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PROVDIENCE, R.I.--While figuring out how much change he owed a customer who had forked over $5 for a $1.97 purchase, the smock-clad counterman at The Butcher Shop on Elmgrove Street suddenly stopped and declared to a partisan Harvard audience here Saturday afternoon, "I've just got this feeling Brown's gonna lose."
Fortunately for The Butcher Shop, the counterman makes better turkey sandwiches than he does football predications, for a few blocks down Elmgrove Street a few hours later, Brown not only didn't lose, but in front of a standing room only Homecoming Day crowd of 17,000 at Brown Stadium, it exposed a Crimson outfit that, it can now be safely stated, is only mediocre at best.
For Harvard fans, the 20-15 Bruin triumph left an empty feeling aftertaste similar to the one you get after spending the night at the Hong Kong drinking Rangoon Rubies. All you want to do the next day is lie in bed and forget.
Those moments from Saturday's game that the Crimson will wish to remember came during a 15-minute span that began two minutes before halftime and concluded two minutes before the start of the fourth quarter.
In the last two minutes of the first half Crimson signal-caller Larry Brown, who is not to (but probably will) be confused with the other team, engineered a Beat the Clock drive that consumed 65 yards and kept Harvard in the game.
Actually, it was the referees that kept the score close at halftime, for after Brown had hit Wayne Moore at the Bruins' five-yard line with the clock registering single digits, the men in stripes forgot about the game and concentrated on winding their watches back an hour in accordance with Eastern Standard Time.
Not only did they award the Crimson one more play before the half expired, but when the left side of Harvard's offensive line jumped offsides on that play, they kept their flags in their pockets.
Not one to look a gift play in the mouth, Brown (remember, Larry) then hit Jim Curry in the right corner of the endzone to keep Harvard in the game at 14-9.
The first 13 minutes following intermission were also fruitful ones for the visitors, as they held Brown in check and took their first and only lead of the contest with a 58-yard, nine-play, three-minute drive that culminated in a 12-yard Brown to Larry Hobdy aerial in the same corner of the same endzone where Curry had caught the earlier score.
Before and after, though, it was more than all Brown. Before, there was a total Bruins' domination in the first quarter, a 76-yard beauty of a scoring pass from Mark Whipple to Charlie Watkins and, after Gary Bosnic had put the Crimson on the board with a 46-yard field goal early in the second period, a classic 81-yard Brown (remember, the team) drive that ended when Marty Moran dove three yards over left guard.
It could and should have been worse, but a costly Brown offsides penalty on its initial drive of the game deep in Crimson territory and a Paul Halas interception, his fifth of the year, later in the same stanza, choked off two Bruin drives that at the time looked like sure things.
After, with Harvard clinging tenuously to its lead, there was insult and then injury. The insult was Brown with a first and ten at the Crimson 15 with nine minutes remaining. Whipple looked for Mark Farnham in the endzone, but found Steve Potysman instead, and Harvard was still breathing.
The insult, from which the Crimson couldn't recover, came on Brown's very next possession. Whipple found ample room over the right side of the Crimson defensive line, and easily moved his team 49 yards in seven plays for the winning score.
Whipple ran three times in this drive himself, first for 11 yards, then for nine, and finally for five and the score. Earlier, he had been sacked six times behind the line of scrimmage, four of them by Bob Baggott, who reads plays like Evelyn Wood reads "War and Peace."
Now 2:50 remained on the clock, but Brown (remember, Larry) gave it one more shot. Starting from his own 17, he suddenly got hot and successful passes to Paul Sablock, Curry, Sablock again, Jon Sigillito and Scott Coolidge. Harvard found itself on the Bruins' 19 and hope still sprung eternal.
Then it just died. On third and three from that point, Brown elected to stay in the air. One incompletion to Curry in the endzone, another incompletion to Curry on fourth down in the left flat, and the Crimson was no longer leading the league.
Given that third-and-three situation, two running plays would have seemed the logical strategy, but when you're dealing with multiflexes and the Ivy League, logic doesn't prevail.
Nor, on this day, did Harvard, which now finds itself tied for third with Brown and Penn a mere two weeks after its Dartmouth triumph had catapaulted it to the top. Like the counterman at The Butcher Shop, the Crimson couldn't cut the mustard.
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