They can creep up on you unexpectedly.
Just when your team is driving the ball down the field as well as it has all day, they ruin the play. And then the day.
Those ugly fumbles. They can strike at any time. Just ask Dartmouth Coach Buddy Teevens.
"It's a tough thing to coach out fumbles," Teevens said after his team had fallen to Harvard, 42-3, Saturday at the Stadium.
The Big Green fumbled the ball eight times. Even though Dartmouth only lost two of the them, its inability to hold on to the ball proved frustrating--and fatal. The Green's slippery fingers put the offense out of sync. You can't move the ball when you don't have it in your hands.
There were also interceptions. Three of them. Interceptions, even more than fumbles, can prove detrimental. At least you have a chance to recover your own fumble. When you throw an interception, the offense walks back to the bench. The ball is out of their hands.
Frank Caprio's first of two pickoffs set up the first Harvard touchdown. The Crimson captitalized on the turnover and scored on QB Tom Yohe's pass to a wide-open Brian Barringer. The gridders never looked back.
The Comeback Trail
Dartmouth, on the other hand, first had to worry about holding on to the ball before mounting a serious comeback. They continued to bobble and bumble, and soon enough the game was out of reach.
Dartmouth couldn't hold on to the ball on two crucial, consecutive plays. On a third and 15 from the Dartmouth 42, Green QB Chris Rorke fumbled the snap. His only option was a desparate flick to running back David Clark, who picked up only three yards.
On the ensuing punt, Dartmouth kicker Kevin Griffin leaped for a high snap, tried to pass the ball off and fumbled. The play was ruled dead at the line of scrimmage. Instead of starting deep in its own territory, Harvard took over on the Big Green side of the field.
One minute later, Crimson quarterback Tom Yohe handed off to Tony Hinz at the Dartmouth three. Hinz found the end zone and Harvard led, 14-0.
In short: one turnover plus two broken plays equals 14 Crimson points.
Dartmouth continued to juggle the ball. More broken plays and no touchdowns.
Harvard once again did what it had been doing throughout the game--capitalize on the turnover. Caprio's second interception of the game, a pickoff of a Rorke pass intended for All-Ivy receiver Craig Morton at the Harvard 10. Caprio's steal stopped another Big Green drive.
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