Last Nov. 19, the Harvard football team walked into The Stadium looking to become the first Ivy League entrant to capture four straight league titles since Penn from 1982-86. Unfortunately for the Crimson and their followers, Yale pulled off the upset.
It’s a good bet this year’s 144th edition of Harvard football, which travels to Rhode Island on Saturday to open the season with a nonleague game, will carry long memories.
“That was the first thing I talked to the team about at our first meeting in August. But, I told them it’ll the last time I’ll talk about it. It’s ancient history,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said.
Not so ancient that there should be a perpetual chip on the collective shoulders of the Crimson, who were picked to co-lead the Ivies in 2017 by the able but not always accurate prognosticators. Princeton (six first place votes) and Harvard (five) enter the season as the co-favorites and were followed in order by Penn, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia and Cornell.
The Crimson finished 2016 at 7-3 overall (5-2 Ivy).
“Anytime you lose, the way to get better is to work hard and I think most of the guys on the team have bought into that,” team captain and senior linebacker Luke Hutton said. “Harvard has gotten accustomed to winning Ivy championships — we won three in a row before that — and it just makes the guys want it more, especially when you’ve become accustomed to winning.”
Harvard features seven players who earned All-Ivy recognition in 2016, including first-team selection Justice Shelton-Mosely, a junior wide receiver/kick returner, Hutton, sophomore cornerback Raishaun McGhee, junior defensive end DJ Bailey and kicker Jake McIntyre received second-team honors, while senior safety Tanner Lee and junior receiver Adam Scott were honorable mentions.
Hutton has plenty of support as captain.
“We have leaders at every position,” Hutton said. “It’s all coach Murphy, who recruits character guys.”
Shelton-Mosely will be the marquee performer on offense. A preseason All-America pick by several publications, Shelton-Mosely ranks 15th all-time in program history with 88 receptions for 1,157 yards. He presents perhaps even more of a threat in the return game where he currently ranks No. 1 in career punt return average (13.5 yards) and career kickoff return average (27.5).
Murphy’s big decision lies with choosing who will get the ball to Shelton-Mosely.
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