Together they soared skyward, one hoping to deal the fatal blow, the other gasping for just another breath.
They struggled, the fiendish and burly messenger of Crimson death towering above his spritied, yet outsized opponent.
And when John Spagnola wrestled Pat O'Brien's wing-and-a-prayer aerial from the hands of Harvard's Fred Cordova, the very sou! of Crimson football winced at the mortal wound. Cordova dropped to the turf in a heap, unable to move under the weight of the crushing frustration.
In a bitter moment of Eli ecstasy and Crimson agony, the emptiness of a season just 20 points away from perfection performed its encore before the frenzied multitudes and sent Harvard off to the mercy of the showers and the tears.
Fate dealt Harvard a cruel hand. It allowed Larry Brown, ignoring the pain of an injured shoulder and the discomfort of a protective harness, to lead an incomplete comeback that had alumni dancing with delusions of another miraculous tie, a 35-all spectacle that would have been just too perfect an end to the tenth anniversary of the 1968 deadlock.
Brown was nothing less than spectacular, meshing perfectly with receivers Rich Horner and John Macleod. But this edition of The Game finished with a pop, rather than a blast.
The Elis toyed with the ball for 12 final plays, just under six minutes of possession that ran out the last football for 1978. Perhaps if they had another shot at it... If only Harvard had made another field goal against Brown... If only there had been a better handoff on the Princeton five-yard line... If only it hadn't rained against Cornell... in all just 20 points more.
With the typical pattern of a Harvard comeback effort that falls short and its flair for the unexpected that has framed the Harvard season The Game, in a broad sense, symbolized all that was frustrating about Harvard's 4-4-1 record, its unfulfilled dreams and unsatisfied hopes.
This was Harvard football, marked by an offense with an erratic ground game and a lavish passing game. A defense that could change like a chamelion--from the Rock of Gibraltar to a batch of Jell-o in a flash.
What can you say about an offense that attacks Yale with over 300 yards passing while adding only 59 yards rushing? The Elis outgained the Harvard ground game 327-59, adding 150 second-half yards while the Crimson tallied -2 yards in that final 30 minutes.
It was almost a replay of the Cornell loss, when Harvard, while passing for big yardage, was outrushed 307-xx. Yet in both games, the offense produce big points.
But they did it quickly, with an aerial attack that left the clock virtually unmoved. And that, in 1978, hurt Harvard's hopes for success because the defense had to play the bulk of the game.
A 2-to-1 time of possession advantage in Yale's favor was typical of the scenario that led up to a defensive lapse, a product of overwork that left Bruin Frank Boucher alone in the endzone or Eli Bob Krystyniak trotting downfield with no defender in tow.
The tragedy of this Harvard season was a flaw in the mixture, a mismatch of chemistry that cost Harvard a real chance at an Ivy title or more.
This team had its shortcomings, both offensively and defensively. But both parts of the team proved themselves more than capable. Harvard, on Saturday, could have used Yale's methodical running game to keep its defense alert and fresh. Larry Brown's aerial brilliance just put his defensemen back on the field too soon.
And ultimately, you come up with two talented parts that just can't complete the whole. And with that much ability hanging around, defeat--and it came by such narrow margins this year--means frustration.
So there was Fred Cordova, lying face down, motionless on the Stadium grass, having missed, despite a valiant effort, the bid for a spectacular save.
In his total frustration, Cordova had the whole team lying there with him, their heads dancing with visions of 20 points--or at least seven or eight, for Yale, alone would have made a satisfying conquest.
But 1978 was a year with little satisfaction to be found in Harvard Stadium.