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You Win Some, You Lose Some, You Isom

Princeton Ball Control Ruins Harvard, 20-7

By Michael K. Savit

When the Princeton Tigers clawed their way into this area Friday afternoon, they encountered a bit of trouble. En route from their hotel in Somerville to the Stadium for a little pre-game practice, the Tigers went left when they should have gone right, and only a last-minute comeback by their bus driver saved the visitors from New Jersey from having to dine that evening in Sturbridge.

Saturday, the Tigers found more than just their way to Cambridge. On an autumn afternoon that must have inspired the new Top 40 release, "Heaven on the Seventh Floor," they also found a Harvard team still in the clouds over last week's sacking of Dartmouth and a golden opportunity to bring the Crimson back to earth.

That they did, and boy did it hurt. By a 20-7 margin, the Tigers created a three-way logjam atop the Ivy standings and in so doing, made Harvard look sick at home for the third time this season.

The Crimson on this day wasn't even a shadow of the team that had looked so indestructable against the Big Green. The offense played like it was seeking sympathy, the defense gave away yardage like it was going out of style and Harvard's overall execution and tackling were pitiful at best.

Princeton, of course, did have some say in the matter, particularly tailback Bobby Isom, whose stats say it all: 44 carries, 209 yards, one touchdown. Isom ran pretty much when and where he pleased, and while he is good, the Crimson defenders made him look like the best back ever to don shoulder pads. Either Isom was coated with olive oil, or the defense had stayed up all night drinking apple-banana cocktails.

Overall, the Tigers controlled the ball for more than 42 minutes of the game, so a case could be made that Harvard did well just keeping the score that low. Indeed, the Crimson made one goal-line stand in the second quarter, stopped Princeton twice later on before watching Chris Howe miss two quite makeable field goals, killed a fourth drive thanks to a Tom Masterson interception, and otherwise put in a long, if not good, day's work.

Not good because the offense just didn't have it. In games like these, where psychology plays such a key role, Harvard was outFreudianed early by a nine-minute Princeton march in the opening quarter that covered 80 yards and resulted in the first of two Howe field goals, a 36-yarder. Had Harvard, as it did a week ago, been able to establish the early control, the Tigers would probably have been reduced to three purrs and a box of Purina. Princeton took the initial advantage in the mind game, though, and then proved that nothing succeeds like success.

Howe clicked again in the second quarter--this time from 32 yards--and while the Tigers entered halftime on the right side of a 6-0 score, most of the 19,000 spectators in attendance--many clad in orange and black turtlenecks--were unconvinced that Harvard could play another half in slow motion.

Another quarter, perhaps, for Princeton kept right on rolling and controlled period number three like it had numbers one and two. And when, in the opening minutes of the fourth frame, the Tigers drove another 35 yards for a 13-0 lead, the touchdown coming on a three-yard pass from Kirby Lockhart to Glenn Robinson via the Crimson's Paul Halas, it was almost time for taps.

Job Performance

Almost, but not quite. True to form, the Crimson then tried to make a game of it and did, but only for five minutes. Following Robinson's touchdown, Larry Brown remembered the Dartmouth game and engineered a sharp 80-yard march that culminated in a 20-yard scoring toss to Paul Sablock. And now it was 13-7.

Psyched for one last gasp after the kickoff, the Crimson defense then turned Isom and mates into pussycats for this one series and forced a Princeton punt. Half the fourth quarter remained, momentum was on Harvard's side and who cared what had happened during the first 50 minutes of the game?

Well, Tiger punter Bill Powers did for one. Spurred on by his name and a favorable wind, Powers let sail a kick that nearly reached Dillon Field House. Seventy-four yards when totaled, the boot pinned Harvard on its own 15 on a day when the Crimson could hardly afford to be pinned anywhere.

Three plays went nowhere fast and a Scott Coolidge (subbing for Jim Curry, who left in the second quarter with a shoulder injury) punt didn't go much farther, so Isom led a final Princeton drive of 46 yards and fittingly scored the coup de grace on a seven-yard scurry.

Two years ago, under deja vu-like conditions, the Tigers also came into Cambridge and knocked the Crimson from the ranks of the Ivy unbeatens, after which Harvard went wild, destroying Brown, squeezing by Yale and winning its first undisputed Ivy championship.

Whether history will continue to repeat itself will not be known for another three weeks. What is known now is that on Saturday at the Stadium, the Crimson took a giant step backwards thanks to a team that 24 hours earlier couldn't even find the place.

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