Princeton matched the Crimson football team mistake for mistake through three quarters Saturday afternoon in the Stadium. But the Tigers just couldn't keep up with Harvard's torrid pace of bungling in the last period, and Princeton backed into a 21-10 victory.
The loss mathematically eliminated Harvard from the Ivy title chase. The Crimson is now 3-4 on the season and 2-3 in league play.
Saturday's game was supposed to be a high-scoring affair, pitting Crimson quarterback Jim Stoeckel's passing and coach Joe Restic's balanced attack against the Tigers' Hank Bjorklund and coach Jake McCandless's equally balanced offense. Instead, each team turned the ball over six times and turned the game into a comedy of errors.
Princeton, ninth in the nation in total offense before Saturday, came out fumbling in the first quarter. The Tigers lost the ball on fumbles their first three possessions and Princeton's Richard Lang squibbed a five-yard punt the fourth time the Tigers got the ball.
Meanwhile, the Crimson, which couldn't help but be in good field position the whole period, managed to put but three points on the scoreboard. Stoeckel didn't get particularly outstanding pass protection and when he did, he usually overthrew his receiver.
Ten minutes into the game. Stoeckel unloaded a 45-yard strike to Rich Gatto, who had somehow managed to get ten yards behind the Princeton secondary, but it was called back on a holding penalty.
The second quarter opened with an exchange of interceptions. Then Harvard traveled 73 yards in eight plays behind Stoeckel's best passing of the day and Ted DeMar's running.
The Crimson now led. 10-0, with nine minutes left in the half, and it looked as if the game might be settling down to normal. But suddenly there were the mistakes again--by both teams.
Lang's punt from the Princeton ten-yard line was partially blocked by Crimson defensive end Mike McHugh. The ball was rolling dead at the Tiger 33, when Harvard's Mike Murr tried to scoop it up and gain a few more yards. Murr never got control of the ball, and Princeton recovered.
Following this reprieve, the Tigers marched 67 yards in 12 plays. Bjorklund scored the first of his three touchdowns on a two-yard plunge to make the score 10-7 at the half.
Neither team could mount a drive in the third period, again due to turnovers.
The beginning of the Crimson's late game nightmares came on a Princeton fourth-and-one situation at the Harvard 41. Bjorklund, who had been held in check for three quarters by the Harvard defense, took a pitchout around right end and romped into the end zone to give Princeton a 14-10 lead with 11 minutes left in the game.
A Crimson comeback was not to be Rod Foster came up with two outstanding kick runbacks. But, the offense just couldn't get rolling.
Stoeckel threw the last of his three interceptions, and Princeton converted the mistake into the final touchdown with five minutes left. Restic sent in Eric Crone at quarterback in the last few minutes, but to no avail. Crone threw two interceptions in four attempts.
Both the Crimson and Tiger defenses responded well to recurring back-to-the wall situations set up by the offensive errors. Harvard was not only unable to pass against the Princeton defense: the Crimson picked up only 44 net yards in 43 rushing attempts.
The Crimson line failed to provide Stoeckel with a pocket all afternoon. The Tiger defense dropped the Crimson quarterback seven times for a total of 50 yards in losses.
If there was a bright spot Saturday afternoon for the Crimson, it was the performance of the defensive secondary, which came up with two interceptions and held Tiger quarterback Jim Flynn to under 100 passing yards.
Stoeckel's interceptions and general inability to move the Crimson renewed Restic's quarterback problems.
Now, going into the final two games of the season against Brown and Yale Restic must once again choose between his four signal-calling candidates--Crone, Stoeckel, Foster and Frank Guerra. Saturday's Schedule Harvard at Brown Cornell at Dartmouth Yale at Princeton Penn at Columbia
Harvard at Brown
Cornell at Dartmouth
Yale at Princeton
Penn at Columbia