Some say it is the Harvard football team's weakest link.
Others are crueler--they say it's the Crimson's missing link.
Today at The Stadium, the Harvard secondary will face its biggest challenge of the year in Boston University quarterback Jim Shuman and the Terriers' "run and shoot" offense.
Shuman will throw on any down, from anywhere on the field, in rain, sleet or snow. He has averaged more than 50 passes a game and needs just nine yards passing to top 2000 yards this season.
The Crimson secondary has been known to give up the long ball. Dartmouth's Craig Morton caught a 78-yd. pass three weeks ago. Last week, Brown wideout Mike Geroux nabbed a 73-yd. bomb.
Surprisingly, Crimson defensive coordinator George Clemens is more concerned with the Terriers' short passing game.
"We'll try to play them under, play some zones, and take the short pass away," Clemens said. "They'll try to spread you out. We'll try to take care of under coverage first and force them to throw the long pass. They may think they can throw the long pass because of the problems we've been having."
B.U.'s "run and shoot" offense versus the Harvard secondary may not be as lopsided a match as it first seems. Not, said Terrier Coach Chris Palmer, with Crimson safety Jim Smith patrolling the secondary.
"Smith has excellent range and has done a lot of good things for them," Palmer said.
The Harvard offense versus the B.U.`D' is an interesting match-up in its own right. Harvard will enter the game with its top offensive threats--quarterback Tom Yohe (fractured leg) and running back Tony Hinz (broken hand)--on the bench. Backup QB Rod MacLeod turned in an excellent effort against Brown last weekend, leading the Crimson to four second-half touchdowns.
"I think like at all Ivy schools a lot of guys sit in the wings and wait their turn," Palmer said. "MacLeod filled in and did a good job. He's been in the system and he knows it well. With him, they'll run a lot more options--he's more of an option guy."
The Crimson running game, which had relied on Hinz for the first six games, found a big play man in Art McMahon against Brown. McMahon rushed for 126 yards--Harvard's biggest rushing day of the year.
The Terriers may have just as many defensive liabilities as the Crimson. Against their single common opponent--the University of Massachusetts--B.U. gave up 44 points, Harvard 45.
B.U. (2-6) and Harvard (2-5) have little to fight for save neighborhood bragging rights. B.U.'s Nickerson Field and Harvard Stadium are within sight of each other.
"Anytime you play the team down the block there is some rivalry," Palmer said.
Whether the game turns into the scoring fest many expect will depend on the weather. A wet day, which is forcast, may keep scoring low. But Clemens does not think it will stop B.U. from putting the ball in the air.
"If I'm on the other side, I'm going to throw the ball more in wet weather," Clemens said. "The disadvantage is always on the defensive backfield."