He still gets a kick out of ’75 winner
The kick, wrote the Globe’s Ernie Roberts, “wobbled and faded through the Yale Bowl dusk like a golf duffer’s wedge shot.’’
“It was up there,’’ recalls Mike Lynch. “I think [Globe photographer] Frank O’Brien could have gone through a whole roll of film waiting for it to come down.’’
This wasn’t Adam Vinatieri in the Foxborough snow. But it was a kick of great significance. It was Mike Lynch in the treacherous, swirling wind of Yale Bowl, making a 26-yard field goal with 33 seconds remaining before a crowd of 66,846 to give Harvard both a 10-7 victory over Yale and the Crimson’s first undisputed Ivy League title, and so what if it barely made it over the crossbar?
“I don’t care if I made it by 6 yards or 6 inches,’’ he says. “As long as it got there.’’
With that kick, on Nov. 22, 1975, Mike Lynch made himself a permanent part of Harvard football lore.
If the name sounds familiar, why, yes, it really is that Mike Lynch. The Mike Lynch who has been the chief sports anchor at Channel 5 since 1985.
Lynch addresses his feat with equal parts humility and pride.
“It’s the team memories, much more than individual meaning, that stay with me,’’ he explains. “We had gone through so much together. Our entire starting offensive line from tackle to tackle was the same one we had as freshmen. We had started out with about 125, and now there were two dozen of us left.’’
Not all their experiences were pleasant. There was, for example, the 1973 game in Yale Bowl: Yale 35, Harvard 0. “As we walked off that field, [Harvard center] Joe Antonellis and I said, ‘In two years, we’re coming out of here with a win,’ ’’ Lynch reveals.
So now here they were with a 5-1 league record (6-2 overall), the same as Yale’s. Playing Yale for the league title — what more could a Harvard man want?
Harvard-Yale in those days was indeed special. It would be the lead sports story in both the Globe and the New York Times.
“From the minute you get to school,’’ Lynch explains, “it’s, ‘When’s the Yale game? How can I get enough tickets for the Yale game?’ You may have hazy memories of every other game, but you remember every play of a Yale game.’’
Make no mistake. Lynch wanted to beat Yale, but not necessarily by 40-0. He wanted to beat Yale with his right foot. He felt he needed the redemption.
Harvard’s only league loss had come against Princeton. Starting quarterback Jim Kubacki was hurt, and Lynch got the start. By halftime Harvard was down, 21-3, and coach Joe Restic had pulled his QB, who, admittedly, had stunk up the joint.
Lynch’s roommate was defensive back Jon Judge. Harvard had lost to Boston University when Judge was beaten for a game-winning touchdown pass. Each man felt he was the reason Harvard wasn’t undefeated.
“I remember waking up the morning of the game in the Yale Motor Inn in Wallingford [Conn.] and thinking, ‘I hope the bus doesn’t leave without us,’ ’’ Lynch jokes.
Lynch was deadly serious. He wanted to decide the game.
“We had a team meeting, and Coach Restic showed us a film of the Yale-Dartmouth game, which Yale won on a last-second field goal,’’ Lynch says. “He flipped on the lights and said, ‘I hope it doesn’t come down to that!’ And I’m sitting there hoping the opposite.
“I really did dream all week long about making the winning kick. I was a kicker. It’s no different than a basketball player who wants to make the winning shot with time running out or a baseball player who wants to be up with the bases loaded in the ninth.’’
The evenly matched teams arrived in the final minute tied at 7, and let’s not dwell on the fact that Lynch had missed a makeable field goal just before the half.
Harvard had been moving nicely, but now it was fourth and 12 at the Yale 35. Kubacki was having an off day, with three picks and some bad overthrows, but Restic still had faith, and Kubacki connected with Quincy’s Bob McDermott for a first down at the Yale 14. But they could advance only 5 yards, so Lynch was getting his wish.
Antonellis’s snap was true and Tim Davenport’s hold was good, and Lynch, a straight-ahead kicker, put a good right foot on the ball.
“It was straight from the start, and it was very high,’’ Lynch recalls. “The question was, would it get there in that swirling wind?’’
Well, it did. In the 100th anniversary of the first Harvard-Yale game, Mike Lynch, the pride of Swampscott, had given Harvard its first solo Ivy League championship.
Each team had a future NFL player: captain Dan Jiggetts for Harvard and wide receiver Gary Fencik for Yale — and Yale had a starting quarterback with a TV future named Stone Phillips. But Lynch had the final say.
Postscript 1. A number of years later, Lynch was sitting in the Channel 5 office when the phone rang.
“This is Stone Phillips of ABC. I’m coming to Boston, and I wonder if you folks have access to any Red Sox tickets.’’
“Hi, Stone, this is Mike Lynch. We played against each other for three years.’’
“Mike Lynch . . . the name doesn’t ring a bell.’’
“Does 10-7 ring a bell?’’
Postscript 2. Mike Lynch is covering the Patriots in Chicago during the Bears’ historic 1985 season. He walks up to Fencik, by then the captain of the great 46 Defense, and introduces himself.
“You!’’ roars Fencik. “I’ve been having nightmares about you for 10 years.’’
It’s 35 years now, and it’s all sunk in.
“There’s all this history,’’ Lynch points out. “They talk about Ted Kennedy catching a touchdown pass in the 1955 game, or about Charlie Brickley in 1911 and the 29-29 tie. What a great thrill it is to be a part of that discussion. I’m proud to have made my contribution.’’
He’ll be at The Game tomorrow with his family. He’ll be rooting for Harvard, of course, but he’ll be rooting hardest for David Mothander, a freshman from San Juan Capistrano, Calif. He, of course, is the Harvard kicker.