Crimson Defense Thwarts Green, 24-10
A pall of dejection hung over the Harvard side of the Stadium, making what was an already gloomy enough Saturday afternoon even gloomier. It was only moments into the Harvard-Dartmouth game, but Crimson fans were already fidgeting in their seats, secretly moaning, "Oh no, not again."
Harvard halfback Tommy Winn had fumbled the ball away to the Big Green on his own 36, and Dartmouth, wasting no time in taking advantage of the opportunity, stormed through the Crimson defense in just five plays for a quick 7-0 lead.
Things didn't look any better when, on the ensuing series, Harvard quarterback Jim Kubacki overthrew two open receivers and managed a one yard gain on third down necessitating a Crimson punt. Harvard fans had witnessed this scenario all too many times before. An underdog Dartmouth squad, super-psyched, outplaying an overanxious Crimson team that was making costly mistakes.
But only for those opening minutes was this game going to be a replay of those frustrating, painful experiences.
Harvard pulled itself together, and went on to a crushing 24-10 victory over the Big Green. The triumph makes Harvard the only undefeated, untied team in the Ivy League, at 3-0 and pushes Dartmouth back into also-ran status with a 1-1-1 mark.
On the next Harvard possession, Winn, quickly shedding his scapegoat role, burst through the Big Green line for 21 yards, bringing the ball to the Dartmouth 25.
The Crimson moved inside the Green ten and on a third-and-goal at the five, Crimson quarterback Jim Kubacki hit a wide-open Bob McDermott in the end zone to knot things at 7-7, and Harvard was off and running.
Oh, Dartmouth did retaliate with a field goal, a wind-aided 49 yard job early in the second period to reclaim the lead, 10-7, but one could sense that the day was going to be Harvard's. Perhaps it was a let down after last week's emotional tie with Brown the week before, but whatever it was, Dartmouth didn't seem to be playing with the same fervor that usually characterises its performances against Harvard.
"They just weren't hitting as hard as we expected they would," linebacker Eric Kurzweil said. "Even though they got that quick touchdown, we knew we were outhitting them, and that generated confidence in our defense. We knew that they weren't going to move on us after that, and we gradually started getting to them."
Harvard charged right back after the field goal, marching 80 yards in 11 plays. Winn slashed his way to successive gains of 12, 11 and 8 yards, right through the heart of the vaunted Green defense, and the ball was on the Green 30. Two plays later Kubacki went off left tackle for 13 yards, and the Crimson was down to the 17.
Two plays after that, Kubacki again found his main man of the afternoon tight end McDermott, in the end-zone, for a 14-10 lead.
The turning point of the game, however, came in the last 30 seconds of the first half. Dartmouth took over on its own 20 after a Harvard punt. But instead of running out the clock and settling to lick its wounds with a four-point deficit at the half, the Green inexplicably tried to pass.
The result was an interception by Crimson linebacker Tommy Joyce, who was tackled at the Dartmouth 19 with 15 seconds to go in the half. In came the offense, and on the first play, Kubacki threaded a pass between two Dartmouth defenders to McDermott, who made a diving catch just inside the end line for his third touchdown of the game.
"It was tremendous, just tremendous," an exuberant McDermott said afterwards. "I was the secondary receiver most of the game, but they were doubleteaming Jim Curry. That left me open, and Jim (Kubacki) just hit me."
That made it 21-10, and changed the entire complexion of the contest.
"Anytime you get a score like that near the end of the half, it hurts the other team," Kurzweil said, "and really picks you up. When you get ahead of a team like we did, your killer instinct is aroused. You want to keep them down, not let them off the hook."
Which is precisely what the Harvard defense proceeded to do. The Crimson shut the Green out in the second half. Whenever Dartmouth did threaten, Harvard came up with the big play to kill the drive. All told, there were four fumbles and four interceptions forced by Harvard, and most of them came deep inside Crimson territory, just in time to snuff out a Green scoring chance.
Harvard was having its problems offensively in the second half too, with the rain coming down harder, but did manage to add an insurance field goal in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The field goal was set up by a Kubacki sprint of 71 yards on a busted play. Kubacki originally intended to run an option to the right, but ran into a traffic jam consisting of his own players and some Dartmouth defenders in his backfield. So, apparently thinking discretion the better part of valor, he turned left, and voila, there lay the whole field, void of Dartmouth players, before him.
He turned on the jets, and outraced a couple of Big Green defenders, taking it all the way to the Dartmouth 19 before being hauled down. Harvard couldn't bring it home though, and called on kicker Mike Lynch. Lynch split the uprights with a 17 yarder, and that was the game, 24-10. Incidentally, Lynch was perfect once again on Saturday, 3 for 3 PAT's plus the field goal. Charlie Brickley, move over.
There were some people who stood out for the Crimson. Of course there was McDermott with the three TD's, and Kubacki who threw them. Then there was the twisting, spinning Winn, resembling a pinball bouncing off Green bumpers, who led all rushers with 107 yards on 19 carries.
Defensively, there was Billy Emper, who made an interception and a couple of touchdown-saving pass deflections. Adjuster George Newhouse also shone, particularly with his lightning blitz on which he blindsided the Dartmouth quarterback twice for losses.
But just as against Cornell, it was an overall, solid team effort. "I don't know if you'd call it a great game offensively," Kubacki said, "but certainly it was a great game to win. The offensive line did a solid job all game, and we got the breaks we needed. It was a good team game, with a lot of key plays rather than consistent playing."
And speaking for the defense, Kurzweil said, "I was really pleased with our performance. We shut off the run, and although they got a lot of yardage passing, it was short stuff that isn't going to hurt. When they did get close, we made the big play."
So Harvard has beaten Dartmouth for the second year in a row, and how sweet that is.
The Crimson has gotten over its annual hump. Now, alone at the top of the Ivies, Harvard is the team everybody else has to beat. The Crimson's destiny is in its own hands.