Sunday, November 20, 2011
It was all over, as a day, a game, and a season stamped with greatness came to a close - the Harvard Crimson had finished 2011 with a 45-7 drubbing of archrival Yale. If the season was the Crimson's body of work, this was its magnum opus, its greatest performance, the final mark on the page to end its almost-perfect story. After picked by many to finish out of the Ivy League's top spot, Harvard, league title already in hand, left no doubt that it was the best the Ancient Eight had to offer.
Harvard came to New Haven looking for something intangible, something abstract. It had already clinched the Ivy trophy with a 37-20 win over Penn; hardware would not be won at the Yale Bowl. What the Crimson sought was a sense of fulfillment and completion. And of course, a chance to validate its newly-won championship, something head coach Tim Murphy alluded to in a pregame interview: "They may give me an Ivy ring," he said, "but I won't wear it unless we beat Yale." Such is the case with a rivalry.
The rivalry turned into a coronation on Saturday, however, as Harvard would not only beat Yale but would do so convincingly, handing the Bulldogs their worst loss in The Game in 30 years (the Crimson beat Yale by the same score in 1982). It was truly a complete win: Murphy called it the "best balanced, coordinated effort," that he had seen in many years. Offensively, the best scoring unit in the Ivy League delivered, recording 38 points (the final seven came on linebacker Alex Gedeon's interception return for a touchdown). The special teams unit put in its best game of the season - kicker David Mothander scored on a fake field goal, a Yale field goal was blocked, and Jacob Dombrowski punted for a 44 yard average. And the defense, which allowed an early Yale score, responded by shutting out the Bulldogs over the final 52 minutes and even recording a score for themselves on Gedeon's big play.
"Perfection" was how Murphy described the touchdown by Harvard's captain Gedeon, on what would be his final collegiate snap. It was the indeed the perfect way to end 2011, with the team's emotional leader providing an exclamation point to the game and the season.
Perfection also refers to, of course, Harvard's Ivy League record, as the Crimson went 7-0 in conference play for the first time since 2007, and, in this writer's opinion, cemented themselves at the best Harvard team since the undefeated 2004 led by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Unlike that 2004 team, it took some time to become apparent: the opening loss to Holy Cross was cause for concern, and Harvard had to deal with the temporary loss of its starting quarterback, senior Collier Winters. Yet, something about this team stamped it as great. After that Holy Cross loss, Harvard never seemed to be really challenged - its average margin of victory was 23 points, and all of its wins were by double digits. It was a team that appeared unstoppable at times. Perhaps it was the offense, a unit that scored more points than any Crimson team had in the modern era. Harvard scored at least 30 points in each of its final eight games, and at least 40 in five of those eight. Perhaps it was the defense that was simply impenetrable against the run, led by a two of the best defenders in the Ivy league, Gedeon and defensive lineman Josue Ortiz. Perhaps it was the way this team won, often with few turnovers or mental mistakes; being, as Murphy said, "the type of team that doesn't beat themselves."
Whatever it was, this team stamped itself as among the greatest in recent Harvard history. Saturday in New Haven provided the final opportunity for the 2011 Crimson to make its case, and it did so in a way that will last far beyond the fading Connecticut autumn.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Our pregame coverage begins at 11am and features:
A History of "The Game"
An interview with Harvard alum and Buffalo Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
An interview with Harvard football coach Tim Murphy
and interviews with the Harvard and Yale captains, plus much more.
Kickoff is at approximate 12 noon.
Tune in for the final game of the 2011 season on 95.3FM and whrb.org.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
|Danny Biega scored the game winning goal on the power play last season to defeat Cornell at Lynah Rink 4-3. Photo courtesy of Harvard Athletic Dept. Communications.|
Key Storylines: For Harvard, it is all about the power play tonight. The Crimson are on a small streak of having scored at least one PPG in their last 6 games, including 13 PPGs in the last 8 ECAC contests, including the 3 scored in Ithaca last season to propel Harvard to the win. No surprises that Harvard's win streak last year came when the PP started clicking. Cornell is 9 of 13 on the PK.
For Cornell, the key is if they will find their defense or not tonight. While they limited Yale to only two goals, they are, on average, giving up 4 goals a game, thanks to giving up 5 goals each to Mercyhurst and Brown. Probably small comfort for the Crimson though as Cornell's also averaging 4.67 goals per game. Not exactly the definition of Cornell hockey but only results matter.
The particulars: You can tune into the game on 95.3 FM WHRB as well as WHRB.org. There's also video with WHRB's audio at GoCrimson.com. The usuals have the call. Game time is at 7pm and pregame coverage begins at 6:45 p.m.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
|Despite two goals from Alex Killorn, the Crimson fell 4-3 last night to Princeton. Photo courtesy of Harvard Athletic Dept. of Communications.|
Key Storyline: For Harvard, it has to be the penalty kill. Giving up 3 power play goals is bad but doing so in only four opportunities is far worse. The Crimson need to do a much better job blocking the slot and clearing out rebounds, particularly when down a man. Also, don't look now, but Quinnipiac went 2 for 2 with the man advantage last night and are 12 for 58 on the season.
For Quinnipiac, one storyline to watch is whether freshman Matthew Peca can continue his school-record point streak. He's tallied a point in nine-straight games, the most ever by a Bobcat freshman. Bryan "Not that One" Leitch previously had the record at 8 games back in 2006-07.
The particulars: Brendan Roche and Raafi Alidina will have the call from a top the Bright Hockey Center at 6:45pm on 95.3 FM WHRB, WHRB.org and GoCrimson.com. Drop of the puck is at 7pm.
Last Night's Scoreboard:
Harvard (0-1, 0-1) 3 vs. Princeton (1-2-1, 1-1) 4
Dartmouth (2-1, 1-0) 5 vs. Quinnipiac (7-3, 1-1) 4
Brown (1-2, 0-1) 3 vs. Colgate (5-2-1, 1-0) 5
Yale (1-1-1, 0-1) 2 vs. Cornell (1-1, 1-0) 6
Clarkson (6-1-2, 1-0) 4 vs. RPI (1-7, 0-1) 1
St. Lawrence (0-5, 0-1) 0 vs. Union (4-1-3, 1-0) 2
Yale is staring down the barrel of mediocrity. In fact the world came tantalizingly close to a hilarious result in NYC last week, as Columbia had the ball down only three points late in the fourth quarter (Yale effectively ended the game with a pick). That said, I’m willing to give the Bulldogs some benefit of the doubt, as the game was played in a snowstorm and the Lions were thoroughly out-gained. Brown, meanwhile, used the same ugly weather to hold Penn’s Billy Ragone to 6-of-15 for 32 yards and 3 INTs in a 6-0 shutout. Despite not being obviously good at any one thing, Brown hasn’t lost in over a month.
Harvard (6-1) at Columbia (0-7)
Harvard’s offence has been all sorts of unstoppable in the past month, and I mean that more or less literally: Opponent’s offence keeping them in the game? Collier Winters can throw for 400! Collier Winters injured? Colton Chapple can throw for five touchdowns! Minor blizzard making it hard to throw a ball? Run for 400! A skeptic might point out that this has come against teams who are 7-11 against other opponents, to which I say: Yes, but Columbia’s on the docket this week.
Princeton (1-6) at Penn (4-3)
Five of Princeton’s six losses have been by double digits, and their win is over Columbia. And yet the Tigers have "only" been out-gained by 23 yards/game. The real problem has been turnovers: Princeton is -12 in turnover margin. Penn has now been out-scored by four points, cumulatively, on the season. Both these teams are quite good on the ground, each out-rushing opponents by over 60 yards/game. If Princeton can get Billy Ragone to screw up more than their own Tommy Wornham (both QBs have thrown 8 picks this season), they could actually keep it close.
Cornell (3-4) at Dartmouth (2-5)
Two of the Ivy League’s most valuable players will take the field in Hanover on Saturday. Cornell’s ground game is awful, so they put the ball in sophomore Jeff Mathews’s hands 34 times (for almost 300 yards) per game. Meanwhile, Nick Schwieger continues to be Dartmouth’s offence, as the Big Green have only averaged 120 yards/game passing. The defense hasn’t been great either; the cumulative effect is that Dartmouth has been out-gained by almost 110 yards/game. The winner of this game takes a death grip on 5th place in the Ancient Eight.
Picks to bet your Coop Rebate on
Yale over Brown, Harvard over Columbia, Penn over Princeton, Cornell over Dartmouth.
Friday, November 4, 2011
|Photo courtesy Harvard Dept. of Athletic Communications|
Last Time Out: Officially for the Crimson, it was back in 2010-11 when they fell 4-3 to Dartmouth in the ECAC Quarterfinals Game 3 but unofficially, it was a 7-4 win over Western Ontario with goals from Marshall Everson, Alex Killorn (2), Luke Greiner (2) and Conor Morrison (2). For Princeton, they moved to 0-2-1 and 0-1 in the league after being beaten by Quinnipiac 5-2 in their home opener. MacDonald and Meland had the goals for the Tigers.
Storyline: New faces in important places - For the Crimson, the early storyline is going to be the inexperience in net. Girard looked good in his half versus the Mustangs while freshman Michalek had some first game jitters. For Princeton, the new face is behind the bench as Bob Prier looks his first win as the Tigers' bench boss.
The Particulars: Listen live at 7pm on 95.3 FM WHRB, WHRB.org and at GoCrimson.com. Pregame coverage begins at 6:45pm. Brendan Roche and Raafi Alidina return for their second season together in the booth.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Harvard Crimson running back Zach Boden has been honored as Co-Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance against the Dartmouth Big Green. Despite decidedly unfriendly weather conditions, the Atlanta native gained 7.5 yards per carry and netted 116 total yards along with 2 touchdowns. Boden, who plays a physical style of football, at times looked virtually unstoppable—in one instance, he ploughed ahead for an extra ten yards after Dartmouth linebacker Michael Runger (6’2, 215) latched firmly onto his shoulders. This is the second time that Boden has been named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week.
Along with Boden, Crimson QB Collier Winters and RB Treavor Scales were named to the honor roll for their 100+ yard rushing efforts. Scales had 139 yards on 18 carries (7.8 ypc) while Winters had 126 yards on 15 attempts (8.4 ypc). The Crimson finished with a total of 395 rushing yards, one more than their total at Princeton last season.
Yale junior running back Mordecai Cargill received Ivy League Offensive Player of the week for his 230 yard, 2 TD effort against Columbia. Cargill had both of Yale’s TD’s in a 16-13 Bulldog victory. Brown linebacker Daniel Smithwick was named Defensive Player of the Week. Smithwick had 7 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception in the Bears’ 6-0 victory over Penn. Alexander Norocea, the kicker for Brown, received Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his two field goals (including the game winner) in the same contest. Boden shared Ivy League Rookie of the Week with Princeton freshman running back Chuck Dibilio.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
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.