Burke St. John started the game for Harvard at quarterback. He also finished the game at quarterback. And the 32,000 fans in Harvard Stadium Saturday afternoon called it a miracle.
For the first time in four weeks, a Crimson signal caller was not injured during a game, but the clean bill of health was not enough to stop Dartmouth from eaking out a 10-7 win.
For 59 minutes and 40 seconds, this was a routinely dull football game, hardly what you would expect in the 83rd meeting of two Ivy arch-rivals. But shortly after Sen. Edward Kennedy and his entourage of Secret Service watchdogs skipped out of Section 32, the game found some excitement--in the final 20 seconds.
With the Big Green ahead, 10-7, and facing a fourth and seven on the Harvard 35, Dartmouth coach Joe Yukica elected to keep the ball and run down the clock. Harvard cornerback Matt Foley pinned runningback Jeff DuFresne for a four-yd. loss on the play, and Harvard had the ball with 20 seconds and 61 yards to go.
St. John, a senior from Chappaqua, N.Y., playing his first game since he damaged knee ligaments September 29, started a wing-and-a-prayer aerial assault on the Dartmouth secondary. With the Big Green hanging back to prevent the longainer, St. John drilled two straight passes to Richie Horner.
Horner, who had eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown Saturday, grabbed St. John's second toss at the Dartmouth 30, where he was knocked out of bounds with 9 seconds showing. Then Tom Beatrice snared the third St. John pass at the 25-yd. line and ran out of bounds at the Dartmouth 21. With five seconds in the game. Harvard coach Joe Restic elected to try a field goal--a38-yd. attempt into the swirling wind in the closed end of the stadium.
"I though about possibly throwing the ball off the field goal formation," Restic said after the game. But he said he finally chose the field goal as the best way to "get the ball into the endzone."
Out came placekicker Dave Cody. His wobbly kick looked like it might just dribble over the crossbar; but as the Harvard fans groaned, the officials signaled the kick wide right and short.
It was an afternoon that began with high hopes for a struggling Crimson squad. After a week of uncertainty about who would start in the ever-changing quarterback position, St. John got the medical OK Friday and led the team onto the field.
On the opening series, a fine-tuned Crimson offense slipped down the field under the able guidance of the heady St. John. Using a Restic brainchild--the triple slot formation--Harvard baffled Dartmouth by lining up four receivers to one side and sending the fifth man in motion to that side.
Jon Hollingsworth and Paul Connors rolled up the yardage, moving Harvard from its own 16 to the Dartmouth 11. St. John, who was 15 of 32 for 145 yards and one touchdown on the day, used so many shifts that the Harvard offense looked more like a Cuisinart than a football squad. But the diversity was effective, until a delay of game penalty on third and seven at the Big Green put St. John in a hole: third and 12 from the 16.
An incomplete pass to Connors brought out Cody for a 33-yd. try; but his kick went wide right, and the ecstasy crashed without a climax.
The pattern of the game then took over. The Harvard defense, which had been no less than spectacular before this game, just didn't have the spunk Saturday. Restic said the defense "didn't play with the same intensity it has in the past weeks in the first half."
And Dartmouth, a team that had been having offensive troubles, started a series of sustained drives, many that ended without scores but all of which helped pile up 37:51-22:09 time-of-possession advantage for the Big Green. The game was "a question of ball control," Restic said afterward. And Harvard wasn't in the driver's seat.
With DuFresne racking up 102 yards on 27 carries, quarterback Jeff Kemp--son of the ex-quarterback and now-senator from New York, Jack--shifted the Dartmouth offense into gear.