Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Scouting Harvard

Justice Shelton-Mosley

Harvard has been following a familiar script in recent years: Win the first eight games of the season by big margins, and then play a tough one against Penn that can go either way.

This year, the Crimson have gone on a slightly different course. Harvard is 6-1 and has played a number of close contests along the way. They're coming off two extremely close contests in an OT win at Princeton and a 23-21 squeaker at Dartmouth.

Surely, a nice and easy win at home over Columbia is in order before next weekend's big game against Penn at Franklin Field. Right?

Possibly, but the fact is Harvard's offensive and defensive stats paint the picture of a Crimson squad that's still very good but simply not as dominant as we've become accustomed to.

For example, QB Joe Viviano is a great passer and runner. But he's only averaging 226 yards passing per game. Usually, you see an average of 250 yards or better for a Harvard QB.

RB Semar Smith is averaging about 68 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. Those are very good stats, but you expect a Crimson rusher to post better numbers.

And Harvard's superstar wide receiving corps, led by potential NFL prospect Justice Shelton-Mosley, has also been very good... but not great.

The offensive line hasn't been as dominant either, allowing 18 sacks in seven games.

The story is the same with the defense. This is a very good group, just not "Harvard great." The Crimson are allowing more than 100 yards per game rushing and more than 230 yards per game passing.

But when you look at the individual defensive stats, things look a bit more "Harvard-like." You do have the beast DE pass rusher in sophomore D.J. Bailey, who has six sacks. You have the ball hawking DB in Tanner Lee who has three picks. You have a trio of top linebackers all with 40 or more tackles per game in Luke Hutton, Anthony Camargo, and Jordan Hill.

So why else is Harvard still 6-1 and 4-0 in the Ivies?

I actually think Head Coach Tim Murphy has taken a page from Al Bagnoli's old Penn playbook and has crafted a team that focuses on just winning games as opposed to really dominating opponents. This Crimson team has grit and the only big question for them is whether they'll bring the same grit to the field in a classic "trap game" the week before a contest that should decided the Ivy title.

No comments: