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Anemic. Awful. Dreadful. Horrendous. Terrible.
Harvard football hopes those adjectives describe Holy Cross; the Crusaders (0-3) host the Crimson (1-1) at 1:00 p.m. today in Worcester, Mass.
From the statistics, it appears those adjectives fit the 1994 version of the Holy Cross Crusaders well. The Crusaders have been outscored 128-25 this season. They were held to three points in their first two games. They have turned the ball over nine times. Sophomore quarterback Andy Fitzpatrick has yet to throw a touchdown pass. The Holy Cross defense is allowing an average of 6.7 yards per play, 465.7 yards per game and 42.7 points per game.
And, they have already played Yale. Even the Elis can score 47 point against these guys.
"Obviously, they are struggling," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said.
Still looking for its first win, Holy Cross is one of those opponents that Harvard and coach Murphy must be dreaming about ganging up on.
Or not. Murphy, playing the always-skeptic coach to a tee, contends that the game will not be a cakewalk.
"Just three short years ago, Holy Cross was one of the top Division IAA programs in the country," the first-year Harvard coach said. "Believe me, they have a lot of players in their program who know how to win."
How the mighty have fallen. In 1991, Holy Cross had an undefeated season. Now they may be the doormats of Patriot League without a win.
But Holy Cross has some talent. Before reconstructive knee surgery sidelined him last season, Andy Fitzpatrick was Patriot League Rookie of the year in 1992. During the UMass game on September 17, the 6'4", 240 pound Fitzpatrick threw his first interception in 153 passes. Before UMass cornerback Tony Williams snapped the streak, the junior was a stellar 83-of-153 (.542) for 962 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Crusaders also have a promising freshman running back in J.R Walz, who leads the team in rushing yardage with 147 yards. Walz has is averaging nearly five yards per carry. In his first game in purple and white, the 5'9", 170 pound Californian rushed for 103 yards on 12 carries against UMass.
Holy Cross also have four-year kicker/punter Anthony Pignio. The senior evokes memories of former Patriot kicker Jason Strauvosky; Pignio is the second leading scorer on the team with seven.
Throw in an offensive line that averages 270 pounds and a Harvard defense that is giving up 31 points per game and you have what could be a tough challenge. The Patriot League coaches thought highly enough of Holy Cross to pick them third in the Patriot League, just behind the Bucknell squad that thoroughly whipped the Crimson last week.
"We are going up there with an attitude that we are going to fight for everything we get," Murphy said. "If we go up there with the attitude that it will be easy, then we are going to be in for a very long day."
Overall, the picture is positive for the Crimson. Against a team that needed three games to score a touchdown, the outlook must be good.
Harvard's running attack should have little trouble picking apart a Holy Cross defense that is giving up 350.7 rushing yards per game. With superb sophomore tailback Eion Hu's hip all but healed and junior Kweli Thompson's 122 yards on 28 attempts last week, Harvard is ready to create some ground mayhem this weekend.
Murphy, who has emphasized a balanced attack so far, is looking to emphasize the run today.
"We're at our best when we can mix it up," Murphy said. "I think we make people defend both the run and the pass pretty well. We are going to try run the ball a little bit more. Once we do, we'll get the passing game going. But we are going to come out and try to run the football."
If there is an area to single out where that Harvard needs improvement, it is in the defensive backfield. Last week, Bucknell's Rob Glus hammered this point home by going 14-of-17 for 257 yards passing, five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Crimson defense must be able to withstand quality quarterbacks like Glus and Holy Cross's Fitzpatrick.
"We have to tighten up our pass defense," Murphy said. Although they are probably more of a passing team than a running team, we still have to stop the run too."
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