Kicking Problems Take Center Stage

Special teams emerge as potential problematic area for the Crimson once again

Joseph L. Abel

Junior Clifton Dawson broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season with his 105-yard performance this weekend against the Quakers.

It’s tough to talk about a weakness after a 29-3 victory, but for the Harvard football team, an old problem returned on Saturday: the kicking game.

Forced to play without its first- or second-string long snapper, the Crimson kicking game sputtered all afternoon. Harvard missed two extra points when low snaps couldn’t be handled by holder Robert Balkema, and an extra point and a field goal were blocked. Sophomore kicker Matt Schindel also missed a 35-yard attempt wide right before connecting on his final try from 28 yards.

“It’s not Schindel’s fault. We were completely out of sync,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “Anytime you have your third team guy in there who’s a freshman, things just completely fell apart. There was no confidence from the kicker, the holder, the snapper. There was just no execution.”

On the two blocked kicks, Schindel had no chance­—the blocking scheme appeared to break down almost immediately, and a number of Penn defenders easily broke through the line.

Coming into action Saturday, Schindel had been 7-of-7 on field goals and hadn’t had one blocked all year. Both of those streaks came to an end against the Quakers.


One senior who may not have enjoyed his Senior Day experience was punter Mike King.

He has been Harvard’s primary punter throughout the season, but he was benched Saturday in favor of junior Clem McDavid.

King averaged 34.5 yards per punt on 33 punts for the Crimson, but Murphy felt improvement was needed.

“I think the bottom line is that we’ve struggled in that area of the game,” Murphy said “We just felt we had to give another man a spot at that position...and I think Clem responded pretty well today.”

McDavid averaged 40 yards per punt on four attempts against the Quakers.

Harvard employed a somewhat unique style for much of the game—McDavid would field the snap, roll right or left, and then kick the punt on the move.

The strategy appeared to work, as both McDavid and the coverage unit performed well. The Quakers’ Adam Francks only attempted to return two of the punts for a total of five yards.


Junior running back Clifton Dawson’s 105 yards rushing on Saturday gave him 1,011 for the year, making him the only player in school history to run for 1,000 yards three times. Dawson also moved into fifth place all-time in the Ivy League with 3,500 yards rushing...Kelly Widman’s three touchdown catches tied a Harvard record for most touchdown receptions in a single game...Before Saturday, the Crimson had not had back-to-back wins over Penn since the 1980 and 1981 seasons.

—Staff writer David H. Stearns can be reached at