No, the Harvard football season did not end last week. It just seemed that way. The Crimson hopes for at least a share of the Ivy League title are still very much alive, but the defense must break the Penn wishbone at the Stadium today if Harvard is to stay in the race.
Last Saturday's disheartening setback in Providence gave Harvard an excuse to pack it in, but things haven't worked out that way. "Sure it was tough to lose that key one," Crimson mentor Joe Restic said yesterday. "But we are still in the picture. We had an excellent week of practice. Sharing the title, and having a winning season are motivation enough."
The Quakers have not been a factor in the Ivy League title chase in recent seasons, so being only one game out of first place this late in the season has left them on an emotional high.
Distraught after his 1976 squad lost six of nine games and failed to produce a runner with more than 257 yards, Quaker coach Harry Gamble switched to a wishbone formation and a run-run-and-then-run-again philosophy this year, and sat back to see what would happen.
What he has seen has been just dandy. With fullback Denis Grosvenor ripping into the middle of enemy defenses for 601 yards in six games, and speedy signal caller Tommy Roland scooting around end for more than 400, Penn has ground out more than 2000 yards on the ground to break the school record.
This rushing prowess has led to a 4-3 record and the second upset over Brown, 14-7, in as many years. Last Saturday, the Quakers dispatched Princeton with surprising ease, 21-10. Yes, that's the same Princeton eleven which left Harvard in a daze the week before.
Harvard has not faced an exclusively wishbone team during Restic's tenure. If Harvard masses its defensive hordes in the middle to shut off Grosvenor, the Crimson will be stretched thin on the wings against the quarterback and the pitchback. Nor can Penn's pass receivers be ignored.
The key to defending successfully against this attack, Restic pointed out, is to have everyone stick to his assignment. If the defensive players follow their normal inclination to help out and swarm toward the ball carrier, they'll leave themselves wide open to the pitch.
If Harvard tackles no better than it did two weeks ago against Tiger Bobby Isom or last Saturday in the late going against Brown's Mark Whipple, the Crimson will be in for another long afternoon.
Harvard's defense has been hurt badly by injuries in recent weeks. All-Ivy performers Russ Savage and Charlie Kaye have both been playing hurt, and backup John Cosgrove did not even suit up last week.
By late in the Brown game, after both Kaye and his towering replacement, Frank Kane, had limped off the field, Whipple and Company made mincemeat of that side of the Crimson line and drove easily for the winning touchdown.
If Harvard is handling Penn this afternoon, keep your ears open for the Brown-Dartmouth score. A Bruin victory gives Harvard control over its own destiny. Regardless of what happens in other games, the Crimson can take a share of the title by winning its last two contests.
Those of you who don't want Brown to win a share of anything might hope instead that Dartmouth waits until next week to do its necessary losing and knocks Brown out of the race today.
However, it is beginning to look like no one will be able to stop Dartmouth in the stretch. Big Green coach Jake Crouthamel, who has compiled a 41-18-2 at Hanover, announced Thursday that he will be retiring after the season. "That has to give Dartmouth an edge," Restic said. "Everything's at stake for the coach; the team will want to finish it up right."
But in this wildest of Ivy League seasons, the likeliest of outcomes have a way of not turning out. The Harvard football season is not over yet.