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Joe Restic began 1979 certain of one thing about his young and inexperienced football team: with a lack of depth, it could not afford injury to key players.
"The drop-off is too great," Restic said early in the preseason.
Now, five days before Harvard travels to New York to face the pesky Columbia Lions in the season opener, injury has made a fragile balance even more delicate.
In search of much-needed experience and confidence, Harvard disposed of Northeastern, 29-19, in a Sept. 8 scrimmage. But the win was costly as star split end Rich Horner, perhaps the Crimson's most talented offensive player and certainly one of the Ivy League's best receivers, injured his ribs.
Horner was hurt on a 12-yd. touchdown toss from quarterback Burke St. John, thus joining teammate Paul Connors on the experienced-but-out-of-action list.
Connors, a talented halfback and Harvard's most-experienced backfield man, has been hampered by a groin pull throughout the preseason.
"We can't afford to lose good people," Restic said last week. "We need Horner and Connors to take some of the load off the quarterback."
St. John, making his first start as Harvard's varsity quarterback against N.U., managed the offense well, completing 50 per cent of his passes for 101 yards including the Horner touchdown.
Overall, the offense, less-experienced and more of a preseason uncertainty than the defense, moved the ball well. Harvard kept the lead throughout the game, topping the Huskies in total offense by 129 yards.
"I was really concerned about our ability to move the football, but we did it and got points," Restic said.
Harvard scored the first of two opening-quarter touchdowns when senior halfback John Hollingsworth took home a St. John handoff from one yard out.
A returning varsity letterman, Hollingswroth averaged 8.4 yards a carry and led both squads in rushing with a total of 59 yards.
"Hollingsworth made great plays and caught the ball well," Restic said.
But as expected, Harvard's defense proved the biggest plus of the day, keeping the Huskies scoreless until a second-quarter, 52-yd. aerial gave N.U. its first points.
Harvard, which got on the scoreboard in each quarter, retaliated with a 40-yd. field goal by Geroge Arnold to make the score 15-6 at the half.
While Restic has not yet decided who will handle the place-kicking for Harvard, he has some promising ex-soccer players and says, "The kicking game is starting to round into shape."
Arnold racked up a fourth point in the third quarter after fullback Tom Beatrice rushed the ball in from the two yardline before N.U. scored seven more points.
The teams exchanged touchdowns again in the final 15 minutes. Husky Rob Gardner intercepted a pass and ran it 75 yards to give N.U. a final tally of 19 points.
Sophomore Steve Bianucci boosted Harvard to a final score of 29 with a 3-yd. rush good for six points while Casey made it seven with an accurate place-kick.
While the team may still lack depth and experience, Restic said, "The players will impress you with their enthusiasm and desire to play and if they hustle, regardless of the outcome, I'll be happy."
IN BRIEF: The season opener against Columbia is shaping up like a match of mirror images. Both Harvard and Columbia are looking for strong defensive performances while searching for the unknown from virtually brand-new offensive backfields. Also, both teams have untested kicking games...Junior Jim Keyte, who began the season as what looked like Harvard's No. 2 quarterback, has moved to ahalfback's position "for good, if it works out," Restic said.
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