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Football Set to Host Big Green

{shortcode-64acbf87b7afac9bafbab6c224b24866f1773f7a}“We ran into a legitimate offensive buzz saw.”

That was how Tim Murphy, Harvard football coach, described last Friday’s drubbing at the hands of Princeton. The Tigers carved up the Crimson for 423 passing yards, including over 300 before halftime, en route to an 52-17 victory.

Now, holding a 3-3 record for the first time since 2005, Harvard must find some way to piece together the splinters.

The reckoning process began on Sunday, when the team held an aberrant practice. Next came film study, meaning the merciless watching and re-watching of game-day mistakes.

“[It was] quiet,” Murphy said. “Anytime you lose against a rival in general, and lose in the fashion that we lost the game, there’s that much more focus on, ‘Wow, how did this happen?’”

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As Murphy emphasized, though, the Crimson can fixate on Princeton for only so long. This week, Harvard faces a similarly staunch test against a new opponent—Dartmouth (5-1, 3-1 Ivy), which has already topped Yale and Penn.

The Big Green will visit Cambridge for the first time since Oct. 30, 2015, when Harvard and Dartmouth slugged out one of the most epic fights in recent memory.

That Friday night, both teams entered with a 6-0 record. Preseason pundits had picked the Crimson and the Big Green to finish one-two. Effectively, the matchup loomed as the Ancient Eight championship.

Dartmouth took a 13-0 lead into the final seven minutes of play, but Harvard responded with a wild sequence of plays—a school-yard touchdown on fourth-and-12, a forced fumble with under three minutes left, and a go-ahead score two minutes later.

The madness didn’t end until the last second, when Crimson linemen Richie Ryan and Stone Hart blocked a Big Green field goal. Harvard 14, Dartmouth 13.

“That [Crimson] team had an amazing amount of grit,” Murphy said. “It was a game we’ll always remember. I think it’ll be considered as one of the best games in Harvard history.”

Murphy made a comparison to the 2015 Crimson when previewing the 2017 Big Green. This year, Dartmouth has demonstrated a knack for the dramatic. Two of the Big Green’s last four wins came on the last play—an overtime stop against Holy Cross and a fourth-quarter score against Penn. Another victory came when Dartmouth erased the largest deficit in program history (21 points) to shock the Bulldogs.

Even the Big Green’s lone loss came in exciting fashion. Facing undefeated Columbia, Dartmouth marched back from a 22-7 third-quarter deficit to get within five. Twice in the last five minutes, the Big Green earned a first-and-goal. Twice, the Lions repelled the attack.

This was what Murphy meant when he said that only one play separated Dartmouth from a 6-0 record.

“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Murphy said. “They don’t get rattled when they’re behind. They seem to believe that they’re a team of destiny, the way they’ve played.”

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