HANOVER, N.H.--The curse of 1979--dormant through Harvard's opening four victories this year and abetted by a fired-up and superior Dartmouth team--returned to bedevil the Crimson Saturday afternoon.
On the rain-soaked turf of Memorial Field, Big Green quarterback Jeff Kemp put on a first-half show the likes of which Ivy League audiences rarely see. By halftime, the senior had completed 11 of 17 passes for 160 yards, two touchdowns, and a 17-3 lead--the beginning of the 30-12 rout that would end Harvard's sixgame winning streak.
By the end of this soggy disaster, the Crimson's three top quarterbacks would be out with injuries--just like last year. In addition to Brian Buckley, the firststringer racked up in the Army game, Mike Buchanan sprained a right ankle Saturday and Ron Cuccia pulled a right hamstring.
Pack It In
Coach Joe Restic, who saw three quarterbacks fall last year, said afterwards. "When you lose a couple of quarterbacks like that, you can start packing it in."
But it was before Buchanan got hurt that the devastation began. The Harvard defense, so impressive during the last few weeks, failed in the first half--the Crimson yielded more points in the first 25 minutes of play than it had in any game this season.
Kemp and wide receiver Dave Shula, the highly touted duo who had been ineffective in three straight Dartmouth losses, connected almost at will in the first half. Restic took the calculated risk of single covering Shula because of his bad start this year ("The plays that Shula made they haven't been making this year"--Restic), and the Crimson paid for the miscalculation.
Benefitting from an invisible Harvard pass rush, the pair connected three times for 30 yds. in Dartmouth's first scoring drive, a 12-play, 71-yd. march that ended with a 36-yd. field goal halfway into the first quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Kemp took the Big Green 75 yds. in only 2:42, capping the drive with a superb 27-yd. touchdown pass to Shaun Teevens (brother of q.b. star Buddy '79). This elegantly designed play forced Crimson safety Mike Jacobs to guard three men in the left corner of the endzone, a mismatch Kemp exploited to perfection.
Behind 10-0, Harvard went nowhere on offense for the fourth straight series. Buchanan never got the Crimson untracked in the first half, picking up only 95 total yds. to Dartmouth's 219. And on this fourth possession, he threw a wobbly effort intended for Cuccia over the middle that cornerback Kevin Thorne picked off and ran back to the Harvard 48.
With plenty of time to set up in the backfield, Kemp found Shula over the middle for 20 yards on first down. One play later, he threw high and long to Teevens again, this time at the other corner of the endzone. Teevens made a tremendous leaping catch, and Dartmouth was on its way to a 17-0 lead over the shell-shocked Crimson.
As if things weren't bad enough, Buchanan banged up his ankle on the third play of the next series. Preferring to leave Cuccia at split end at least temporarily, Restic called on junior Mark Marion to call signals. On Marion's first play, the Paoli, Pa., native rolled out and threw a difficult pass on the sideline--certainly a strange call for a quarterback's first varsity play. Tom Beatrice deflected it in the air and Dartmouth's Scott Hacker grabbed it and took it to the Dartmouth 40.
But Rocky Delgadillo intercepted (his fifth of the year) Kemp's first-down pass and Marion then took Harvard to the Dartmouth 12, where Dave Cody kicked a 29-yd. field goal for a 17-3 count.
Kemp led another drive for a field goal, and Marion couldn't move Harvard, so Restic knew he would have to make a change if his team were to have any chance of making up the difference.
So Restic called on Cuccia to take over as quarterback, and the Southern Californian came up with the best performance of the afternoon for the beleaguered Crimson.
Cuccia and the Multiflex were obviously made for each other. The coach had Cuccia taking snaps in the shotgun, then throwing or running. Grizzled press box veterans watched for a while, then began to realize that Cuccia was running single wing--a remnant of football's leather helmet days resurrected for the Multiflex.
And for one inspired series--Cuccia's second in the third quarter--this antique looked like it might bring Harvard back. Starting at the Harvard 20, Cuccia ran for 33 yards, and passed for 44 more--77 of the 80 yards in the touchdown drive.
Cuccia hit tight end Chuck Marshall over the middle for a 20-yd. gain to the Dartmouth 14, then, on the next play, bootlegged right off of the single wing and slipped through to the endzone. Cody's extra point was blocked, but with only 4:48 gone in the quarter and a quarterback moving the team, the gridders didn't look out of it yet.
Four minutes later, they were. On Harvard's next possession, Cuccia began moving the team again, but on first and ten at the 50 he cut upfield off the single wing, leapt to hurdle a tackler, and pulled his hamstring in the process. He stayed in the game two plays longer, but benched himself after the series, taking with him Harvard's chance for a resurgence.
Dartmouth's Mark Akey ran 52 yards for a score early in the third quarter, and, after Cuccia's departure, both teams only matched field goals.
THE NOTEBOOK: The injury report: Cuccia said he is a "maybe" for next week at Princeton. Buchanan's ankle is not broken, but he said next week is "up in the air." Buckley is making better-than-expected progress, but he is still probably a rew weeks away... Dartmouth and Yale now share the Ivy lead with 2-0 records. Brown is 3-1, and Harvard is 2-1.... Despite injuries of varying severity and respectability, The Harvard Crimson came from behind to thrash The Daily Dartmouth, 23-2.