The members of Harvard football’s Class of 2005 entered their final year with rings on their fingers and a perfect season under their belts. They didn’t need to win on Saturday to own a place in Crimson history, just as they didn’t need to win the Ivy title the week before to get a taste of a league championship.
But though they reaped the benefits of Harvard’s 9-0 campaign as freshmen, few would have claimed to call that season their own. Only two, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Adam Jenkins, held slots on the travel squad, and—Fitzpatrick’s heroic comeback against Dartmouth aside—that was Neil Rose’s and Carl Morris’ team, not theirs.
“It’s great to have rings on your finger, and to go 9-0, and have that experience our [freshman] year,” Fitzpatrick said. “But it was what we were going to do our senior year that was how we were going to be remembered.”
Not a bad standard for Fitzpatrick & Co.—who guided the Crimson to its strongest finish in 103 years—to be measured against after thumping Yale 35-3 to secure the school’s first 10-win season since 1906. And, as was the case throughout much of the season, no one particular name stood head and shoulders above the rest after the dust had settled.
Fitzpatrick, whose acceptance of a more evenly balanced offense translated into three extra wins and at least 30 points in nine games, but fewer yards for himself, did precisely what was asked of him yet again. An efficient 15-of-24 for 124 yards and one score through the air, he added 67 yards and a touchdown with his legs, throwing himself headlong into harm’s way in a manner he rarely has since injuring himself a season ago.
“It’s been great to throw the ball on a simple five-yard pitch and see Brian [Edwards] break about six tackles and get 30 yards after the catch,” said Fitzpatrick, who will compete in the Hula Bowl on Jan. 22. “It’s been an exciting offense. It’s been a lot of fun for me.”
Edwards, whose ankle-breaking changes of field and never-say-fair-catch mentality thwarted defenses without fail for each of the last two seasons, wouldn’t be one to disagree. Though he struggled to accumulate yardage comparable to his output a season ago thanks to increased attention, the Crimson consistently found creative ways to get him the ball—and Edwards consistenly found creative ways to get it across the goal line.
After fumbling the initial handle, Edwards scooped up a Yale punt just three minutes into the second quarter, raced to the opposite sideline and sprinted past a host of Bulldogs for the game-breaking score.
He’d add another touchdown, this time from Fitzpatrick, one quarter later, when he split a pair of collapsing Yale defensive backs, who couldn’t miss him again if they tried.
“I can‘t think of a better way to end my career than to go out on top, to get the team going,” Edwards said. “Of course it’s nice to be able to contribute a lot in my last game. It’s indescribable to put into words right now how we feel as a team.”
Seniors Ricky Williamson, Bobby Everett and Sean Tracy mirrored those performances on the defensive side of the ball, as they consistently have all season.
Williamson, the converted tailback who led the Crimson with 11 tackles and one sack, returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown, erasing any hope of a Yale comeback.
Everett, the defense’s heart and soul, logged eight tackles and broke up two passes, pestering Bulldog quarterback Alvin Cowan and keeping him off his rhythm while logging 1.5 tackles for a loss.
And Tracy, the unsung member of the linebacking corps who left the game with seven tackles after suffering a knee injury, managed to stay healthy long enough to see the victory through and to return quickly enough to celebrate at midfield.
“It’s the perfect end to the perfect season,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “The most perfect season.”
And for the Class of 2005, this time it’s all theirs.
—TIMOTHY J. McGINN