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HANOVER, N.H.--Harvard football Coach Joe Restic is notorious for dictionary-thick offensive play-books detailing the incomprehensible intricacies of his ultra-complex Multiflex.
Dartmouth Coach Buddy Teevens has only one Page in his playbook--senior tailback Shon Page. Saturday here at Memorial Stadium, that Page was plenty.
Teevens' offense was the height of simplicity. See Page run right. See Page run left. See Page run up the middle. See Page run for a school-record 222 yards on 23 carries to spark Dartmouth's 17-0 hammering of the Crimson (4-3 overall, 2-2 Ivy) that left the Big Green in a first-place tie with Cornell and Yale. Run, Page, run.
"Page is a tremendous player," Restic said after his squad fell out of a five-way tie for the Ivy lead. "He's got tremendous balance, and I was really impressed with his explosive speed. But I don't think the long runs were the difference in the ballgame."
Sure, Page gave the Big Green (4-2-1, 3-1) an early 7-0 lead by breaking three tackles en route to a 49-yard TD jaunt. All right, he did open the margin to 14-0 before half-time by breaking two more tackles to stroll into the end zone with a 28-yard score. Yes, in the third quarter, he did set up a field goal with a 79-yard sprint down the left sideline, leaving three more Harvard would-be tacklers clutching the brisk New Hampshire air. Three plays...eight broken tackles...17 points. In a 17-0 game, that does sound a bit like the difference.
But one Page does not an entire story make. Harvard's defense yielded three big plays, but the Crimson offense was basically non-existent. Harvard quarterback Adam Lazarre-White failed to pass for 100 yards for the fourth straight week. Aside from a second-half 34-yard dash by Matt Johnson, Harvard's rushing attack produced nothing. The Crimson's decimated offensive line could not keep the Big Green out of its backfield. Three lost fumbles..eight quarterback sacks . . 17 stalled "drives"--now that's the difference.
In Harvard's victories over Fordham and Princeton, the Crimson's anemic offense was bailed out by stingy defense and otherworldly punt blocking. But miracles don't happen every day.
"We need to get the running game going to open up the passing game and we just couldn't do it today," Harvard lineman Doug Rosenberry said. "If we're going to have any chance in the league, our offense is going to have to come out of its shell."
Every week, opposing coaches moan and groan about the momentous challenge of designing a defense to neutralize Restic's complicated Multiflex.
On Opening Day, Columbia Coach Ray Tellierdroned on and on about the cosmic possibilities ofRestic's brainchild. The following week,Northeastern Coach Paul Pawlak was nearly reducedto tears by "all those options, those options."Cornell Coach Jim Hofher said Harvard "does moreoffensively than anyone in America."
Not on Saturday. For all of Harvard'sunorthodox alignments, confusing motion andmindboggling options, Restic's offense was, likeTeevens', the epitome of simplicity. Student bodyleft. Student body right. Student body up themiddle. Student body yawn.
Restic's playcalling was more conservative thanThe Dartmouth Review. But at least TheReview generates controversy.
"We didn't generate anything," Restic admitted.
Talk about a generation gap. While Page wasrolling up 115 yards in the first half, theCrimson totalled 19. Lazarre-White did notcomplete his first pass (for Harvard's first firstdown) until the Crimson's ninth possession, withthree-and-one-half minutes to play in the firsthalf.
To be sure, the offense suffered from theabsence of tight end Andy Lombara and linemen TomCallahan, Mike Zweber and Darrin Duda. But thatdidn't make the Crimson feel much better.
"We've got to score points," Lazarre-Whitesaid. "We've got to move the ball. We've got tomake sure we're in the right place,assignment-wise. Anything you can think of, we'vegot to fix."
Harvard's best chance to escape the zero columncame on Maher's opening kickoff return. The splitend motored across midfield, but a desperatetackle by 145-lb. Dartmouth kicker Dennis Durkinsaved the touchdown. Four plays later, Dartmouthtook over on downs, and the puntathon wasunderway.
The Crimson's swarming defense kept the BigGreen under wraps for most of the game, holdingquarterbacks Kevin Peck and Matt Brzica to fourcompletions for 25 yards. Sophomore cornerbackRobert Santos caught as many passes, two, as anyHarvard receiver. Linebacker Joe Gordian's 14tackles did nothing to harm his All-Americanhopes. But what Teevens called Harvard's "live bythe sword, die by the sword" philosophy ofconstant pressure has its drawbacks.
"When they put 11 men on the line, they'regoing to stop you a lot," Page said. "But if wecan just get bodies on bodies, we have a goodchance of finding the seam and breaking it."
NOTEBOOK: The shutout was the BigGreen's first against Harvard since 1965...Even ifthe injury-plagued Crimson can sweep its finalthree Ivy games to equal its 5-2 1989 leaguerecord, a share of the title is unlikely...If youask Restic, so is a three-game sweep. "We have toget some people back. Until we do, I think we'llcontinue to have some problems."
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