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Smerczynski...?

The Director's Chair

By Mark D. Director, Could Have Been Special to The Crimson

Harvard football vs. Cornell, take one:

ITHACA, N.Y., Oct. 13--Sophomore quarterback Ron Cuccia directed another masterful display of Multiflex offense this afternoon as the undefeated Crimson walloped Cornell, 37-13, here at Schoellkopf Field.

...

Take two:

ITHACA, N.Y., Oct. 13--Senior aerialist Brian Buckley completed 27 of 34 passes for 357 yards and four touchdowns while taking Harvard's shotgun offense to a 31-16 thrashing of Cornell, here at Schoellkopf Field.

...

Take three:

ITHACA, N.Y., Oct. 13--The man of eternal sprint-outs, senior quarterback Burke St. John, took a three-yard roll-out right into the Cornell endzone with just seconds remaining in the game to give Harvard a 23-21 win over Cornell this afternoon here at Schoellkopf Field.

...

Take four:

ITHACA, N.Y., Oct. 13--Rapidly imporving sophomore quarterback Mike Buchanan optioned the Cornell defense into hysteria this afternoon leading Harvard to a 27-20 win here at Schoellkopf Field.

...

Take five:

This one's not so easy to write. There's absolutely no certainty in the Harvard football world these days.

It's three weeks into the season, and a Crimson team that could have been waist-deep in quarterbacks now is looking at its fifth prospect for the year.

Saturday afternoon against B.U., Joe Restic's No. 5 choice was Mike Smerczynski, a sophomore who barely had seen time as a signalcaller.

In Saturday's post-game conference, Restic said he had planned at the beginning of the year to convert Smerczynski into a defensive halfback. Since then, Smerczynski has been splitting his practice time between quarterback and halfback workouts.

But the academic axe that claimed Buckley and Cuccia, and the untimely injuries that have removed St. John and Buchanan (one in each of the last two games) have left Mike Smerczynski on top of the heap--at least for the moment.

In some regards, Harvard is fortunate to have a wealth of potential young quarterbacks. After a knee injury stopped St. John, a heads-up runner who had progressed rapidly in the preseason and Columbia opener, Buchanan stepped in and looked to be making similarly remarkable improvement.

"Just when Mike starts to do a very fine job for us, we lose him," a dejected Restic said Saturday. "I just felt Mike was gonna get on track for us."

But a broken jaw that could claim him for the remainder of the year ended that hope. As if the UMass game had been replayed, a sophomore with virtually no prior experience running Restic's offense had to fill in--midstream.

Smerczynski showed remarkable poise and control. But he had no variety in his plays--because he hardly had practiced with the offense. Running Connors or Callinan to the right play after play just would not move the offense.

Observers have criticized Restic for his habit of giving one quarterback virtually all practice time with the offense between games. In preseason, it was almost all St. John. Then last week, all Buchanan. In fairness to Restic, though, he has had little choice. He has needed every minute of that time to get his inexperienced prospective starter to even a minimal level of preparedness.

And now, as Harvard preps for Cornell, Restic again starts over. Perhaps he will stick with Smerczynski, perhaps he'll find some hidden gem among his other sophomore prospects.

And perhaps he'll shock everyone. Saturday afternoon, Restic said he was considering the ancient single-win shotgun offense--where the ball is centered into a fullhouse backfield with a myriad of potential recipients. It seems desperate, but...

Let's see:

ITHACA, N.Y., Oct. 13--It was like a throwback to the early days of football as Harvard worked a single-wing shotgun offense that befuddled the modern-day Cornell defenders and sparked the Crimson to a 23-20 win here at Schoellkopf Field.

It was anyone's guess where the snap would go...

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