A Season in an Afternoon
The details--and probably the entire rest of the season--will fade quickly, and all that will remain of the 1979 Harvard football will be the score of the final game: Harvard 22, Yale 7.
A Crimson squad that had stumbled to a 2-6 record before its final game traveled to New Haven for the decade-concluding Game. Coach Joe Restic's unit braced for an encounter with the Ivy League champ, an 8-0 powerhouse, possessing the number one rated defense in the nation.
The Game itself proceeded with an almost mathematical certainly. Harvard took the opening kickoff on its own 26-yd. line and marched all the way for the TD, the first first-quarter touchdown Yale had allowed all year.
Sophomore Jim Callinan, injured during much of the season, provided the offensive spark, leading all rushers with 73 yards on 18 carries, and scoring a touchdown on a second-quarter aerial connection from senior quarterback Burke St. John. And defensive back Pete Coppinger, another sophomore, picked off two passes to anchor the defense.
But before the upset of the decade, the season had proceeded glumly. Injured quarterbacks--St. John, Mike Buchanan, Mike Smerczynski--deprived Harvard of any offensive continuity, and offensive troubles led to the team's disastrous six-game losing streak, its worst since 1950.
Some of the losses were close (14-10 to B.U.; 10-7 to Dartmouth; 9-7 to Princeton) but the Crimson hardly seemed ready to take on the Eli's powerful machine. The only hint came in the form of a 41-26 Harvard trouncing of Penn.
The only disappointing note of The Game proved senior split end Rich Horner's failure to eclipse the career receiving record he was approaching. He finished his outstanding career as Harvard's number three all-time pass-catcher.
The omens are promising for next year. The Crimson will boast its most experienced defense in years; Brian Buckely and Ron Cuccia will return from probational exile to battle for the quarterblack slot. But it will be a tall order to top the exaultation of Nov. 17, 1979.