With two of its three out-of-conference tuneups out of the best way, crunch time is shortly approaching for Harvard soccer (2-1, 1-0). Because the Ivy League opts to not take part within the Soccer Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, the seven regular-season contests are the only determinant of convention glory, so from right here on out, practically each snap will matter. The gauntlet will start on Friday evening, when the Crimson will play its second Ivy League matchup of the season, a 7 p.m. conflict in Ithaca, N.Y., towards Cornell (2-1, 0-1).
“We perceive that with out having a playoff … each Ivy League recreation issues rather a lot,” stated senior defensive lineman Truman Jones, who was chosen by his teammates to function the 148th Captain of Harvard Soccer this season. “That is that time within the season the place it’s time to buckle down and all of the work that we’ve put in within the preseason and these earlier out-of-conference video games will come to fruition.”
After defeating the Huge Pink last year, 24-10, at Harvard Stadium, Harvard could have its fingers full on Friday evening towards a Cornell workforce led by an ascendant quarterback, sophomore Jameson Wang, who had a breakout recreation in his final look, a 34-31 victory over Colgate final weekend. Wang led the Huge Pink on a go-ahead subject purpose drive with underneath two minutes remaining, and the Cornell protection would maintain the Raiders on their ensuing drive to make sure the victory. Total, Wang put up 284 passing yards and added one other 98 yards and two scores on the bottom. However fortunately for the Crimson, it has latest expertise with a dual-threat quarterback of Wang’s caliber.
Harvard will journey to Ithaca on the heels of its first loss of the season, a good battle towards Holy Cross by which Crusaders quarterback Matthew Sluka burned the Crimson for 300 yards via the air and 63 on the bottom. The workforce was unable to generate any offense within the fourth quarter regardless of a robust recreation general from senior working again Aidan Borguet, who garnered 80 yards and two scores on his 18 carries, and senior huge receiver Kym Wimberly, who fell simply wanting the century mark in receiving yards, ending with 9 catches for 99 yards and a rating. After enjoying clear soccer at Brown the week earlier than, the Crimson misplaced two fumbles and had a punt blocked towards Holy Cross, mishaps that thwarted a possible comeback.
If Harvard hopes to bounce again and hand the Huge Pink its second convention loss in as many video games, it must rely largely on the power of its entrance seven, which varieties the core of its stellar speeding protection. In 2021, the Crimson allowed simply 64.6 speeding yards per recreation, which was sufficient to tempo the nation. Thus far this season, it’s off to a robust begin once more, rating fourth nationally with 76.7, even after permitting the Crusaders to place up 147 yards on the bottom. Along with a sturdy linebacker corps, led by senior Jack McGowan, Harvard’s speeding protection options junior defensive sort out Thor Griffith, who has 21 tackles via three video games, together with 4.5 for a loss, and two sacks. Quite a lot of credit score for the elite unit is because of defensive coordinator Scott Larkee ’99, who persistently emphasizes fundamentals.
“For [the defensive line] particularly, it’s hand placement and the way we assault the offensive linemen, in addition to getting off these blocks, so shedding strategies, and enjoying actually sound gaps,” Jones defined.
As a run-heavy recreation would play to the Crimson’s strengths, Jones stated he and his unit hope to pressure Wang out of the pocket on his dropbacks. However with a stellar cross rush, Wang won’t have it straightforward if he chooses to take to the air towards Harvard. Senior defensive lineman Nate Leskovec, after placing up a monster efficiency within the season-opening win over Merrimack with 4.5 sacks, leads the nation in sacks per recreation (1.50). As a unit, Harvard additionally ranks second within the nation with 4.67 sacks per contest, as Leskovec’s efforts are supplemented by playmakers like Griffith and Jones, who recorded a vital takedown of Sluka close to the tip of the primary half towards Holy Cross.
The cross rush unit is an enormous cause why, regardless of recording only one interception within the first three video games of the 12 months, the Crimson ranks a decent forty fourth nationally in Staff Passing Effectivity Protection (129.86). The secondary is led by veterans, as each beginning cornerbacks – Alex Washington and Khalil Dawsey – are seniors, as is security James Herring, who led the workforce in tackles towards the Crusaders with ten. Final week, the Harvard secondary struggled with cross interference penalties, with every of McGowan, Dawsey, and Washington getting flagged as soon as. It must be higher towards a Cornell offense that boasts arguably one of the best receiver within the Historic Eight.
Whereas Harvard might goal to flush Wang out of the pocket, the Harvard-Westlake (Studio Metropolis, Calif.) product certainly hopes to maintain the chains shifting via the air. In Ithaca, Wang was reunited with one in all his prime targets from highschool, senior huge receiver Thomas Glover, who linked with Wang for 677 yards and eight touchdowns at Harvard-Westlake in 2017. Though he was the No. 2 goal for the Wolverines, he loved a breakout marketing campaign final 12 months for the Huge Pink, because the transformed working again led the Ivy League with 767 receiving yards. Glover is off to a stellar begin once more in 2022, as he hauled in seven passes for 160 yards and a landing towards the Raiders.
“Get a cross rush, to make these throws uncomfortable, make the ball sail excessive,” stated Jones of the keys to containing Glover. “And for cornerbacks and the remainder of the protection is to run quick, play good with our eyes, and lock into our strategies and fundamentals.”
Along with Glover, Wang will be capable to goal junior tight finish Matt Robbert, junior huge receiver Nicholas Laboy, who introduced in a landing towards Yale on Sept. 24, and senior tight finish William Enneking, who discovered the tip zone twice towards the Virginia Army Institute. The Cornell speeding offense begins with Wang, who has taken his 36 carries for 194 yards and two scores, but additionally options working backs Eddy Tillman and Gannon Carothers, who’ve mixed for 199 yards and one landing. Head coach David Archer will hope to get his playmakers concerned in inventive methods on Friday evening, a staple of Huge Pink offenses underneath his tutelage.
“They do properly by way of disguising their performs with completely different formations,” Jones defined. “It’s lots of comparable performs with quite a lot of formations, so there’s not rather a lot to key on particularly with that.”
The Crimson offense, led by senior quarterback Charlie Dean, will look to search out success towards a Huge Pink protection that has struggled to get to the quarterback early on within the season. After registering six sacks in its season-opening win over the Virginia Army Institute, Cornell didn’t file a single sack in its previous two contests towards Yale and Colgate. One other potential opening that the Crimson will look to use is the Huge Pink rush protection: Yale and Colgate mixed to hurry the ball a complete of 61 instances towards Cornell at a median clip of 4.0 and seven.2 yards per carry, respectively. With Borguet averaging 6.3 yards per carry and standing seventh within the nation with 112.7 speeding yards per recreation, Harvard followers can count on to see lots of the senior on Friday evening.
“They at all times play us properly,” stated Dean of the Huge Pink, which will probably be enjoying in its second house recreation of the season. “It’ll be as much as us to decipher what the fronts are, what the blitzes are, what the covers are on the line so we are able to execute our offense to them one of the best we are able to.”
Dean will look to proceed his sturdy begin to the season, by which he has accomplished 58 % of his passes and tossed six touchdowns, along with his solely two interceptions coming within the first recreation towards Merrimack. Along with his particular reference to Wimberly, the senior from Odessa, Fla. has additionally gotten one of the best out of sophomore huge receiver and deep menace Ledger Hatch, who reeled in a 55-yard deep ball towards Holy Cross and an 81-yard landing catch the week earlier than towards Brown. If Hatch is ready to get behind the Cornell secondary, the Crimson will be capable to recreate its profitable system it used this 12 months towards Brown and final 12 months towards the Huge Pink, when working again B.J. Watson ‘22 gashed the protection for an 81-yard landing catch.
Discovering a approach to beat the Cornell secondary will probably be no straightforward process, although. The hosts will probably be led by a pair of massive safeties, six-foot-four sophomore Trey Harris, whose older brother Will performs security for the Detroit Lions, and six-foot-two fifth-year Demetrius Harris. Trey Harris led the workforce in tackles within the win over Colgate, and Demetrius Harris completed second. Demetrius Harris additionally recorded an interception within the win over the Virginia Army Institute, one in all three to this point this season for the Huge Pink. Junior linebacker Holt Fletcher leads the workforce in picks, having recorded one every towards VMI and Colgate. The Cornell defensive entrance additionally options senior linebacker Jake Stebbins, a two-time All-Ivy choice who recovered a fumble towards VMI. Stebbins led the Ivy League with 95 whole tackles in 2021. Between the 2 Harrises, Fletcher, and Stebbins, the Huge Pink have the scale and athleticism to pose issues for the high-powered Harvard assault.
On Friday evening, Cornell will hope to show that it has what it takes to drag off the upset. It is going to be aided by a journey benefit, for the journey to Ithaca marks the Crimson’s second-longest of the 12 months. On the six hour, thirty-minute bus experience to the Finger Lakes area, Harvard gamers will hope to maintain their our bodies free for what guarantees to be a bruising, bodily battle towards an unrelenting convention opponent.
“We’ll stretch out into the aisles and watch movie and focus and actually lock into our recreation plan as properly,” Jones stated of the bus experience.
After the lengthy journey, the Crimson and the Huge Pink will conflict underneath the lights at Schoellkopf Area. The groups will probably be underneath the highlight metaphorically as properly, as it is going to be the primary of 4 nationally-televised video games that Harvard will play this season, essentially the most of any Ivy League college. Harvard followers can tune in to the sport on ESPNU or comply with alongside over the air on WRCA at 1330 AM, 106.1 FM, or 92.9 FM-HD2.