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High winds help Harvard baffle Bulldogs, 10-0
Crimson ties Brown for Ivy League Title with 6-1 marks
Cambridge, MA - On a cold, windy day at Harvard Stadium, The Crimson of Harvard (9-1, 6-1) took advantage of a break from the elements to take an early lead in their annual season finale against the Yale Bulldogs (6-4, 4-3) to triumph 10-0 and to share the 2008 Ivy League crown with the only team it lost to this season, the Brown Bruins. The temperatures reportedly dipped into the teens with the wind chill, and the wind gusted strongly from all directions this day in front of 31,398 in Harvard Stadium. GGA Charlie Roberts and I sat in the bleacher section of the open end of the horseshoe-shaped stadium and bared the brunt of some of those swirling winds. Luckily the sun shone upon us for most of the game. It made the first experience at Harvard Stadium quite memorable for both of us. It was the 125th football game played between the two schools.
The wind played a major part on Harvard's first drive of the game. Starting from their own four, The Crimson drive stalled at the Yale 35. Their punt went into the wind, fluttered, fell and hit the return man who seemingly tried to avoid the ball. Harvard's Derrick Baker recovered at the Yale 13. Gino Gordon (39 carries for 168 yards) ran it in for the first, last, and only TD of the day to take the early 7-0 lead. I expected to see Harvard squib the ensuing kick-off into the wind as their best option, but Crimson Coach Tim Murphy had a better idea. Anthony Rotio recovered the onsides kick at Yale's 46. Harvard took it to the Yale 16, but the wind continued to affect the game as Patrick Long's FG knuckled past the goal post on what looked like a sure thing. Yale finally got the ball on offense wit 3:26 left in the first period, but it was a start in a day of frustration for the Elis. Relying heavily John McLeod, last year's leading rusher in the Ivy League, the Crimson defense keyed to stop him and let QB Brook Hart take his chances with the swirling winds. The strategy worked. McLeod was held to 62 yards on 21 carries. Hart was 4 for 11 for only 36 yards. At the end of the day, Yale tallied a paltry 90 yards to Harvard's 370. However, unlike Harvard's 36-7 domination last year, Yale's defense and the wind stopped Harvard from putting up as many points for the balance of this game.
Yale's best chance for six came early in the second taking over at the Harvard 37 after another punt held up in the wind. Harvard stopped them at the three, however, and much to Charlie's chagrin, Yale's 20-yard FG attempt also got wind-blown left to keep the Elis scoreless. Charlie grew up attending Yale games with his grandfather as a kid since his grandfather lived within walking distance of the Yale Bowl. The fun part of this game though was that all this early scoring action came down to the goal line right in front of us. It was Ivy League football for sure, but there was some good hitting going on right in front of us, too. As a result, the next drives by both teams resulted in lost fumbles. Harvard took their turnover and moved it down at the horseshoe end of Harvard Stadium. With :01 left, their 21-yard FG attempt went wide left. If the meteorologists were keeping score, it was Wind 4 - Kickers 1 ( the extra point).
Before the half ended, you could really feel the crowd become more incensed, and it had nothing to do with the rivalry on the playing field. Both bands were getting ready for their exchange of half-time insults, most which like last year, go right over my head. We had a great vantage point sitting in the end zone bleachers with Yale fans sitting in the reserved section to our left, and the Harvard faithful sitting above us to our right. The insults and innuendos could be heard from both sides. It was great. They eventually came down to the eloquent chants by the worlds' elite with "Yale sucks!", "Harvard Sucks!", "Yale sucks!", "Harvard sucks!" I've never seen two schools get their gander up for one another more before a halftime show than for an opening kickoff! A lot was in good nature. A lot had to do with getting the Yale guy (Bush) out of the White House and getting the Harvard guy (Obama) in. One of the biggest cheers from the Harvard side came up when a picture of Senator Ted Kennedy, class of '54, flashed up on the scoreboard behind us. He was supposedly in attendance in the pressbox this afternoon. The biggest reaction from the Yale side came when the Harvard band announcer referred to Yale as "New Haven Junior College". A Harvard fan and a Yale fan who sat near us actually traded barbs about each others' football teams. They seemed to be the only two near us that had any knowledge of the game of football or their respective teams.
Fumbles, punts, and the wind maintained the score at 7-0 in Harvard's favor at the end of the third. Not until 13:39 in the fourth did Yale stop Harvard's drive at their own three where Harvard's Patrick Long finally made good on a 23-yard FG to give Harvard a 10-point margin. It was shortly after that the knowledgeable Harvard fan shook hands with the knowledgeable Yale fan and left with his friends, cold, but figuring the Bulldogs didn't have a chance to come back against his Crimson in this one. However, the Bulldogs came close to making this game more of the rivalry we'd come to expect. With 7:02 remaining, a beautiful punt by Yale went down to the one and rolled laterally before they downed it there. Harvard was forced to punt from its own 31, but Yale return man Gio Christodoulou took it for 48 yards down to the Harvard 8. From our angle, he seemed to slow down approaching the end zone to get caught from behind, otherwise, we thought he was in for the Yale score! On fourth and goal at the nine, Hart's third straight pass fell incomplete, but DB Andrew Berry got flagged for interference, and Yale had new life. Following another incompletion, Hart fumbled on a sack by LB Eric Schultz and DT Carl Ehrlich recovered the fumble on the 13. Two minutes remained, and Harvard proceeded to run out the clock to preserve the 10-0 victory over its staunchest rival and went on to celebrate its share of the 2008 Ivy League championship. Collegefootballfan.com truly enjoyed our third Harvard-Yale experience, but for the first time in venerable Harvard Stadium, built in 1903. With supposedly over 30,000 in attendance, we made the right call to plan our first trip there for this old rivalry. We just wish the cold temperature and gusting winds could have shown up at a different time. The experience could've been even better!
Extra Points: Tickets were scarce at the announced sell-out, but a lot of fans never made it into the game probably because of the extreme weather conditions. Still, the numbers had to be over 25,000. The upper roof of the old stadium is held up by Romanesque columns above the concrete bleachers. Between each column is a set of wooden bleachers. Coming to this game against Yale gives on a true appreciation for the stadium when you can see it almost full compared to a more sparsely attended game. The area below the concrete bleachers has nice wide aisles for food and concessions.
John Mcleod was quick, but Harvard's defensive front punished him at times. He seemed most effective when he could cut against the grain, but he never broke free for more than 11 yards all day.
Harvard QB Chris Pizzotti finished the day 12 of 21 for 109 yards. It was an unforgiving day against QBs.
Yale Captain and LB Bobby Abare played his heart out finishing with 6 solo tackles, 12 assisted, and one forced fumble. Both he and Harvard Captain Matt Curtis are Massachusetts natives.
Yale has some of the biggest campus cops I've ever seen. They looked even bigger when the stopped three Harvard students who raced with a "Mather" flag across the field in what looked like band uniforms. Coming back to lead cheers, the campus cops confronted them. They looked like "Hobbits" standing next to the cops. They were let go and went back to leaping in front of the crowd to start some cheering. The cops laughed after they had the straight story, whatever it was.
Harvard had a big drum on wheels similar to "Big Mo" seen at Mizzou a few years ago. I think I heard it beaten only once before the game and that was it. During halftime, on the field, four Harvard students seemed to be guarding it from any attacks by Yalies, which never occurred. After halftime festivities, it got put away. I wasn't sure if they were concerned about fragility due to attacks by Yale or from the force of the wind. I just thought if you got a big drum, why don't you beat it?
Charlie and I hung out in the Murr Recreation Center before the game where we picked up our will-call tickets and got out of the cold. It was a big recruiting day for Harvard Athletics as many high school athletes were there as guests. In the Center was a lot of Harvard sports history memorabilia including pictures and reports of President Kennedy on the Harvard JV football team.
A stretcher was wheeled into Harvard Stadium directly in front of us to the Yale sideline as the game progressed. We saw a a female Yale cheerleader flat on her back lying still. She evidently fell and hurt herself. They strapped here to a board and wheeled her out. We'll have to find out if she's OK.
For the second time this season, CFF.com had a car shot out from under us, this time traveling back from the game in Connecticut. Charlie and I stayed an extra night in Rhode Island with family and luckily the car got repaired Sunday after it had to be towed in Saturday night. The mechanic told Charlie we were lucky that we stopped when we did due to the damage to the lugs on the left wheel.
In the Providence Journal on Sunday, I read about Brown's 41-10 rout of Columbia to take their share of the Ivy. I feel bad for those guys as I was the empty stand in the pictures and read that about only 7,300 were on hand for their big win. You'd think Joe Paterno's alma mater could muster some more support than that! Their senior class is the only one ever to leave with two Ivy Championships in their four years. The seniors won a s Freshman in 2005. To finish 6-1among the Ivy this year, they defeated Harvard, 24-22, on September 27, but they lost to Yale, 13-3, on November 8.
It's been 90 games since the last shut-out we attended. On Sept. 11, 2004, we watched Virginia Tech blast Western Michigan at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, 63-0. It was the largest margin of victory we'd ever seen.