"When I look up at the scoreboard on Saturday and see us ahead 20-19 in the fourth quarter, I know that it's because of Ralph Polillio. He kept us in the ball game." --Harvard football coach Joe Restic
It's no secret that the next time Restic would look at the Harvard Stadium socreboard on Saturday atfernoon he would see the numbers "Cornell 25, Harvard 20," a score which would represent the final chapter in the Crimson's halfback Ralph Polillio on that afternoon.
Harvard scored three touchdowns against the Big Red on Saturday. Ralph Polillio notched the first and last of these, and did everything but score the one in the middle.
With the Crimson traliing 13-6 at the half (Harvard had scored in Polillio's one-yard run in the middle of the middle of the second quarter), the 5-ft., 9-in. gridiron dragster from Stoughton, Mass. proceeded to run the opening kickoff of the second half 81 yards to set up Matt Granger's touchdown three plays later, the play which tied the game at 13-13.
"We usually return kickoffs up the middle," the 9.6 sprinter noted in the locker room yesterday. "We don't use the sidelines all that much. We decided to try the left sideline this time. Our returen team had it blocked up really well. When I saw that I was ahead of the pursuit I cut back to the right side and brought it to the 13 before I ran out of gas."
Polillio did manage to refuel for one more spectacular score, a sparkling one-handed catch of a deflected Larry Brown pass late in the third quarter that went 32 yards for the gridders' final six points of the day.
Coach Restic hadn't "looked up at the scoreboard" yet. He was too busy trying to figure out a way of dispatching Cornell tailback Joe Holland, Who was hurdling Harvard defenders like Simpson hurdles luggage in an airline terminal. Holland's 55 carries and 244 yards may have upstaged the Ralph Polilio Show on this day, but being a matinee also-ran is something that the Harvard speedster has grown accustomed to.
Remember folks, this is Cambridge not Ann Arbor. Restic's multiflex is as democratic as they come, a kind of equal opportunity offense. "The multiflex doesn't key on one back for production, it uses all the backs equally. It's a good system, and it's been around here a lot longer than I have," Polillio said.
"Any back would love to get the chance to carry 30-35 times a game. But who am I to say that we'd win games if I got that chance. You've got to think of the team, the system, and your role in relation to them," he added.
Polillio realized how fortunate he is to the have any role at all. During his of his potential before a concussion on a a kickofff return against Dartmouth felled him for the rest of the season.
The following autumn Polillio was third on the team in rushing, but may well have set a league for getting his eggs scrambled, as he sustained three more concussions against Cornell, Brown, and Yale.
This fall, equipped with a new protective helmet, Polillo's over-ripe melon has avoided further battering and his statistics have benefitted as a result. Through the first four games Ralph has rushed for a team-leading 175 yards and caugt 7 passes for another 134 yards, to rank second behind backfield mate Paul Connors.
Polillio remains modest about his success so far and, with the injury to equally fleet-footed Wayne Moore, his ever-rising status in the Harvard attack.
"I'm pleased with my performance so far, but ultimately it has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time. The holes are eithr there or they aren't and in my case I've been fortunate in having some good blocking and good opportunities to break loose," he said.
Polillio's development as a football player has progressed in an intellectual sense since the days in 1974 when he averaged 10 yards a carry and set a school scoring record for an 8-0 Deerfield Academy squad.
"I feel I've become a lot wiser with my experience," he noted. "I'm aware now of the game situation as a whole rather than a chance for personal success. Your're only as good s your team, and if the hole is there, I feel I have the ablility to get through it."
Captain Steve Potysman put it the best about Ralph Polillio's performance. "Pretty phenomenal, huh?" was his analysis.
And if you don't believe it, just look at the scoreboard.