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"We just didn't make the big play with the pass," mourned Harvard football coach Joe Restic after reliving his opening game nightmare of a year ago. His players did, however, fumble in the open field, help along two UMass touchdown drives with face-mask penalties, drop an easy interception, call for a fair catch on the Harvard five-yard line, and squib a ten-yard kick-off, as the Crimson welcomed the new season with a deflating 28-19 defeat.
UMass is a considerably better team than Restic's rookie nemesis. Holy Cross, but any Yankee Conference team that can riddle the Harvard defense for four touchdowns and almost 400 yards total offense is going to leave the Harvard, coaches scratching their heads as they try to figure out a few problems, like how to salvage the Crimson's pass defense.
Although the Crimson ran at will against UMass, averaging over seven yards a rush. Harvard's fairly pathetic passing game ruined sustained drives and offered a lopsided ball control edge to UMass (The Redmen ran off 75 plays to Harvard's 54).
Harvard was able to break the big play, however, Mark Wheeler, a very fast transfer halfback who ran amuck all afternoon, broke one for a touchdown on the first play of the game. Taking a pitchout from starting quarterback Eric Crone. Wheeler raced 71 yards down the sideline, as the inexperienced UMass defensive backs overcommitted themselves to Crone's well-executed option.
Harvard looked fat for about five more minutes, and then the end began on the arm of UMass quarterback Peil Pennington. Getting good field position (an advantage UMass enjoyed more often than not) when Harvard's Jim Stoekel was forced to punt from his own 20 against a strong wind. Pennington proceeded to destroy Harvard's secondary.
He hit his favorite receiver. Steve Schubert, over the middle for 29 yards, and then went to him again for a touch down. The score was nullified by a penalty, but Harvard obligingly returned the favor with a face mask penalty, and Pennington snuck over from the one to tie it up.
On both passes to Schubert, Pennington diagnosed a Harvard linebacker blitz and called an audible sending Schubert slanting over the middle, isolating him against Harvard defensive back Barry Malinowski in a man-to-man situation. During the course of the game the linebacker blitz nailed Pennington once for Harvard, while Pennington nailed Harvard for over 150 yards with the slant-in.
Yet Harvard, for all its defensive "flexibility," kept blitzing. Pennington kept calling slant-ins, and Malinowski spent the afternoon schasing Schubert. Malinowski was the team leader in tackles with ten, fulfilling a football adage that if the safety is a team's leading tackler, the team's in trouble.
With the score tied at seven a piece, the first of Harvard's more bizarre mistakes intervened. On the end-around play. Crone pitched out to tight-end John Hagery, and Hagerty pitched out to a surprised UMass defender. The Redmen took over at midfield and scored in five plays, with the aid of another slant in to Schubert, good for 34 yards.
Taking the ensuing UMass kick-off at its own twenty, the Crimson put together its only sustained scoring drive of the day Bruce Tetirick blew the extra-point kick, however, and Harvard trailed at the half, 14-13.
Harvard partisans in the crowd of 13,000 got their yuks for the day during the UMass band's half-time show, but they soon got their first real smell of defeat, as the Redmen marched 77 yards in six plays right after the second half kick-off. Once again, the crusher was a slant-in, this time to Gary Mika, for 56 yards.
Harvard's second freak fumble cost the Crimson a touchdown. With three blockers and a lone UMass defender about to hit the dirt in front of him, captain Teddy DeMars saw a sure 60 yard touchdown run turn into a UMass first down when, untouched, he simply dropped the ball.
Jimmy Stoekel had replaced Crone at quarterback by this time, however, and he put Harvard back into the game with a 59 yard touchdown pass play. Tight-end Hagerty, who played an excellent game with three receptions after his first quarter fumble, caught Stoekel's pass near midfield, picked up a nice block by sophomore wide receiver Pat McInally, and raced all the way down the sideline.
Harvard tried for the two point conversion, but despite a second chance after a pass interference penalty, DeMars was stopped cold at the line, a yard short of the endzone.
Poor field position and a face mask penalty again combined to sink the Crimson, this time permanently. Taking over on the Harvard 44. Pennington took advantage of the penalty and ran the ball in himself after five straight rushing plays.
Harvard had three chances in the final quarter to close the gap. On the first shot, Stoekel was sacked for a ruinous 15 yard loss after another sensational Wheeler run had put the Crimson in scoring range. The second time. Stoekel threw an interception after Wheeler, his intended receiver, had been bumped coming out of the backfield. And finally. Harvard's last gasp a 12 play, 69 yard, two-minute drill drive, died when Stoekel was hit from behind and fumbled.
Harvard's defense finally held in the fourth quarter. The defensive line had mashed the Redmen's inside running game all day, as middle linebacker Sandy Tennant picked up nine tackles and five assists, but the outside was vulnerable to the sweep. Harvard's outstanding defensive ends. Mitch Berger and Mike McHugh, were cleaned out several times by UMass interference.
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