Holy Cross 27, Harvard 20

Holy Cross bests Harvard as the football season begins.

Late-game heroics were a specialty of last year’s Crimson team, but there was no miracle finish at Worcester’s Fitton Field last Saturday. Opening the season against a strong Holy Cross squad that had already bagged two one-sided wins, Harvard fell behind early and was outpointed, 27-20.

Stellar quarterback Dominic Randolph—in his third year as the Crusaders’ captain—gave Harvard’s defenders more than they could handle, completing 25 of 39 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns, and scoring himself on a one-yard plunge. Shielded by a big offensive line, Randolph was all but untouchable. “Give him enough time, and if a [receiver]’s open, it’s a completion,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said later. “He’s a special player—a pro quarterback.”

Collier Winters, a junior from Claremore, Oklahoma, is Harvard’s quarterback-designate, taking over the slot vacated by Chris Pizzotti ’08(’09), the 2008 Ivy League player of the year. Injuries sidelined Winters a year ago, and he made only brief appearances in 2007, when he ran the ball in short-yardage goal-line offenses. Playing creditably against Holy Cross, he directed a 79-yard scoring drive on Harvard’s first possession of the game, completing six of eight passes and breaking loose for a 23-yard scramble that set up a short touchdown pass to tailback Gino Gordon ’11. Harvard’s other scores came in the second half, on a two-yard pitchout to Gordon and a 46-yard pass from Winters to wide receiver Chris Lorditch ’11, who made a spectacular diving catch in the end zone late in the game.

All told, Winters hit on 22 of 37 passing attempts for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Lorditch, with nine catches for 89 yards, was the team’s leading receiver.

Because Winters had never put the ball in the air in varsity competition, his throwing ability had been a matter of speculation. His play last Saturday made it clear that he has a strong and accurate arm. Lining up in shotgun formation, he showed poise and agility under pressure. And he exhibited breakaway speed when he ran the ball.

 

The passing attack should be the trump card for this year’s team. All of last fall’s top receivers—seniors Matt Luft and Mike Cook, juniors Lorditch, Marco Ianuzzi, and Levi Richards, and sophomore Adam Chrissis—are back.

The running game should be a strength as well. Gordon and senior Cheng Ho have been consistent ground-gainers and have earned second team all-Ivy honors in past seasons. Treavor Scales, a fleet freshman from Stone Mountain, Georgia, saw spot duty against Holy Cross, blocking effectively and rushing for a 16-yard first down conversion that kept Harvard’s second scoring drive alive.

The defense, led by senior captain Carl Ehrlich at tackle, will be hard to run against. It held the Holy Cross offense to 79 yards rushing, and Ehrlich had three solo stops, including a quarterback sack—the only one of the day against Randolph.

Harvard’s Ivy League campaign gets under way this Friday evening, when Brown arrives for a night game at Harvard Stadium (kickoff at 7 p.m.). The Bears dealt Harvard its only loss of the 2008 season, a 24-22 cliffhanger in Providence. Brown bowed to Stony Brook, 21-20, in last weekend’s opening game, yielding a Seawolf touchdown in the final minute of play.

Harvard was picked to win the league championship—ahead of Penn, Brown, and Yale, in that order—in this year’s Ivy League preseason media poll.  The 2007 squad went unbeaten in Ivy play, while last year’s team (9-1, 6-1 Ivy) shared the title with Brown. No Ivy team has copped three consecutive titles since Dartmouth did it in 1990–92.

~"cleat"

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