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Take a look at the Ivy League standings this week. The Harvard football team is currently in first place. Well, actually it's a tie. With Yale. OK, and Brown. And Penn. And Cornell.
Harvard (3-3, 2-1 Ivy) is deadlocked with four other teams atop the Ivy League. Fresh off a 35-21 win at Princeton, the Crimson will attempt to keep the good times rolling at Dartmouth tomorrow at noon.
"We're tied for first place, so we have the ability to control our own destiny," said senior tailback Chuck Nwokocha. "Every game is a must-win, and if we keep coming out on top, we can win the league."
While Harvard knocked off Princeton last week, Dartmouth did not fare as well, losing 49-21 to Columbia. Dartmouth (1-5, 0-3) is the only Ivy team without a win against a conference opponent.
"I couldn't feel better about our chances going into this game," said junior quarterback Neil Rose. "If we play at our level, I don't think we can be stopped."
It will be difficult for Dartmouth to contain Rose. Harvard rode Rose's golden arm from beginning to end last week. The Hawaiian superstar was 25-36 for 292 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Senior tight end Chris Stakich and sophomore wideout Carl Morris each hauled in a touchdown pass of over 20 yards en route to the victory.
"I think defenses have had a hard time game-planning us," Rose said. "We throw the ball to all sides of the field, we have a power running game, and we run the option. It's a great attack."
Rose is getting by with a little help from his friends. Sophomore running backs Nick Palazzo and Matt Leiszler, who combined for 139 rushing yards against the Tigers, have been sensational all season. Leiszler scored two touchdowns against Princeton, giving him five for the year.
Nwokocha, a third back who began the season as the team's starter, has been sidelined by a knee injury suffered in Harvard's opening game against Holy Cross. He did, however, see limited action against Princeton and should see more playing time at Dartmouth.
"Dartmouth is a good team," Nwokocha said. "They are not to be underestimated. They are much better than their record indicates."
Dartmouth's one victory was a 31-14 win over Holy Cross, a team Harvard lost to earlier this season, 27-25.
Rose will make sure Harvard does not take Dartmouth lightly. "We cannot afford to lose again. One more loss means no more title."
While Harvard's offense has been solid throughout the year, the defense has at times been suspect. The primary goal of the Harvard 'D' will be to stop Big Green running back Aaron Pumerantz, who ran for two touchdowns against Columbia.
Dartmouth quarterback Brian Mann can and will throw the ball (nine touchdowns on the season), and he usually delivers to Damien Roomets. Roomets is seventh nationally with 7.2 receptions a game. Morris, incidentally, leads Harvard with 34 catches. Roomets has 43, although Morris has 60 more receiving yards (543 to 483).
Harvard freshman linebacker Dante Balestracci, who recorded a team high 11 tackles last week and leads the team with 56 overall, should be a force in the middle. Junior cornerback Andy Fried, who is second on the team in tackles (32), will look to add to his two interceptions and eight pass knockdowns.
Last year, Harvard defeated Dartmouth 63-21 in Cambridge. It was the Crimson's third consecutive victory over Dartmouth and 55th ever. Fried, who played wide receiver in last year's victory, caught two touchdown passes on the day.
Harvard can only wish for more of the same. The Crimson looks to make it four in a row tomorrow against Dartmouth to continue the team's drive to an Ivy League Championship.
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