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WEST POINT, N.Y.--With only six seconds remaining in Saturday's game at West Point, the Harvard football team, down 17-13, stood 20 yards away from the Army end Zone and a 3-0 record.
Crimson quarterback Don Allard took the final snap of the afternoon and checked left to find his receivers mobbed by the Cadet defense. Looking right, Allard discovered tight end Ed Farrell wide open three yards in front of the Army end Zone.
The sellout crowed of 39,830 spectators remained silent as Allard got off a desperate toss to Farrell. The senior tight end lunged forward but could not grasp Allard's offering before it hit Michie Stadium's artificial surface to give Army the win.
Four minutes before the last-ditch drive fell short, Harvard had trailed the Cadets, 17-7. But after traveling from his own seven to the Army 25 in eight plays, allard connected with split end Wally Rutecki, who went in for the score from the one-yard line.
Hoping that placekicker Jim Villaneuva could deliver an onside kick and later a game-winning field goal, Restic opted to go for the two-point conversion.
On the attempt, Allard rolled right and tried to hit Rutecki for the second time in a row. But Army linebacker Pat Scanlan grabbed the pass, and so, after Chris Myers recovered Villaneuva's successful onside kick, Harvard's game-winning-field-goal strategy had to be abandoned in favor of Allard's thrilling but ill-fated drive for the end zone.
The opening minutes of the game hardly foreshadowed the explosive fourth quarter. The Cadets reached the Harvard 42 on their initial possession, but for the rest of the first quarter, neither team penetrated deeper into enemy territory. In fact, after that series, nobody managed to pass midfield until five minutes had elapsed in the second period.
Harvard gained an edge in the sedentary battle at 12:16 in the second quarter when Allard entered the end zone on a nine-yard keeper. Villaneuva hit the PAT, and Harvard had a 7-0 lead.
Army responded to the Crimson TD with an offensive show that rivaled the drama of the game's final minutes.
With 45 seconds left in the half, Harvard faced third and 15 from its own 38. Allard sent a pass in the direction of Army safety Mike Williams, who returned the interception 28 yards to the Harvard 48, thus becoming the first Cadet to see Crimson territory in 25 minutes.
Three plays later, Army had reached the Harvard 34, but with only 17 seconds left on the clock, the Crimson's advantage seemed secure.
Army quarterback Bryan Allem, who replaced starter Rich Laughlin early in the second quarter, had completed just 11 of 24 passes all season, the longest for only 24 yards. But the clock forced Allem to go for broke, and he unloaded the ball over the middle to split end Elton Akins, who had dropped a certain completion only a minutes earlier.
Racing into the end Zone, Akins redeemed himself by doing a forward dive and puling down Allem's delivery just as it was sailing beyond his reach. The stunning catch and a successful PAT sent the two teams into the locker rooms deadlocked at 7-7.
"I don't feel if [the Army TD] took anything out of our club going into the second half," Restic said. "It just made it even again."
The Allem-Akins heroics might not have affected the Crimson, but the TD certainly boosted Army morale.
The Cadets had gone into the game a demoralized football team. After losing to North Carolina, 62-8, the week before, Army entered the Harvard game with severely depleted ranks. Halfback Gerald Walker, one of the finest running backs in the East and the heart of the West Point offense, was expected to play Saturday after recovering from a shoulder injury. But at the last minute, doctors told Coach Ed Cavanaugh that Walker had to stay off the field.
In addition, starting quarterback Nate Sassaman pulled a hamstring muscle in Friday afternoon practice, forcing Cavanaugh to start a relatively untested Laughlin, who quickly gave way to Allrn.
The lineup problems made it difficult for Army to establish a viable offense, and Crimson noseguard Scott Murrer and linebacker Joe Azelby made it nearly impossible. Murrer sacked the West Point QB three times Saturday afternoon, and Azelby contributed 13 tackles.
Penalties also slowed the Cadet attack-Early in the first quarter, and offsides call cost the Cadets possession of a ball that safety Joe Hampton had intercepted at the Harvard 29.
Unfortunately for Harvard, the Cadets came up with two interceptions that weren't called back: the one Williams caught in the first half to set up the Allen TD pass and another that cornerback Kevin Murphy snatched from Crimson wingback Jim Garvey at the West Point two-yard line, preventing a Harvard touchdown.
Despite throwing two interceptions, Allard was undeniably the Crimson's soundest offensive performer. Halfback Tim McGugan had trouble finding holes all afternoon, and so with 190 yards passing and 59 yards rushing, Allard constituted virtually the entire Crimson offense.
In reality, Allard totalled 103 yards rushing on the ground. The stat would have made him the game's leading rusher, but the 44 yards Allard lost while being sacked six times brought his net total to 59.
The Army defense, apparently inspired by a third-quarter field goal and a fourth-quarter TD that gave the Cadets a 17-7 lead, was particularly brutal on Allard later in the game, as the right tackle dropped him twice in the same series for a loss of 18 yards.
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