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There were no smiles after Harvard's, 31-31, debacle at the Stadium Saturday.
Darmouth players looked depressed. Harvard looked suicidal.
Who could be satisfied with a game Harvard could've won, should've won, but didn't?
Forget the botched 27-yard gimme kick. That was just terrible football. It sucked. 'Nuff said.
What pained Harvard fans--and Dartmouth fans, as well--was the inability of either team to take a lead and keep it. The Crimson's glory quickly turned into the Big Green's
As Harvard finally emerged from its offensive shell on a stirring drive in the beginning of the fourth, Dartmouth battled right back to knot the game.
It was a tie. Plain and simple.
But no matter how frustrating the whole affair was, no one can deny that it was an exciting game. It was a spectacular show, a brilliant display by two young and immensely talented quarterbacks.
Two sophomores, Harvard's Mike Giardi and Dartmouth's Jay Fiedler, played with the grit, determination and, above all, talent of wily veterans, true leaders.
Giardi In Control
In the second quarter, the Harvard offense looked as strong as it has all year. Drive after drive, Harvard took control of the ground--and occasionally the air--to rack up 21 points in the Crimson's most fluid and prolific stretch this season.
"Offensively, that was our stretch," Giardi said. "We had it all straightened out. It worked well."
Indeed, Giardi showed the poise, field vision, and, above all, command of the so-called multiflex that has made him Harvard football's saviour.
On third-and-11 with the ball on the Dartmouth 44, the Big Green swept in on Giardi. The Mather sophomore dropped back, ducked underneath Dartmouth's Hunter Bruckner, and rolled right. Pursued by two defenders, Giardi spotted Hirsch at the 10-yard line and connected with a strong throw.
Two downs later, Giardi, on an option, danced through the Dartmouth line and broke into the left side for the TD.
In that series--and the next two to follow--Giardi combined with his backs for two more touchdowns to create exciting football.
On each misdirection or fake, Giardi showed the aggressiveness and will to score that has rejuvenated the Crimson offense this year.
Giardi, moreover, has an innate ability to see the field around him--and, no one improvised pitch to Colby Maher, even the field behind him.
Heading into the second half, with the Crimson up 24-7, Giardi had 108 yards receiving (7-for-11 passing) and 45 yards rushing. Not bad for one half.
Dartmouth Coach Buddy Teevens was impressed.
"Does he do any one thing outstanding? No. He does everything well. He runs, dodges, twirls. I just wish he stuck to baseball," Teevens said.
Fiedler Strikes Back
But as the Crimson offense sputtered in the second half, Dartmouth came alive behind a star of its own. Down by 17 heading into the second half, the Big Green knew it needed a spark. It got a fire.
Fiedler--who beat out last year's Ivy Rookie of the Year Matt Brzica for the Starting QB job--showed the Harvard audience what Darmouth's three other Ivy victims already know: the sophomore has a gun.
Play after play, Fiedler found the open man and delivered the ball hard and on target, which doesn't include the numerous times Dartmouth receivers dropped the ball.
"I had great confidenence in our Fiedler," Teevens said. "He came on strong. The ball was on the money, and the kids made the catches."
Certainly. Fiedler had a little help: his offensive line paralyzed the Crimson defense; and the secondary, keying on Mike Bobo, was torched by wide receiver Jerome Gilbert.
But credit Fiedler for his excellent vision and impeccable delivery, his ability to find openings even between double coverage.
On the final drive of the third quarter, Fiedler punished the Crimson secondary with six completions on nine plays, including a picture-perfect pass to Mike Bobo in the left endzone to complete Darmouth's 17-point comeback.
"I thought he did a real fine job," Restic said. "He optioned well, picked up critical yardage, threw well."
On Saturday, Fiedler showed his ability to, quite simply, get the job done: to find the open man and deliver that ball. Giardi, in contrast, lights up the game more with his instinct, emotion and sheer athleticism.
So who's better? In Saturday, it was a tie. But there's no doubt we'll get an answer sometime in the future. We get a chance to see these two fine quarterbacks for two more years. For that, at least, we can all be grateful.
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