QB's Rise to the Occasion

Rose, Hoffman Each Have Rewritten Record Books

When No. 24 Harvard hosts No. 19 Penn tomorrow afternoon, the essential ingredients of a college football classic will be in place—crisp autumn weather, the ivy-clad walls of a majestic stadium and two record-breaking senior quarterbacks.

Fans will be treated to perhaps the best Ivy quarterback duel of the season, as the Crimson’s Neil Rose and the Quakers’ Gavin Hoffman enter the game having experienced similar, astounding success.

Hoffman set or tied 14 Penn season and career records in 2000, while Rose tops the Harvard record book in 11 different categories. Last week Hoffman became only the fifth Ivy League quarterback to throw for at least 7,000 yards, while Rose raised his quarterback efficiency rating to an Ivy-leading 157.9, good for No. 5 in Division I-AA.

As impressive as all of these numbers are, to really explain how effective Rose and Hoffman have been, only two numbers are required—14 and zero—the combined record of Harvard and Penn in 2001.

The “Clutch” Quarterback

“I pride myself on my won-loss record,” Hoffman said. “I think I always put my team in a position to win.”

Both quarterbacks do.

With Hoffman at the helm, Penn has won eleven consecutive contests and lost by more than a touchdown only once in the past two seasons. With Rose taking the snaps, the Crimson is 11-4 and has had a fourth quarter lead in all but one of those losses.

Rose and Hoffman know how to win, and they perform when it matters.

“Neil Rose has a tremendous impact on our football team, for the obvious reason that he is an outstanding quarterback, and arguably the best quarterback in the Ivy League,” said Harvard Coach Tim Murphy. “I will always think of Neil Rose as a clutch player, one of the smartest poised quarterbacks I have ever been around.”

Murphy has also witnessed, and respects, Hoffman’s ability to perform under pressure after suffering from his comebacks each of the past two seasons. The Quaker signal-caller led his team to fourth quarter comebacks in each of its last two meetings with Harvard.

“Hoffman has been a great clutch quarterback, as evident by him leading Penn to an Ivy League championship last year and being named the MVP of the league,” Murphy said. “He is a clutch player who has done it in the big games.”

Whatever It Takes

Being a “clutch” quarterback means more than just putting up flashy statistics in important games. It also means avoiding mistakes. Rose and Hoffman not only make big plays, they don’t make many bad ones.

After combining for 11 300-plus yard passing performances last season, the highest single-game total either has posted this season was Rose’s 292-yard effort against Cornell. Hoffman has not yet thrown for 250 yards this season. However, the two have combined to throw only seven interceptions in 348 attempts, while still picking up enough yards to lead their teams to victories.

“Most definitely I am having a better season this year,” Rose said. “In most games we’ve had a big lead early, so you don’t have to throw the ball. We haven’t really played in a big shootout yet. The team in general is just doing so much better that I’m not called upon to throw the ball 40-50 times a game, and that’s nice.”