"I'm on crutches now; but when I get off them I'll start rehabilitating the knee, working on it," St. John said yesterday. But just when that progress would come was uncertain.
And so the bomb fell.
The starting quarterback Harvard had searched so hard to find was gone--perhaps permanently. Down 3-0 at that point, Harvard looked to pick itself up and salvage the afternoon. In came Mike Buchanan, a sophomore with no varsity playing time and little Multiflex experience. At times it looked like this Alabama option specialist might pull off a miracle. But the reality of the afternoon was too overwhelming. The romantic finish would have to wait for another day.
Perhaps the first play of the game should have told everyone that this would be a day controlled by circumstance. UMass began its first series with an illegal procedure penalty. The menacing yellow handkerchief would go on to be the most familiar performer of the game. Eleven of 16 penalties would go against Harvard. The mistakes would cost the Crimson 141 yards, a total that stymied the offense and did its best to deflate a stubbornly stellar defense.
In truth, UMass was not very impressive. Rushing for just 79 yards on 49 carries (Harvard was 45-127), the Minutemen had to live with almost no ground game. The Harvard defense proved that its performance against Columbia was no fluke as it closed the holes opened by the behemoth UMass lineman.
But with St. John gone and the Crimson forced to look for a break--an interception, a fumble, or a handout--the defense had to press. The cornerbacks had to pull in tight, crowding the receivers early and facing one-on-one coverage deep. That, in the end, was a costly necessity.
"The Harvard secondary crowded us a little bit more than we expected," UMass coach Bob Pickett said after the game. "We felt we could hit on the long pass." And hit they did--though not always without the help of a penalty flag.
Harvard's first defensive break came with four minutes left in the opening quarter. UMass began a penalty-assisted scoring drive on a 32-yd. Mike McEvilly-to-Marty Paglione aerial. Crimson cornerback Terry Trusty, beaten by two steps, signalled the referee and then bumped Paglione as the ball was heading for the ground. The interference call gave UMass a first and ten on the Harvard 25.
Three more times in that drive the Harvard defense offended the officials--once for an eight-yd. pass interference call, once on an offsides violation, and once on a foul personal action. Harvard could not escape unscathed after handing UMass 46 yards in the 58-yd. drive. But the defense, after its four miscues dug in at the 1 1/2 and forced the Minutemen to settle for a 22-yd. field goal.
As St. John played out what may have been his final minutes as Harvard's varsity quarterback, the Crimson had trouble mustering an attack. Both teams were flat, and UMass carried its 3-0 lead through half of the second quarter.
After St. John quietly disappeared, Buchanan took control--but not without problems. On his first play, at midfield, Buchanan and Al Altieri missed on an exchange. Defensive end George Lewis recovered to give UMass the ball.
McEvilly wasted no time. He lofted a 54-yd. scoring pass to Kevin O'Connor, on the first play from scrimmage. The fleet-footed O'Connor, who caught six passes for 159 yards and two TDs, took the ball at the Harvard 14 and sneaked into the endzone untouched.
Following the ensuing kickoff, Buchanan missed again, this time on a handoff to Paul Connors. Cornerback Bob Manning's recovery again gave UMass the ball, but the Harvard defense asserted itself and he stalled the Minutemen, allowing the half to whimper away uneventfully.
When Harvard took the second-half kickoff and began moving downfield smoothly, visions of "Buchanan the Saviour" flashed through the stadium. Using the option from a power-I formation, Buchanan worked with his backs, almost perfectly.
Fifty seconds into the half Buchanan hit Chuck Marshall for a 14-yd. gain and his first varsity completion. (Buchanan finished at 6-13 for 86 yards on the day.) Working to the right on countless pitchouts to Connors, Harvard rolled to the UMass 16. Then the penalty flag appeared again. An inelligible receiver downfield sent Harvard back to the 34 and ended the drive.
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