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The 110th edition of The Game produced thrills, ghosts, and Yale’s 60th victory over Harvard—a 33–31 nailbiter that was not decided until the final moments.
The thrills? They came as the Bulldogs’ senior aerial tandem of Steve Mills-to-Dave Iwan connected for 175 yards and two touchdowns, helping Yale (3–7, 2–5 Ivy) build a commanding 16-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
The ghosts? The spirits of 1968’s infamous The Tie were roused when Harvard rallied from the dead to stage a dramatic last-minute comeback. Even Brian Dowling ’69, the Blue’s quarterback 25 years ago, had to cover his eyes in the press box.
The Yale win? That was not assured until the clock showed no time left and Eli tackle John Lykouretzos ’95 slammed Crimson quarterback Mike Giardi into the grass, foiling a potential game-winning Hail Mary pass for the visitors.
“It was just one of those Harvard-Yale games that we’ve had so many of in the past,” said Joe Restic, whose 23-year reign as the Crimson’s head coach ended with the final whistle. “You play it out but you don’t know what’s going to happen. It turns so many ways.”
It was largely a game for the Bulldog seniors—especially Mills and Iwan. The quarterback got the Elis on the board first as he capped a seven-play (all runs) drive with a keeper around right end. Mills connected with Iwan for the first of four long passes, this one a 45-yard touchdown strike down the left sideline. “They were trying to cover [Iwan] with single coverage,” said Mills, who completed 11 of 16 passes for 225 yards. “You can’t cover him with single coverage.”
In the third quarter, the Blue extended the lead to 20–10 when Dave Dixon ’94 plunged across with the first of his two one-yard touchdown runs. Dixon and Bob Nelson ’95 combined for 120 yards rushing and carried the load for the Blue offense in the third. Mills and Iwan connected with a third-quarter scoring pass, another bomb down the left side that made the score 27–10.
Harvard engineered a countering touchdown drive behind Giardi, but another Mills-to-Iwan pass play set up Dixon, who capped a 70-yard drive with what seemed to be a game-clinching touchdown plunge. It gave Yale a 16-point lead with only 7:20 remaining in the contest, the same advantage it held 25 years earlier.
Then the ghosts of 1968 took over the Bowl and held the outcome in doubt until the final second.
The turns started in earnest later in the fourth quarter. After Dixon’s touchdown made the score 33–17, the Elis missed the extra point, and the Crimson started a comeback that had images of Frank Champi, Harvard’s quarterback in 1968, dancing in the heads of Yale fans.
Giardi drove Harvard the length of the field in only 1:55 on a blitzkrieg, eight-play assault. The Crimson quarterback, who threw for 279 yards, capped the march with a five-yard touchdown pass to Mark Cote. Bulldog safety Mike Fitzpatrick ’96 stuffed the two-point conversion attempt, preserving a 10-point Yale lead.
With only two minutes remaining and the win again seemingly in hand, Blue head coach Carm Cozza inserted senior third-string quarterback Matt Swedick, who fumbled his second snap from center. The Crimson recovered—just as they had on a crucial fumble 25 years ago. “You bet I started thinking about ’68,” Cozza said. “I warned everyone on the sideline not to put the headsets away and not to do anything until the officials hand you the game ball. When we fumbled, I said, ‘Uh-oh, here we go again.’”
Giardi capitalized on the turnover, stunning the Elis with a 76-yard scoring bomb to Mark Begert right over the Blue’s nickel defense. Tailback Nick Isaacson ran in the two-point conversion, making the score 33–31 as comparisons to Yale’s collapse a quarter-century ago continued to spread through the Bowl. “I was. I was thinking about it,” Bulldog captain John Saunders ’94 said.
In 1968, the Crimson recovered their desperation onside kick. But in 1993, Yale wide receiver Steve Nalepa ’94 pounced on the kick, triggering a mini-brawl as the Harvard bench joined the fight for the ball. The Bulldogs tried to run out the remaining 64 seconds, but Mills fell prematurely on fourth down. To the surprise of the thousands of fans who rushed onto the field and the celebrating Yale players, the officials put one second back on the clock.
Giardi scrambled, buying time for his receivers to run the 50 yards to pay dirt, and pumped his arm just before Lykouretzos ended the game with his second sack. “Sometimes you just feel like you’re in a zone,” said Lykouretzos, who made seven tackles, including six unassisted and two behind the line of scrimmage. “This was a great way to send off the seniors.”
“We’ve had a trying season to say the least,” Mills said. “This was a great way to go out.”
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