NEW HAVEN, Conn.--This has been a season of record-breaking performances by the Harvard football team, and yesterday was no exception.
Not only did the Crimson's 17-7 victory over the arch-rival Bulldogs mark Harvard's first-ever perfect Ivy-League season and its first nine-win season since the 1919 national championship campaign, but two more individual records fell as well.
On his first carry of The Game--a two-yard run up the middle three plays into the contest--sophomore running back Chris Menick set a team record for rushing yards in a season. The run put him at 1,102, eclipsing the 1,101 yards tallied by Eion Hu '97 in 1995.
Menick's next carry was probably more dramatic, and certainly more relevant. When sophomore quarterback Rich Linden handed the ball off to his workhorse back at the two and Menick rumbled into the end zone for Harvard's first points of The Game, the touchdown was Menick's 14th score of the season, outpacing the 13 recorded by Mike Giardi '94 in 1991.
Coach Tim Murphy congratulated Menick with a firm handshake during the post-game press conference. It was a rare opportunity for Murphy, who normally downplays individual accomplishments in an effort to model the team in that image.
On defense, senior defensive end Chris Smith added to the Harvard all-time sack record he set last weekend against Penn. He recorded two of the Crimson's seven sacks on the afternoon, raising the mark to 20.5--two and a half more than the previous record.
There were a couple of near-misses for the Crimson as well. Senior safety Jeff Compas needed just one interception this season to tie Harvard's all-time interception record at 15, but he did not get it.
Compas tipped numerous passes this season and saw just as many sail just out of reach of his outstretched fingertips, but the elusive mark stayed elusive.
On Yale's final offensive play of The Game, with the Bulldogs needing a touchdown to put themselves within a field goal in the final minute, Yale quarterback Joe Walland called Compas' number. Walland threw a 16-yard floater, leading sophomore James Borden to the corner of the end zone.
But Compas was ready, and his tight coverage prevented the Elis from making it a game. One could say Compas took one for the team, even if he does not hold the record.
Another individual accolade was expected to go to Linden. The sophomore entered The Game needing just 157 passing yards to set a new all-time single-season passing mark for the Crimson. He had just 103 after three quarters, so even if it was clear to most that Harvard had The Game wrapped up entering the fourth, the question of whether Linden would reach the historic figure remained unanswered.
Linden did not set the mark, as Yale's secondary remained surprisingly strong--he passed for just 18 yards in the fourth quarter.
The Fannies in the Seats
The mood of the crowd was festive, if not overly rambunctious. Although it was the smallest Game crowd since World War II, there was no absence of shenanigans.
On Yale's side, students of Saybrook College braved the at-times bitter and wholly unpleasant weather to conduct their annual Saybrook strip.
But this year the fans spat in the face of tradition and performed the act in the first quarter rather than the third, as a large group of Saybrook residents discarded all but the barest of essentials at the end of the opening period.
Public nudity seemed the theme of the day, as a group of bare-chested Yalies drew a large ovation by parading around the stands--and eventually posing on the field--in formation, spelling out F-ck Harvard on their chests. How Ivy League.
Yale's halftime show was typically rivalrous. It included a mock duel between Nathan Hale and John Harvard that ended in Harvard's assasination by gunshot, as well as a real-life explosion made to represent the violent death of a mythical little boy from Cambridge named Kenny.
Harvard's fans did not seem very interested in The Game itself until the end, when most of them poured onto the field to congratulate their heros on a perfect Ivy season and to cebrate the triumph of good over evil.