Harvard's defense, offense, Ivy League championship aspirations, and fans froze to death Saturday in the Yale Bowl. When The Game ended, Eli followers were no less numb, but they were able to celebrate wildly Yale's 20-6 triumph.
In gaining their first victory over the Crimson since 1960, Coach John Pont's team excelled where Harvard was supposed to be superior. Yale's defense was firm on the deciding plays, and its offense kept the football in Bulldog hands most of the time. During the second half particularly, the Blue line controlled the field against only sporadic opposition.
Yale began The Game in a generous mood. On the opening kick-off Jim Howard dropped the ball before hurrying out to the 18, and on the first play from scrimmage Chuck Mercein bobbled again with Harvard's Jeff Pochop close enough to recover.
Jack Cirle, the man who ran back a punt for the only Yale score in The Game last year, gave the first indications of Eli hostility three plays later when be intercepted a Mike Bassett pass that bounced off Tom Stephenson. But the Bulldog quarterback fumbled his second snap from center and Pochop once again claimed the ball, this time on the Yale 27 yard line.
Harvard seemed eager to make Yale pay for this second mistake when John Dockery carried to the Yale 15. That was as far as Yale would let the Crimson go. After three futile rushes Harvard had to call in field goal kicker John Hartranft, but his toe was as cold as the rest of the offense and Yale took possession of the ball on its 20.
Given a third chance, when an Eli punt rolled out on the Crimson 32, Harvard for a moment resembled the Crimson team that had shocked Princeton and Dartmouth. Fullback Bill Grana made a solid five-yard run up the middle to start the drive, and Mike Bassett gave it additional momentum with a flare pass to Scott Harshbarger for a 20 yard gain.
A few runs brought another first down, and then Bassett repeated the flat pass maneuver. Harshbarger took the ball at about the line of scrimmage and threaded his way through a half dozen Yalies during a 33-yard dash into the endzone for a touchdown. A block by Stephenson that flattened two men in Blue was instrumental in the play.
Hartranft missed the extra point kick, his first failure in 21 tries, but more awful events were destined for the Crimson. The first catastrophe came quickly. An offsides penalty forced Jerry Mechling to kick-off twice, but for a moment that seemed all right since Bill Henderson dropped the ball on the goal line.
The Eli halfback picked it up quickly, though, and decided to try his luck against an onrushing troop of Harvard defenders. His luck was excellent. Disappearing for a few minutes around the 20 yard line, he suddenly emerged from the confusion moving rapidly toward Harvard territory. Ken Boyda finally reached him on the Crimson 21, but his fine tackle did not stop the Eli attack.
In just three plays, the essential one being a pitch-out to Jim Groniger that went for 16 yards. Yale gained a touchdown. Groniger carried the ball in, and Mercein's kick gave Yale the lead.
With the wind working actively for Yale, Harvard found life increasingly frustrating. Bill Grana's dramatic 35 yard run sparked a march of 50 yards that ended one inch short of a first down on the Yale 29. Other Harvard chances at the ball started and ended in the Crimson half of the field.
The defense was a little more succesful, stopping an Eli drive that had moved 40 yards to Harvard's 30, where Mercein missed a field goal.
Although the first half had hardly been fun, it was marvelous compared to what followed. During the last two quarters Yale achieved 13 first downs to Harvard's 5, 161 rushing yards to Harvard's 22, and 13 points to Harvard's none. The Crimson's passing (110 yards) only affected the statistics.
The Bulldog line refused to give up a first down after the Crimson took the second half kick-off. A good punt by Harry van Oudenallen against the wind ended in horror, however. Randy Egloff received the kick on his own 37 and returned it to the Crimson 40 despite the resistance of four tacklers.
Faking well and directing his fellow backs through large openings prepared by his line, Rapp took Yale to its second touchdown in nine plays. Egloff and Mercein did most of the running, with Egloff crossing the goal line on a one yard slash through tackle.
Early in the fourth quarter the crowd was told of Dartmouth's victory over Princeton which made possible a Crimson Ivy championship. Harvard turned down the tile offer, however, as its frost-bitten fans watched in disbelief.
Rapp used up valuable minutes at the start of the final period with a slow but eventually fruitless ground game, and when the Crimson finally got the ball on its own 28 coach John Yovicsin sent in the hero of the Dartmouth contest, Bill Humenuk, to try to save The Game.
It was not a good day for passing, but Humenuk was willing to try. After Harshbarger had picked up only three yards on a charge through the middle, Humenuk dropped back to throw. His arm motion was impeded by the grasping hands of Bulldog guard Mike Benoit, however, and the wobbly toss went directly to Eli reserve center Tim Merrill.
Merrill ran to the Harvard three, and while a clipping penalty returned the ball to the Harvard 31, the Crimson was about finished. Rapp, Egloff, and Mercein moved the ball and the Eli linemen moved Harvard men easily. Egloff scored on another one yard plunge and Yale had a commanding 20-6 lead.
In its last chance with the ball Harvard grew daring and desperate. Bassett and Harshbarger worked their neat flare pass for 46 yards to set the ball on the Yale 27, by the next six plays gained only seven yards. Both Yale's defense and the clock were overwhelming, and no amount of double reversing and passing, screen or otherwise, could change the score.
Hundreds of little kids and thousands of Yalies swarmed on the field when the gun announced that Harvard was officially dead and the Ivy League title was the joint property of Dartmouth and Princeton. As the Crimson left, the large hollowed-out mole-hill that is the Bowl resounded with the primitive cry, "Bulldog, Bulldog, Bow Wow Wow!" A 'Cliffle said it was too cold to cry.