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A Beautiful Day in the Fall
An otherwise forgettable athletic season ended with a struggle to avoid the Ivy cellar in football. But as so often in The Game, the records meant nothing, and the white helmets prevailed with a flourish.

Future accounts of the Ivy League football season of 1994 will no doubt record it as the year Columbia rose from the dead, beating three of its seven League rivals for the first time since 1971 and (at least for the moment) ridding itself of its doormat reputation. Yale was the first to fall to the resuscitated Lions, adding to the gloom of an otherwise forgettable fall among the Eli teams, which included a soccer squad that set a Yale record with 12 straight losses. (Volleyball was the only varsity team to break .500.). But as always in The Game, what’s past is past, and the football team showed that a fight to avoid the cellar is still a fight worth winning—and almost makes everything right.

The season had started with the strongest early winning streak in three years, as the Elis steamrolled Brown, then Holy Cross, and then, to everyone’s surprise, upset the UConn Huskies with a 28–17 victory, the first in seven years. The Bulldogs played with precision, giving up little ground and capitalizing on every mistake their opponents made. But then, in what many expected to be the easiest win of the season, the Elis fell to Lehigh for the first time in the 104-year-old series, 36–32.

Yale then seemed to go into a funk, dropping its next four (including Columbia) before pulling off a surprise 24–14 win over Cornell. The following week the Bulldogs again seemed low on energy, and Princeton made quick work of its opposition in the last game of the season in the Bowl, pounding the Blue 19–6.

But then came the final weekend. As Yale fans streamed into Harvard Stadium after a night of drenching rain, the sun emerged to produce a classic autumn afternoon, and, at more than 25,000, the biggest Ivy League crowd of the season. The Bulldogs—sharing with Harvard an identical record of 4–5 overall and 2–4 in the League—took to the field and, after a slow beginning, soon made clear which was the better team.

At the start, the game threatened to be a challenge only for the punters, as each team nursed the ball in the middle of the field. But, as the first quarter approached its final minute, Harvard began a long drive that would end in a one-yard thrust by the Crimson’s star tailback, sophomore Eion Hu, who would carry 36 times and be named Rookie of the Year at day’s end in tribute to his 1,011 yards rushing for the season. But even with Hu on their side, the Cantabs would not see another touchdown until well into the third quarter.

In the meantime, the Bulldogs got serious. Less than two minutes into the second quarter, the Yale defense stone-walled the sagging Crimson attack, forcing a punt from the Harvard 18. With a well-timed leap, Jay Waller ’95 blocked the attempt, and a quick-fingered Todd Imwold ’96 scooped up the loose ball and ran for a ten-yard return. On the next play, Chris Hetherington ’96 rolled to the left and drove 11 yards for the first Yale touchdown of the game.

The Eli defense, led by captain Carl Ricci ’95 and captain-elect Tony Mazurkiewicz ’96, played an important role throughout the game, keeping the Crimson at their own end of the field and allowing them little ground.

Within three minutes of Hetherington’s touchdown, the Elis forced another Harvard punt and, after a 33-yard toss to Dan Iwan ’96, the Bulldogs found themselves back within scoring range. From the Harvard 3, Hetherington handed off to senior Keith Price, who rolled off right tackle and through the Crimson line, driving into the end zone.

Just a few seconds into the second half, Garrick Cox ’95 picked off a pass by third-string Cantab quarterback Jay Snowden and returned it to the Harvard 21. On the next play, Bob Nelson drove 11 yards for his first of two touchdowns.

Later in the third quarter, Harvard made its last effective surge, quickly moving up the field and finally handing off to Hu, who bolted left and streaked for 18 into the end zone. But the extra point that followed signified the end of the day for the Harvard offense. Coming up with key passes on fourth down, the Elis scored yet again, off a two-yard lunge up the middle by Keith Price.

With a comfortable 26–13 lead going into the fourth period, the confident Elis continued to produce, and Bob Nelson scored his second touchdown to bring the final score to 32–13.

The victory was Yale’s 61st over Harvard, against 42 losses and eight ties, and while it left the Elis tied for third in the League standings for the season, it left their hosts tied with Dartmouth for last. For the durable Carm Cozza, in his 30th year as Yale’s coach, the win was his 16th over the Crimson, and the fourth in the last five years. It also proved a fitting debut for another key member of the Yale entourage. While it’s hard to tell when bulldogs are smiling, “Whizzer,” as the new Handsome Dan has come to be known, certainly seemed pleased as he waddled off with the winners.  the end


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