BOOK OF SAMUELS: An Unpredictable Ending to an Unpredictable Year

Mark Kelsey

Like the Harvard football team’s season, the 129th Game didn’t turn out as predicted.

The Book of Samuels

Like the Harvard football team’s season, the 129th Game didn’t turn out as predicted.

The Crimson entered Saturday’s contest as the heavy favorite. After all, this Yale team had somehow lost to Columbia, the punching bag of the Ivy League, the Greek economy of the Ancient Eight. And the Lions had been slaughtered by Harvard, 69-0, in the largest blowout since the league’s formation over a half century ago.

More than that, the Bulldogs boasted an abysmal 2-7 record and sat at or near the bottom of the Ivy League in most notable conference statistics. No surprise, then, that Harvard emerged as the 30-point favorite.

Yet The Game wasn’t a blowout at all. What was billed as a laugher soon turned into a brawl, a down-to-the-wire finish. What was supposed to be a quick knockout was a win by decision.

After one half of play, the teams were knotted at three. With 7:07 on the clock in the fourth, Yale held a 24-20 lead. Led by a quarterback listed as a wide receiver, the Bulldogs seemed poised to pull off the stunner.

And then, finally, Harvard clicked.

Rattling off 14 unanswered points in the timeliest of fashions, the Crimson pulled away to grab the 34-24 win in the year’s most important game.

And who led that charge? Two of the great senior workhorses of the Harvard offense: quarterback Colton Chapple and running back Treavor Scales.

But with 7:07 left to play, it looked like Chapple might have cost his team the game. Up by three and with the ball, Chapple made a rare mental lapse. As he was being sacked, Chapple decided to toss up the ball, which was intercepted by defensive tackle Nick Daffin well inside Harvard territory. That set up an easy Yale score, and suddenly the Bulldogs had regained the lead, 24-20.

And that’s when Chapple, the likely pick for Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, made his move.

On the next play from scrimmage, Chapple bolted for a 61-yard run—the longest of his career—to help set up a Crimson score that gave the home team the lead, 27-24.

Yale punted, and on Harvard’s next series, Scales sealed the Bulldogs’ fate. Following the lead of last year’s captain Alex Gedeon ’12, who ended his Crimson career with a pick six at Yale, Scales finished his with a dramatic finale: in his last play from scrimmage, Scales dashed 63 yards for the score, sealing the Bulldogs’ fate and extending the Crimson’s dominance of the game.

Yet despite all that, despite the victory and the ending, Harvard was unable to grab a share of the league title, as Penn held on to beat Cornell, 35-28. And so, this will be a season remembered as one of unfulfilled promise.

The Crimson entered the year heavily favored and poised to achieve that sought-after, perfect 10-0 season. And in Weeks 1 through 5, Harvard was well on its way to doing just that, bulldozing opponents left and right. In Weeks 3 through 5, the combined score was Harvard 142, Opponents 47.

Then, the trajectory of the whole season changed in one quarter when Princeton mounted an astonishing fourth-quarter comeback to knock off the Crimson. Three weeks later, in the de facto Ivy League title game, down went the Crimson again, but this time, it was the Penn Quakers who delivered the knockout blow.


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