Upset Loss to Penn in '63 Was Yovicsin's 'Bitterest'
Lest we forget...
The 1963 football season provides frightening parallels with this year's.
Back then a highly underrated Harvard football team roared through its first five games without a loss. The Crimson gridders stunned Dartmouth in the fifth contest, 17-13, and ended the Big Green's winning streak at 15 games.
Penn--the next squad Harvard Ivy leaders faced--looked like a real pushover. "Unbeaten Crimson Should Encounter Few Problems Against Feeble Penn," blared a headline in the CRIMSON. Penn hadn't beaten Harvard since 1958 and in its four straight wins the Crimson had run up 93 points to the Quaker's 6.
But what happened that terrible afternoon in November will be nightmarishly remembered by Coach John Yovicsin and seniors on this year's team, such as Bobby Leo, Steve Diamond, and Dave Davis, who were freshmen then.
Penn whipped the Crimson 7-2 in what Yovicsin termed "the bitterest defeat in my coaching career." Everything the footballers had done right in the first five games they did wrong in this one. There were fumbles, dropped passes, missed blocks.
Penn wasn's much better, but they were luckier. The key play of the contest was Wally Grant's fumble of the opening kick-off in the second half. That led to the game's only touchdown.
Penn finished the season with a 2-7 record, which earned them the bottom slot in the Ivy League. As it turned out, that loss was the only one Harvard sustained against Penn in a seven-year span.
The Crimson, shocked out of its lethargy, mauled Princeton the next week and clobbered Brown the week after. If Harvard could beat Yale in the last game, Yovicsin would win his first Ivy championship. But the Yalies whipped the Crimson 20-6, and Harvard finished third in the league with the dubious distinction of having beaten both teams that were tied for first--Dartmouth and Princeton.