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Nothing is certain in the Ivy League.
While the home-field advantage usually plays a significant role in determining the outcome of a game, it hasn't made a difference as far as the HarvardYale series has gone.
Since 1986 the home team has not won The Game on its own turf.
"Winning in '89 was a great experience," Harvard Captain John Lausch said. "It was a great group of seniors that finished up that year. Going back to New Haven is a special experience for us, because winning on their home turf means a lot."
But while Harvard may enjoy the historical edge, tomorrow's 108th rendition of The Game will depend more on the on-the-field performance--specifically, the running game--of the two teams than on superstition.
The Bulldogs and the Crimson boast the number-one and numbertwo rushing games in the Ivy League. For Harvard to steal another victory down in New Haven, the Crimson will have to contain Yale's powerful wishbone offense.
The burden of stopping Yale will fall squarely on the shoulders of Harvard's defensive line. Yale's passing game is virtually nonexistent: Carm Cozza runs the wishbone all day long.
And what a wishbone it is. Running back Chris Kouri and quarterback Nick Crawford have had little trouble tearing up opposing lines this year; both are heading for 1000-yd. seasons.
Look for right end Spencer Neumann and linebacker David Stires (the Crimson's leading tackler) to key on Kouri and Crawford.
Neumann, for one, is not worried about the Yale offense.
"We played Army's wishbone and we contained them," Neumann said. "I wouldn't say these guys are better than Army," We're going to know where they're going with the ball. We have to be gang-tackling them. After each play, it should be like a reunion."
Harvard's entire strategy for now rests on an assumption the Crimson has only been able to make this year: that Harvard's offense will perform.
Last week, quarterback Mike Giardi's last minute heroics secured the Crimson a 22-18 victory over Pennsylvania. At the same time, Giardi had a woeful passing game (3 interceptions) and struggled for most of the contest to show the offensive creativity and strength that brought him the honor of CocaCola Gold Helmet Player of the Week following his second varsity contest.
Tomorrow, Giardi must regain his ability to run and pass: the best chance the Crimson has of winning is if Restic takes advantage of Yale's somber secondary.
Restic Going Airborne? Not.
Restic has curiously ignored the offensive ability of tight end Andy Lombara--arguably the Ivy's premiere tight end and one of the Ivy's few NFL prospects--all season. If Restic goes airborne to Lombara--and split end Colby Maher--Harvard will stand a much better chance of running the score up on the Elis.
Nevertheless, Lombara knows how Restic is thinking.
"We're going to be looking to [Matt] Johnson a lot," Lombara said. "He's our number-one man right now. He and Mike [Giardi] run the option well."
True enough. While the Crimson must certainly go to the air to win, the bulk of Harvard's offense will still come on the ground.
Roll, Johnson, Roll
In the past three weeks, Johnson has proven that his early season offensive silence was nothing but an aberration. The Crimson fullback has recorded three 100-yd. rushing games in a row--the first Harvard back to do that in eight years.
Tomorrow, look for Johnson to barrel up the middle and down the sideline for long gains, as he has in the past. Restic will no doubt go to him early and often.
Indeed, expect few changes in the Crimson and Eli offenses. Look for Giardi to pull this one out in the final minute of play.
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