Yale received control of the football for the last time this year two minutes before the end of The Game Saturday. At that point the Elis were located on their own ten yard line and trailed Harvard, 14-6. A touchdown, with a two point conversion, would have tied the score.
No serious attempt was made, enough to, get that touchdown. Quarterback Brian Rapp called short pass plays, and failed to ask for time out in between. One astute observer said Yale wanted the clock to run out: the air was so bitter that any sensible person would have ended the contest as soon as possible.
The weather may have diminished Yale's enthusiasm for football but that was probably not the real reason for its reticence. Harvard's line, and the peripatetic Bill Taylor were more decisive.
For despite an unusually good defense performance, the Ell varsity was rather outclassed in the 79th gridiron meeting of "the ancient and honorable" rivals. The Crimson had 234 rushing yards as opposed to Yale's 85, and seven more first downs.
Still, Yale was a two touchdown underdog and it is to the Blue's credit that it managed to stay in contention almost until the end. The Crimson was, indeed, in triumph flashing, but the fans had to stay until the last white line was passed used until the final verdict of 14-6 was secure.
A capacity crowd of 39,000 witnessed Saturday's historic battle, in which both teams played slightly below their potential. Undoubtedly the weather and the tension contributed to this, but it was not at all untypical of a Harvard-Yale game.
Midway in the first period, for instance, out of town visitors had the opportunity to experience the exquisite agony of a crucial fumble so familiar to Stadium regulars.
The bobble was preceded by some superb Harvard offensive play. After Yale's early field goal attempt fell short, Harvard took over the ball on the 20. The Crimson's first three plays moved it 12 yards, and a clipping penalty on a Bulldog advanced the ball to the 42.
Here Mike Bassett flipped to Hobie Armstrong, who handed off to Bill Taylor on a double reverse. Taylor sprinted for a few yards, and then lateraled to Mike Bassett on his left. This bit of razzle dazzle was good for 14 yards, and it was succeeded by an exceptionally deft run of Bill Grana's for 15 yards.
A few mundane maneuvers brought Harvard to the Yale 15. Bassett then asked Armstrong to carry over tackle. Armstrong did this, and more. He forced his way all the way to the Yale five and then fumbled. The Elis' Stan Thomas recovered.
The fumble stands out in one's mind, but there were also a number of things Harvard did well. Halfback Taylor, playing his final game, did just about everything he tried perfectly. He gained 98 yards rushing, played good defensive ball, and saved the Crimson again and again with his punts.
Grana's blocking was excellent, and had he not been injured early, the game would not have not been, so close. Brad Stephens, Frank Ulcickas, Ed Smith, and Dick Diehl did outstanding work on the line, particularly in defensive situations.
The Crimson penetrated Yale's turf deeply and successfully early in the second period after a short punt by Tim O'Connell gave Harvard the ball on its own 40. The highlights in this drive were Taylor's courageous sideline catch of a Bassett pass for 16 yards, and Taylor's 23 yard gain on a double reverse to the Yale five.