by Scott Reed
Well, this wasn't the start to the season many Crimson had hoped for and expected, as Harvard opened 2011 with a 30-22 loss at Holy Cross. The Crimson looked like it still had some kinks to work out, recording -3 on the turnover differential and looking lost at times on pass defense. All had started well for Harvard, and it look like it would be smooth sailing after the Crimson grabbed a 14-3 lead, scoring on its two opening drives of the season - but that would prove to be the high point, as Holy Cross scored 27 straight points.
Following their first drive of the second quarter, which gave them that eleven point advantage, Harvard looked like a different team, surrendering over 300 yards through the air and struggling to move the ball on offense with the same consistency.
Still, there were some positives to take away for Crimson fans. The run defense was solid, allowing only 3.1 yards per carry, and junior quarterback Collier Winters, despite making a couple of costly mistakes (the 97 yard interception returned for a touchdown was a back-breaker), passed for 265 yards and completed more than 50% of his passes. And most importantly, there's this to be proud of for Harvard: the Crimson weren't truly out of the game until Winters threw the final interception with 15 seconds left on the clock. This team could have easily folded after Holy Cross went ahead 30-14, capping that run of 27 unanswered points, yet they battled back after scoring a touchdown of their own and getting the ball at the end with a chance to tie.
And things might certainly improve: we should not put too much stock in a season opener (remember last year's 34-6 shellacking of the Crusaders and the subsequent loss at Brown?), especially one where the opponent is playing its third game of the season. Junior sensation Treavor Scales will almost certainly improve at running back - eventual Ivy co-player of the year Gino Gordon only had 62 yards rushing against Holy Cross last year, albeit on 11 carries. And the pass defense will have to get better.
Yet all of that does not mean Harvard should feel rosy inside. "It's not a league game," head coach Tim Murphy deadpanned when asked for a positive from yesterday's game. Indeed, the loss will not count in Ivy standings. But, the truth is that Harvard cannot compete for an Ivy League title if it plays like this - more talented teams will be coming down the road in the form of the Brown Bears, the Penn Quakers, and the Yale Bulldogs. And perhaps as little as can be taken from this opening game, a lot will be revealed this coming weekend when Harvard hosts Brown. The Bears should be better than Holy Cross and almost certainly have a better player under center in the form of Kyle Newhall-Caballero. Brown, and the rest of the Ivy League, will provide ample test to these Crimson. Let us hope that by the end of the year the game yesterday will be seen as nothing more than a bumpy start on the way to a successful season.
Scott Reed is the play-by-play commentator for Harvard football and mens' basketball.