“Gentleman, you are now going to play football against Harvard. Never in your life will do something so important”
The words from then Yale coach T.A. Dwight Jones sum up the importance to both institutions of the rivalry between the Yale Bulldogs and the Harvard Crimson.
Dating way back to 1875, the matchup known simply as “The Game” is the third most played game in College Football history. It ranks for many as one of the top 10 American collegiate rivalries.
The early games between the two were often hard fought and bloody contests. After one battle, a German newspaper reported that players were in a “dying condition” such was the ferocity of competition.
In over one hundred games, one stands out amongst the rest.
”Harvard Beats Yale 29-29”
In 1968 America had elected a divisive president. The assassination of Martin Luther King in the April had created an uprising. This was further enhanced by John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s protest during the national anthem at the Mexico Olympics.
Both teams headed in to the 1968 game with an 8-0 record, the first time since 1909. It was still Yale who were overwhelming favourites.
The Bulldogs were on a sixteen game winning run.
At a time when neither team were producing top tier talent, Yale were led by quarterback Brian Dowling who would finish the year ninth in the Heisman voting. They also boasted Calvin Hill, went on to be first Ivy League player to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Yale started the game as expected. They ran up a 22 point, unanswered lead. As the game approached the final minute the Bulldogs were 29-13 up.
An 86 yard drive from second string quarterback Frank Champi pulled the Crimson to within 9 points.
Then followed on onside kick recovery. And a touchdown.
With the clock at zero, Harvard converted a two point attempt to level the score at 29-29.
So unlikely was the outcome that the now famous “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” headline was born and later the story was turned in to a film.
John T. Downey, a prisoner of war being held captive received a postcard declaring that Yale had won 29-13. It wasn’t until later that he was informed of the loss.
2018 “The Game”
Fast forward fifty years and America has a divisive president once more. Players are protesting during the national anthem to highlight social injustice. Sound familiar?
On the fiftieth anniversary of the most famous “The Game” The Bulldogs and the Crimson went in to battle for one more time.
Going in the clash Yale were once again favourites. They lead the series 67-59-8, held the largest victory (54-0) and had won the previous two games. To add spice to the game, the winner would end their season with a 4-3 Ivy League record. The loser would have to endure a long off season with a losing record hanging over them.
34,675 fans packed in to Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park to watch “The Game” unfold.
In a back and forth first half, Harvard took the lead twice only to be pegged back by the Bulldogs. A 22 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Stewart to Henry Taylor made it 7-0 only to be cancelled out an Alan Lamar 3 yard rushing touchdown.
A lung busting 62 yard run from Tyler Adams for a touchdown made it 14-7, Harvard. Getting the ground game going would be crucial for the Crimson’s success.
Yale quarterback Griffin O’Connor found JP Shohfi for a 16 yard touchdown as the Bulldogs levelled it up 14-14 with five minutes to go in the half.
With 0:37 left in the second quarter, Harvard struck a crucial blow just before half time. Stewart linked up with Taylor again to give the Crimson a 21-14 lead going in to the break.
Crimson unlock Yale
The Bulldogs came out for the second half fighting and pulled back level through an O’Connor rushing touchdown. They then took their first lead of the night through a 32 yard Alex Galland field goal.
With five minutes remaining in the third, Stewart had his third touchdown of the night and Harvard retook the lead 28-24.
When Yale could only respond with a field goal early in the fourth the game was up. Harvard hit the ground game hard and two touchdown runs from Devin Darrington gave the Crimson a 45-27 win.
Quarterback Tom Stewart threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns but was carried off the field on a stretcher.
The Crimson totalled 578 yards to set a new record for offensive yards for a Harvard team.
It was a record setting score line in the matchup.
A fitting game to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of “The Game”.
photo credit: cnbc.com