Harvard Fritters Away Early Lead But Rallies to Defeat UMass, 20-14

Twenty thousand happy fans in the Stadium Saturday watched Harvard's football opener against Massachusetts follow a tried-and-true script: Harvard leads ball game, Harvard throws away ball game, Harvard comes back and wins ball-game. The score this time was 20-14.

It was a story that had been played out several times in the last few years in the Stadium, but never with such appalling literalness. Certainly there have been few moments in Harvard football history more embarrassing than the one that occurred in the fourth quarter with the score tied, 14-14.

Quarterback John McCluskey, with the ball on the UMass two-yard line, kept the ball himself and swept right end. He outsprinted the whiteshirted defenders, raced to the goal line, and flipped the ball away in jugilation.

One official's hands went up to signal the touchdown, but field judge Bernie Burke was calling it back. It wasn't a touchdown, he said: McCluskey had thrown the ball away before he crossed the goal line, and center Bernie Dallas had hopped on the ball for UMass. It was Massachusetts" ball on their own one-yard line.

It might have made the difference. It should have hurt the team, but Harvard reacted like a horse that had been spurred. Linebacker Jim Driscoll, a star all day long, buried Jerry Whelchel's quarterback sneak and then whacked down Ken Palm within six inches of the goal line. That induced Whelchel to call for a punt, and Terry Swanson booted it out of bounds at the Massachusetts 35.

Bilodeau Comes in

Harvard needed to make 35 yards, and had to do it with a new quarterback. McCluskey had pulled his right hamstring muscle on the play that should have been a touchdown. In came Tom Bilodeau, who hadn't played on offense at all during the game.

But he didn't look rusty. He let Dave Poe and Pat Conway pick up a first down on the UMass 25 and then turned to the play that had worked best for McCluskey: the option sweep, with the quarterback either carrying the ball around end himself or pitching back to a trailing halfback if the traffic is rough.

McCluskey had worked the play for a second-period score, keeping the ball and racing 82 yards for a touchdown. Now the UMass ends were "pinching" in, cutting off the quarter back's run but leaving themselves open on a pitchout to the halfback.

Bilodeau ran the play to the right, pitching to Wally Grant for a six-yard gain. He came back to the left and let Dave Poe carry for 12 yards to the Massachusetts seven.

Now a swing pass misfired, losing six yards, but Bilodeau had the play that would work. It started out looking like the option again, but Poe cut back over center, Bilodeau spun and gave him the ball, and the hole in the bamboozled UMass defense was big enough for a truck. Poe had clear sailing to the two-yard line and he carried two UMass defenders into the end zone with him for the score.

Even though Maury Dullea missed the kick, the 20-14 score held up. Whelchel's passes were desperate and, for the first time all day, his protection was breaking down. On the last play of the game Steve Diamond flattened the quarterback just as he threw and the high, wobbly pass bounced off end Bob Meers' hand into the arms of Jim Driscoll.

It was the only time in the half that Whelchel looked ineffective. In the third quarter he passed Harvard dizzy, bringing UMass back from a 14-0 deficit to a 14-14 tie.

Whelchel Keeps Passing

It had started late in the first half, with Whelchel completing eight of 12 passes and almost bringing Mass a score. Now in the third quarter he knew that the pass was his best weapon and he stayed with it, running only when his receivers were covered.