For Harvard freshman football opening with Tufts used to make scoring as easy as a first-week mixer at Pine Manor. It's not that simple any more, and yesterday's opener with the Jumbos more than proved it.
Instead of a rout. Harvard found itself in a tough contest, and it took a pair of breakaway runs by halfback Burelle Duvachelle and some last-gasp defense in the clutch to pull out a tense 14-6 win over Tufts.
The win gave rookie coach Chet O'Neill his first-ever triumph as mentor of the Crimson freshmen, and for a while he must have wondered if he was really, in fact, coaching Harvard against Tufts. From all indications given from past encounters. Tufts was supposed to show up with half the manpower the Crimson could muster, run a few reries just to prove that they were outclassed, and then lie down and die while the Yardlings ran up the score.
Yesterday, Tufts was working from an entirely different script however, and Harvard, despite its customary size and manpower advantages, was very hard pressed to pull out the win.
Without Duvachelle, the Crimson offensive production would have been pretty paltry. His first touchdown sent the Crimson into a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter, after the Jumbos had clung to a scoreless tie, with some ferocious tackling and quickness that was beating their Harvard counterparts. With the ball on the Tufts' 21. Duvachelle swept right, cut back against the flow and then sprinted down the left sideline for the score. Steve Eyen's conversion ran the score to seven-zip.
The game continued as a scoreless battle through the third period and well into the fourth. The Crimson defense, headed by the play of middle-man West Fuller, repeatedly shut off the Tufts ground attack and the secondary managed to hold the Jumbos excellent passing combination of Bob Byrn to John Rosa to short gains.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with Tuffs threatening, the Crimson defense shut down the Jumbos on a fourth-and-three situation at the Harvard 19 yard line to prevent Tufts from typing up the contest. Defensive end Pete Mee broke through the Jumbo offensive line to dump Byrn for a ten yard loss that snuffed out the Tufts attack.
The Crimson sacking of the quarterback set up Duvachelle's second scoring jaunt of the afternoon. Taking a handoff on the 19, he broke off left tackle and stormed through the Jumbo secondary, to streak 81 yards for the Crimson's second score. The touchdown and ensuing conversion lengthened Harvard's lead to 14-0.
The Jumbos still would not die, however, and with time running out the Byrn-Rosa combo struck from 50 yards out to tighten the score, 14-6. The attempt for a two-point conversion failed.
Tufts tried an onside kick on the next kickoff, but the ball found its way into the arms of an eager Crimson defender to stifle any further scoring. Time ran out during the next series.
"I thought we played well." O'Neill said after the game. "I was disappointed we didn't get more points, but I think we played well enough to have gotten more. I don't know what the statistics say but I think we moved the ball well."
The Crimson offense, working the complicated Restic system for the first time under game conditions, did not look particularly sharp. The offense in general looked sluggish and a little confused and made virtually no use of the pass. It was evident that the Yardlings, burdened with a fat playbook and unfamiliarity with each other, were feeling their way.
The defense looked sharp except for an occasional lapse in the secondary.
O'Neill thought the defense showed well against Tufts. "They rose to the occasion when they had to," he said.