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These type things aren't supposed to happen to Harvard. To Columbia and Cornell, perhaps, but not to Harvard, where there's always a hero waiting in the wings, a miracle-maker on 24-hour call.
Saturday at The Stadium, though, there were neither heroes nor miracle-makers, saviors nor godsends. At least not for the Crimson, as the home folks turned as damp as the weather and performed dismally in a 17-0 whitewashing courtesy of UMass.
This was not Harvard-Boston University in '75, when one missed defensive assignment resulted in a 13-9 Terrier triumph. It was not Harvard-Cornell a year ago when fault lay with the weatherman. No, this was worse, much, much worse.
Apples and Cherries
Worse because of the embarrassing manner in which defeat was wrought. Sure, the loss of the first-string quarterback, the limited multi flex that had to pass for an offense as a result and what is becoming to feel like the weekly Saturday rain all contributed to the debacle. The turnovers and porous performance of the offensive line didn't exactly help, either.
In regard to the former, the Crimson had enough to open a pastry shop. Four fumbles (three by starting quarterback Larry Brown), two interceptions and confusion galore. The Harvard offense went nowhere fast.
Even if it had wanted to go somewhere, though, the offensive line would have vetoed the suggestion. Outweighed by the defensive front of the Minutemen, it was also outplayed, and outplayed badly. So badly, in fact, that most of the time Brown resembled a chicken afraid of getting its head cut off. A couple of times it almost was.
When he was given a second or two to set up, Brown completed seven of 13 passes for 74 yards, two of them to Jim Curry, most of them knuckleballs. He showed a certain finesse, like the baseball pitcher that he is who can hit the outside corner, but he also dilly-dallied when receivers were open. For all that Curry was used, he might as well have stayed on leave.
That left it, then, to the Crimson defense, and while it was good, it wasn't perfect. Had it been, the contest would have ended in a scoreless tie at best.
And through the opening quarter, it was. Sloppy play and fumbles dominated, as the team gave the impression they would have preferred being at home watching the game on television like everybody else.
On the second play of the second quarter, all that changed. UMass quarterback Mike Fallon hit Dennis Dent on a screen play to the split end and then watched Dent angle his way 69 unmolested yards across the field and into the Harvard endzone for the game's only legitimate touchdown.
UMass's other scores--a two-yard jaunt by Billy Coleman in the third quarter and a 20-yard field goal by Dave Croasdale in the fourth--were both tainted. Coleman's courtesy of a shanked Curry punt from the Harvard endzone. Croasdale's thanks to a Brown fumble.
The Crimson's best scoring shot, on the other hand, came late in the third quarter, when, with a 14-0 advantage, the Minutemen botched a punt attempt and gave Harvard a first down on its nine-yard line. Three plays later, the offensive line had caved in again and Brown had fumbled the ball back to UMass.
The Crimson did reach the UMass endzone once, but, as should have been the case with the whole game, the play on which it occurred was nullified. Following Dent's touchdown, Bob Kinchen found a hole on the ensuing kickoff the size of the Broadway Street underpass and raced 95 yards for the tying touchdown. Until, that is, a yellow flag told the sparse gathering that the hole had come courtesy of a clip. Thanks, but no thanks.
With Harvard's best offensive thrust thus nullified, the defense, led on this day by captain Steve Kaseta (if Kaseta isn't The Coop's "Player of the Week" then no one deserves a rebate), had to hold the fort. In so doing it performed admirably, but on this day perfection was required.
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