If the first few weeks of the season are any indication, then Harvard football coach Joe Restic will be spending most of the year trying to find replacements for his injured players.
When Restic's troops take on Rutgers here today at 1:30 p.m., once again some notables will be missing from the lineup. The Crimson offense will be the big question mark, with two starting backs and the tight end still out of action.
"We're hurting, there's no doubt about that," Restic said yesterday. "The situation is very negative. Neal Miller may very well not play, and Ed Cronin is definitely out." Similarly, 6 ft., 5 in. tight end Pete Curtin is still sidelined with torn cartilage in his finger, and will not be back for a while.
So it looks as though Restic will go with sophomores in the backfield, along with senior halfback Alky Tsitsos and quarterback Milt Holt.
Tom Lincoln, who scored a crucial touchdown last week on a 27-yard screen pass, will probably start at fullback in place of Miller. Cronin's spot will go to Tom Winn, whose "tremendous speed," Restic said is his greatest asset.
Another headache for Restic is the condition of left tackle Peter Mee, who is still suffering from injuries sustained last week. Mee is expected to start, however.
There is no problem on the squad involving spirit. "We had an excellent week of practice," Restic said, "and the spirit is building." In the face of the numerous crucial injuries, the team seems to be maintaining a winning attitude.
While the offense performed well last week, Restic is still unsure about the strength of his defensive corps. "I was pleased with the Holy Cross game, but that was really not a fair test," he said, referring to the Crusaders offensive inability.
"This could be the week for the real test," he added.
The Crimson defense will have to be concerned with the abilities of Scarlet Knight quarterback Bert Kosup today. "He is an excellent athlete," Restic said. "He is a very good runner, handles the offense well, and is very quick."
Despite the offensive problems Rutgers had against Princeton, the Crimson mentor is nevertheless respectful of their ability to move the football consistently, and is impressed with the team's balance.
"At the beginning of the year, they thought their main strength would be in the defense. From what I can see, the offense has developed quite well too," Restic said.
Once again today all eyes will be on Harvard's record-setting split end Pat McInally, who now needs just 54 yards worth of receptions to become the second player in the history of Crimson football to surpass the 1000-yard mark.
McInally last week set the Harvard record for the most lifetime receptions, and also chipped in with some excellent kicking. As a punter. Mac unloaded a 56 yarder and repeatedly pinned the Crusaders deep in their own territory.
The highlight of his kickoffs, meanwhile, was a 40-yard onside boot to open the contest.
Milt Holt will again start at quarterback for the Crimson. The senior hit on 14 or 24 passes last week for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
The key for Harvard will again be the performance of its defense as the offense appears hurt by the loss of many key performers. The injuries are the equalizers, and so, as Restic said yesterday, "You can expect a real exciting football game."