Fitzpatrick Plays The Game of His Life

Lowell K. Chow

Junior RYAN FITZPATRICK (14) overcame injuries to his knee and ankle to throw four touchdown passes en route to a 37-19 victory.

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Ryan Fitzpatrick picked himself up off the field and brushed the dirt from his uniform. His fist was clenched and held tight against his chest as he limped toward the backfield, the tenderness in his left knee and ankle obvious to all but the most inebriated observers.

“I just taped up the ankle, taped up the knee, threw a brace on there and it was all right,” Fitzpatrick said.

Maybe he can convince himself of that fact, but Fitzpatrick had no business being out on that field. It’s beyond question that he was playing at less than full strength.

From the winces and the gingerly-planted steps, it looked a lot more like 50 percent.

But there would be no keeping Fitzpatrick off the field.

“He’s one of those kids who won’t take no for an answer,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “I’m not sure the doctors are real fired up about him playing, but he’s just one of those guys. He’s just going to do his thing. He’s just incredibly tough, a competitor.”

His Yale counterpart, Alvin Cowan, outperformed him in virtually every statistical category—more completions, more yards passing, more yards rushing, fewer sacks. Cowan danced in the backfield, avoiding a potent Crimson pass rush all but twice on the afternoon and keeping the Harvard defense on its heels with the option and quarterback sprints.

Fitzpatrick’s feet might as well have been nailed to the dirt five steps behind the line of scrimmage. There wasn’t much chance he was going anywhere as he rushed just five times for a meager seven yards.

“He couldn’t take any [legitimate] snaps until Thursday,” Murphy said. “So to see the way that he responded today was amazing. As you could see, he couldn’t run, he was playing on one-and-a-half legs and [it was] just a tremendous and gutsy performance by him.”

Despite being outperformed on paper, despite sacrificing his mobility and flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style to injury and despite having practiced only three or four times in the past five weeks, there wasn’t anyone you’d rather have had lining up under center.

Not for a second.

And though the numbers don’t show it, Fitzpatrick—particularly given his condition—simply outplayed Cowan Saturday.

Fitzpatrick only threw the ball 22 times, completing 13 passes, but that’s all that was asked of him. The Crimson may have climbed on freshman Clifton Dawson’s back and let him carry the load, but Dawson was merely his quarterback’s second, allowing Fitzpatrick to pick his moments before arming him to strike blow after critical blow.

“[Fitzpatrick] made the plays when the plays were there,” said Yale coach Jack Siedlecki. “A couple deep balls. They didn’t throw the ball an awful lot, but when they did, they were effective.”

Talk about an understatement.

Of the 13 passes Fitzpatrick completed, four were for touchdowns.