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AoTW: Running Into the Books

By Lisa Kennelly, Crimson Staff Writer

Break out the Wite-Out and your Harvard football media guide, folks. It’s time to write in a different name at the top of the rushing records.

After a record-setting weekend by sophomore Clifton Dawson, Chris Menick ’00 will be getting bumped down a notch. Twice.

Dawson broke the records for both single-season rushing touchdowns and single-season touchdowns overall in the Crimson’s 39-14 victory over Princeton on Saturday.

He finished with three scores and 201 yards on 31 carries. Through six games, Dawson has 14 scores on the ground and 15 overall.

And if you’d asked the speedy tailback before the game if he was looking forward to cementing his place in the record books, he probably would have been surprised that you were presuming the inevitable.

“I knew that I was close to breaking the record,” Dawson admitted, “whether it be this game or the coming game.”

But from the first game back in September, the shattering of these milestones was a foregone conclusion.

The numbers alone foretold it. Heading into Saturday’s game, Dawson was averaging 134 rushing yards per game and 151.4 all-purpose yards per game, not to mention averaging 2.2 touchdowns per game and leading all of Division I-AA in scoring with 14.4 points per game.

Only one team—Cornell—had found a way to shut down Dawson, holding him to under 100 yards two weeks ago for the first time in 10 games.

Against Princeton, however, there was the potential for a similar roadblock. The Tigers boasted the linebacker duo of Zak Keasey and Justin Stull, who each came into the contest with an Ivy League-leading 59 tackles. In theory, their force up front would halt Dawson’s potential conquest.

In practice, the Crimson running back made them look silly. Keasey finished with 20 tackles, but most of those came after Dawson had already claimed the four or five yards he wanted. At one point, Dawson actually ran the 6’1, 230-lb. Keasey right over.

Afterwards, Keasey looked like he was still suffering from the blow.

“I don’t think he’s different from any other back we’ve faced this year,” Keasey said.

Not much different, no. Just another running back who still leads Division I-AA in scoring (15.0 points per game), is fourth in the nation in rushing yards (145.2 yards per game) and has helped Harvard to one of two undefeated records in the country. Just another Princeton opponent to vault the Tiger defensive line and rip an 80-yard touchdown run.

Oh wait, the last time that happened was in 1984.

“There’s a lot of great athletes, and I’ve been around a few really great athletes,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said.

“The thing that makes Clifton Dawson and [quarterback] Ryan Fitzpatrick so special—and I use that word, and I don’t use it very much as you know—is that they’re unbelievably mentally tough.”

For Dawson, it’s just all part of his everyday game. He’ll take the glory, but it’s secondary to the day-by-day grind.

“I’m honored to be in the presence of such great backs that we’ve had at Harvard,” Dawson said. “I think that the fact that I was able to accomplish such a task, a feat midway through the season is a compliment to how well our offensive line has played...Their names deserve to be right up there beside mine.”

With four games remaining in the season, it’s safe to say that the new records Dawson now owns won’t be the last to be rechristened under his name.

The single-season rushing-yard total and career touchdown marks are well in reach. Keep that Wite-Out handy, folks—odds are you’ll need it this weekend against Dartmouth.

—LISA J. KENNELLY

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