With two down-to-the-wire victories in the last two weeks, Harvard suddenly can boast of having the third best record among the 24 ECAC Division I-AA schools. Something nice to think about while its Ivy title hopes dwindle.
Crimson fans may only have until this afternoon to appreciate that lofty status, however. This weekend and next, Harvard will face the two teams above it in the standings: second-place Penn next Saturday and, today at the Stadium, undefeated and untied Holy Cross.
Everyone who has watched Coach Carter's Crusaders sweep past every opponent (excusing a close call against UConn) seems to agree they're the best team in New England after Boston College. Some were positively awestruck last week when The Cross inflicted a 77-28 embarrassment on Columbia.
But that score obviously reflected the ineptitude of the Lion defense as much as it did the powerful Crusader attack. Tailback Gill Fenerty, a transfer student from L.S.U., rushed for 337 yards and six touchdowns--on 18 carries; you can be sure he wrote thank-you notes to the Columbia defensive line after that.
The results of the Crusader-Lion farce are not the best argument to show why Harvard's record is likely to drop to 4-3-1 today. But the two teams have had other common opponents this fall: Brown, which the Crimson beat by seven and the Cross by 21; Dartmouth, which beat Harvard, 28-12, and lost to Worcester's heroes, 41-14; and UMass, which topped the Crimson by 14 and lost to Holy Cross by 17.
Where Harvard looks strong, the Crusaders look stronger. Greg Gizzi seems to be finding his groove in the Crimson quarterback spot since the Princeton game two weeks back, but H.C.'s Peter Muldoon found his a while ago. He has 75 completions on 123 attempts for 1070 yards.
Even before his rampage against Columbia, Fenerty had gained 642 yards (in seven games). After seven games, Harvard's rushing leader, Steve Ernst, has 476.
Jim Villanueva's punting is one of the highly touted features of Harvard's game; his 39.1-yard average puts him fourth in ECAC (I-AA). Sophomore Pat McCarthy of Holy Cross is third.
Not even the psychological edge seems to be Harvard's. For Holy Cross, this is a chance to avenge the 24-17 upset the Crimson dealt it last year in Worcester on regional television. Perhaps more significantly, the Crusaders decided before their season started that their goal this fall was to be the first Holy Cross team since 1935 to win nine games. Holy Cross is 8-0.
"They're a better balanced ball club this year," Crimson Coach Joe Restic says. To combat this balance, look for Harvard to pull out all the stops. Says Restic, "We need an edge, and we expect to get an edge."
Is there any way to argue for Harvard as the better team? Of course, look at it this way: Columbia scored four touchdowns against the Crusaders and only two against Harvard.
THE NOTEBOOK: Robert Santiago will be back in uniform, recovered from an injury suffered against Cornell... Linebacker Andy Nolan returned to action last week, making 12 tackles at Brown... The Columbia game excluded, the Holy Cross offense still has averaged 26.6 points per game... Restic notched his 70th win last week; one more will tie him for second among all Crimson coaches with Percy Haughton.
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