The 131st edition of The Game had it all. From championship implications to a late comeback to dramatic, pressure-packed moments, the 31,062 fans that crammed into Harvard Stadium on Saturday afternoon were treated to a historic affair.
As Harvard fans stormed the field after the final whistle blew, Crimson players celebrated knowing they had secured an undefeated season, sole possession of the Ivy League title, and a 31-24 victory in one of the most thrilling Games in recent memory. And its most enduring image came with under a minute to go.
Let me briefly set the stage. Harvard (10-0, 7-0 Ivy) was sitting pretty at the beginning of the fourth quarter, leading its archrival, 24-7. But Yale (8-2, 5-2) rattled off 17 straight points to tie the game and silence a previously boisterous Harvard crowd.
The Crimson offense took over possession and utilized runs from junior Paul Stanton and short completions from senior quarterback Conner Hempel to march to the Yale 35 with exactly a minute left.
That’s when junior wide receiver Andrew Fischer stepped up.
On first-and-10, Hempel dropped back to pass. Lined up to the right, Fischer burst off the line and ran a slant-and-go route. According to Hempel, the Crimson offense had relied on slants over the middle all game. When Fischer broke vertical on the double move, Bulldogs defensive back Dale Harris bit.
Hempel lofted a high throw down the right sideline. While the quarterback had underthrown deep receivers on multiple occasions earlier in the game, this pass was right on the money. Fischer reeled it in despite a diving effort from Harris and leapt into the promised land for the 35-yard score.
Fischer ran around the end zone until his teammates caught him to join the celebration. Hempel leapt into the arms of senior lineman Anthony Fabiano. The Crimson bench nearly exploded off the sideline. While Harvard fans rejoiced, Yale supporters stood utterly shocked.
In just five seconds, Harvard had taken a 31-24 lead it would not relinquish—and had provided fans with a highlight to be watched for years to come.
“It was a great play,” Fischer said. “There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to go out and execute.”
DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK
Although the Crimson found itself trailing at halftime, 7-3, the home team finally began to light up the scoreboard in the third quarter. In 15 minutes, Harvard scored three touchdowns to finally create separation from the Bulldogs.
Faced with a 24-7 deficit to begin the fourth quarter, Yale coach Tony Reno gathered his entire team. With his players on a knee and Reno in the center, the coach attempted to inject some energy in a Yale squad that been held scoreless for two straight quarters.
“Team 142 is a very resilient group,” Reno said. “We don’t quit. This team doesn’t quit, and this team never will quit. I brought them all together and reminded them of who they are.”
Report: Reno To Be Named Yale Head Football CoachHarvard secondary and special teams coordinator Tony Reno will be named the next Yale head football coach tomorrow, the Yale Daily News and New Haven Register are reporting.
Reno, Former Harvard Assistant, Takes Over as Yale Football Coach
Turncoat Personnel Leave for BulldogsHarvard football looked golden two months ago. It had just won the program’s 14th Ivy title in dominant fashion—the heavyweight champ taking on a field of lightweights. It had steamrolled to an easy 45-7 win at the Yale Bowl, embarrassing the Bulldogs en route to its 10th win in 11 Games. But then, slowly, things started to unravel.
AROUND THE IVIES: Harvard To Take On Quakers for CrownIt’s happening again.
AROUND THE IVIES: Harvard-Yale Will Be A Statement GameAt what point does rock truly hit bottom? For the Yale football program, that’s not an easy question to answer.
Harvard Beats Yale, 31-24, in Thriller, Finishes Unbeaten