The translation of Neil Rose from benchwarmer to record-breaking passer was completed in a span of less than 13 minutes. In that interval, quarterback Rose and his mates sprang three big-play touchdowns to overtake Brown, last season's Ivy League co-titlists, in a hard-fought final quarter that ended with Harvard on top, 42-37. Making his first varsity start, Rose had a hot hand in the second half: connecting on 13 of 16 passes, he ended the day with 412 yards in the air, a Harvard single-game record. Flanker Carl Morris had 10 catches for a total of 220 yards, another Harvard record.
Rose, a 6-foot, 3-inch, 210-pound junior from Mililani, Hawaii, has put up big numbers before. As captain and quarterback of his high-school team, he set state records for single-game passing yardage (432) and completions (31). "I used to throw 60 passes a game, but we didn't win much," says Rose, "and I didn't think I'd play anywhere after that." Who knew? In his freshman year, Rose took a few snaps in a dreary 41-10 loss to Penn, but he sat out the 1999 season with a broken foot. He was first on the depth chart at the outset of this year's fall practice, only to have sophomore Barry Wahlberg win the starting assignment for the opening game against Holy Cross. Wahlberg's passing was woeful, and after a third-period interception--his third of the day--Rose relieved him. He hit on seven of nine passes and dove in for a touchdown that put Harvard within three points of victory, but the visiting Crusaders ran out the clock to preserve a 27-25 win.
At Providence the next weekend, the Crimson faced an explosive Brown team that had pounded San Diego, 36-20, in its opening game. Brown took a 17-7 halftime lead and was still in front, 31-21, two plays into the fourth quarter. Rose had begun inauspiciously--throwing an interception at the Bruin goal-line, and giving up a drive-breaking fumble--but by the second half he was in full fig. Early in the third quarter he flipped a short scoring pass to senior fullback Grady Smalling, and his 20-yard run on an option play set up another score. In the final period, with Brown 10 points ahead, Rose hooked up with Morris at midfield. The rangy sophomore, who had 24 catches last season, shook off Bruin defender Uwa Airhiavbere and sprinted down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown. On Harvard's next play from scrimmage, Rose again found Morris at midfield, this time for an 80-yard score. With seven minutes to play and the Crimson ahead, 35-31, a suspenseful double reverse provided the final margin of victory. Seemingly trapped as the play unfolded, sophomore flanker Sean Meeker sidestepped a horde of tacklers, cut to the sideline, and sped 43 yards to the end zone. Aloha, Bruno.
A Harvard team hasn't had a Hawaiian in charge since Milt Holt '75, the all-Ivy quarterback who piloted the 1974 squad to a league co-championship. Another whiff of the pineapple may be just what this generation of gridders requires.
Tidbits: Rose led Harvard to another road victory the weekend after the Brown game, passing for three touchdowns and scoring twice on quarterback sneaks as Harvard dispatched Lafayette, 42-19. He threw 35 passes, completed 19 for 265 yards, and was not intercepted. Reserve tailback Nick Palazzo '03, who rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown, was the game's leading ground-gainer. With four tailbacks sidelined by injuries, Palazzo made his debut in the Brown game, scoring a short-yardage touchdown in the third period....Rose is the first Crimson passer to have thrown for more than 400 yards in a single game. Brad Wilford '00 set the previous record of 398 yards in last year's 63-21 wipeout of Dartmouth. Rose's individual total offense of 427 yards against Brown constitutes another new single-game record.
Fresh faces: Tim Murphy, beginning his seventh season as coach, fielded 16 new starters. Inexperience didn't seem to impair the offensive unit's big-play capability, or the defense's assertiveness....Offensive assets include a stalwart line led by 320-pound tackle and captain Mike Clare, and a quartet of speedy and sure-handed sophomore receivers: Kyle Cremarosa, Sean Meeker, Carl Morris, and Andy St. Pierre. Among the promising newcomers on the other side of the ball are freshman linebacker Dante Balestracci, sophomore safety Niall Murphy, and junior cornerback Andy Fried, a former receiver who also leads the special-teams unit....Danny Miree '02, another special-teams operative, had a 29-yard kickoff-return average in the first two games. Lafayette didn't kick to him in game three.
A rarity: Safety Mike Brooks '01 scored a two-point defensive conversion in the Holy Cross game, scooping up a bungled extra-point snap and running it back 85 yards.
Surprise! Harvard's first touchdown in the Brown game came on a halfback pass from Jared Lewis '02 to Cremarosa--a trick play, like the end-around reverse that ensured victory. Such foolery succeeds only so often, but it worked splendidly against Brown....This year's was the hundredth Harvard-Brown game. The Bruins had won six of the last seven contests.~"Cleat"