There was a notable hop in the step of the Harvard players as they finished up practice Wednesday.
Between and during drills, players yelled out encouragement or exuberance over the last padded practice before going through walkthroughs the rest of the week.
Could that be a sign that the Crimson are extra excited to play Yale at Fenway Park Saturday in the 135th showdown simply know as "The Game"?
According to coach Tim Murphy, the attitude has been consistently high all season.
"The energy's been great all year," Murphy said. "And we obviously have been a team that's been, in the games we've lost, it's come down to the last play, whether it's Princeton, Dartmouth or the University of Rhode Island. And the bottom line is every day, every week, the energy's been great. We have great senior leadership. We have a team that has battled extremely hard. And, to their credit, even with some of the adversity that we've had, we've played some of our best football the last couple of weeks."
Indeed, the Crimson have won their last two games to improve their record to 5-4. A year ago, Harvard lost "The Game" to Yale, which allowed the Bulldogs to clinch the Ivy League title. To see your hopes of a winning season dashed by your rival in a game where that team wins the league has hung over the heads of every Crimson player.
Captain and safety Zach Miller does not hide his motivations in that regard.
"We're inching to play. We're itching to get on the field," Miller said. "I know (the Bulldogs) are, too. But we're excited to get a little revenge. They've had a pretty good season this year, not as good as last year. But they're still a good team, they're still the same Yale team, same attitude, and they're going to come out with the exact same intensity, same fearlessness they've always had. It's going to be a great game."
And whatever type of game it ends up being on the field, part of the storyline will be the venue itself with the two teams facing off at Fenway Park.
"To be honest, I have a bit of mixed emotions because I do have empathy for . . . I think any time you break from tradition, it's very tough to make everybody happy," Murphy said. "So I certainly empathize with the folks who either couldn't get tickets, or can't tailgate. Having said that, the players are really excited to play at Fenway. So if they're excited, I'm excited."
Miller and running back Aaron Shampklin, the latter of which has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for the season, certainly sound pumped to do their thing there.
"It's a big deal for me. It's a big deal for this team. We don't get many opportunities to go to crazy places," Miller said. "We usually travel to somewhere in New England. Great stadiums, but being able to play at Fenway, that's exciting. . . . So being able to play there is such an honor."
Shampklin was shivering in the near freezing conditions, and when asked about that by a reporter after practice, noted how the weather is a lot different than his hometown of Long Beach, Calif.
"Not even nowhere close," he said. "Nowhere close."
But the running back knows the chance to play at Fenway means something special.
"No, never been," Shampklin said of Fenway. "It's a nice venue, nice place to be at, nice stadium. So it will be nice."