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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

It's Now or Never as Gridders Invade Brown

History Favors Harvard, Oddsmakers Don't

By Michael K. Savit

This never used to be a big game. In fact, from 1960 to 1973 this never used to be much a game at all. Fourteen times Harvard and Brown squared off on the gridiron during that span, and on 13 of those occasions the Crimson triumphed.

A few years back, though, or right about the time this year's senior class was taking SAT s, the Bruins got their football act together under the auspices of John Anderson. Last year's co-championship with Yale provided the act with a curtain call, and this season, despite two early losses, Brown, according to Crimson coach Joe Restic, "has the best personnel in the league."

What the Bruins don't have is a share of the Ivy lead,o an honor currently shared by the Crimson, Yale and Dartmouth. With its two losses, Brown stands deadlocked with Princeton and Penn for fourth, fifth and sixth places (or however you view things like this), but since only one game separates six teams, it is true that in the words of everyone and his tutor, "Anything can happen in the Ivy League." Now isn't that nice?

What isn't so nice is the reality that Harvard is chiefly responsible for tightening things up. A win last week over the Tigers and the Crimson could have been semi-coasting, or at least able to afford a loss. Now thwt loss is in the past; another one today would be deadly.

"If there was one important game this year," Restic said yesterday afternoon while contemplating spending Halloween Saturday in Providence, "last week's was it."

"We had the advantage, but we lost it, and now we have our backs to the wall," he said. "I just can't understand why Harvard people don't get excited about Princeton."

Indeed, recent history has shown Restic's confusion to be valid. Yale's tradition, Dartmouth's attitude and Brown's penchant for being a bully all provide Harvard with the necessary is seduced at the pre-game tailgates and the results speak for themselves: two Princeton upsets and a sluggish Crimson triumph in the last three years.

"Last week," Restic said, "our tackling was atrocious. It looked like they (the Tiger linemen) blocked us out, but they didn't even block right." The same tackles, in other words, that were made against Dartmouth were simply missed against Princeton. It was that simple.

If these same tackles are missed today, there won't, in all probability, be a tomorrow. Brown, too, has had its off moments in '77, specifically in a 14-7 defeat at the hands of Penn three weeks ago, but the Bruins have picked up steam lately, and, behind the league's best defense and an offense anchored by sophomore signalcaller Mark Whipple, will be rearing to do to Harvard this afternoon what they did last fall in Cambridge. Bury 'em.

"They have people who played last year." Restic added, "who aren't playing now. I don't even know if they're still on the squad."

Despite the apparent disadvantages, though, one would be foolish to discard Harvard's chances. The same psychological factors that worked against the Crimson a week ago are now in its favor. For one thing, Brown is favored. For another, Harvard hates, make that absolutely despises, losing to Brown.

Then, of course, here is the fact that history repeats itself. Remember, this is 1975 redux. Dartmouth comes to Cambridge and is beaten. An underdog Princeton team comes to Cambridge and upsets the home team, which is then so demoralized that it travels to Providence and destroys Brown. And while it won't be 45-26 today, it will again, like the past few years, be a big game.

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