Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Harvard Proves it Can Win on Ground Too

by Scott Reed
WHRB Sports
My Opinion

On a night in which each team's running game would play a large role in determining the winner, Harvard delivered perhaps its most physical beating of the year as it ran over Dartmouth 41-10. After spending most of the season relying on its superb passing game, the Harvard offense showed on Saturday that it can dominate on the ground as well, running for 395 yards, and the Crimson defense shut down the Ivy League's leading rusher, Dartmouth tailback Nick Schwieger.

As kickoff approached, it became clear that the weather conditions for Saturday's Harvard-Dartmouth matchup would not be those of a crisp autumn evening. While the impending storm was moving towards Cambridge, talk of the game began to center on how the weather would affect the contest, in particular the Harvard passing game: conventional wisdom holds that throwing the football becomes much more difficult in wet and cold conditions. What would this mean for a Harvard offense that had in many ways relied on its passing game? Quarterbacks Collier Winters and Colton Chapple had together thrown for at least 4 touchdowns in three consecutive games. Meanwhile, the Crimson's rushing attack had yet to blossom into a force that could conceivable carry the offense in times of need. been able to run the ball, .

Too, there was the question of how Harvard's run defense would fare against Darmouth, who boasted the Ivy League's leading rusher in form of Nick Schwieger. Although the Crimson defense came in at 9th in the Football Championship Subdivision in rush yards allowed, the unit had given up 267 yards on the ground the weak prior to Ivy bottom feeder Princeton, so this was cause for some concern.

All of the worry, however, would be for naught, as the Harvard defense rose to the challenge. Schwieger, who had come in as the Ivy league's leading rusher, was held to just 51 yards on 15 carries and never was a factor in the outcome. This is a testament to a defense that had been under fire after yielding 135 yards to Princeton's freshman Chuck Diblio. "Their front four were tremendous, " said Dartmouth head coach Buddy Tevens of the team of Josue Ortiz, Grant Sickle, Nnamdi Obukwelu, and John Lyon. Indeed, the four would clog the middle and force the hard-nosed Schwieger to the outside, where he would be met by a speedy linebacking corps and secondary.

On the offensive side of things, the Harvard juggernaut was forced away from its weapon of choice, the forward pass, but kept rolling anyway, putting up over 40 points for the fourth straight week while rushing for almost 400 yards. The Crimson had three 100-yard rushers for the first time in its history, as the trio of Treavor Scales, Collier Winters, and Zach Boden each passed the century mark.

The performances of Scales, a junior, and Boden, a freshman, in particular are good news for Harvard. Scales has been the Crimson's feature back but had only run for 100 yards once this season before Saturday, an 129 yard performance back on September 23rd against Brown. In the Dartmouth game, Scales was borderline-unstoppable, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. He was at times replaced by the hard-running Boden, who would churn for a career-high 112 yards, most of which were after contact, in a breakout game of his own.

To be fair, Dartmouth entered Saturday's game with the Ivy League's worst rushing defense, but Harvard's performance on the ground sends a warning shot at Yale, and of course Penn, who had lost earlier in the day to give Harvard sole possesoin of first place in the league. With three games remaining between the Crimson and its fourteenth Ivy Championship, the emergence of a running game to complement its great passing attack gives Harvard a little more spring in its step.

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