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Saturday's 26-21 slam of those archrival Yalies was a vindication of sorts for Eion Hu.
Hu has not had the season of his dreams. He has oodles of injuries that seem to have multiplied or gotten worse in each week of this less than optimal 4-6 season.
And Harvard did not win the league title, and Hu did not rush for 2,000 yards, the season's stated goals. (To use his own euphemistic term, Hu was forced to "restructure" his goals after each game.) He didn't even make it to 1,000-yard mark.
Because of these facts, it's easy to forget this simple statement: Eion Hu is the greatest running back in Harvard history. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind about that.
Against Columbia in the first game of his third and senior season, Hu passed the 2,130-yard career rushing mark of Vic Gatto '69.
For his career, Hu finishes with 3,073 yards in 29 games, an average of 106 yards per game. The Ivy League record is a distant 4,200 or so, however.
Hu has wanted the ball for the entire season, even with the injuries, and sometimes he hasn't gotten it as much as he might like. He had 13 carries against Penn last weekend, and he was visibly frustrated after the Dartmouth game.
In the middle of the week, the coaches promised Hu that he would be the man, again, on Saturday against Yale. And because Hu is the king of competitors, he responded with one of those games cut from the mold of those from previous seasons.
He was just flat out awesome.
Hu carried the ball 41 times, a new single-game school record, and gained 177 yards. He scored the game's first touchdown in the first half.
In the second half, Harvard rode Hu. It was as if Harvard coach Tim Murphy had said, "Eion, take us home," He had done so in The Game last year, rushing for 175 yards and barreling in for the winning touchdown with seconds left to play.
Those hypothetical words were just the ones Hu had been looking for.
With the help of an offensive line that was blowing the clueless Yale defensive front off the ball, Hu gained 113 yards in a whopping 26 carries in the second half.
And he controlled the half's tenor. He helped Harvard expire more than seven minutes off the clock (when a team has a 21 point lead, it wants to keep the clock ticking) in the fourth quarter.
He had runs of nine, one, eight, two, nine, six, six, four and one on the 14-play drive that ended in a 25-yard Ryan Korinke field goal.
In the 19 plays Harvard ran in the third quarter, Hu carried on 13 of them.
Hu stood on the field for an hour and a half after the game, smiling his wide smile, holding his aching knee and basking in the victory.
Just three days before he said he hated football. He hated the fact that he felt compelled to show up. He hated that football was a "business," even at a school that--at the very least--has many others that are much more lucrative.
Sunday, sitting in Leverett House library with his sore knee elevated on a chair, Hu was still all smiles. It's hard to hate football when you're retired. It's hard to hate football when you were so damn good at it.
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