Yale was thought to be dangerous, a potential spoiler of Harvard’s undefeated season and streak of recent Game successes. The Bulldogs were riding high after a convincing win over Princeton. They had a formidable threat in their backfield, a talented wide receiver and a strong line.
Halfway through Saturday’s game, it was clear that the threat was never going to materialize. In the definitive first minutes of The Game, Harvard’s defense smothered Yale, laying the foundation for the 35-3 victory.
The Bulldogs never managed to recover, picking up their sole points on a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter. The game lent the Crimson defense ample time to shine—Harvard’s offense and special teams executed quickly in the first half, leaving Yale to hold the ball for nearly twice as much time as the Crimson.
“Our defense and special teams gave us a great boost,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said.
Senior tailback Robert Carr was the most fearsome weapon in Yale’s arsenal. Over the season preceding The Game, Carr rushed for 1,129 yards and seven touchdowns. Against Princeton last week, Carr drove for 232 total yards, including 160 from scrimmage.
The Crimson quickly extinguished Carr’s flame, holding him to 26 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Carr carried the ball a total of 15 times for 56 yards.
“We really thought we had a lot of depth in the run game,” Yale coach Jack Siedlecki said. Harvard, however, “absolutely shut [the Bulldogs’ rushing] down in the first half.”
Getting through or around Yale’s offensive line proved key to shutting down Carr.
“Our defensive line has done an awesome job,” said senior strong safety Ricky Williamson. “It allows the linebackers and defensive backs to come in and make those plays behind the line of scrimmage.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Michael Berg made three tackles for a loss, notching one sack. Freshman defensive end Desmond Bryant made two tackles for a combined loss of seven yards.
By denying Yale’s ground attack, the Crimson forced the Bulldogs’ offense to rely on an airborne assault. The result was predictable and consequently controllable.
“When they know you’re going to throw the ball, they can sit back there and play zone,” Cowan said.
Yale threw into the teeth of tight pass coverage, putting up solid numbers except on the scoreboard.
While senior defensive back Gary Sonkur broke up four passes and the team combined to bat away eight more, Harvard nevertheless allowed quarterback Alvin Cowan to pass for 231 yards on 24 completions.
While the secondary didn’t always break up passes, it managed to keep the Bulldogs on a short leash. Yale passed short and didn’t pick up big-play yardage, with the exception of a 37-yard pass to Chad Henley.
Down by 14 points, the Bulldogs tried to fight their way back into the game in the second quarter, driving into Harvard’s red zone. Mere yards from the endzone, however, Cowan threw the ball straight into the arms of Williamson, who blazed the full length of the field for the touchdown.
“I just dropped back in the zone where I was supposed to be. He must not have seen me, because he threw it right to me,” Williamson said.
Williamson led the Crimson defense with 11 tackles and added a sack for a five-yard loss.
In the third quarter, the increasingly desperate Bulldogs failed to convert on fourth down as a bevy of Harvard’s defenders smothered Cowan yards behind the line of scrimmage.
The Crimson held Yale to six of 17 third-down conversions, one for four on fourth down and three points in three red zone appearances. “[Harvard is] a great football team, a great team on both sides of the ball,” Siedlecki said. “They made play after play after play. We didn’t.”