Do or die. Sink or swim. Backs against the wall.
Name the cliche, and you can bet the Harvard football team is using it, thinking about it and living it, because today at Princeton's Palmer Stadium, the Crimson faces what can safely be termed its biggest game of the season.
After cruising through its typical why-bother-playing-if-you're-going-to-lose-so-badl y streak, Harvard (1-4 overall, 1-1 Ivy) must now focus on the only glory it could possibly have coming to it: the Ivy League title which it hasn't won in five years.
Given the strength of both Princeton and Dartmouth, it's clear that the eventual Ancient Eight champion will not have more than one league loss. After crumbling against Cornell two weeks ago, Harvard cannot afford to drop another contest. If if does it will fall into the ever unsuspenseful fight for the third through sixth spots in the league. (Brown and Columbia have permanent leases--with an option to buy--on the Ivy cellar.)
Today's game, then, is for the season. Just listen to the players.
"It's definitely a must-win situation. We control our own destinies," said senior fullback Mike Hill. "This is a must-win. This is just like the last game of the season for us," piped in fullback Monte Giese. And halfback Kendrick Joyce not to be outdone offered this assessment: "This is the biggest game of the season."
Get the picture?
Harvard clearly has the will to win, but that's not going to make today's battle in the heartland of New Jersey any easier.
Old Nassau packs a serious punch: Mike Tyson wearing a concrete glove, a.k.a. Keith Elias, a 5'11", 190-lbs. running back who finds holes where there are none, breaks tackles that have already been made and holds onto the ball even when it's hit out of his hands.
(He's also faster than the speed of light and can leap tall buildings in a single bound.)
Elias' numbers have fallen to the level of mere mortals, because of his three-carry, two-yard game against Holy Cross last week, a game he suited up for in spite of an ankle injury. Before that, Elias was already being fitted for the blue spandex suit and red cape. Check out these Superman-ly, pre-Holy Cross statistics.
206.3 yards per game. 114 carries for 825 yards. Eight touchdowns. In just four games. For Harvard the main task will be to stop Elias. The speedster won't get the start because he missed a day of practice this week, but expect him to see a lot of action if the Crimson defense shows signs of life.
In place of the man of steel, Princeton Coach Steve Tosches will start versatile back Erick Hamilton, who is quite a talent in his own right. Starting last week against Holy Cross, Hamilton collected 120 yards on 20 carriers, including a 74-yard TD run, Princeton's only score of the game.
Giese said that Harvard is prepared to stop either one of the backs, as it did last year when the Crimson held Princeton to 11 first downs and 22:43 in possession time.
"They're both very effective runners. Personally, it doesn't matter to me who it is. We have to contain whoever it is that's back there," the Winthrop senior said.