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NEW YORK-There was a suspicious aura surrounding this game. Was Columbia as bad as Penthouse said it was in ranking the Lions among the 20 worst college football teams in America? Was the Crimson passing attack in for a severe letdown with the departures of Harvard record-holding quarterback Larry Brown and others, leaving untested Burke St. John at the offensive reins? Would the rushing attack be woefully undermanned without the services of the speedy Ralph Pollilio? Should the stands at ancient Baker Field be condemned as unfit for human habitation as much of the neighboring South Bronx has been?
Not all of these questions were resolved on Saturday, but some optimism was generated here as a vacant lot was cleared in the South Bronx for the Pope's arrival, and Harvard overwhelmed the Lions, 26-7.
There still is some question as to whether Harvard's skill or Columbia's ineptitude was responsible for the outcome. But as J.S. Mill so aptly put it: "We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still." It was a little of both.
Harvard's second play from scrimmage appeared to confirm all of the worst suspicions about St. John's ability to throw a pass. Seeing his first game action since 1977, the senior signalcaller rolled right and fluttered a pass into the arms of Lion safety Mike Brown.
Columbia gained no ground on the resulting possession; and when the Crimson reclaimed the ball, St. John moved the team impressively for 50 yards before a fumble precluded any scoring. In all, Harvard controlled the ball for more than ten minutes of the scoreless first period as St. John completed three of his next six passes including two sizzling zips to the elusive Rich Horner that accounted for 55 yards.
St. John said later that his confidence did not suffer because of the opening interception. "I just knew I had to go out and complete the next one," he said.
This confidence stood him in good stead for the remainder of the game as he finished with 10 of 17 for 153 yards on the day.
Harvard opened the scoring in the second period after Terry Trusty scooped up a fumble to end the first quarter. Quick blasts from backs Paul Connors (86 yards on the day) and Jon Hollingsworth moved the team to the Lion 25. St. John, who used the roll-out effectively all afternoon, advanced to the 20 on a keeper.
Following a four-yard loss, St. John dropped back and left no doubt that he did indeed have an effective arm with a 24-yd. smoker into the hands of fullback Tom Beatrice deep in the end zone.
This was the beginning of a 19-point quarter for the Crimson. The defense kept Columbia off the board, and with less than six minutes in the half, Duke Millard caged the Lions at their own seven with a lofty 64-yd. punt.
In a Jam
With linebacker Bob Woolway applying pressure (as he did all afternoon), Columbia quarterback Bob Conroy lofted a prayer that found its answer in the arms of hulking Crimson defensive end Dave Otto, who lumbered the ten yards to the endzone for six.
The Crimson tallied a third time with less than a minute remaining in the half after a balanced drive covered 52 yards in 1:56. St. John scampered the final yard with another right-end keeper.
George Arnold, a varsity golfer and former soccer player, failed to convert on any of the first half point-after chips as most of the attempts looked like duck hooks with the driver. But he did manage to let out some shaft with several booming kickoffs to the goaline and made good on his only PAT in the second half.
The Lions showed some signs of resisting extinction in the third and early fourth periods. Conroy heated up with completions of 19, 29 and 6 yards and brought the ball down to the Harvard three for a first and goal.
Woolway brought out all of the Columbia ineptitude with an outstanding goaline stand. After stopping a blast by running back Joe Ciulla at the two, he and tackle Tim Palmer racked up Conroy on a keeper. As icing, Woolway struck again on fourth down, batting away a pass into the end zone.
The Lions had one final gasp as Conroy struck paydirt with a 43-yd. pass play to the speedy Steve Wallace down the left sideline first down following a 19-yd. Harvard punt.
The Crimson then started to close out the contest as the running game accounted for good yardage and chewed up the clock. On the day, Harvard racked up 175 on the ground to 64 for Columbia.
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