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Joe Restic's Dream Season

Silly Putty

By Jonathan Putnam

You are Harvard football Coach Joe Restic. It is early September, a few days before the start of the 1987 football season, and you are worried.

You have a team that went 3-7 last year, the most losses in the 16 years you have been at Harvard, the most losses for a Crimson squad since 1950.

Now a new season approaches, and things don't look much better. You have no kicking game to speak of. Sure you have some guys who can tee the ball up, but can they kick it through the uprights?

You have no returning receivers who caught more than six passes last year. You have a fine junior quarterback, Tom Yohe, but who's he going to throw the ball to?

You have no returning starters at running back or linebacker. Your best running back, Rufus Jones, hasn't played for almost two years with knee injury. You don't know when--or if--he will return.

You turn, and gaze at the first part of the schedule which lies on your desk:

Sept. 10 Brown (scrimmage)

Sept. 19 at Columbia

Sept. 26 Northeastern

Oct. 3 Bucknell

Oct. 10 at Cornell

You lean back, and close your eyes. You dream about what that part of your schedule might be like.

In your vision, the Crimson has a nice little tune-up against Brown. Your team scores a lot of points, their team doesn't score any. All your players get to play. None of them get injured.

Then you roll into New York City. The Pussycat Lions haven't won in God knows how long. They certainly don't against you. Harvard rolls to an easy victory--so easy, probably, that Columbia doesn't even score against you. You roll out of New York at 1-0.

Northeastern comes to visit. The bruisers from the other side of town are bigger than you, faster, stronger, able to leap buildings with a single bound. They are also favored. But your Crimson is up to it. Harvard fights and claws its way to victory. Last year's Beanpot defeat of your good friend Billy Cleary is avenged. You're 2-0.

Your dream continues. You're really enjoying it now. Bucknell, a well-respected Colonial League member, comes to town. Your team kills them. That Yohe fellow gets another bushelful of yards--in fact, he's probably on his way to a record season by now. You're off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1980. You prepare to roll into Ithaca.

Suddenly, you look up from your reverie. And suddenly, it's not the beginning of September any more but today. October 8, 1987. And you realize your dreams have come true.

That Brown scrimmage turned into a joke. Harvard won 29-0 or something like that (no official score was released). No significant injuries or anything.

Then you decapitated the sorry Lions. 35-0. Everybody played, everybody was happy. No problem.

That Northeastern game was close for a while, but you pulled it out in the end. Yohe threw for 265 yards, the eighth best day in Harvard history. You won a tough, three-point game.

Bucknell was easy. Yohe threw for another 265. Dave Bunning ran for over 100 yards. Your back-up quarterbacks--your own, peculiar, Joe Restic-style victory cigars--were warming up before the second half even started.

Almost all your pre-season problems have panned out. Bruce Jacob has proven a fine place-kicker. Alan Hall is your punter--he's not great, but he's gotten the job done.

Your running backs have been more than adequate. Your linebackers, Kris Thabit and Richard Mau, were each in double-digits in tackles against Northeastern.

Sure, Jones is still out, but what a bunch of receivers you've got. Brian Barringer catches passes as easily as most people sign their names. He has 17 catches already--last year's leader had 18. In the first half against Bucknell Barringer caught seven. Neil Phillips has made two acrobatic TD catches. Big Kent Lucas provides a sure pair of hands at tight end.

You're an underdog against Cornell this weekend, but people are taking you seriously. Before the season, everyone tabbed Harvard for sixth or seventh place. Now they're talking about you as contenders.

If you beat Cornell, you will be the favorite to win the Ivy title. Who else is there? Yale and Dartmouth are no good. Columbia is Columbia. You will have beaten two teams who've beaten five-time defending champ Penn (Bucknell and Cornell). You clobbered Brown in that scrimmage. Brown beat Princeton last weekend.

You might win your first title since 1983. You might win your first outright title since 1975. Harvard might have have its first undefeated season since 1968. The Rose Bowl might call up....

You lean back in your chair, and slip into reverie about beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl (the Pac-10 champ cancelled at the last minute) and winning the national title. You smile, and wave to the national television audience as you get interviewed by Keith Jackson.

Sure it's unlikely, but your dreams have had a way of coming true so far.

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