PHILADELPHIA--The four Harvard sophomores who played at the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field two years ago returned there Saturday as seniors, looking for an Ivy League football title--and revenge.
The last time Brian Bergstrom, Roger Caron, Barry Ford and Mark Vignali played in Philadelphia, a last second toughing the kicker call effectively negated 21 fourth-quarter Crimson points.
The Quakers got a second, successful field goal attempt, a 23-21 victory and a piece of the league crown.
The Harvard sophomores got a lesson in losing that even last year's 28-0 Crimson blowout couldn't erase.
But that home-field shutout will have to do. Those four, and Harvard's 19 other seniors, won't have another chance at Penn.
Worse, they won't have another shot at the uncontested league title that's clouded them for all of their varsity careers.
"I'd rather have it come down to that last second and be crying and feel terrible than just get whooped." Vignali said after the visitors fell, 38-7.
"We should have won that game." Caron said of the 1982 heartbreaker. "It was taken away from us. Today we just got killed."
Barring an unforeseen catastrophe at Ithaca next Saturday, when the Quakers take on Cornell, the Crimson seniors won't have another chance at a third consecutive Ivy League title.
The knowledge that they have no control of the course of events weighs heaviest, making this defeat hurt even more than the first.
"It's worse, because last time we were robbed, and this time we got stomped on," Ford said.
"For the first time we had our own destiny in our own hands." Bergstrom said, "and we could have done what we wanted, and we didn't."
They didn't dominate, didn't convert third downs, didn't even hang on until late in the contest as they've done in every victory this year.
The combination of an injured quarterback, missed field--goals, interceptions and 28 unanswered second-half points by the maniacal Penn squad efficiently put Harvard away.
Even the four seniors.
On defense, tackle Ford played perhaps his best of the season, downing five Quakers and helping take down three more, while cornerback Bergstrom tackled a pair of men in Red and Blue and notched four assists.
Those were the brightest spots of an otherwise ineffective defensive performance.
Meanwhile Vignali, one of the two best running backs in the league, was kept to only 43 yards.
The blame for that really can't go anywhere, most would agree, but an inconsolable Caron was quick to take responsibility. "It was our fault we lost, the offensive line," he said.
But all through that interminable second half, more than bad offensive line play stopped Harvard.
Penn stopped the foolproof running game and the hosts' multi-faceted offense stopped the Crimson defense.
When it was all ever, when Quaker Coach Jerry Berndt had left the field on his players' shoulders and a goalpost had left the field on the shoulders of the ecstatic fans, Penn, had also stopped Harvard's title hopes for good.
All that remains is the goal of a face-saving victory against Yale next weekend--for tradition, not the crown. "I think we have something to prove now," Vignali said.
And Bergstrom, Caron, Ford, and Vignali have one more chance to prove it.
"I don't have another season--that was a very tough way to go out." Ford said. "It's really hard to swallow, especially a loss like that."