Two weeks ago, after Harvard football team's convincing 30-3 victory over league rival Columbia, Harvard Coach Joe Restic seemed oddly careful in expressing optimism about his team.
"We played well today, but we're going to face teams that are a lot better than Columbia," he said. "We might get roughed up a bit this year, but the key for us will be our persistence. We can't afford to ever give up or lose confidence in ourselves--ever. We have way too tough of a schedule for that."
From today's perspective, those words seem prescient. After a 45-17 waxing at the hands of William and Mary last weekend, the big question for Harvard in today's game against 1992 Patriot League champion Lafayette concerns resilience.
Lafayette (2-1) will not likely help the Crimson with the answer, either. The Leopards are returning 15 starters this season from a team that last year was 8-3 overall with a 5-0 record in the tough Patriot League.
The Leopards'solid record included a close 31-29 win over Harvard at Lafayette's Fisher Field in Easton, Pa. The game proved to be one of the Crimson's most exciting contests of the season. With the score tied at 14 going into the final quarter, Lafayette opened the quarter with 17 straight points to take a 31-17 lead. Bowed but not broken, the Crimson fought back, scoring two touchdowns with minutes left in the game, the latter of which was capped with a two-point conversion. With the score at 31-29, however, the Crimson could not get the ball back with enough time to mount a game-winning drive.
This season, the Leopards have again gotten off to a solid start. In their first game, they knocked off traditional Patriot League doormat Bucknell (31-14) in customary blowout fashion (the Leopards beat the Bison 49-7 last season). In their second game, they edged out independent and mediocre Buffalo (29-15). But in their last game, they were tagged by Ivy power Princeton (21-7).
Princeton, incidentally, defeated the Crimson last season 21-6.
Throughout its first three games this season, Lafayette has relied on a relatively balanced offensive attack. They have consisently gone to both the run and pass with equally good results. Both their passing and their running games can fairly be termed above average, if not excellent.
Passing-wise, the Leopards have ridden the talent of senior quarterback Jason Carnevale. Originally expected to be the back-up quarterback this season, Carnevale had an outstanding spring practice and eventually won the starting job from last year's backup Tom Kirchhoff. Carnevale has been 49-for-80 on the year for 549 yards and a 61.3 percent completion rating.
Running-wise, the Leopards have gone to junior tailback Erik Marsh. Last season, Marsh was the star of the team's offense, amassing 1,365 yards on 284 carries (4.8 yards/rush). This season, he has been slightly less superb. He has carried the ball 80 times for a total of 275 yards (3.4 yards/rush).
While the Lafayette offensive unit has been solid this season, the team's strongest facet has been its defense. The Leopards have held their opponents to only 827 yards of total on the year (275.7 yards per game), including 267 yards rushing (89.0 per game) and 560 yards passing (186.7 yards per game).
Headlining the defense's strong play has been the linebacking duo of Doug Hines and Netfa Slaughter and defensive end Harrison Bailey. Hines has had 38 total tackles and one fumble recovery; Slaughter has amassed 32 tackles, including two sacks and Bailey has had 31 tackles and four sacks. SPORTS CUBE PREDICTS
John B. Trainer, Sports Editor Harvard 17 Lafayette 11
Sean D. Wissman, Staff Writer Harvard 25 Lafayette 22
Amanda M. Dawson, Photographer Lafayette 28 Harvard 14
Gady A. Epstein, Managing Editor Harvard 24 Lafayette 13