Boston University Stuns Crimson, 13-9
Crimson Offense Sputters
Football games between Harvard and Boston University are beginning to get a nasty reputation around town these days. As in recent years, fans who witnessed Saturday's matchup needed some No-Doz and a packet of Alka Seltzer to survive the game at Soldier's Field which saw Harvard lose, 13-9.
Lulling itself and its followers to sleep with 58 minutes of uninspired play, the Crimson then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when the Terriers struck for a surprise touchdown with 1:56 remaining.
The game had upset written all over it from the start, when B.U. took the opening kickoff and marched to Harvard's 20-yard line in an 11-play drive which was halted only by an ill-timed Terrier fumble.
Two plays later, however, the Terriers were back in business, when Harvard quarterback Jim Kubacki fumbled on an option play and B.U.s Al Gonzales pounced on the ball on the Crimson 43-yard line.
With quarterback Greg Geiger at the helm and running back David Cummings doing the majority of the work, the Terriers proceeded to run off another nine plays, culminating with a 3-yard blast by fullback Mark Chimento into the Harvard endzone at 8:42 of the first period.
The key play of the series was not technically offensive in nature, as a B.U. punt bounced off the Crimson s Fran Cronin at the 5-yard line, setting the Terriers up with an easy scoring opportunity.
The score was 7-0, but just as important was the fact that B.U. had 20 offensive plays to its credit, which compared favorably with Harvard's two. One key to the domination was Cummings, who had already run nine times for a total of 41 yards.
After an exchange of punts--a frequent occurrence in the course of the day--Harvard set up on its own 48-yard line and finally got down to business offensively, moving into scoring position on runs by fullback Neal Miller and halfbacks Tom Winn and Mark Taylor.
Operating from the Terrier 26, Kubacki hit Winn with a flare pass for a nine-yard gain. Following a penalty for delay of game, the junior then hooked up with split end Steve Saxon on the left side of the endzone for a 22-yard score.
Saxon's spectacular over-the-shoulder grab at 2:38 of the second quarter pulled Harvard to within one point, and the Crimson fans then braced themselves for another chapter in Harvard's extra-point blues. After two unsuccessful kick attempts last week against Holy Cross, there was some room for improvement, but a poor centering pass led to another blocked kick and the score held at 7-6, B.U.
The Terriers again pushed their way into Crimson territory at the 38 on the strength of a 16-yard completion from Geiger to flanker Steve Richards, but from that point on until late in the fourth quarter, the Harvard defense dominated the game and completely stifled B.U.'s potentially explosive offense.
Following an unsuccessful attempt at a 45-yard field goal by B.U.'s Bruce Rich and another inspiring exchange of punts, Harvard began one of its last offensive surges of the game--remember that this is only the second quarter--at its own 24-yard line with three minutes remaining in the half.
Neal Miller shared the spotlight in the drive with Kubacki, as he busted up the middle on a quick handoff for a 40-yard gain to the Terrier 37. Kubacki then unleashed a 24-yard aerial to Saxon, who made another acrobatic grab to set the Crimson up at the 9-yard line.
Things went downhill from there, however, as Kubacki missed tight end Bob McDermott with a potential touchdown pass and Winn was trapped for a loss, setting up a field-goal situation for kicker Mike Lynch's relatively untested toe.
Kick by Lynch
To the surprise of a large number of people, Lynch drilled the kick through the uprights from 32 yards out, sending Harvard to a 9-7 lead 43 seconds before half time.
As the tedium of the third period set in, that lead began to look pretty solid, though the threat of a Terrier field goal via Bruce Rich was ever-present. His attempt at a 54-yard field goal was the highlight of the third quarter, though it fell about 10 yards short of the mark.
That quarter was marked by seven punts and the inability of either team to do anything offensively, and the trend continued until late in the last stanza when Harvard punter Jim Curry unloaded a tremendous shot which pinned B.U. back on its own 22, with just three minutes to go in the game.
Crimson coach Joe Restic called for the defense to blitz on the next three plays, but that strategy didn't work quite as planned for the favored home team.
To begin with, Geiger evaded the first defensive onslaught by stepping back in the passing pocket, and then romping through the line for a 20-yard gain to the 42.
Geiger read another Harvard blitz on the next play, and audibled a quick opening run play to halfback Tom Floyd who busted forward to Harvard's 45, the site of the final disaster.
As the clock rolled past the two-minute mark, Geiger faded back to pass and picked out his speedy split end Pete Kessell, who was racing down the left sideline unimpeded. After the expected amount of jubilation, the Terriers missed the extra point, but the damage was done. B.U. 13, Harvard 9.
Time for one last surge, as the Crimson's Larry Schember took the kickoff and almost broke it, racing 56 yards only to be caught from behind at the B.U. 34.
One minute and 46 seconds was plenty of time, but Kubacki and company still couldn't get their act together. One botched snap from center, two incomplete passes later, and one reverse and Harvard said good-bye to any hopes of an undefeated season and began to wonder about what went wrong.
The nation's leader in total offense going into the game, Harvard's Kubacki finished with 150 of Harvard's 260 yards, 45 on the ground in 18 carries, and 105 through the air on 11 completions in 19 attempts.
The defense did its job, limiting the Terriers to just 175 yards in total offense--just 83 on the ground and 92 passing. But the offensive doldrums were too much to overcome, and Harvard absorbed its first loss of the season and its second loss to B.U. in nine efforts.