Harvard 37, Yale 6

Harvard wins Ivy title in Game show

Email|Print| Text size + By John Powers
Globe Staff / November 18, 2007

NEW HAVEN - Nobody, not even the crimson ghost of Percy Haughton, saw this coming. Harvard 37, Yale 6, with the Bowl turned into a ghost town by the fourth quarter?

"We dreamed we'd get this result," coach Tim Murphy said yesterday afternoon, after his rapacious football team had ruined the Bulldogs' perfect season before a crowd of 57,248 (50,000 of whom left early) and claimed its third outright Ivy League title in seven years. "We never dreamed we'd get this kind of dominance."

It was the worst drubbing Harvard had given its archrivals here since 1914, the day this circular playpen was opened. As irony, or destiny, had it, the renovated Bowl was rededicated yesterday and the visitors did everything but paint it crimson.

"We had a horrible day," said Yale coach Jack Siedlecki, whose squad was bidding for its first flawless season since 1960 and its first 10-victory campaign since 1909. "We got outplayed, outcoached, whatever."

The numbers were stunningly lopsided. Harvard, which led, 27-0, at halftime, controlled the ball for one second shy of 38 minutes, rolled up 434 yards of offense, and held Yale to 109. The Bulldogs' only touchdown came with 4:15 to play on an 87-yard punt return by freshman Gio Christodoulou, who spent most of the season on the junior varsity.

"We didn't have a lot of success doing anything today," said Yale captain Brandt Hollander, whose teammates lost for only the second time in 19 games. "Not our day."

Not from the first drive, when Harvard's Chris Pizzotti, the Reading redhead who began the season as backup quarterback, marched his comrades 69 yards in 68 seconds and threw the first of his four touchdown passes 40 yards to wide-open wideout Matt Luft.

"We knew if we could get up early, we'd put them in a position they hadn't been in," said Pizzotti, who completed 27 of 41 passes for 316 yards. "We wanted to come out and let them know we're here to play today."

After taking a 34-13 beatdown at the Stadium last year, Harvard, which won its final seven after losing two of its first three, badly wanted payback yesterday. To get it, the Crimson knew they had to get the Bulldogs on their backs early, then shackle Mike McLeod, the nation's best rusher, and force quarterback Matt Polhemus to throw. Done and done.

"When we get in situations where we have to pass and they know what we have to do, it makes it hard on us," said McLeod, who was held to 50 yards on 20 carries. Yet even if McLeod hadn't been playing on a broken right big toe, Yale would have had little chance of coming back from a halftime hole as deep as the Big Dig.

"It wasn't one touchdown," said Siedlecki, whose squad yielded four on the Crimson's first six possessions. "They came out the next series and the next series. They did things all day and we did not."

What Harvard did mostly was keep its offense on the field and keep Yale's off of it. Nobody in the league has been better than the Crimson at making and preventing third-down conversions. Yesterday's numbers told everything: Harvard cashed 10 of 21 while holding Yale to 1 of 13, plus 0 for 5 on fourth down. "They had all the right answers," conceded defensive end Brady Hart.

No Harvard team had mauled a good Yale 11 this badly in decades. But once the Crimson got up by a couple of scores, stifled McLeod, and made Polhemus take to the air, they knew the day was theirs.

"There wasn't much there," said Polhemus, a North Chatham native who was 2 of 18 for 29 yards and two interceptions with two sacks. "I could have made a couple more plays, but . . ."

Not nearly as many as Pizzotti made. Working out of the shotgun with a ferocious offensive line protecting him, the Crimson quarterback spread the ball around as if he were handing out Halloween candy - eight for 160 yards and two touchdowns to Luft, seven to Corey Mazza for 55 yards, five for 53 and a touchdown to Mike Cook, four for 37 to Cheng Ho, one apiece to Jason Miller (for a touchdown), Marco Iannuzzi, and Noah Van Niel.

"We expected Yale to be extremely tough," said Pizzotti, who had the best yardage day ever against the Bulldogs by a Harvard QB. "We thought we'd have to be patient."

No need. Pizzotti found Luft all alone again for a 33-yard score. Then, midway through the second quarter, he threw a strike to Cook after a high punt snap gave the Crimson the ball on the 15, and that was that. Yale wasn't going to score four touchdowns on Harvard if it had until Thanksgiving.

Something about leaving an unsightly crimson footprint on Yale's fantasies of perfection appeals to the Cantabrigian intellect. Harvard did it in 1968, 1974, and 1979. This time, the visitors wanted to leave an indelible mark.

"We hoped it would come down to this, and it did," said captain Brad Bagdis, as he and his teammates were getting ready to load the Ivy trophy onto the bus. "This is the ultimate perfect storybook ending."

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