In 1873, Harvard played two games in its inaugural football season — a 3-0 win and a 0-0 tie, both against McGill.
Fast-forward 150 years, and the Crimson will kick off their 2023 season Saturday at 1 p.m. against the University of St. Thomas, a member of the Pioneer League from St. Paul.
Harvard is coming off a bizarre 2022 campaign in which it won all of its road games but went 1-4 at the Stadium. The 6-4 finish put the Crimson fourth in the Ivy, behind Yale, Penn, and Princeton. Of the four losses, three were decided by single digits, capped by a 19-14 loss to rival Yale.
Historically, the Crimson have been good at Harvard Stadium (76-19 since 2001), and they are 11-0 in their last 11 season openers at home. Picked fourth in the Ivy League preseason poll, Harvard will play six home games for the first time since 2012.
Tim Murphy, the winningest coach in Ivy League history (192-87), is back for his 30th season.
Preseason All-American Thor Griffith, a 6-foot-2-inch, 320-pound defensive lineman from Portsmouth, N.H., leads the list of returning players and is the anchor of a stout unit, along with captain Nate Leskovec. The pair have teamed up for 21 sacks and 153 tackles the past two seasons.
“I’m expecting us to go 10-0,” said Griffith, who is on the preseason watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented annually to the top defensive player in FCS.
“We’re looking good on offense and our defense is looking better than ever, so we’re expecting big things.”
On offense, the Crimson graduated quarterback Charlie Dean as well as top wide receiver Kym Wimberly.
But two of the top three receivers return — wideout Ledger Hatch (18 catches, 397 yards, 3 TDs) and tight end Tyler Neville (26 catches, 302 yards, 4 TDs), a first-team all-Ivy selection. Up front, Jacob Rizy was a second-team all-Ivy pick.
But who will get the call behind center? Junior Charles DePrima was listed at the top of the quarterback depth chart Wednesday, ahead of classmate Conor Easthope and sophomore Jaden Craig. All three entered camp vying for the position.
St. Thomas (1-1) jumped to Division 1 in 2021 after spending years dominating Division 3 — the first program to skip a division. The Tommies were shut out last week by South Dakota, 24-0, following a 36-26 win over Black Hills State (S.D.) in their opener.
“Our goal is to shut these guys out and keep them to less than 100 yards,” said Griffith. “We want to absolutely dominate these guys.”