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Show Stealing Defense

BLEE-ve It!

By Bryan Lee

Any time your defense outscores the other team's offense, it's a good sign.

It's not a new story, however. Harvard's (8-1,6-0 Ivy) defense has keyed its charge from cellar dweller four years ago to at least Ivy co-champions.

The Crimson defense has completely taken over in league play with two shutouts and only three touchdowns allowed in six games.

"Our guys were on a mission," said Harvard Coach Tim Murphy. "The bottom line is we didn't need 33 points to win the football game today. That's how well the defense played. That's how well we've played all season in league."

Yesterday against Penn, the defense established its dominance early. The Quakers couldn't even move the ball in the first half. And when they tried, it only seemed to infuriate Harvard's defense.

Harvard forced three-and-outs on Penn's first six possessions. Eighteen offensive plays yielded only seven yards overall.

"It was just a great defensive effort we put together against one of the best offenses in the league," said senior defensive tackle Chris Smith. "We shut down their run, which is always our first objective. That forced them to pass, and our d-backs just had a terrific game."

Finally 22 minutes and 47 seconds into the game, Penn got a first down. In fact it d got a relative slew of them--three in one drive. Then on fourth and four from the Crimson 27-yard line, Penn threw a swing pass to running back Jim Finn. Sophomore safety Aron Natale forced the ball to pop out and junior cornerback Glenn Jackson grabbed the ball in midair and ran untouched 67 yards for the touchdown.

That score, which put the Crimson up 20-0, essentially sealed Penn's fate. And Harvard's championship.

"He just had a terrific play on that. That's a big momentum swing," Smith said. "It was what we needed".

The statistics told the story of today's game. Penn finished with a pitiful nine first downs on 144 total yards of offense. As usual, Harvard stopped the run first, as the Quakers gained only 25 yards on 32 rushing attempts. Passing didn't go much better for Penn, which completed only 11 of 33 attempts for 119 yards and three interceptions.

Of course, it's kind of hard to pass when a defensive lineman is about to crush you and Harvard registered six sacks. Smith's one-and-a-half sacks raised his career total to 19, setting a Harvard record.

"We were actually kind of surprised because, at least before the game, we didn't think the field conditions would be conducive to getting a good pass rush," Smith said. "But as it turns out, their style of play gave us an opportunity to close the pocket on them."

"It was just a struggle all day long," said Penn quarterback Matt Rader. "We never did have the answers. We knew they had a great defensive line, and they showed it today. Their defense totally dominated us."

Besides the sacks, tack on nine tackles for loss which added up to 56 yards and three more runs for no gain. That means 40 of Penn's 65 offensive plays went for zero or negative yards.

It proves that Harvard is not just better than every other Ivy League team, it's better by a lot.

Just look at the final scores: 33-0 against Penn, 27-10 against Brown, 24-0 against Dartmouth, 34-9 against Cornell and 45-7 against Columbia. Except for the 14-12 squeaker over Princeton, Harvard has whipped its opponents. After yesterday's shutout, Harvard's average points allowed in the Ancient Eight dropped to 6.3 points per game.

Penn's first play showed that Harvard's opponents know they can't score conventionally on Harvard. Penn tried a halfback pass, but Finn's duck wobbled incomplete into the mud of Harvard Stadium.

"We may have thought briefly that they were maybe a little bit desperate initially," Smith said. "They were trying to get a good start on us early, trying to break our confidence, but fortunately that didn't happen."

Harvard's secondary has been especially stingy recently, especially since the Crimson knows opponents have had to throw to catch up with the Crimson's prolific offense. In its last four games, Harvard has held opposing quarterbacks to 35-percent completions, with two touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Jackson has enjoyed a breakout year, with six interceptions after he picked off two yesterday. And on the other side, junior corner Derek Yankoff's pick on Penn's first play of the third quarter showed that the Crimson defense was not going to rest on a 20-point lead.

This ability to finish off opponents has been the difference between this year and last year. Whether it has been stopping Princeton to preserve the win or stiffening late in games to preserve shutouts out of sheer pride, the defense has made big plays in crucial conversion situations.

Yesterday was no exception, as Penn converted only four of its 21 third-and fourth-down conversion attempts.

A look back at the first nine games of the season has shown a lot of recent Harvard futility be reversed. This team beat Cornell for the first time in 11 years, shut out Dartmouth for the first time in 56 years, beat Brown for the first time in four years and beat Penn for the first time in five years.

Murphy's emphasis on defense has allowed this dramatic turnaround. Defense first made this team respectable, and then it led it to a championship.

"Our first priority when we got here was to put our best athletes on defense," Murphy said. "When we got to a point where we felt like we matched up, we started putting more of our outstanding athletes on the other side of the ball.

Just look at the final scores: 33-0 against Penn, 27-10 against Brown, 24-0 against Dartmouth, 34-9 against Cornell and 45-7 against Columbia. Except for the 14-12 squeaker over Princeton, Harvard has whipped its opponents. After yesterday's shutout, Harvard's average points allowed in the Ancient Eight dropped to 6.3 points per game.

Penn's first play showed that Harvard's opponents know they can't score conventionally on Harvard. Penn tried a halfback pass, but Finn's duck wobbled incomplete into the mud of Harvard Stadium.

"We may have thought briefly that they were maybe a little bit desperate initially," Smith said. "They were trying to get a good start on us early, trying to break our confidence, but fortunately that didn't happen."

Harvard's secondary has been especially stingy recently, especially since the Crimson knows opponents have had to throw to catch up with the Crimson's prolific offense. In its last four games, Harvard has held opposing quarterbacks to 35-percent completions, with two touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Jackson has enjoyed a breakout year, with six interceptions after he picked off two yesterday. And on the other side, junior corner Derek Yankoff's pick on Penn's first play of the third quarter showed that the Crimson defense was not going to rest on a 20-point lead.

This ability to finish off opponents has been the difference between this year and last year. Whether it has been stopping Princeton to preserve the win or stiffening late in games to preserve shutouts out of sheer pride, the defense has made big plays in crucial conversion situations.

Yesterday was no exception, as Penn converted only four of its 21 third-and fourth-down conversion attempts.

A look back at the first nine games of the season has shown a lot of recent Harvard futility be reversed. This team beat Cornell for the first time in 11 years, shut out Dartmouth for the first time in 56 years, beat Brown for the first time in four years and beat Penn for the first time in five years.

Murphy's emphasis on defense has allowed this dramatic turnaround. Defense first made this team respectable, and then it led it to a championship.

"Our first priority when we got here was to put our best athletes on defense," Murphy said. "When we got to a point where we felt like we matched up, we started putting more of our outstanding athletes on the other side of the ball.

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