The elevated mood permeating Saturday’s (Nov. 20) Harvard–Yale football showdown at Harvard Stadium collapsed with a massive thud at the 9:53 mark of the final quarter. With the Crimson up 21-14, senior ball carrier Gino Gordon violently clashed helmets with Bulldog linebacker Jesse Reising. After several minutes, with both players laid out (and surrounded by medical personnel), Gordon returned to his feet amid somber applause. Moments later Reising was carted off on a stretcher. Fortunately, early reports from the Yale camp indicate that Reising is going to be just fine.
So clearly then, the 127th edition of The Game wasn’t short on drama. Or, it turns out, intrigue. After all, a cursory glance at the final stat sheet suggests a Yale victory, what with the visitors trumping the Crimson in key categories, including total offensive yards (337 to 178); possession time (nearly 38 minutes to Harvard’s 22:18); and first downs (19 to 10). Yet it was the hosts, playing for pride and bragging rights, who managed to knock off an efficient Yale club, 28-21, with three-unanswered touchdowns in the second half. The win marks Harvard’s fourth straight against the team from New Haven, Conn., amounting to a nice prize for the Crimson’s 24 seniors. Both teams end the season with identical records of 7-3 (5-2 Ivy).
Down 14-7 to open the third quarter, Harvard junior Marco Iannuzzi commenced the comeback with an 84-yard kickoff return. Following ungiving defense on both ends, the Crimson then captured the lead for the first time late in the third when Gordon notched his second touchdown of the afternoon with a two-yard burst to give the hosts a 21-14 advantage. At the 7:37 mark of the fourth, Alex Sarkisian ’12 reeled in a 12-yard pass from playmaker Collier Winters ’12 (13 of 16 for 124 yards), to give the Crimson a 14-point cushion. And they’d need it.
After denying Yale on a fourth-down attempt, Harvard promptly fumbled the ball on its own 20-yard line to give their rivals another shot. Nine plays later, the Elis trimmed the deficit to 28-21. The Harvard defense responded in the final two minutes, however, forcing a turnover on downs to secure the win.
Meanwhile, as is often the case with The Game, the action off the field was no less captivating.
Old school gathering
Citing it as a last-minute decision, Harvard alumnus Jay McGlinchey ’80 traveled from Michigan for Saturday’s big contest. “I come out here not only to watch the game but to renew old acquaintances and be with my friends,” he said. Those friends, meanwhile, which also included Chris Trakas, Todd Gordon, Neil Brafman, and Will Lyons (all graduates of either the Class of ’80 or ’81), have assembled annually for the classic showdown — in some form or another — since 1977. What’s more, this self-described “cast of characters” has managed to capture the same tailgating spot (within a couple feet, they admit) for each Harvard home game. “It’s kind of how we all stay together,” explained Gordon, who made the trek from Connecticut. “The kids have seen it. My kid is 13 now. He’s been to every game since he was born. And my daughter is 11 … it’s a tradition.” A tradition, evidently, that trumps even the powers of recall. If he missed a year, said Lyons, he doesn’t remember it.
Not just dogs
There was no shortage of grills filling the Cambridge air with the tempting fragrance of sizzling goodness. Still a number of tailgaters — in what appears to be an annual contest in and of itself — managed to up the ante with beautiful displays of flowers, candelabras, and cuisines from the world over. Manning one of the more elaborate culinary spreads was Dwight Walker, father of Harvard sophomore lacrosse player Jack. Walker (to his credit) gave credit to his wife for preparing the tasty-looking smorgasbord, which included homemade lasagna, pesto pasta, cookies, a cheese plate, and grilled vegetable sandwiches. Not exactly ketchup and mustard fare.
Cool shades win out
In the interest of good sportsmanship, vuvuzelas were officially banned from the stadium for the Yale game. In place of the cartoonish horns (and their droning emissions), hundreds of Harvard fans sported another form of cheap plastic paraphernalia: neon sunglasses with “The Game 2010” printed along the temple.
Through the ages
In the warm confines of Gordon Track and Field, more than 1,100 University alumni (and approximately 30 brave Yalies) took part in the Harvard Alumni Association pregame luncheon, according to Jen Halloran, who was charged with running the event. Organized through the College Alumni Programs Office, the diverse gathering welcomed graduates from every decade since 1930.
En route to the pregame luncheon with his wife Jean, Carl Lindblad ’47 was sporting a mint-condition wool sweater from his days as an underclassman. Featuring a large crimson-colored “H,” the message on his classic fall wear was as clear as his projection for the game: “We’re gonna win. That’s why we came.”
On the stadium’s north side, Harvard Facilities Maintenance Operations staff member Tom Riley stood watch. The 28-year University employee was on-hand as a standby plumber, just in case. And with the stadium at full capacity on Saturday, that’s a job 31,398 souls have to appreciate.