College: Merrimack Warriors (1-1) @ Harvard Crimson (0-0) Four Down Preview

Photo – ESPN

By Ryan Barry
NEFJ Correspondent

Kickoff: Harvard opens up their season Friday evening with their first ever matchup against Merrimack. With the rest of the Ivy League kicking off their seasons tomorrow, the Crimson will be on full display against the Warriors who look to build off a 45-17 win over Division II Assumption last week. Harvard Head Coach Tim Murphy certainly won’t overlook the Warriors who played Holy Cross, the 12th ranked team in the nation, incredibly tough in their home opener loss two weeks ago. 

1st Down: The Crimson go into the opener having received votes in both prominent FCS preseason polls, and were picked first in the Ivy League preseason poll over Dartmouth and Princeton. Harvard also featured 12 players on Phil Steele’s Preseason All-Ivy League teams, the most in the conference. 

2nd Down: Captain Truman Jones leads a Harvard defense that was among the nations best in 2021. Allowing an FCS leading 69.3 yards per game on the ground, this crew returns a solid contingent of that cohort including Thor Griffith, Nate Leskovec, and Jack McGowan among the front seven. 

3rd Down: Defense carries most of the story lines for Harvard, but a healthy quarterback in Charley Dean should bode well for the Crimson. Before an injury six games into last season that shut him down the rest of year, Dean was off to an impressive start. He’ll be competing with Luke Emge who struggled at times in his few appearances, but ultimately proved to be the hero in their 34-31 thrilling win against Yale in the last game of the season. 

4th Down: Aidan Borguet will be the feature back for the Crimson this season, and will have the perfect team to start off his campaign against. Phil Steele’s pick for Preseason Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, Borguet will take on a Merrimack defense that surrendered 243 total team rushing yards to Holy Cross in their opener. 

Extra Point: This is the first of three games for the Crimson under the lights this season on a Friday night, whereas this concludes a third straight Friday evening game for the Warriors. 

Final Drive: It might take the Crimson some time to shake off the cobwebs from last season, especially having lost certain key figures from last year’s team. With the Warriors in full swing of their season, they’ll look to build on that cohesion and make Harvard uncomfortable. If Merrimack can keep this game close in the first half, this could pressure the Crimson into some mistakes. While Harvard should cruise to victory on opening night of a highly anticipated season, Merrimack isn’t the opponent they thought they’d be when scheduling this game some time ago.