NEW YORK--No one expected it, few predicted it, but the Harvard Crimson none the less did it. In a sloppy season opener, the Crimson convincingly crushed the Columbia Lions, 26-7, here at Baker Field.
When the afternoon began, observers wondered if Harvard could survive the Ivy League season with an untested quarterback, a questionable backfield, and a horde of rookies.
The win certainly did not answer all the questions--Columbia's ineptness more than Harvard's perfection was responsible for the win-- but the game did prove that the Crimson certainly has the potential for some good football this year.
Burke St. John, in his first start as the varsity quarterback, opened the scoring early in the second quarter with a 24-yd. toss to fullback Tom Beatrice.
After Terry Trusty recovered a John Cabrera fumble at the Columbia 34, quick blasts from backs Paul Connors and Jon Hollingsworth moved the team to the 25. St. John, who used the roll-out well all afternoon, then took a keeper for five yards on a third-and-one situation to give Harvard a first down at the Columbia 20.
Connors was then caught for a 4-yd. loss, after which St. John stepped up for a rifle shot into the arms of the wide-open Beatrice for six.
The score ignited Harvard on a quarter that broke open the game. Twice more in the next 13 minutes, the Crimson reached paydirt to take a 19-0 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
The defense, which played superbly all afternoon--though the depressingly dismal Lion offense did not test the Harvard team too severely--came up with the second score. Columbia quarterbac Bob Conroy, with a third-and-five at his own 20 yardline, scampered away from an all-out Harvard blitz, just lofting a pass over the arms of hard-charging middle linebacker Bob Woolway.
The blind aerial sailed into the hands of Crimson defensive end Dave Otto, who motored his way tank-style into the endzone, for a 13-0 lead.
George Arnold, a former varsity golfer and soccer player turned placekicker in the last two weeks, missed on the point-after attempt. Arnold, who hit his first PAT try nicely, had trouble with his short irons all day, hooking wide on two PATs, though he narrowly connected on the final kick, a low trajectory floater that split the uprights.
But fortunately for Harvard, Arnold had his driver in the groove, lofting all his kickoffs well into the Columbia end and forcing the Lions to start from deep in their own territory.
Harvard's third tally, the only time all afternoon that the Crimson scored on a clean exchange, came late in the second quarter. Taking over at its own 48, after a 48-yd. Eric Blattman punt, Harvard went 51 yards in six plays, finishing off with a 1-yd. St. John keeper around the right end with less than a minute remaining in the half.
St. John, who was seven-twelve for 130 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the first half, finished at 10-17 for 153 yards to wrap up a respectable--if not surprising--debut.
St. John said later that after the opening interception his "confidence didn't suffer." He said, "I just knew I had to go out and complete the second one."
The passing game, which clicked well after a shaky start, was sparked by a fine afternoon from fullback Beatrice. Coming out of the backfield and roaming the flats--left vacant by the young Columbia linebackers, who had been drawn in tight by a good Harvard rushing attack--Beatric combined 39 yards as a receiver with 29 yards on the ground. Superend Rich Horner, catching three for 75 yards, including a 36-yd. first quarter dazzler, also enjoyed a fine afternoon.