The Harvard football team does not lose to non-conference opponents. The Crimson has beaten every non-Ivy League team it has faced since dropping its season opener at Holy Cross in 2011. That was long enough ago that not a single member of the current squad was there to suffer defeat.
Following a victory over Brown in last week’s Ivy League opener, the team prepares to square off on Friday night against yet another out-of-conference foe: fellow unbeaten Georgetown. Before besting Brown 32-22 last weekend, the Crimson beat Rhode Island in its home opener.
“We took another important step in a series of steps we have to take to become a really good football team.” said Head Coach Tim Murphy about the Brown game. “Specifically, it was going on the road... and showing we can beat a very solid football team.”
There are a few matchups to consider before Harvard (2-0, 1-0) hosts the Hoyas (3-0) this weekend, specifically the Crimson’s offense clashing with Georgetown’s defense, the era of new quarterbacks, and the dichotomy of new vs. old in tomorrow’s coaching battle.
HARVARD RUSHING ATTACK VS. GEORGETOWN FRONT SEVEN
Through two games this year, the Crimson has averaged 216.5 yards per game on the ground, delegating duties primarily to junior running back Semar Smith and senior quarterback Joe Viviano. What’s more: Of Harvard’s 11 touchdowns during this young season, eight of them have come via the rush, with Smith and Viviano chipping in three a piece.
“I have faith in my [offensive line],” Smith said. “[Viviano] definitely opens up a lot more for us because defenses have to respect the quarterback run.”
The Hoyas, on the other hand, have managed to stymie the opposition’s rushing attack through three contests this season, allowing a 103.7 YPG and only 3.1 yards per carry. Additionally, Georgetown has allowed just two rushing touchdowns on the year.
Much of the Hoyas’ success against opposing rushers can be attributed to senior defensive lineman Hunter Kiselick and sophomore linebacker J’V’on Butler, both standout members of the Georgetown front seven. Kiselick leads all Hoyas in tackles for loss with four, while Butler has recorded a team-high 25 tackles.
Whichever team controls the ground game will likely have advantages in possession, clock management, and playbook flexibility in Friday night’s showdown.
GEORGETOWN SECONDARY VS. HARVARD RECEIVING THREAT
In three contests so far this season, the Hoyas have received substantial contributions from multiple members of the secondary en route to recording 10 pass break-ups, 14 pass deflections, and four interceptions for 89 return-yards. Facilitating Georgetown’s stalwart pass defense are junior safety David Akere and sophomore defensive back Blaise Brown. Akere, a returning starter from 2015, recorded a career-high 13 tackles and forced a fumble in Harvard’s 45-0 rout of the Hoyas last season. Brown, a veteran of nine games as a freshman, is looking to build on his strong start to the year, having already recorded 14 tackles.
Harvard, however, has a two-headed receiving weapon to counter the Georgetown secondary: reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Justice Shelton-Mosley and senior halfback Anthony Firkser. Both members of the Crimson air-attack have totaled upwards of 200 yards in just two games thus far, with Firkser contributing two touchdowns as well.
“We watched a lot of [the Georgetown secondary] on film,” Firkser noted. “We saw how they play and what their tendencies are like.”
STARTING QUARTERBACK DUEL