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Brian "R.D." Dowlings brought an undefeated, united Yale squad into Harvard Stadium in 1968. In only two seasons (he sat out most of his sophomore year with a knew injury). Dowlings had smashed all of Yale's passing records and had fashioned a 16-game winning streak, longest in the NCAA.
Dowling's return to Yale's practice field was not his first since he graduated. He has maintained close ties with alma mater and his 1968 teammates, even though "most of the guys have gone in different directions." But Dowling won't be in the stands today when the Elis take the field against Harvard. About the time the coin flip sails into the air. Dowling will be pulling in his New England Patriot uniform in a Baltimore locker room.
When the Patriots take the field Sunday against the Baltimore Colts, Dowling will again be on the sidelines. It is an unusual position for Dowling: he played first-string throughout junior high school and college. The press clippings said it all: number 10, Brian Dowling--All--Ivy quarterback: never lost a game he started: a legend in his own time.
The press clippings are still accurate, Dowling has still not lost a game he has started, but he's never started a procontest. The Patriots are the first pro football team to give Dowling a chance. He was drafted 11th by the Minnesota Vikings in 1969, but was cut. He latched onto a team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, teaching school at the same time.
In 1970, he entered the Patriots' training camp as a free agent. Although he made the squad, Dowling's toughest battle was still to come. That some year Jim Plunker arrived, billed by the sportswriters as the man who would lead the Patriots out of the cellar.
Planked has established himself as a fine pro quarterback, but the Patriots are still one of the word teams is pro football. The Patriots coaching staff experimented during the preseason, and Dowling saw action in all the exhibitions contests.
Dowling said yesterday that he is satisfied with his program this season. "I've played in five games during the regular season." Dowling said. "I have confidence that I'll continue to improve if I get the chance to play."
It is ironic that the press has billed Plunketts as the savior of the Patriots. When Dowling came to Yale, he was called the "Great White Hope," the God who would lead the Elis back to football immortality after two losing seasons. Yale slumed dreamed about a repeat of the undefeated 1960 won that destroyed Harvard, 37-6
Dowling didn't disappoint them, in 1949, he directed Yale to an 8-1 recorded and an Ivy tide, Dowling won the Harvard-Yale game with some last-minute heroics tossing a 66-yard pass to tight and Del marting to squeeze by, the Crimson, 24-20, Dowling threw two TD passes that day: the other one came on a 53-yard screen pass to Clvis Hill, now with the Dallas Cowboys.
Hill and Dowling have not opposed each other on the gridiron yet, but they still keep in contact. "I talked with Calvin this summer," Dowling said yesterday, "We were supposed to get together but the Cowboys changed their schedule."
Dowling recalled that the 1968 Eli squad was a close-knit outfit, No one resented Dowling and his press clippings, and his larger-than-life image may even have helped the team. "I didn't mind that the press made me out to be a legend," he said, "If everyone thought I had some sort of unnatural control over my teammates, I wasn't going to contradict them, especially if it had a good effect."
The 1968 Yale eleven ripped through their opponents as if they were invisible spirits directed by Dowling's mystical hand. Going into the Harvard game, the Elis were ranked 18th in the nation, and third in total offense. The legend of Brian Dowling became the legend of the Yale team.
Dowling and his teammates inspired the nationally-syndicated cartoon "Doonesbery," which appeared daily in The Yale Daily News. "Garry's (Tradeau) cartoons had a lot of meaning for the teams," he recalled. "Every person in his strip was a particular person."
Trudea continues to draw cartoons about the Yale football team and "B.D.," but Dowling insists that he no longer is B.D. "It wasn't until last year that some people realized I was B.D. Too bad Traders is just generalising now."
B.D and the root of the Elis carvled their press clippings late Harvard Stadium, and for 59 minutes they looked like the 18th ranked team in the nation. But in 43 seconds, an unknown named fresh Champi did what the entire Ivy League had been unable to do for two seasons-he destroyed the legend of Brian Dowling.
And Dowling watched it all helplously from the sidelness. "The momentum just kept mounting for Harvard, Even if a play didn't work, we would get penalized," he said, "I know that the game would end in a tie."
Although Dowling won't get to the game today, he's familiar with Yale's new offense. He thinks Yale will win if the Elis can stick to the game plan. "With the Wishbone, you have to run and pass. Oklahomas (the first team to use the Wishbone) best Nebracks because they mixed their plays well. Okishoma's only loss (to Colorado) came when they got behind and had to go to the air," Dowling explained.
Sophomore quarterback Tom Doyies, who will start against the Crimson, impressed Dowling in practice. 'He's a good back, but he has to learn to mix his plays better. He'll be great with some experience."
Regardless of the outcome of today's game, one Ivy record remains safe-Dowling 24 career touchdown passes. But Dowling doesn't think the record will stand for long. "I set that record is only 13 Ivy games," he said yesterday. "A good sophomore quarterback will have no trouble breaking it."
Brian Dowling the legend is not Brian Dowling the second-string quarterback. He has no doubt that some day he'll make it back to the top spot. Dowling is confident, because he's run up against more awesome opponents than Jim Plunkett--the 1968 Harvard football team.
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