PROVIDENCE. R.I.-The Harvard and Brown football teams demonstrated what it means to be calm under pressure Saturday afternoon at Brown Stadium.
In fact, the Crimson and the Bruins appeared quite uninterested in the fact that both their Ivy seasons were on the line. A pair of hapless offenses gave the ball back and forth for more than half the game before a ballcarrier finally visited the end zone.
Even after that, the two teams had a chance to end their title hopes together. The score stood deadlocked at 10 with two minutes left; a tie would have erased both squads' title hopes.
Finally, with the clock running down, someone decided it just wouldn't be right for six of the eight teams in the Ivies to be out of the race with three weeks remaining. Fortunately for Harvard, it happened to be Steven Ernst.
With 72 seconds left and the Crimson's chance to win the race 69 yards away at the Brown goal line, the Harvard fullback took a five-yard screen pass from quarterback Greg Gizzi. Suddenly, the entire defense was behind him.
He had been caught from behind on a third-quarter breakaway run; this time a Bruin tripped him up on the five-yard line. He stumbled forward, fell on the goal line and it was Harvard 17, Brown 10.
When the visitors survived the final 58 seconds they nailed down a 3-1-1 Ivy record, keeping them in third place behind Dartmouth and Penn, and a 4-2-1 overall mark.
"A tie's a loss at this point, "said Crimson Coach Joe Restic, who said just the opposite after Harvard tied Cornell three weeks ago. While he was relieved over avoiding a loss then, on Saturday only a win would suffice. With both Dartmouth and Penn narrowly avoiding upsets to take their fourth Ivy wins, a 2-1-2 team would hardly be better off than 2-2-1 Brown is now.
The score was tied more often than not, at 7-7, 10-10 and at a seemingly permanent 0-0 in the first half. For 40 minutes the defenses combined to make it a stalemate, a battle with no movement. Fumbles and penalties wiped out what little yardage either side could accrue; punts in one direction were shortened by a very strong wind and those in the other were blown into the end zone. Neither team penetrated the other's 40-yard line during the first half except when a 15-yard Bruin penalty brought Harvard to the Bruin 29.
Yellow flags played a big role in keeping the Crimson attack stationary before halftime. Eight first-half penalties, totalling 60 yards, cut into the meager 145-yard, 30 minute Harvard output. In the first period Gizzi was guilty of passing from beyond the line of scrimmage, nullifying a 33-yard strike to Mark Vignali. The second quarter alone saw four illegal procedure calls on the Crimson offense.
It took a big play after the intermission by Brown QB Joe Potter to make things interesting for the scoreboard operator. Unable to find an open receiver, he scrambled up the middle from his own 31 to the Crimson 38. A 16-yard keeper and a pass to Vince Stephens brought the Bruins to the goal line; a few plays later, fullback Steve Hefferman barreled in from the one.
The fourth quarter saw the Harvard attack finally come to life, as the Crimson scored on its last three drives of the day. Ernst started things on the first play after a Bruin punt, racing 63 yards up the middle to the Brown 18. A pass interference call brought Harvard to the four, and three plays later Gizzi rolled around the right end for the touchdown.
Brown struck back quickly. Only a tackle from behind by safety Mike Dixon prevented tailback Jamie Potkul from taking a short pass near midfield all the way for six points. The Crimson defense held at the 10, but Chris Ingerslev booted a 27-yard field goal to make it 10-7 for the Bruins.
Ernst took a 10-yard pass and gained 19 on the next play to set up Harvard's second score, a wind-aided 31-yard kick that gave Jim Villanueva a new school record for career field goals (26). When the Bruins punted away with 1:47 remaining, Ernst had the chance to score the final points himself.
Bruno Perdoni, Kevin Garvin and Morgan Rector teamed to seal the win. Rector hit Potter, Garvin hit the ball and Perdoni recovered the fumble that ended Brown's finals drive on the Harvard 34.
THE NOTEBOOK: Andy Nolan played nearly the whole game, his longest stretch on the field since suffering a pre-season thigh injury.... Gizzi completed 15 of 26 passes (no interceptions) for 206 yards.