, is still nursing a rib injury.
In the backfield Alky Tsitsos and Ed Cronin will pair as the halfbacks. Sophomore Neil Miller, a tremendous surprise in the Brown scrimmage, will get the nod at fullback.
Restic as usual declined to name his quarterback, but it is likely that senior Jimmy Stoeckel will get the go-ahead on experience.
Handling the D
On defense, Mitch Berger and Joe Mackey will start at the ends with Mike O'Hare and Bob Shaw manning the tackles.
The linebacking will have a familiar look, with last year's standouts Sandy Tennant and Bob Kristoff returning. But sophomore Eric Kurzweil will provide a new look at the third spot.
The backfield, crucial to Harvard's success against Pennington, will have captain Dave St. Pierre at safety with A. Costello and Mike Page at the corriers. John Clarke, a junior, will get the nod over sophomore George Newhouse at adjuster.