It was the Crimson’s 37-6 blowout of the Yale Bulldogs last year that put an end to Yale’s perfect season and earned Harvard (8-2) its 12th Ivy League Championship, with a 7-0 conference record. And when Harvard takes the home field tomorrow (Sept. 19) in the season opener against Holy Cross, it will be with the long-term goal of accomplishing something the Crimson haven’t done since 1983: repeat as Ivy League champions. In fact, in the past 20 years, only Penn and Dartmouth have won consecutive championships.
This season, the Ivy preseason poll has selected Harvard and Yale as co-favorites to win the Ivy League. Although expectations are high for both teams, the rest of the league will also be competitive. Tim Murphy, entering his 15th season as Crimson head coach, said, “Our goals and expectations are always high regardless of any polls. … We have high standards. Our team is motivated more than anything by personal pride and pride in our program.”
Harvard returns 15 starters this fall, including preseason All-American offensive tackle James Williams ’10. He will be protecting quarterback Chris Pizzotti ’09, who is seventh in career passing yardage at Harvard. Pizzotti’s backup, Liam O’Hagan ’09, is sixth in career passing yardage and started last season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
Last season Pizzotti took over for an injured O’Hagan and finished the season 7-0 with 2,134 passing yards (second-most all-time for a single season). Murphy explained his decision to start Pizzotti over O’Hagan this year: “Chris Pizzotti is our starter because he’s earned it; but if Chris went down, we have confidence in Liam and we can win.”
Top defensive returners include preseason All-American cornerback Andrew Berry ’09, captain and two-time All-Ivy League defensive tackle Matt Curtis ’09, first-team All-Ivy League linebacker Glenn Dorris ’09, and last year’s sack leader, All-Ivy League defensive end Peter Ajayi ’09.
Harvard will close the season Nov. 22, at home against Yale in the 125th match-up of the rivalry. If the teams successfully get through their conference schedules, the game may decide the league championship. “There is so much parity in our league these days that rarely will we ever have an easy game. So we must play at a high level every week, take care of the football, and stay healthy,” Murphy said. “We have an expression in our program: ‘If you are not moving ahead [in all aspects], then you are falling behind.’”