If you went as a Harvard fan to endure a few cold, wet and miserable hours at the Stadium Saturday afternoon, the least you deserved was the Crimson's surprising tie with the nation's second-ranked Division I-AA team, Holy Cross.
"Outstanding game, no question," said Harvard Coach Joe Restic.
On the other hand, if you came from Worcester as a Crusader fan (as did nearly half the crowd of 8000) expecting your team to walk all over the Crimson, avenging last year's 24-17 loss and becoming the Cross's first squad to win nine straight games, it was really an unmitigated disaster.
Crusader Coach Rick Carter said after the 10-10 deadlock. "We're let down" Pause. "But we're still undefeated."
The emphasis goes on the first part of that quote. Because the tie--whether you cite the horrendous conditions, the inspired Harvard defense. Jim Villanueva's superb punting. Holy Cross's missed fourth-quarter field goal, whatever--marked the first blemish on the 16-point favorite's 1983 record.
At the same time, it marked Harvard's finest performance against a non-Ivy opponent this year. "A tie's a win for us, a loss for them," said Crimson lineback Kevin Garvin succinctly Besides putting its own record at 4-2-2 and the Cross's at 8-0-1. Harvard became the first team this fall to hold the Crusaders to fewer than two touchdowns.
Most of the factors that kept the Crusaders off-balance all day had an impact before three minutes had passed. When the home team couldn't move the ball on its first possession. Villanueva booted a soaring 43-yarder into the wind; he was to average 40.3 yards per kick in the game, including a 56-yard blast.
On its first possession, Holy Cross quarterback Peter Muldoon simply handed the ball three times to the Crusaders' workhorse, tailback Gill Fenerty--for no gain, a one-yard loss and no gain. Fenerty, who gained 337 yards the week before, was to cover just 60 on 14 carries before leaving in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
If neither offense could get anything going, that was just fine with the Crimson, since it made a tie all the more likely. The Holy Cross attack outdid Harvard's, but not by much, 231 total yards to the Crimson's 187. If the Crusaders moved and controlled the ball more and gained more first downs, the Crimson edge in punting helped make up for it.
Each offense came up with one big play, setting up their sole touchdowns. On Harvard's second drive, quarterback Greg Gizzi somehow slipped a pass to wingback Jim Fadule between two Crusader defenders on the Holy Cross 23, who ran with it to the one.
"It was a typical all streak," Fadule said of his third collegiate catch. (That's the equivalent of a touch-football QB saying. "Everyone go deep") "The ball sort of hung up in the wind and I just followed it."
Two plays later, Steve Ernst took a pitch from Gizzi for six points.
The Cross's big play came early in the second quarter. With a fourth-and-18 on the Crimson 28, the Crusaders went for it, and Muldoon hit split end Leo Carlin for a 23-yarder From there it took two runs to tie it up.
The difference in kicking games directly set up the next Crimson score. When Harvard stalled at the Crusader 38, Villanueva aimed for the corner and left the Cross at its own three-yard line. When the visitors couldn't move far from their own goal line. Pat McCarthy kicked a long but low punt which Ernst was able to return back to the 23--well into field goal range for Villanueva, who notched a 35-yarder with 7:20 left in the half.
In the last minute before the intermission, the Crimson tried to take a commanding lead with the help of some razzle-dazzle. At the Crusader 39 on third and eight, Restic took advantage of Gizzi's talents as a receiver. He unobtrusively put backup QB Greg Kouvelas into the game: Kouvelas took a handoff, turned back and found Gizzi for a 13-yard gain.