PROVIDENCE--It's safe to say that the Harvard football team's defensive performance against Brown on Saturday will not be heralded in the Crimson record books.
In fact, the 542 total yards that Harvard surrendered against Brown may well be among one of the worst performances in school history.
But that inflated yardage statistic means absolutely nothing, because Harvard won the game. The defense deserves praise for making just enough big plays and few enough bad ones to turn what easily could have been a 56-42 loss into a 42-37 win.
"We're a young team and we have eight new starters on defense," Harvard football Coach Tim Murphy said. "But in terms of effort and grittiness this is as good a win as we've had."
Although the game will be remembered for the offensive numbers Harvard put up in the second half, it can't be forgotten that the defense kept Brown from running away with the game in the first half when the offense was relatively nonexistent.
On the game's first drive, freshman linebacker Dante Balestracci sent a message to star Brown wideout Steven Campbell that would resonate for the rest of the afternoon. On the fourth play of the drive, Balestracci drilled Campbell in the mid-section immediately after the catch. The ball popped loose, and junior Phil Scherrer came up with his second fumble recovery in as many games.
Balestracci would go on to lead the Crimson with 11 tackles, while Campbell would never be the game-breaking player he was known to be. Although he brought down a team-leading nine receptions, the catches totaled just 58 yards.
"Campbell's a great player and a senior," Murphy said. "As clutch as he's been, we had to mix it up and confuse them all day long. In the end we did what we had to do to be successful."
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