Last Saturday was a bittersweet day for the Harvard football team.
On the one hand, Harvard's 22-18 win over Penn was gratifying. The Crimson overcame the Quakers 18-15 lead and an overall mediocre performance in the final 24 seconds of play to win its third game in four tries.
Sophomore quarterback Mike Giardi once again proved to be the Crimson's offensive catalyst in the clutch, as his nine-yard touchdown proved to be the game winner and set Harvard's single-season record for the most rushing touchdown's in one season.
Matt Johnson gained more than 100 yards (102) for the third consecutive game.
And the Crimson's seniors left Harvard Stadium on an upbeat note with grins and hugs after their final home game of their football careers.
But on a sour note, Princeton defeated Yale, 22-16, to eliminate Harvard from the Ivy race, and make this week's Princeton-Dartmouth matchup in Hanover, N.H. the Ivy title game.
"The past two seasons we haven't even had the chance to win the title at this point in the season," Harvard senior Greg Belsher said. "It's a bittersweet victory."
But Harvard once again showed that it can win ugly. Like Matt Johnson and Robb Hirsch two weeks ago against Brown, Giardi picked up the slack against Penn when Harvard needed it.
Giardi had been struggling all game long with his passes, completing eight-of-20 for an anemic 86 yards while throwing three interceptions. He visibly had trouble following through on his passes.
"Mike struggled, he didn't throw the ball well," Harvard Coach Joe Restic said. "He'll tell you 'I'm fine, nothing is wrong,' but he wasn't fluid in the way he was throwing."
But when it came down to Harvard's final drive, a strange thing happened. Giardi not only scrambled for 10 and 15 yards, but zipped two passes to Colby Maher including a key 15-yard completion on third-and-10.
The two passes set up the series during which Giardi scrambled for six points on a critical third-and-nine.
"I was thinking 'it's time to win'," Giardi said. "It was just one of those things. The whole offense just sucked it up and did it."
It was a surprising ending to a surprising day.
Following Penn's first touchdown, making it 7-6, the Quakers went for the extra point. The kick was blocked, and Greg Belsher returned the ball into the Quakers endzone for two points for Harvard. Instead of tying the game at 7-7, Penn fell behind, 9-6.
Another unexpected play came on 4th-and-goal from the Harvard 21. Penn QB Jim McGeehan hit Damon Young in the end zone on a play reminiscent of Princeton QB Chad Roghair's infamous fourth-down touchdown strike to Mike Lerch to edge the Tigers closer to the Crimson. The Quakers went up, 12-9.
Johnson and Penn's Bruce Mathews swapped touchdowns before Giardi's winning touchdown.
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