The game may be football, but it is an obstacle course the Crimson will have to conquer when it meets the Big Red today at Schoellkopf Field.
The biggest hurdle confronting the Crimson will be its own fourth quarter breakdowns. There is no doubt that Harvard has been in each of its contests. It has led or has been even against all its opponents after the first half. Nevertheless, the Crimson has lost three of those games and almost cracked against perennially-weak Columbia in the first week of the season.
The Crimson (1-3 overall, 1-0 Ivy) has been outscored 48-13 in the fourth quarter. Coincidentally, Harvard's posession time has also dropped markedly in the second half. Through the first four games Harvard has held the ball for nearly twenty minutes less in the second half than it has in the opening half.
One senior suggested Coach Joe Restic's habit of consistently running practices later than scheduled takes its toll on their legs. Over-conditioning aside, the Crimson will have to snap out of its fourth quarter doldrums in order to beat the Big Red (1-3 overall, 1-1 Ivy).
Another obstacle Harvard will have to overcome is its miserable record when playing on astroturf: 1-11-1 in its last thirteen contests. The last time the Crimson won on turf was six years ago when it beat the Big Red, 20-17.
The Crimson's turf troubles may be related to its shortage of stamina-the artifical surface exposes weak lower-body conditioning more prominently than grass. However, Harvard fared well in its only turf game this season, its heart-breaking 21-20 loss to Army. And if it can play as well as it did against the Cadets, the Big Red will be no match for the Crimson.
One of the keys to the Crimson's success will be its offensive production. The Multiflex has not been good to the sans-Giardi gridders but the team may once again be with its primary signal-caller. Giardi is listed as "hopeful" and has made the trip to Ithaca, N.Y.
If he is not ready to play, Restic will again tab sophomore David Morgan to run the offense. Morgan has completed 48% of his passes for 167 yards, has tossed three interceptions and scored one touchdown, a one-yard keeper against Fordham last weekend. He is quite capable of leading the Crimson to its second Ivy League win today.
To remain undefeated in league play, Restic will have to place greater confidence in Morgan's passing ability. The tentative Harvard offense has been unable to put points on the board in the last two games without Giardi, although Morgan is an apt signal-caller.
Defensive difficulties have played a hand in the Crimson's last three losses. The secondary needs to contain Cornell's passing game and avoid its now typical collapse in the final minutes of the contest.
The primary Cornell threat on the ground is Captain John McNiff, an All-Ivy selection last year. The senior running back, who was injured in the Big Red's season-opener against Princeton, collected 38 yards against Stanford and scored Cornell's lone touchdown, a 1-yd. run last weekend in Palo Alto, Calif.
Fortunately for the Crimson, McNiff's fellow running back Scott Oliaro, the other Cornell threat, is listed as "doubtful."
Obstacles aside, the Crimson is a one-point favorite in the game and has a more than fair chance to defeat the struggling Big Red.
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