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For Harvard, pride on the line in ‘The Game’ at Yale

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 11/21/2019 John Connolly
a man holding a basketball: BOSTON MA. - SEPTEMBER 27: tight end Ryan Reagan #84 of the Harvard Crimson pulls in the pass over defensive back Brendan Talarczyk #29 of the Brown Bears  as Harvard takes on Brown at Harvard Stadium on September 27, 2019 in Boston, MA.   (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) © Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media BOSTON MA. - SEPTEMBER 27: tight end Ryan Reagan #84 of the Harvard Crimson pulls in the pass over defensive back Brendan Talarczyk #29 of the Brown Bears as Harvard takes on Brown at Harvard Stadium on September 27, 2019 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

The 136th edition of the “The Game,” in the storied rivalry between Harvard and Yale, which the Bulldogs lead by a 67-60-8 margin, means that two things come into play: The entire playbook is fair game, and the entire playbook is thrown out the window. Anything goes for both sides.

“I think, yeah, it works both ways,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “I think that at the end of the day, whether you’re going in undefeated, which we did four times, I think, in our tenure, or if you’re uncharacteristically fighting for a nonlosing season, as in any rivalry, whether it’s Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State, or Harvard-Yale, it’s all about pride. Pride in your team. Pride in your school. Pride in the program. Somehow, we have to make sure that all of that means more to us than it does to them.”

Harvard (4-5, 2-4 Ivy) visits the Yale Bowl in New Haven on Saturday, in possession of a 36-26-1 edge over its archrival since the formation of the Ivy League in 1956. Interestingly, the road team has captured 16 of the past 29 editions of The Game. Murphy is 18-7 against Yale after Harvard claimed a 45-27 victory at Fenway Park last year, the first time since 1894 that The Game was not played at either Harvard or Yale. Statistics aside, Murphy is well aware the Crimson enter as decided underdogs.

“No question. At this stage of the season, Yale is playing the best football of anyone in the Ivy League. I look back to the Richmond game when they were down by two touchdowns with two minutes to go and pulled it out. I think that changed the synergy of their team,” said Murphy, whose club can spoil the Bulldogs’ title aspirations with an upset victory. “They’ve playing much better defensively and their offense has become a juggernaut.”

Last week, Yale (8-1, 5-1 Ivy) demolished No. 18/19 Princeton (7-2, 4-2 Ivy), 51-14, behind senior quarterback Kurt Rawlings’ program-record six touchdown passes. Meanwhile, Harvard dropped a Senior Day tilt to resurgent Penn (5-4, 3-3 Ivy), 24-20, as the Crimson losing skein reached four straight.

Yale leads the Ivy League in scoring offense at 37.4 points-per-game. Harvard enters the contest holding down the top spot nationally in blocked kicks (9), blocked punts (7), and sacks (4.33 average). Senior Brogan McPartland, who missed the opening three games of the season with injury has a recorded 7 ½ of Harvard’s team aggregate 39 sacks. Sophomore Truman Jones (6½ sacks) missed the Penn game with an undisclosed injury and is questionable.

“I thought that we’ve played really, really well and have played hard but we have to finish the game. We have shown resilientcy. The flip side is we have played well defensively but we’ve struggled a little bit scoring points which is uncharacteristic and unfamiliar territory,” Murphy said. “It’s not going to be a 6-3 game.”

One bright spot for Harvard has been the quiet emergence of junior Ryan Reagan of Duxbury. After playing in three games as a freshman (3 catches for 48 yards) and two games (3 for 38) last year, the 6-foot-4 Reagan, a former Boston Herald All-Scholastic, has enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2019. In nine appearances, Reagan has made 17 catches for 297 yards and a touchdown catch against both Cornell and Holy Cross, each a Harvard win.

“Ryan Reagan really has come into his own this year,” Murphy said. “When we recruited him out of high school we thought that he’d do a great job as our tight end, which involves a combination of wide receiver, H-back, fullback and slot. As you know, we currently have five guys in the NFL who played that position. He has the potential to get there. He has the potential. He has that type of skill set.”

Reagan said Harvard has prepared well and is looking forward to the clash with Yale.

“At the outset, it’s by far the biggest game of the year. It’s special with all the fans,. The atmosphere is electric. We’ve been competing hard in practice. Now, we just want to play our game,” said Reagan, who played for Dave Maimaron at Duxbury High. “As for any improvement this year, a lot of credit has to go to my coaches and teammates. I couldn’t do it without them.”

Another Harvard player to keep an eye on is quarterback Jake Smith. The junior currently sits at No. 10 in career passing yardage with 3,887 (316-of-531). Smith needs 39 yards to tie No. 9 Colton Chapple (296-of-475 for 3,926) and with a huge 311 yard effort against the Bulldogs, could pull even with Harvard radio color broadcaster Mike Giardi (284-of-577 for 4,198), who ranks of eighth of eight in the exclusive 4,000-yard passing club. This season, Smith has produced the ninth-best single season (152-of-251 for 2,007) passing season in Crimson annals, and with 127 yards against Yale, he could vault as high as No. 5.

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