Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Joe Tutino '12 Weighs in on the Georgetown Trip

Hopefully this can become a weekly posting from Joe. I always enjoy reading his thoughts from our road trips and his humor. 

The Doormat. The Sightseeing Trip. Tom Gilmore’s Opus. There’s the Patriot League and then there’s that other team. The Georgetown University Hoyas, the only football team I’ve ever heard of going to the Sun Bowl one year and dropping the sport the next (that really happened 1950-1951), was the only school in the league who could boast a high school squad in a high school stadium but competed in NCAA athletics. Notice I wrote was. With the installation of former Holy Cross assistant coach Dave Patenaude as offensive coordinator in early 2010, and a matured squad led by head coach Kevin Kelly and utility stud Keerome Lawrence, Georgetown is no longer Howard’s ugly D.C. twin. That was quite evident Saturday in a 17-7 loss to the Hoyas in front of a capacity crowd of (gasp!) 3000+. Like the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, the Hoyas are taking advantage of their underdog status to surprise a lot of teams with their youth, athleticism and flexibility in play calling and personnel. Georgetown proved to Holy Cross what the Spartans did to the Persians at Thermopylae: we’re here to fight.

However, let’s get one thing straight: Georgetown did not dominate the Crusaders. Nor did they outplay them. They stark reality is that the Saders, to use a cliché, beat themselves. Georgetown came into the game with a record of 2-1 after taking Yale to the wire at the Yale Bowl last weekend, with prior victories coming over Pioneer Football League member Davidson and league foe Lafayette. Opening the season on Homecoming obviously had an effect on the Hoyas, but this was our game to win from the very beginning. I will leave the particulars to Mr. Doyle, but this game came down to a lack of anything on offense and questionable play calling by the coaching staff. I may have put a little too much emphasis on the defensive back play last week (which, from my perspective, did underperform against a Harvard team that lost 29-14 to Brown), but that was most certainly not an issue this week. Coach Richard Rodgers had his platoon up for the fight, which yielded less than 200 yards to Georgetown quarterback and Tewksbury native Scott Darby (though he did rush for 98 yards). The defensive rush is still suspect, though preseason All-American Mude Ohimor provided the lone highlight with a 34 yard fumble return in the third quarter which sparked the only score of the day. Ricky Otis had a career day after sitting out the previous two road trips due to injury, nagging 16 total tackles and garnering Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honors.

The glaring problem is the darn offense. Much maligned Quarterback Ryan Taggart continues to look nervous as a hare in the pocket. On the second offensive possession for the Purple, Taggart failed to know where the sticks were, electing to baseball slide his way to the turf a yard or two short of the first down when lowering his shoulder would have extended the drive.  More than one offensive lineman was incensed at this decision, letting Taggart know what his decision meant to them as they jogged to the sidelines. In addition to another shoddy run performance (86 yards total), the receiving corps cannot afford to drop passes on first and second down. The apparent shoulder injury to game-changing receiver Billy Edger is really limiting Taggart’s ability to throw the ball downfield right now, but he still has viable options in Freddy Santana, Luke Chmielinski and Rob Koster, not to mention budding stars Gerald Mistretta and Mike Fess. What is really puzzling is that tight end (and potential NFL prospect from what I understand) Alex Schneider (3 catches, 20 yards) is not utilized as often as he should be, especially for an offense that has chosen a more conservative approach of nickel and diming the opposition down the field.

This week’s third consecutive defeat is frustrating in that the entire game was frustrating, having scored 7 points or less for the third consecutive week. It hurts that many a possession started in what would be deemed prime field position. The offensive play calling was very suspect, especially on third and fourth down (RUN THE SNEAK PLAY, PLEASE!!!). What is especially frustrating for the team right now, however, is how this loss and the two previously are already being perceived by students and alums alike. Browsing Crossports after a long bus/plane ride home following a tough loss, I was appalled. Sure, losing three straight games brings back plenty of memories of the not-too-distant past. It’s normal to react in a negative manner, as I’m sure I did along with many of the Cross supporters in attendance in D.C. Losing downright sucks. But what sucks even more is the perception factor of so-called fans. Whoever compares this program’s ability to that of a Division III program is either disillusioned or on some kind of drug. This team is 1-3 with only one league loss and the world comes crashing down on all of us. We’ve got some clamoring for full scholarships immediately and others who would like to see the program dropped outright. If someone has a beef with the athletic department, that’s fine by many of us because there are areas that are sorely lacking and I will expound on that further (as I and many others already have). But do not give up on this team. This team is transitioning after a legendary 2009 campaign that saw three seniors briefly go on to the National Football League and, at the present, are not letting go of that dream, a season that saw the Crusaders take the FCS champs down to the waning moments of the first postseason appearance in two decades. While the same philosophy has always been in place and the playbook is generally the same as it has been in recent years, it comes down to a new group of guys leading the charge. In the words of Coach Gilmore after the trip, a sense of entitlement to this season may have been felt early on by many of the players and that mentality needs to change, simple as that. I really hope current students are not hanging their heads as low as some posters on Crossports, which may lead to a poor showing at future contests and lack of interest in the team. Perception changes a lot of things, but it will not change the resiliency and gamesmanship of this squad. The team is merely going through growing pains. Our brand of style is Holy Cross Football. A few losses are not going to change that. Beat Fordham.

Tidbits from the Georgetown Trip
  • Nice to see many alumni/ae at the game, including recent graduates Mike Wright, Aaron Jones, Jack Leatherman and Wayne Nesbit. A strong showing by many parents from the Mid-Atlantic Region, as well as current students in the Washington Semester Program. These loyal fans took up about three-fourths of the away side stands, tailgating in force on the heights near the old football “stadium.” A Jones sends word that he has recently started a new job, but is hanging onto hopes of playing in the NFL again real soon, employing the efforts of a current coach to try and procure a new agent.
  • Georgetown has improved their facilities in recent years, but full improvements on the Multi-Purpose Field are still not complete. The “stadium,” which really resembles a poor man’s Hawk Bowl (for Xavarian Brothers (MA)/Catholic Conference fans), seats over 3000, but end zone seating and restroom facilities could be solid additions, not to mention that fellow manager Kevin Callahan had to film from a Georgetown player’s dorm room adjacent to the field. The visiting locker rooms were better suited to house a basketball team rather than an FCS football team, but then again this was a Georgetown program that considered dropping football again very recently.
  • Homecoming activities at Georgetown meant lots of activity, but I was unable and unwilling to buy tickets to the Mr. Georgetown pageant for Friday night. The quad area on the upper campus was abuzz with activity on Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon was an adventure unto itself, especially for our bus drivers who had to dodge many an inebriated Hoya Superfan. The Georgetown manager (a grad student studying Sports Management who held the title of football manager for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish while an undergrad) who I filmed with from an extremely hazardous precipice (the lift we filmed on broke down in the second half) told me that this was by far the biggest crowd Georgetown has seen in a very, very long time. Probably since that Sun Bowl game back in 1950.
  • If my memory isn’t hazy (which I did slam my head on the bus more than once), former Northeastern head coach and Minot State legend Rocky Hager was dressed to the nines  while viewing the game from the air-conditioned (Holy Cross officials, take notice)press box. Not a clue as to why he was in attendance, but I’m sure watching Tom Gilmore ply his trade here as a spectator  rather than as an opposing coach on a flooded Parsons Field seemed much better.
  • This was the first overnight trip of the season and, boy, was it a treat. Not only did we get a plane trip out of it (with complementary snack and drink no less), the Key Bridge Marriot in Arlington, Virginia right across the Potomac from Georgetown was, in my opinion, a five-star affair. On par with the Fordham trip last year, the lasagna and ice cream bar that followed (standard fare on road trips) was extremely tasty. Breakfast featured at least ten different types of beverage, not to mention freshly-squeezed orange juice. The three guy managers shared a third floor room with the most comfortable beds I think we ever slept on. Of course, I took advantage of the customary free pen and paper in the room, adding to my ever expanding collection of hotel pen and paper, but, sadly, the shampoo and mouthwash was better left in the room to avoid trouble at the airport. Top it all off with a return plane trip at night with a cloudless sky and (besides the loss) you have a very enjoyable trip.
  • Road trips also mean plenty of free time for managers and other non-football staff who made the trip. While most trips include a movie back at the room (who can forget The Bee Movie last year at Bucknell?) or maybe a trip to a nearby convenience store for a two-foot sandwich (a la Villanova), this trip included some sightseeing, baseball and some friends studying in the area. Our flight was originally delayed for an hour in Providence on Friday, so a 2 hour trip to the National Mall turned into the under 1 hour adventure. Some daring players made the sprint from the Natural History Museum to the Lincoln Memorial in 95 degree heat while some staff opted for the air conditioned bus and Italian Ice (no names will be provided). Some of us managers chose to take the Metro (confusing at first, but easy to learn) to take in the Nationals-Braves game at the new Nationals Stadium. Having gotten past a few scalpers, we were able to get free tickets and finagle our way a couple rows from the Braves dugout on a picture perfect Friday night. The Nationals ended up with the win, led by two home runs from Adam Dunn and a rare true inside-the-park home run from former Red Sox legend Willie Harris.
  • Good to see Tom “Big Red” Kelleher back in the booth for the first time this season. Providing color commentary alongside the ageless Bob Fouracre, Big Red began his first of four broadcasts, with Gordie Lockbaum doing the last game this season (having done the previous three) and Charles Bare filling in for three more games this season. Kelleher is enjoying retirement in Miami, but still enjoys his time in the booth when he gets the opportunity.
  • While we waited out the delay to board in Providence to get to BWI, two birds were flying around the players and staff in the waiting area. I took the opportunity to toss a few pieces of my sausage, egg and cheese for them to eat. Of course, you can’t give one some food without feeding the other, so both got their piece. However, one bird took the weight room slogan “only the strong survive” to aviary heights by barging in on the other bird and taking his piece of the croissant. I know that other bird must’ve felt as I did in that Harvard press box.
  • Some commented on Crossports last week about the JV game. The Holy Cross JVs defeated a talented Bridgton Academy team on Sunday afternoon up at the Hart Turf, 29-6. A very large contingent witnessed the game as parents from both schools packed the stands and surrounding area. Some performances that stood out were those of freshman quarterback Max Librizzi and his classmate, running back Reggie Woods. Librizzi looked impressive in the pocket, using his legs to get himself out of trouble on more than one occasion and tossing for one touchdown. Woods, with the help of a stout offensive line, tore up the Bridgton defense by hitting the hole with a fearless approach. The only negative from this game was the lack of discipline shown by the young Crusaders, judging from the amount of flags for false starts and personal fouls after the play. This victory brings their record to 2-1 on the season with one more contest remaining, an October 10th tilt at Brown.
  • Only pet peeve of the trip: The captain of our AirTran return flight from BWI into Logan remarked to someone ahead of me in line, “Isn’t Holy Cross a school in South Bend, Indiana?” Thanks a lot, Rudy.
  • Don’t forget: This week is Homecoming vs. Fordham with the Ring of Fame ceremony to take place at Fitton. Having lost an NFL-caliber quarterback in John Skelton and losing to Division II Assumption College with scholarships last week, Fordham will have something to prove against a team that handed them a demoralizing loss last season. I really hope the Athletic Department hypes this game as much as Georgetown did their Homecoming. Looking forward to a very entertaining backyard brawl with both the Johnny Turco Memorial Trophy and the Ram-Crusader Cup on the line. Go Cross!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

HCGLC Annual Meeting October 2, 2010 9:30am

Holy Cross Gridiron Leadership Council Annual Meeting 
Date: October 2, 2010 
Location: Lower Kimball 
Time: 9:30am 

Mission: “Committed to excellence in helping Holy Cross Football win on 
and off the field” 

Come to our HCGLC Annual Meeting then attend the Building the 
Brand/Ring of Fame Reception in Lower Kimball which will run from 10:30-12:15. Space is 
limited. RSVP to Jen Whipple (
For more color on the inaugural class in the Ring of Fame
I. Brief Review of 2009-2010 Programs: 
Career Planning Evening, 
“90-Wide” Mentoring
> Patriot League Championship Reception 
Spring Game Reception/Cookout, Jackie Mo’ Lifetime 
Achievement Award, 
Golf Outing, 
Building the Brand/Ring of Fame 
II. 2010-2011 Schedule: 
> Improved Operations in terms of more formal 
engagement, committees, and delegation…”Greater Buy In!!” 
III. New Initiatives: 
> Websites: to further build the community, access info on our efforts and programs at Club and Chu Chu Rah Rah, an independent website for our Holy Cross Football family.

Capital Call 
Organizing by year of graduation 
Night Game at Fitton 
A Hall of Fame Recommendation Committee 
Meet with Board Chair Kevin Condron to further our mission. 

Board Chair: Larry Doyle '83 
Word of mouth is always the best way to spread the word of our efforts 
and our mission. Do all of us who love Holy Cross Football a favor and 
share this message with your friends, family, colleagues. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reactions to the Harvard Game

Several of the assistant coaches, managers, and training staff departed for Cambridge at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. While driving to Harvard, many of those in the van were constantly refreshing the college football scores on their phones, keeping a close eye on the Michigan-UMASS score. The Minutemen rallied late to put a real scare in the Wolverines, but ultimately fell 42-37 in Ann Arbor. All of a sudden, many of us did not feel nearly as badly with our performance in Amherst just a week earlier. UMASS went toe-to-toe with perennial power Michigan, and probably should have won the game if it were not for a collapse in the last two minutes of the first half that allowed Michigan to score two touchdowns. Although UMASS beat us handily, playing them to a 24 point defeat was not all that embarrassing. What transpired later that evening, however, was uncharacteristic of Holy Cross football; it was embarrassing.

Concluding the 34-6 loss against the Crimson, Holy Cross was beaten easily in consecutive games. As a result, there were several "first time since...." that arose as well. For me, the most alarming aspect of both of these games was how it was the first time since 1997 where Holy Cross scored in single digits in back-to-back games. Scoring points, rather than giving them up, has not been a problem in recent years for the Holy Cross offense. Now, both are struggling. Although, I would argue that the defense has not been as bad as some may believe. When the offense struggles to sustain long drives, much less than score points, the defense simply spends too much time on the field and becomes worn down.

What went right against Harvard (there was not much):
  • Our big tight end Alex Schneider became a bigger target in the passing game. Schneider hauled in 6 catches for 48 yards.
  • Roman SanDoval continues to come up big at middle linebacker. He led us in tackles with 11.
  • Kevin Watson ran the offense pretty smoothly when seeing time in the second half. 
  • The atmosphere of the night game was fabulous again for the second straight week; there was 20,000+ people at the game. Will the Holy Cross administration catch on and realize how great a night game at Fitton would be? 
What did not go right:
  • Stating the obvious, having Andrew Hatch and Harvard run circles around us was not easy to watch. There seemed to be a lack of pride during the game at times, especially in the second half when the game was clearly out of reach.
  • The offense was stagnant for the second straight. When looking at the drive log, our first 9 possessions featured little success and movement of the chains:
Drive Started             Drive Ended             Consumed
Team     Qtr Spot Time   Obtained      Spot Time   How Lost      Pl-Yds   TOP
HC       1st C25   08:26  Kickoff            C29  05:11  Downs          7-4    3:15
HC       1st C20   01:47  Kickoff            C42  13:58  Punt              6-22   2:49
HC       2nd C29  10:07  Kickoff           .C33  08:13  Punt              3-4    1:54
HC       2nd C26  01:30  Kickoff            H22  00:20  Interception   6-52   1:10
HC       3rd C31  14:53  Kickoff            C50  12:29  Downs          7-19   2:24
HC       3rd C48  11:17  Punt                 H30  09:40  Downs          6-22   1:37
HC       3rd C26  04:46  Kickoff            C32  02:43  Punt              3-6    2:03
HC       4th C24  14:07  Downs             H40  09:01  Downs          9-36   5:06
HC       4th C47  07:25  Kickoff            H43  05:49  Interception   5-10   1:36

·         Failure to find the open receiver. It happened against UMASS, but was more evident against the Crimson. Our quarterbacks, especially Ryan Taggart, honed in on a receiver too early before the play  fully developed, and consequently missed the open man. On several occasions, Rob Koster, the biggest receiving target we have in terms of size in height, was left unguarded.

·         Inability to convert on 4th down. Extending drives have been an ongoing problem with the offense this year, so executing 4th and short situations is imperative. It begins up front with a good push from the offensive line, and concludes with the running back/quarterback making an athletic play with the ball.

·         Win the turnover battle. Turnovers are often times such a momentum shift that can drastically change the outcome of a game. More than anything, a big interception or fumble recovery acts as a spark plug for the entire team and reinvigorates both the offense and defense. Against Harvard, we had 2 giveaways and 0 takeaways.

Many of the HC faithful are concerned that the Crusaders are doomed for a major rebuilding year following   the graduation of Dominic Randolph, and consecutive blowout losses to UMASS and Harvard. While there certainly should be some concern, many lose sight that these two teams are probably the two best we will play this year. The 2010 Crusader football team simply has too much pride and talent to roll over and let two losses end the season. I expect the game against Georgetown this weekend to be played with much more energy and a sense of urgency than what was displayed against Harvard.

The team travels to Washington DC early tomorrow morning as we are flying out of Providence. I will hopefully draft up a preview of Georgetown and what we should expect from them while in the air.

Kevin Doyle '11

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Holy Cross "Mafia"

I came across an article this morning by Curtis Eichelberger, who writes for, about the fabulous alumni network the University of Pennsylvania football program has with the current players. The dedication Quaker alumni have to their current football players is something I believe that the Holy Cross Gridiron Leadership Council has emulated. The "90-Wide" Mentoring Program has been a great success thus far, and my personal mentor, Lee Heffernan, has provided me with worthwhile career advice and strategies that I would not have otherwise gained. As great as the Career Planning is at Holy Cross, I have found the mentoring program to be an invaluable outlet as I near the "real world" after college.

The part of the article that caught my attention the "mafia" aspect of the organization. Although the notion of a mafia may connote illegal practices and business, everyone looks out for each other's back when in the mafia. I believe that through the HCGLC, a "mafia" can and will develop amongst the alumni and trickle down into the current players in the program. 

Ivy League Football 'Mafia' Gives Wall Street a Talent Pipeline 

By Curtis Eichelberger

University of Pennsylvania defensive back Josh Powers may have a better opportunity than playing for college football’s national championship: a six- figure Wall Street salary upon graduation.
Powers, a senior at the Philadelphia-based school, was able to use contacts on Penn’s athletic board to land internships at two financial firms.
“I have a job opportunity that the top, top percentile of applicants would give their right arm to have,” Powers said in an interview. “I’ve been blessed with a fantastic opportunity.”
Penn’s athletic board of overseers includes George Weiss, founder of the George Weiss Associates Inc. hedge fund in Hartford, Connecticut; Robert Wolf, chairman and chief executive officer of UBS Group Americas in Stamford, Connecticut; and Mark Werner, the former JP Morgan Securities Inc. vice chairman who is co-founder and CEO ofPierpont Securities LLC, also in Stamford.
Having that kind of board helps the Quakers land better players, coach Al Bagnoli, who led the team to the Ivy League championship last season, said in a telephone interview from the school’s campus.
“We call them our alumni mafia,” Bagnoli said. “Everyone looks out for one another. It’s a very close group.”
The school, founded by Ben Franklin, has an undergraduate enrollment of 10,300 full-time students.
Summer Internships
Ivy League athletes often receive internships from executives involved with their school sports programs, while others use alumni for references or to gain insights into a company’s needs. Powers is one of dozens of student-athletes who landed summer internships with financial firms.
New York’s Columbia University formally recognized the importance of tapping into networks in 2006 by appointingKimberly Curry, 36, as the first full-time director of career development for athletics in the Ivy League.
Curry holds so-called etiquette dinners where student- athletes are taught how to make small talk in a formal dinner setting. She schedules mock interviews, sets up talks by local business leaders and arranges for athletics alumni to help students by reviewing resumes, providing advice and making introductions.
Few Sporting Chances
Most college athletes aren’t going to make a living with their sports, especially those from the Ivy League, which doesn’t award athletic scholarships. For example, about 65,000 student-athletes played college football last season, while National Football League teams had 334 rookie, or first-year players, on their 2010-2011 season-opening rosters, according to the league. None were from the Ivy League, which comprises eight of the top-ranked schools in the U.S.
There were five Ivy players on NFL rosters when the season started: center Matt Birk (Harvard, Baltimore Ravens), defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Harvard, Oakland Raiders), quarterbackRyan Fitzpatrick (Harvard, Buffalo Bills), linebacker Zak DeOssie (Brown University, New York Giants) and guard Kevin Boothe (Cornell University, New York Giants), who is on the physically unable to perform list with a torn pectoral muscle.
Powers, the son of an accountant and high-school secretary in Fishers, Indiana, has a 3.42 grade-point average as a finance major at Penn’s Wharton School, ranked No. 4 among U.S. undergraduate business schools this year by Bloomberg Businessweek. He interned at Wolf’s and Weiss’s firms the past two years.
Powers, who started buying stocks with his allowance in high school, researched companies, built financial models and made trade suggestions based on his research at Weiss Associates.
“He did phenomenally well,” Weiss said. “He’s smart and they told me he was real aggressive. I said, ‘How can an analyst be aggressive?’ They said, ‘He is.’”
$80 Million Donations
Weiss, 67, has contributed more than $80 million to Penn, according to the school, including $20 million to recruit and fund professorships, $14 million for undergraduate scholarships and $10 million for a football stadium renovation.
“There is a huge benefit to having the support of our alumni network,” Weiss said. “But it’s not a freebie, either. They have to pass muster. We work our interns 50 to 60 hours a week and I don’t tell them to hire a guy; they have to come to me and say they want to hire this guy.”
Weiss said the starting salary for undergraduates at his firm is about $120,000 a year.
The internships don’t violate National Collegiate Athletic Association rules because any student can apply for an internship or job. Participation in intercollegiate athletics is one factor that goes onto an application.
Pierpont Securities’ Werner hired Barb Seaman, captain of Penn’s 2010 Ivy League champion women’s lacrosse team, to work on his sales and trading team after she graduated with a degree in marketing from the Wharton school.
‘World Class’
“These are really intelligent kids with a world-class education,” Werner, 52, said in an interview. “It’s not just about pulling them up. It’s an advantage to us, too.”
Athletes can bring something extra that’s necessary for success in finance, Werner said.
“In a business where it tends to knock you down a lot, they tend to get back up,” he said. “That drive, that level of discipline, the rigor they have in their own personal lives and their willingness to take on hard challenges; a lot of that gets taught to you on an athletic field.”
Powers said while he loves football, he knows where his future lies. He interviewed with Nick Morris, the head of Weiss’s equity trading desk, and got the thumbs up.
Morris was a Penn defensive back in the 1990s. He was voted the Quakers’ defensive Most Valuable Player and was tri-captain of the 1995 team that finished 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Ivy League, tied for second place with Cornell behind Princeton.
“A lot of the time it’s who you know,” Powers said. “Then, of course, you have to deliver.”
In the latest top 25 poll for FCS football, Pennsylvania is the 28th ranked team in the country. It would make sense that they have become one of the elite teams in the Ivy League in recent years as through this alumni network, more talented players are attracted to UPENN. To quote the article: "Having that kind of board helps the Quakers land better players." With the HCGLC and the "90 Wide" Mentoring Program already in place, imagine not only what talented football players, but also quality students, Holy Cross would attract with scholarships.

Kevin Doyle '11

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Special Contribution from Joe Tutino '12

A fellow team manager and good friend requested last week if he could contribute to "CCRR" following the Harvard game. My immediate response was, "Are you kidding? I'd love to have another Crusader brother contribute to the blog." After reading the quality and subtle humor in Joe's writing, I hope he becomes a regular contributor. Here are Joe's thoughts and comments from our trip to Harvard this past weekend:

As strains of “Fair Harvard” wafted across Soldiers’ Field Road, showering Crimson fans with dreams of yet another Ivy Title, a dejected Holy Cross squad emerged from the cavernous bowels of Harvard Stadium without fanfare.  As distant as Mount St. James is from Harvard Yard, so too were the directions of Tim Murphy and Tom Gilmore’s clubs after a 34-6 Johnny shellacking in front of 21,704 on Allston-Brighton Day. Perched high atop the gridiron in a camera nest not fit for a sparrow, I could feel the anxiety building up from the east sideline. Time after time, LSU transfer and Mormon missionary Andrew Hatch (filling in for injured all-Ivy QB Collier Winters, out for at least another month) and Co. did exactly what Kyle Havens and UMass did to near perfection: find holes in the defensive backfield. Clearly, experience is not a weakness for veterans Anthony DiMichele and Alex Johnson, but snaps were lacking coming into the season for current starters Cav Koch, Chandler Fenner and Tommy Mannix. Their inexperience combined with what could be lingering effects from a head injury suffered by DiMichele in the final scrimmage of preseason has led to these gaudy statistics: QB Kyle Havens, UMass-25-38-293 yards (2 touchdown passes); QB Andrew Hatch, Harvard-20-25-276 yards (3 touchdown passes). Statistics are statistics, but, to the naked eye, receivers from Cambridge and Amherst were consistently wide open underneath or a step or two in front of their defender(s), characteristics of Peter Vaas-era defenses.

The blame does not lie entirely on the defensive backs or the defense, which was forced to be on the field for 35 of the 60 minutes of the game. Sure, Hatch had all the time in the world to throw and Gino Gordon had a couple of nice runs, but the offense was as stagnant as a Christmas ham. It’s hard to throw him out just yet, but the jury is still out on Ryan Taggart (5-11-54 yards, 1 pick), who may have played himself out of employment on Saturdays with his first half performance. Looking indecisive and very uncomfortable against a stout Harvard rush, Taggart was unable to sustain any momentum in the pocket, giving way to Kevin Watson (13-25-116 yards, 1 pick and 1 touchdown) in the second half. Watson may be the answer for now, appearing to have more confidence after mop up duty vs. Howard and UMass, but he was thrown into the fire long after the Crimson established a 20-0 lead. The name Dominic Randolph should only be referred to in the past tense and not in comparison to anyone on the current roster, but it is hard to forget what his arm (and legs) meant to the offense. The reality is that this offense can no longer go head-to-head in a high scoring shootout with the likes of a UMass team that took nationally-ranked Michigan to the wire at the Big House. With a non-existent running game (for now) and a question mark at quarterback, the defense will have to become as stingy as ever.

The fact that the UMass and Harvard games came into play this early in the season and consecutively no less was tough, but a Tom Gilmore-led team is always up to the task when the bell is rung. Losing to these two very talented, scholarship-laden (yes, the way Harvard administers aid should be considered scholarship) and well-coached teams is not the surprise. UMass was playing under the lights on their home turf in the first game that all students were back on campus, not to mention that they had upset a top-5 team the previous week in William & Mary. Harvard was playing their first game of the season under the lights to probably the second-largest crowd they will see this year behind an SEC-caliber quarterback (who was their backup). With that being said, though, there most certainly should have been improvement from week 2 to week 3. If anything, the team took a step back. Mental mistakes on both sides of the ball cost the offense and defense any kind of momentum. However, the most surprising aspect of these losses was the amount of enthusiasm on the sidelines (definitely not on the field) which was, for lack of a better word, embarrassing. Being scored upon can be demoralizing, but the faith must be kept. Coming from a high school program that went 0-11 my junior year, and having been around for the Vaas and Dan Allen-eras (with all due respect), I understand what it’s like to go through losses, but these are two games against two very quality clubs. The surprising part of these losses is not the loss, but the lack of pride and resilience among those who do not play a significant amount of time. Leadership extends beyond the three captains, who I might say have performed admirably in the face of adversity, with all three battling nagging injuries. A quarterback with solid leadership skills has to step forward in order to taste success in the coming weeks. That may be Taggart or Watson or even Mark Tolzien, who has seen the majority of his snaps come in the two Junior Varsity contests (a win against Merrimack three weeks ago and a loss to Harvard this past Sunday). The underclassmen need to display the same intensity and fire to compete as the starters do; it has yet to come full circle. Having experienced two weeks of seemingly flat practice, let me be the first to say that Coach Gilmore began preparations for Georgetown immediately after Saturday’s loss.

With the sting of the Harvard loss already in the back of our minds at least, we look forward to this week’s flight down to Washington D.C. to Georgetown and their newly-renovated Multi-Purpose Field (capacity up to around 4,000!). While the Hoyas have been rather unsuccessful in the previous decade in the Patriot League, this year is very, very different. With wins over Davidson and Lafayette on the road and a defeat on the final play of the game at the Yale Bowl, Georgetown will not be a sightseeing trip this time around. This contest, an all-too-crucial Patriot League opener for the Cross in light of the current picture (minus Fordham, making it a six team race), will most likely be an indicator as to how the rest of the season will transpire.
To the naysayers who have dismissed this team already, a new “finger-licking good” season begins this Saturday. Stay tuned.

Tidbits from the Harvard Trip:
  • Where was the student bus?!  Back in 2008, a bevy of buses made the 45 or so minute ramble down the Mass Pike packed to the gills with students excited to get a taste of nighttime football. This year—a year removed from a Patriot League Championship and an exciting 27-20 victory over the Crimson at Fitton—not one bus was offered this week or the previous week for UMass. Gauging student reaction on-campus, a good majority of students were very willing to make the trek to Harvard Stadium, but they did not have access to transportation. In what has become an increasingly blatant, the powers that be in the athletic department have lacked the foresight to promote athletic events on campus, not just football. We wonder why the stands are lacking purple and white on game day. A little outreach goes a very, very long way. Athletes and alumni have noticed.
  • Matt Bellomo, a running man’s dream in his first two seasons on the Hill, has yet to dress this season due to a pesky upper leg injury that refuses to go away, taking away another vital weapon from the arsenal of Offensive Coordinator Mike Pedone. Add that to the Billy Edger injury sustained last weekend and you’ve got yourself a situation.
  • The Harvard University Band never fails to impress with its big band sound and idiosyncratic routines, but what was truly missing from in game performance was Bertha, purportedly the world’s biggest natural skin bass drum. Conspicuously absent from the Harvard side of the open end zone, it was sorely missed.
  • In terms of away team locker rooms, Harvard has gotten it right. Though primarily used as a women’s multi-purpose locker room, this weekend’s facilities were second to none in terms of size and overall functionality, complete with crimson carpeting, three separate player locker room sections, a full coach’s room and a rather spacious restroom. Fitton Field could use similar upgrades.
  • Where they come up big in locker rooms they lack in hospitality. Taking the customary jaunt up to the visiting press box to survey the scene, we were amazed to find no stack of complimentary programs or even a free cookie. Seeking merely a finger sandwich after a long haul of equipment and running back and forth (especially in a less than capacity press box), both myself and at least one of the coaches were met with a “no, those are not for you” response. All this after watching the Harvard managers and press corps munching down on turkey sandwiches (with Gray Poupon mustard and havarti and a side of hummus I’m sure). I guess that UMass pregame dinner of barbeque chicken and halftime snack of ribs and ice cream sundae really was the class of the schedule, even it was on the tax payers’ tab. That endowment at Harvard must’ve really taken a hit.
  • Some of Harvard’s newest vendors’ prices: $10 for chicken wings (gourmet, I bet), $4 for a bottle of Coke. This really is the Ivy League.
  • Security was extra tight, as it should’ve been for a 20,000+ crowd. But having to show your credentials at every checkpoint after you have walked by the same guards more than once and you’re wearing a Holy Cross team-issued polo and khaki pants is a little excessive, in my opinion. Father K gets by with ease, never drawing a second guess.
  • Glad to have Holy Cross legend Gordie Lockbaum on the last couple of trips with us, providing color commentary with Mr. Entertainment, the honorable Bob Fouracre. Gordie is truly a class act and still fresh in the minds of his peers. Overheard one of the UMass officials who doubled as a TV commentator for the Temple-Villanova game on say that he dropped a Lockbaum reference referring to a two-way player in that game, saying that Lockbaum was the last true two-way player in the college game. That Ring of Fame ceremony slated for the October 2 matchup vs. Fordham on Homecoming is looking better and better as the weeks go by.
Thank you, Joe, for you fascinating insights and a look into the game at Harvard from the eyes of someone within the program. Look for my reactions to the game itself later tonight. Also, a preview of the Georgetown game should be up by tomorrow.

Kevin Doyle '11