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"At least no one got killed," was one player's reaction to the Harvard football team's intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, exactly one week before the season-opener against Columbia.
That's the way injuries have hit the Crimson this pre-season. For starters, the team's top three running backs couldn't play; three centers are hurt; and four--count'em, four--middle guards were out by the end of the scrimmage.
However, as several veterans pointed out yesterday, the carnage is not permanent and it may have some unintended benefits. Senior halfback Paul Conners, second leading rusher last year, and senior fullback Tom Beatrice should be healthy by mid-week; junior Jim Callinan, who has fought injuries for three years, is questionable.
All those injuries to upperclassmen "gave the sophomores a chance to show their stuff," senior linebacker Bob Woolway said yesterday, and some did so with a flourish. Scott McCabe, the top rusher on last year's freshman team, came up with the play of the game when he returned a Dave Cody kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. The runback, in which he cut through a nicely-formed wedge of blockers, then outran everybody up the right sideline, along with a 36-yd. run on a screen pass against the first-team defense, will put the West-borough native in line for some playing time Saturday. Sophomore defensive right end Joe Margolis had another strong outing and should challenge junior Justin Whittington, who is favored to replace Marco Coric. Coric, it seems, will miss his second consecutive season because of Ad Board-induced misery.
On the offensive side, coach Joe Restic continued to work with several quarterbacks, but insiders say the starting job will go to senior Brian Buckley, despite a lackluster performance in the scrimmage. Buckley, who missed last year because of eligibility troubles, presided over two stalled drives and threw an interception, but his powerful left arm and his status as a senior (always important with Restic) makes him the likely choice. Junior Mike Buchanan, rated number one on the depth chart when the Crimson came back this fall, didn't have much of a day either, scrambling almost every time he dropped back to pass. Junior Mark Marion continued to display an impressive control of the offense in his brief outing ("He looks better every time"--Restic).
Restic finally gave junior (sophomore eligibility) Ron Cuccia a chance at split end and the results proved impressive. The diminutive Californian, who seems to generate excitement whenever he plays, caught a pair of passes and looks like a sure bet to start at one of the receiving posts. "It would be a waste to put either Buckley or Cuccia on the bench," captain Chuck Durst said yesterday, and Restic, commander of the injury-ravaged Crimson, can ill-afford to let prime talent stand idle.
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