BOOK OF SAMUELS: Harvard Has the Look of a Champion

The Book of Samuels

In the Harvard football team’s 13-game winning streak, now the longest in Division I football, Saturday’s win over Cornell was the most impressive yet.

Sure, the 45-7 romp of Yale in last year’s Game raised some eyebrows. The 41-10 trouncing of Dartmouth a year ago was a dominant display of football. And yes, the 52-3 embarrassment of Holy Cross a week ago was stunning.

For the first 12 games of its streak, though, the Crimson had only blown out far weaker teams, teams that everyone knew Harvard was going to beat. These teams were a class below the Crimson, lightweights competing against the heavyweight champ. We all knew that Harvard was going to win those contests; it was just a question of by how much.

But that was one streak that did end on Saturday. Facing a Big Red squad that was supposed to threaten for a league crown, Harvard seemed oblivious. When the clock struck midnight, the Crimson had somehow crushed the highly hyped Big Red, 45-13.

Granted, the contest was perhaps closer than the score indicates. Coming into the half, the Crimson only held an 11-point advantage, and Cornell seemed to be gaining steam.

But that trend proved to be quite short-lived. Harvard hit its stride once again and well, that was that. The Crimson high-stepped to yet another victory with yet another 21-point fourth quarter, and what had been billed as a tight prize fight became a blowout, an exhibition of Harvard dominance.

This wasn’t supposed to happen, right? What about junior quarterback Jeff Mathews, the reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, the guy with laser accuracy and an NFL release? Wasn’t he supposed to rip up a Crimson secondary that had looked dangerously fragile in Weeks One and Two?

Harassed by a nightmare-inducing Crimson defensive line, Mathews faced unrelenting pressure and was hurried all afternoon.

When he did manage to get a throw off, the Harvard secondary did more than enough to slow down the Big Red attack. Of course, it didn’t help Mathews’ cause that his best wide receiver from a year ago, Shane Savage, didn’t play.

Okay, well how about Cornell’s defense? Wasn’t it supposed to be far better than that porous Big Red D that gave up 41 points to Harvard a year ago?

Sure, its defense has improved. In its previous two contests, Cornell had allowed just eight points per game.

But with the Crimson’s juggernaut offense clicking, with all those pistons firing in seemingly perfect harmony, no one has had an answer in, oh, over a year.

However you dissect the result, this much, though, is clear: Saturday was an uh-oh game for the rest of the Ivy League.

If Cornell can’t come close to stopping Harvard, who can?

But for Ancient Eight foes, another question looms as well.