On the Bench
In 1968, Harvard pulled off an impossible comeback, scoring 16 points in the last 42 seconds to tie undefeated Yale for the Ivy League championship, 29-29. But in the last four seasons, while losing seven games by a touchdown or less. Harvard has rallied in the fourth quarter to win only once, and that was against a Brown team that had lost nine games in a row.
Restic's "wide-open" system is supposed to produce the kind of big play that can win a game in the last seconds. Yet, in the four League games this season, Harvard hasn't broken any long touchdowns at all, and I doubt that many of the fans who have sat through the last few seasons of Harvard football expected the Crimson to salvage last week's Penn fiasco with an outburst of late game scoring.
The blame should not fall solely on Restic's system. Yovicsin's last two teams never came from behind to win in the fourth quarter either, although the '70 team played well in breaking a late game tie against Cornell. The explanation for Harvard's inability to rally against bad teams is partly due to an apathetic condecension. Harvard has a tradition of playing listlessly against perennial underdog teams like Penn and Brown, who love nothing better than upsetting Harvard.
Part of the problem has also been a long-time tradition of inadequate quarterbacking. Harvard has featured such quarterbacks as John McCloskey, who happily, but somewhat prematurely, spiked the ball on the Columbia two-yard line on his way to (what would have been) a touchdown, and Eric Crone, of endzone infamy, but the Crimson has had few, if any, quarterbacks known for their ability to mastermind a last second drive -- with the exception, of course, of 1968 Yale game hero Frank "42 seconds" Champi, a second string quarterback who had never done it before and never did it again.
This year, Harvard's quarterbacks, with depressing consistency, have handed off to their excellent running backs for a couple of first downs, and then thrown the ball away to ruin sustained drives. Harvard's running game is one of the best in the League, and its passing game is one of the worst.
One Harvard running back half jokingly lamented Rod Foster's disappearance from the quarterbacking race. "At least you know Rod didn't want to throw the ball," he said, "which is better than throwing it away."
Today's game at Princeton may see a quarterback who does like to throw the ball -- Mike Holt -- assert himself. If Crone is hurting or playing badly. Restic said that he will not hesitate to replace him with Holt. Holt is an inexperienced sophomore, and according to Restic, he can be erratic, which may continue to wreck Harvard's offensive consistency. However, he is Harvard's smoothest quarterback, an option-type passer who whips the ball, and his cockiness may spark the team.
Princeton will also provide Foster with a chance to redeem himself. In his new role as fullback and kick returner. Foster has been playing atrociously. There is no excuse for a runner like Foster averaging less than 15 yards a kick-off return. Against Princeton. Restic plans to counter the Tigers' strong front four rush with some special fullback plays, and he intends to give Foster a chance to make them go. He said "chance" in a tone of voice that intimated "last chance."
Princeton is terrible this year, but they still scare me. Last year, Harvard played its worst game and suffered its worst loss against Princeton. My freshman year. I bet $40 against my Princeton relatives and watched it go out the window in less than 10 minutes, as the Tigers scored the first three times they touched the ball. In the 1967 game, a favored Harvard team was massacred by Princeton, 45-6.
And in 1966, underdog Princeton stunned undefeated Harvard, 18-14. My grandfather, who had graduated from Princeton in 1904, seen the light, and run for President six times as a Socialist, listened to the Tigers stop Harvard on a fourth and one on the Princeton 20 late in the fourth quarter, and keeled over with a heart attack.
Cornell 24 - Brown 10
Dartmouth 21 - Columbia 16
Yale 33 - Penn 20
Harvard 27 - Princeton 12