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The thought of trying to stop Brown's Ivy League-leading offensive unit may not bring joy to Harvard Coach Joe Restic's heart. But the thought of facing one of the league's worst-rated defenses might give Restic some reason to smile.
And although center Darrin Duda and offensive tackle Tom Callahan remain sidelined with injuries, the returns of right guard Mike Zweber from a back injury and tight end Andy Lombara from an ankle injury might even make Restic grin. But more than Restic's mood will be on the line when the Bruins visit The Stadium today at 1:30 p.m.
A win would keep the Crimson (4-3 overall, 2-2 Ivy) in the thick of the Ivy League race. A loss would reduce the Crimson to spoilers for its final two league contests. One thing is certain. to get back on the winning track, Harvard's anemic offense will have to score more than the zero points it tallied last week at Dartmouth.
"We have not been with our starting offensive unit in a while," said Restic's offensive backfield assistant, Frank Hershey. "That has made a difference."
Last Saturday, Harvard tumbled out of first place with a 17-0 loss to the Big Green, posting its lowest offensive output in Restic's 20-year coaching career. The Crimson managed only 112 yards total offense.
In the season's first seven games, the ultraconservative Harvard air attack has produced only 50 pass receptions--one fewer than Brown split end Rodd Torbert's total. Harvard QB Adam Lazarre-White has not thrown for 100 yards in a game since Harvard's 35-14 loss to Holy Cross on September 29.
"Brown has been vulnerable to the pass, but that hasn't been our strong point," Hershey said.
In any case, the Crimson is guaranteed to see at least one new offensive look when the Bruins (1-6 overall, 1-3 Ivy) take the field, not to mention a new face on the sidelines. First-year Brown Coach Mickey Kwiatkowski has brought a decidedly aerial offensive attack with him from New York, where he led Hofstra to five NCAA playoff appearances in nine seasons at the Flying Dutchmen helm.
The problem is, Kwiatkowski's passing proclivity and his "soda can theory of life" have only brought the Bruins one win this season.
The way he sees it, his football team is like a vending machine with an unlimited supply of soda--each time he takes a can out, another slides into place.
All season long, Kwiatkowski's theory has been tested.
Soda can number one, Brown quarterback Rich Willis, went down with a season-ending ankle injury in the Bruin's 27-23 loss to Princeton on October 6. Soda can number two, quarterback Mike Lenkaitis, dropped into place.
Looking more like a bottle of champagne than a can of Coke, Lenkaitis engineered the Bruins' 24-17 victory over Penn two weeks ago, completing 22 passes in a performance that earned him Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Last week's 24 completion-game in Brown's 34-7 loss to Cornell was good enough to give Lenkaitis a share of the Brown record for most completions in a game. His name goes down alongside that of... soda can number one, who accomplished the same feat against Princeton.
Kwiatkowski's wing-T flex offense relies heavily on a passing attack he compares to "a professional-type passing game. It's almost a run-and-shoot."
The Bruins, who have come out of the huddle throwing more than half the time this season, present an interesting challenge for a Crimson defense that has been forced to carry the team so far this season.
"It's going to be different," Crimson defensive tackle John Sparks said. "I don't know if we've come up against a real passing attack yet. We've gone up against running teams, and teams with a balanced attack, but I don't think we've gone up against a team like this."
Harvard defensive coordinator George Clemens has been gearing his first-ranked Ivy League pass defense to protect against the big plays that have plagued the squad all season.
"We have to press them," Clemens said. "but by the same token we know they're going to pass and we could get beaten. We have to find a balance."
That task may be made easier by the depletion of Kwiatkowski's soda can reserves. Bruin split end Mike Geroux, his sprained knee, and his 43 receptions will watch this contest from the sideline. Senior Jimmy Bisson will be making his first Brown start in an attempt to replenish the cola stock.
Harvard now looks to reevaluate its Ivy stock after falling into a second-place tie with Penn. One game separates the Crimson from the first-place party of Yale, Cornell and Dartmouth (all at 3-1 Ivy), and one game separates it from the last-place stigma shared by Columbia, Princeton and Brown (all at 1-3 Ivy).
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