Perhaps no other team, not even Yale, has been so consistently lethal to Crimson football fortunes as the Princeton eleven. Over the years, the Tigers have won 30 and lost 16 against the varsity, with five games being tied.
The first meeting of the two teams in 1877 gave little indication of the one-sided rivalry that was to follow, as the Crimson whipped Princeton, one goal and two touchdowns to one touchdown. But the Tigers asserted themselves, taking the next four games before settling for a scoreless tie in 1881. Harvard scored its first win in five years in 1882, by the margin of one goal and one touchdown to one goal.
Point scoring came in effect in 1883, and the Tigers found that their big scores now looked even bigger. They swamped the varsity, 26 to 7, in 1883, and followed with 36-6 and 12-0 decisions the next two seasons. Harvard took a victory at home in 1887, but Princeton ran off four straight wins between 1888 and 1896.
When the two teams met again in 1911, the Crimson was embarked upon a period of football greatness. Princeton managed, nonetheless, to eke out an 8-6 triumph that fall, and in 1912 the Crimson had to struggle to win, 16 to 6.
After 20 minutes of inconclusive struggling in 1913, the Crimson's Charlie Brickley dropkicked a 12-yard field goal to give the varsity a 3-0 lead. For the remaining 40 minutes of play, the valiant varsity line fought to contain Princeton's offense on the wet, muddy field. The Tigers twice moved deep enough into Harvard territory to try for a field goal, but each time the kick fell short. The varsity limped off the field still undefeated, but subdued. Two weeks later, Brickley, one of the greatest kickers in collegiate annals, scored 15 points on five goals from the field to defeat Yale single-handedly, 15 to 5.
In the next three campaigns, the Crimson reeled off three consecutive victories, as it rose to perhaps its greatest heights. Two ties, in 1919 and 1920, began the transition that was completed in 1921, when Princeton finally notched a triumph over Harvard, 10 to 3. Another 10-3 Tiger win followed the next fall. The varsity came back, 5 to 0, in 1923, before a string of five Princeton victories.
After a 14-14 tie in 1936, the Crimson took two of its most convincing decisions over the Tigers, 34 to 6 in 1937, and 26 to 7 in 1938. From 1939 to 1946, Harvard won three, lost one, and tied one, but in 1947 the axe fell.
Princeton took a smashing 33-7 win in 1947 and administered 47-7 and 33-13 clobberings the next two seasons. Then, in 1950, ensued the worst shellacking in Crimson history.
Although little quarterback Carroll Lowenstein, a 5 ft., 9 in. Harvard great, completed 16 out of 33 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, all was for naught. Princeton, gaining 560 yards on the ground and in the air, tallied 63 points to hand the Crimson a licking it would not soon forget.
For 29 exicting minutes in the 1951 contest, Harvard and sophomore quarterback Dick Clasby held the Princeton eleven, led by all-American Dick Kazmaier, to a tie. With one minute left in the first half, however, Tiger lineman Vic Bihl picked off a Crimson aerial and scored the touchdown that broke the varsity's morale. Princeton roared on to a 54-13 triumph.
The Tigers again crushed the Crimson, 41 to 21, in 1952, but the tide was turning. Princeton had to battle for a 6-0 win in 1953, and the following two years saw Crimson victories, by 14-9 and 7-6 margins. In 1956, the Tigers reversed the trend with a 35-20 decision, and Harvard lost again, 28 to 20, in 1957.
Last fall, a Crimson comeback led by quarterback Charlie Ravenel nearly produced a tie against a powerful Princeton eleven, but Ravenel fell one yard short on his conversion attempt.
Today, in the 52nd contest in this 82-year-old series, Princeton must be given at least an even chance to end Harvard's title hopes once again.