By MIKE ANTHONY/Hartford Courant
Published: November 18th, 2011
Finally, The Game is about a game. Yale-Harvard. Yale Bowl. More than 50,000 fans expected. Harvard (8-1, 6-0 Ivy League) is in search of a perfect Ivy season. Yale (5-4, 4-2) is looking to end on a positive note Saturday by winning the only game that seems to matter to each team.
“They are a good football team,” Yale coach Tom Williams said earlier this week. “We think we match up well with some of the things they do.”
The Bulldogs will have to find a way to stop, or keep up with, the potent Crimson offense. Harvard is averaging 39-plus points a game in Ivy play. Yale has the league’s third-ranked defense. On the other side of the ball, Yale will have quarterback Patrick Witt, the most prolific passer in program history, but will be without leading receiver Chris Smith, who has an ankle injury.
“As a captain, my job is to try to channel the emotion and try to keep the guys as calm as possible,” Yale senior linebacker Jordan Haynes said. “I’m best prepared and I play my best when I’m able to channel those emotions.”
All the hype and sideshows that the buildup to this game entails — particularly this year — will take a back seat to three hours of football. The X’s and O’s and execution matter now. Not even the course of the regular season, which Harvard dominated, necessarily has anything to do with how this game will play out.
There doesn’t have to be any Rhodes Scholarship talk today — not about Witt’s decision to play instead of attend his interview as a finalist, not about Williams’ having to clarify remarks about his own pursuit of the Rhodes in the early 1990s. Today is about football.
“Coming into the season, as a coach you’re not really sure what you have,” Harvard’s Tim Murphy said. “It’s a whole new dynamic. Most coaches are just trying to figure out how the hell to win a single game. But this was our stated goal, to win the Ivy and have the identity of a tough, physical, resilient team. That’s exactly what we’ve been. We [planned] to have a physical couple days of practice [leading up to the game], so if Yale beats us, it’s going to be because they deserve it, not because we weren’t prepared.”
This is the 128th meeting between the teams. Yale leads the series 65-54-8, but Harvard has won nine of the last 10. This season, Harvard has won eight in a row since an opening non-conference loss to Holy Cross, a game in which quarterback Collier Winters injured his hamstring. The Crimson have been equally effective with Winters, who will play Saturday, and backup Colton Chapple.
“I think we’ll be in the proper frame of mind when 12 o’clock rolls around,” Williams said.