In 1937, Dick Harlow's third year of coaching in Cambridge, the Varsity eleven suffered what was considered a catastrophic blow. Three regulars were injured going into the Army game and could not play. The Cadets won that game 7 to 6. They were almost overpowered by a savage Crimson attack but capitalized on two fumbles to score their payoff touchdown.
Backfield on the Sidelines
Local bookies had seen the Crimson as slight favorites despite the loss of key men Chief Boston, Torby MacDonald, and Vernon Struck--quarterback, halfback, and fullback respectively. The team had had a good season, winning the opening game 54 to 0 from invading Springfield and losing only once prior to the West Point contest by an unexpectedly lopsided score to Dartmouth in what some analysts termed a startling upset.
For those who find this history reminiscent of 1947, the rest of the story may be interesting. The sick list continued to swell. With the Yale game two weeks distant, the squad had little chance to improve itself with scrimmages. Little benefit was derived from a 15 to 0 victory the next weekend over lightly-regarded Davidson.
Meanwhile Clint Frank's Elis were showing considerable power. The Bulldogs rolled over Princeton 26 to 0 on November 13 and came into the "Harvard game" on November 20 unbeaten that year, undefeated by the Crimson in three years, and favorites to take the Ivy League Championship. But Harlow's team rallied in the rain and snow to win, 13 to 6, winding up with a relatively good record for Crimson elevens--five wins, two defeats, and a tie.
Ten Years Later--Another Epidemic
As in 1937, there is no real explanation for this fall's rash of injuries. They cannot be blamed on the Virginia game. Nick Rodis was hurt facing Western Maryland; Bob Kennedy, Emil Drvaric, and Stretch Mazzone against Boston University; Howie Houston, Chester Pierce, and Paul Lazzaro in the Holy Cross game; and Don Stone and possibly John Gorczynski against Dartmouth.
Nor does the weakening of the squad's manpower by at least one man in each position except wingback for at least one complete game suggest the whole story of the damage done. Men sometimes had to learn new plays, offenses had to be changed, and some players were compelled even to switch into totally unfamiliar positions--all to the undoing of many precious weeks of spring and fall training. But the greatest harm has come from lack of contact work.
One of Dick Harlow's favorite commentaries on the art of coaching runs, "The only way to learn to play football, gentlemen, is to play football." Yesterday the Varsity A squad held its first scrimmage outside of Saturday combat in several weeks. Last year two or three midweek contact sessions were the general rule. The coaching staff repeatedly announced this fall that contact work would be resumed "as soon as the team was at least two deep in each position." The prospect of losing the last tackle or fullback was too frightening to permit much more than long signal drills.
No Right to Sing the Blues
The team and the coaches have emphasized that they view these injuries as misfortunes rather than alibis. In their abbreviated condition they went out to win two recent ball games against more fortunately situated opponents. In one case they succeeded with a 7 to 0 upset; in the other, they missed by a single point. Such a mishap hardly warrants the flare-up of defeatism that has followed the loss to Dartmouth.
The outcome of the Yale game will decide the success of the year, regardless of intervening victories and defeats. The Varsity, however, will not necessarily find its most difficult future test in the Elis, considering the game coming up Saturday. In winning its opener from Rutgers 40 to 28, Columbia was forced to play one of its best games this fall.
Socked with 27 points in the first quarter, the underrated Scarlet eleven got up off the floor to overpower the Lions completely for two periods and finally lead 28 to 27. They crossed Columbia's goal twice more in the final quarter, but the referee disallowed these scores, and the Lions finally won on the strong right arm of Gene Rossides.
Columbia might easily have lost by 42 to 40--or more. Sufficient for the present is the coming game with Rutgers.