|'68 tie still the talk of Harvard-Yale rivalry|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 15 November 2007 14:34|
Then the Crimson began their stunning comeback.
The Tie is still the biggest moment in the history of The Game, even as Harvard and Yale prepare to meet for the 124th time - with another Ivy League title at stake.
``It was like a tidal wave. It was like something that suddenly appeared and all you could do was watch,'' said Calvin Hill, the former Dallas Cowboys back who was the Bulldogs' leading rusher that season.
In the frantic final moments of The Game of 1968 the Crimson roared back with 16 points on touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions.
``There was a sense of inevitability about it at various points in the fourth quarter,'' recalled Harvard captain Vic Gatto, who caught the final TD pass from reserve quarterback Frank Champi as time expired. Champi then hit burly tight end Pete Varney for the 2-point try for the last play of the game.
The Tie was another chapter in the venerable rivalry that began in 1875. Over that time, The Game has introduced the flying wedge and the onside kick. In 1930, it was the first football game in America broadcast overseas. Participants in The Game have gone on to the NFL, politics and even Hollywood. The 1968 contest was no exception.
Hill would become a first-round draft pick in the NFL. Yale quarterback Brian Dowling is immortalized as the helmet-wearing ``B.D.'' in the ``Doonesbury'' comic strip, created by Yale alumnus Garry Trudeau. Harvard suited up a 200-pound offensive guard gamed Tom Jones, who later gained fame in filmdom as Tommy Lee Jones.
The Tie was the only blemish on Yale's unbeaten '68 season and was the last time the Bulldogs were perfect heading into the Harvard game. Harvard was also unbeaten and the tie gave both a share of the conference crown. It was played before tiebreakers were used in the college game, and despite the draw at the end this game had all the feel of a win or loss, depending on what sideline you were on that day.
The next day the Harvard school newspaper ran the famous headline ``Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.''
Hill said he did not realize that Yale did not lose until he returned to the New Haven campus on Monday.
``I thought it was 29-28,'' Hill said.
Former Yale coach Hall of Famer Carm Cozza once called it the ``worst loss of my life, even though it was a tie.''
``It was devastating,'' Cozza said. ``Not only were we undefeated. We led the nation in consecutive wins with 16 in a row.''
The Eli arsenal was a potent one. Yale was averaging more than 460 yards a game and scored in 22 straight quarters. But Harvard had the No. 1 defense in the league that year and the game turned for the Crimson on a defensive play when a Harvard lineman chased Dowling on a screen pass and then knocked the ball out of the receiver's hand.
The Yale fumble gave Harvard the ball at its 14-yard line with 3:31 remaining.
The late Harvard John Yovicsin was looking for any spark at that point and inserted the athletic Champi over starter George Lalich.
The Crimson mounted an 86-yard charge capped by Champi's 15-yard TD pass to Bruce Freeman with 42 seconds left. After Yale drew a penalty for interference Gus Crim ran it in from the 1-yard line.
And then Harvard did something it hadn't tried all season in a game - an onside kick. Harvard's Bill Kelly fell on the ball on the Yale 49.
The Eli faithful were stunned while the Crimson fans were in full throat. Six plays later Champi scrambled away from Yale defenders and hit Vic Gatto for an 8-yard score as time expired. Champi and the 235-pound Varney then hooked up for the 2-pointer.
Gatto said it was the same curl pattern that he had run moments earlier for the touchdown.
``Frank got flushed out and I was moving across the end zone,'' Gatto said. ``I'm not real big and he was able to find me.''
The team hoisted both Gatto and Varney on their shoulders in celebration. The two exchanged fist pumps and soaked in the moment.
``There was a sense of relief and accomplishment because it had been an exhausting last few seconds,'' Gatto said.
Many sportswriters in the press box had already begun documenting the Yale win by the time the comeback began.
``I already had three-fourths of a page written, something about how Brian Dowling, born on April Fools' Day in 1947, had made fools of Harvard and its Boston Strangler defense,'' former New Haven sportswriter Robert Barton said. ``And of course, once Harvard scored at the end I tore the paper out of my typewriter and had to start over.''
Barton said the indelible memory of that day is of the Yale locker room.
``It was a tomb. Fred Morris, the big center, sat on a step for probably 20 minutes, helmet still on, head down, not moving a muscle,'' Barton recalled.
The 2007 edition of The Game has an eerily similar scenario. Both teams are 6-0 in the league, the only other time since 1968. Yale has the league's top rushing offense (287 ypg) while Harvard's stingy rushing defense yields just under 80 yards a game.
``It's a tremendous opportunity to be a part of college football history,'' Yale coach Jack Siedlecki said. ``This game is going to be a part of the history. This is a game that's going to be talked about for a long, long time.''