A Blue Finale
Yale Captures Title, 24-7
NEW HAVEN--Yeah, but they still go to Yale.
So what if on a gorgeous afternoon here Saturday, in front of a semi-sober gathering 64,685 Yale captured its first undisputed Ivy title via a 24-7 triumph over a Harvard contingent that has taken a giant step backward in two short years.
So what if in the process, they handed the Crimson its second losing season in 19 years, its first since 1969 and the first since Joe Restic multiflexed his way into Cambridge two years later.
And so what if for the second year running (pun intended) Yale proved to be the dominant outfit, the Goliath to Harvard's slingless David. But so what. After all, they still go to Yale.
For those who go to Harvard, this 94th version of The Game turned out to be just another loss, the fifth in a season that has been a study in extremes. Saturday's contest marked the ultimate extreme. Had the Crimson won, it would have shared the title with Yale and Brown. Instead, it concluded the fall with a 4-5 record, deadlocked with Dartmouth and Penn in the middle of the pack.
The play responsible for the ho-hum ending was also one of extremes. First there was Yale's sophomore punter Mike Sullivan standing on his own 35-yard line early in the final quarter of a game the Elis led, 10-7. He faced a nine-man Crimson front on this fourth-and-21 situation; he was supposed to be kicking the ball to the Crimson.
When Sullivan received the snap from center, it was still a football game. When he finally released it, it wasn't. Surprising everybody in the Bowl (including, probably, himself) Sullivan had the audacity to abandon his intended mission and run 65 yards around right end for the touchdown that buried the Crimson and made him an answer to a trivia question, not to mention an instant Eli legend.
As Sullivan stated later, whether the ball would have been blocked had he tried to punt it is as relevant as the children's story Zeke the Zookeeper. Sullivan gambled, and he won. Soon thereafter, Harvard lost.
Actually, it was even quicker than that. Forced to desperate lengths, the Crimson took to the air on its ensuing possession, but it didn't take long for George Rapp to pull off an interception for the Elis.
Six long minutes, 13 plays and 53 yards later, it was over. John Pagliaro, who carried the ball on nine of those plays and who will probably have a college named for him at Yale, scored the symbolic clincher with a two-yard blast.
Indeed, it was only fitting that the senior tailback, who grew up in the shadow of the Bowl, should do the honors. For the record, his 172-yard performance this day gave him 1159 on the season, an Eli record. Off the record, he was, like last year, dominant. So was his team.
Early in the contest, neither team had been able to dominate. The first quarter was a collection of knotted stomachs and fumbles, with a 22-yard Dave Schwartz field goal thrown in for good measure and a 3-0 Yale advantage.
Four seconds into the second stanza the Crimson had its lone bright moments when Larry Brown connected with Paul Sablock on successive pass plays, the latter for 14 yards and the score.
But that was it. Yale rebounded later in the quarter with a 54-yard march that culminated in a five-yard run by Rick Angelone for its 10-7 halftime lead, and then the two teams waltzed through the third quarter, waiting for something to happen.
Sullivan complied, but even if he hadn't, there is little question which team was superior. This day, this season, and unless things change in a hurry, probably for a while to come. In the end, though, it really doesn't matter. After all, they still go to Yale.