Following a record-setting performance last weekend in its 52-18 victory over Columbia, Harvard will look to sustain that momentum as it travels to Philadelphia to face Penn in its last true road game of the season.
The Crimson (4-4) have not had a losing record since they went 4-6 in 1998, and a win on Saturday afternoon will at least guarantee another .500 or better record for the program under coach Tim Murphy in his 25th season.
This will mark the 89th meeting between the Ivy League rivals; the Quakers have won three straight, including a 23-6 victory in Cambridge last season.
But Harvard has been battle-tested facing some stiff competition over the last few weeks.
Here are a few of the keys to watch for:
It took the Crimson no time to get started last weekend. On the opening drive quarterback Tom Stewart threw a 92-yard touchdown pass to wideout Jack Cook just 20 seconds in. This marked the longest scoring pass in program history.
Harvard went on to score 14 more points in the first quarter and take a 28-12 advantage into halftime, never looking back from that early advantage and improving its record to 4-0 when leading after two quarters.
Against a Penn squad that only managed 3 points against Cornell at the half in last weekend’s game before scoring 17 unanswered in a 20-7 win, getting in front early could prove to be critical.
The progression of Stewart has been immense, and in the Columbia victory this was evident more than ever.
Stewart led the Crimson offense, going 15 for 26 with 393 yards and five touchdowns. This was the first time the senior had surpassed 300 yards in a game, and he broke a career high he had set earlier in the year against Holy Cross (272 yards).
This has also allowed pressure to be taken off the run game and sophomore tailback Aaron Shampklin.
Stewart, though, will be in for a challenge against a Penn defense that ranks 13th in FCS in passing offense allowed.
Harvard doesn’t rank high across any defensive categories (25th in total defense) but has held some of the top offenses to well under their averages.
The veteran presence of Stone Hart and Richie Ryan in the trenches, along with Wesley Ogsbury in the secondary and Zach Miller at linebacker, has help stymie some of the country’s most explosive attacks.
The Quakers are by no means a formidable offense — ranking just 79th in FCS — and could be overwhelmed by the pressure Harvard may bring.
On the road the Crimson will need to rely on this veteran group to force turnovers and get stops without allowing Penn to build any sort of rhythm.Karl Capen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Capen316.