I sank my teeth into one of those Philadelphia pretzels as the opening kickoff settled into Paul Connor's hands. It was Penn 13, Harvard 0, as I wiped the mustard from my lips.
After 8:11 and ten Penn plays from scrimmage, all on the ground, the Quakers had racked up 114 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Tom Roland had 89 yards rushing and the blue-clad youngsters in Franklin Field for Cub Scout Day were jumping up and down in the their seats.
And I began to wonder why anyone expected the Harvard defense to stop the mighty Penn ground attack on its astroturf field, where it had been undefeated in seven previous encounters.
After all, the Crimson defense was riddled with injuries. Marko Coric, Scott McLeod (shoulder injury), tackles Chuck Durst and Bob Murray (ankle fracture), and linebacker Bob Woolway (irregular heartbeat) all were lost by the first quarter.
But a funny thing happened to the Crimson defense on the way to their own Crimson defense on the way to their own endzone, backwards. It held. No longer did it give Penn the big gainer and good field position, which it needed for its grind-it-out Wishbone offense.
"We were in the wrong defense in the beginning," sophomore safety Mike Jacobs, who came in for McLeod, said after the game. "We had to get to the quarterback," head coach Joe Restic said, explaining the adjustments Harvard made to handle the quarterback-halfback pitch.
Linebacker Craig Beling was double-teamed so Restic brought the safety up to cover the pitch.
The story of this game was the way the makeshift Crimson defense pulled together in the clutch to hold Penn. The defense was on the field much of the second half protecting Harvard's slim four-point lead. The Crimson offense did not generate a first down in the third quarter and when the defense must have been tiring, Penn came at its throat in the fourth quarter.
On the second play of the quarter, the Crimson held on fourth and one at the six-yard line. After six Harvard plays, Penn came at the defense, again driving to the Harvard 24 before sophomore Dave Otto dropped Tom Roland for a five-yard loss on another fourth down play.
Twice, in the closing minutes, Penn wriggled out of fourth-and-one situations and drove to the Harvard four, where time became the Crimson's ally and sophomore Tim Palmer saved the game with his attacking leopard imitation.
Many individuals merit credit, including Beling, the defensive signal caller, but perhaps the biggest surprise was Jacobs. He was the safety who was called upon to shut down the pitch and time and time again he dropped Penn's Denis Grosvenor and Ron Gray for losses on the right side.
And Jacobs nipped Penn's nascent air attack in the bud, almost intercepting one pass and tackling Penn receiver Kevin Blake at the Harvard seven with 38 seconds left and paydirt in front of him.
"I was just reading the tight end all day, I was waiting for him," Jacobs said while signing autographs for Cub Scouts after the game. "I almost picked that one off. I saw 70 yards of astroturf ahead of me. Six points, six points flashing."
As Restic said, with so many injuries, "it's so easy to say we can't do it. But we just go out and play the same way." And he added in a soft voice, "It tells you a bit about our players. It is the closest team I've had at Harvard."