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With Harvard boasting the top-ranked Ivy League offense and a with a defense that had allowed an average of 25 points a game over the first five games of the season, one would hardly have expected Saturday's Harvard-Princeton game to be a defensive war. But that's exactly what it turned out to be.
The Harvard defense showed remarkable improvement against Princeton, allowing only 14 points--its lowest total of the season since its second game, when the Crimson allowed Colgate only eight points. The Crimson defense's performance is even more remarkable because Princeton held the ball for 36:43--well over half of the game.
"I was happy with the way the defense played in general," senior linebacker and captain Justin Frantz said. "But the way I feel about the game is we just didn't play well enough."
Actually, the defense played very well, but the offense simply could not convert. Frantz personally had nine tackles and seemed to be everywhere. He forced a fumble by Princeton quarterback Brock Harvey, ending a strong second-quarter Princeton drive at the Harvard 29-yard line. He came up big again in the third quarter, tackling Tiger ball-carrier Marc Washington for no gain on a fourth and one on the Harvard 20.
But Frantz wasn't the only spark in the Crimson defense. Sophomore cornerback Jeff Compas intercepted a tipped pass from Harvey at the Harvard 30 and returned it 40 yards to the Princeton 30. In fact, the defense gave the offense the ball inside the Princeton 40 three times in the game.
Harvard's field goal came courtesy of an excellent defensive stand in the first quarter. The Crimson defense held the Tiger offense to only four yards from its own seven and the ensuing punt gave the Crimson excellent field position at the Princeton 39.
Harvard coach Tim Murphy made several changes in the secondary for Saturday's game because of injuries. Senior Brian Kahn replaced Matt Bradley at cornerback and freshman Cory Costanzo played at strong safety for Kevin Dwan. Another freshman, Derek Yankoff, gave spot relief to Clete Johnson.
"Having two freshmen in your defensive backfield gives you a lot of sleepless nights," Murphy said.
For the most part, Murphy needn't have lost any sleep. Except for a 39-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, the secondary didn't give up any big plays.
"I don't want anyone to think this was the offense's fault," Frantz said. "It was raining and we knew there wasn't going to be any offense. We knew this game was going to be a battle of the defenses, and their defense won."
Asked if he requires a Harvard victory to be satisfied with the defense's performance, Frantz said, "Maybe that's what it'll take."
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