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Harvard broke or tied a bevy of school passing records on Saturday, but the mistake-prone Crimson still failed to keep pace with high-scoring Colgate, losing its second contest in a row, 38-21.
While the final result was not encouraging, Harvard may have finally solved its two-week-old quarterback problem. After Larry Brown and Burke St. John had combined to give the Crimson only one score in the first half, coach Joe Restic went to a shotgun formation with Brian Buckley doing the throwing.
Making his first varsity appearance, the tall sophomore completed 20 of 40 tosses for 250 yards. For the day, Harvard connected on 31 of 57 for a school-record 380 yards. That was nine more passes than any Harvard team had ever tried in a single game before.
Also, senior split end Jim Curry hauled in 13 catches to tie the single-game school record held by All-American Pat McInally.
Unfortunately, by the time the old records started to fall in the final quarter, Colgate had already put the game away. Buckley moved the Crimson up and down the field, but before he finally engineered his first score with 14 minutes left to play, the Red Raiders had grabbed a 38-7 advantage.
Harvard took a 7-0 lead midway through the first period when starting quarterback Larry Brown rolled out at the Colgate 18-yard line and hit Scott Coolidge down the sideline for the score. The Red Raiders had fumbled on their own 22 just two plays before.
The visitors countered shortly thereafter when halfback Bruce Malverty beat Crimson adjuster John Tuke and hauled in a 51-yard bomb to tie the game. On Colgate's previous possession, quarterback Bob Relph had hit Dick Slenker wide open at the Harvard goal line, but the ball had bounced right off the receiver's chest.
Then, Harvard turned the ball over to Colgate on an interception but appeared to have forced the visitors to punt at the Crimson 40 yard line. Instead, Colgate kicking specialist Jerry Andrewlavage threw for the first down out of punt formation. The Raiders moved the ball down closer and finally settled for a short go-ahead field goal from Andrewlavage. The kicker was a sharp thorn in the Crimson's side all afternoon, hitting a 46-yard and a 48-yard field goal later in the game and frustrating the Harvard return specialists with high, deep kickoffs that could not be run back.
After Andrewlavage's 48-yarder stretched the Colgate lead, Relph directed the Raiders on another drive and rolled around right end for a five-yard touch-down run. A two-point conversion gave the visitors a 21-7 lead.
At that point, Brown went to the bench despite the fact that he had connected on six of nine tosses. For the second week in a row, the Crimson ground attack was going absolutely nowhere.
St. John took over at the helm and the Crimson came within a hair of getting back into the game as the half ran out. After a Colgate penalty had kept the Harvard drive alive at midfield, St. John pitched to Coolidge on an apparent sweep, but the fullback lofted a floater that Curry ran under inside the Colgate five.
Just as Harvard failed to score in close after sacking UMass's punter last week, the Crimson could not come up with the one play it needed to polish off this drive. St. John was stopped for a loss trying the right side, then sacked for a 14-yard loss when he dropped back to pass. As the clock ticked off the final seconds, St. John passed to Curry on the sideline, but the speedster was brought down immediately. Harvard had come up empty again.
Buckley threw an interception on his first varsity play to begin the second half, and could generate nothing on Harvard's second possession. Colgate did not have similar problems, increasing the lead to 28-7 when Tuke was beaten deep again.
Buckley finally pumped some wind into the Crimson sails and drove the team downfield with a potent mix of passes and planned quarterback sweeps out of the shotgun. Harvard moved to a first down inside the Colgate ten, but suddenly the offense broke down again. Two stacked-up runs, two incomplete passes and two Harvard penalties later, the Crimson had turned the ball over on downs.
The Colgate defense kept the home team from getting back into the game twice, and now the Raider offense made sure that Harvard wouldn't get another chance. Another Andrewlavage field goal and a crisp touchdown driver after a good punt return put the contest away, 38-7.
The fourth quarter, then, was meaningless as far as the final result went, but it gave Buckley further opportunity to show Restic what he could do. He made the most of the chance, eliminating the mistakes and throwing for a pair of scores.
The Crimson coach was happy with what he saw. "The kid can operate under pressure," he said afterwards. "I can practice all year and not find that out. Nowhere else in the East can you find someone who could have thrown some of the balls he threw. Nobody's got the gun he's got. He's got the best arm I've ever coached."
That glowing impression has certainly earned the sophomore a place in Restic's scheme, but surprisingly, he might not start next week. For the second week in a row, Harvard managed only a yard per carry on the ground. Restic is determined to get the ground attack going, and Buckley has yet to prove that he can run the multi-flex.
But even if Harvard never opens it up again the way it did on Saturday, the team has gained something. "Now I know for sure that we can go to this kind of attack if we need it, and that forces every one else we play to take time preparing for it," the coach said.
Restic knows he has a big job ahead of him. "I was not disappointed with the defense, but we have to take more pressure off of them. We're not there. We're not going to be able to do it completely, and I like to be able to do everything. But we'll have to do what the kids can do best."
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